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Dealing with Debt Collectors Best Practices

This articles touches on the do’s and don’ts when dealing with Debt Collectors. Fortunately, there are many state and federal laws that protect consumers from overly aggressive debt collectors. So, it’s important that you know your rights. The tips in this article also help preserve your rights to sue debt collectors who break the law.

What to Always Do:

  • Confirm all arrangements in writing before you make payments.
  • This may be obvious but it’s important to wait until agreement has been put into writing before you begin your payments. The debt collectors may reassure you that this is not necessary but you must insist that for them to receive payment, they must provide written confirmation of the terms and conditions of the settlement. In reality this will protect both parties in case anything changes and it definitely protects you from any sneaky changes in the terms and conditions of the verbal agreement you have. Remember to check the written contract to make sure that it matches the verbal agreement and if you notice any changes or misunderstandings, demand that you receive an amended version before payment begins.

  • Keep a detailed record of all contact and interactions you have with the debt collector, whether by telephone, email or postal mail.
  • Document the time, date, and length of conversation. Note down who you spoke to and the name of the companies mentioned. Write down what was said or agreed upon, as much word for word as possible.

  • Do record any telephone calls and communications.
  • Federal law in the US requires that at least one party taking part in the call must be informed of the recording. Other states demand that all parties are made aware of the recording. Whatever state you’re in or whatever state the collection agency is calling from, there are ways around being able to record a conversation.

    If they are calling from a one-party state, there is no need to mention that you are recording the conversation. If they are calling from an all-party state you can obviously inform them that you are recording the phone call. This may prompt them to be very nice to you, or simply terminate the conversation. The law also states that a clear beep tone repeated at regular intervals during the call is an acceptable form of notification that a call is being recorded.

    You might even be able to trick them into agreeing to a recording by mocking their verbal notification and saying something like ‘Please note that this call is being recorded for customer service reasons’. If you mock their tone and manner, they probably won’t take you seriously and will not believe that they are being recorded.

    It’s interesting to note that calls from withheld numbers, numbers that don’t show up on caller-ID, can be presumed to be from one-party states as they are withholding their number, so feel free to record that call without worrying about notifying them.

  • Remain calm and composed when talking to a debt collector on the phone. They want to get under your skin so you will agree to unreasonable terms.

  • Try to negotiate the amount with the debt collector in order to find a reasonable figure for you and an acceptable amount for them.
  • If you are dealing with a third party debt buyer and not the original creditor, it is likely that your debt has been bought for a lot less than the debt’s face value. Consequently, the debt collection company will more than likely be willing to agree on a much lower settlement than what you actually owe. This won’t be easy but if you are firm and uncompromising, you may well be able to agree on a much more reasonable amount.

  • Insist on getting all settlement agreements put into writing before starting payments.

  • Always pay precisely the amount that you agreed on and on the date/ day of the month you agreed to pay it on.

What to Not Do:

  • Do not allow yourself to get too emotional when talking to a debt collector.
  • Debt collectors endeavour to provoke you emotionally in an effort to make you think irrationally and make decisions that you would not usually make if you were thinking clearly. Their methods evoke strong, negative feelings, whether it is anger, fear, dread, guilt, frustration or desperation. The debt collector doesn’t care what you feel, but that you feel something so strongly that you will agree to anything. So beware of their lies and threats because all they want it is some kind of reaction from you. Just remain as calm as possible and they will be the ones getting frustrated.

  • Do not accept any abusive speech or behavior.
  • If or when they become abusive to you, advise them that if they continue then you will terminate the telephone call. Then, if the abuse continues, stick to your word and end the call. Insist that you will only speak about the matter calmly and you will not tolerate verbal abuse.

  • Don’t give out any of your personal information to the debt collection company, especially your bank account details including your account number or debit card number.
  • When you make payments, use cash deposits, checks or money orders. Don’t let them persuade you otherwise. Debt collecting companies have been known to draft your account for more than what you agreed on and if they succeed at doing it once, you can be sure they will attempt this again.

    Even when they make urgent demands for payments, insist on using checks or money orders and firmly state these as your terms. Just make sure that you do get the check to them as soon as possible so they will have less to complain about.

  • Do not allow the debt collection company to specify the details of the repayment.
  • You need to offer what you know you can afford to pay in order to settle the debt. The debt collector will push to get the highest amount possible from you but ultimately, you must determine how much you can realistically pay at the same time as covering your family’s bills and basic needs.

  • Do not tolerate any form of abuse from a debt collector, verbal, physical or emotional.
  • Even when in debt we all have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity. No one is justified in using verbal, physical or emotional abuse to get what they want.

    When a debt collector becomes abusive in any way, stay calm and warn them that if they continue being abusive, you will end the call and will not discuss the matter again until they calm down.

The law states that you can request that all communications be done in writing and once you have made this request, all telephone calls should finish. Don’t believe them if they claim that you must talk to them over the telephone.

For more information about your rights under federal law, click here.

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