I’ve been preaching about the dangers of debt collectors for years on this blog but I still get emails from readers who end up getting in trouble with collectors. If you want to get an idea of how bad these people can be, check out when I interviewed a former debt collector and he sold me all his secrets.

Debt collectors only care about one thing and that is to get you to pay them so they can get a commission check. In general you shouldn’t talk to debt collectors over the phone at all, but in this post I’m going to outline some specific things you should avoid if you end up on the phone with a debt collector.

1. Debt Collectors want to get your personal information

One of the first things you might notice when you get a call from a debt collector is how many questions they’ll begin asking you. They’ll even demand that you provide them with certain personal information “or else”. Don’t cave in, keep quiet and tell them to send it to you in writing.

The first thing you need to know is never give them any personal information. By personal information, I mean just about anything you wouldn’t give to a stranger. This especially includes where you’re employed –unless you want them to start calling your work (and they will, trust me).

Here are a few more things you shouldn’t provide to debt collectors

  • Additional phone numbers other than what they got
  • Email Address
  • Mailing address (unless you intend on coming to a payment agreement)
  • Employer, past employers
  • Family information, spouse’s employer or phone numbers
  • Bank account information
  • Credit card number
  • SSN

2. Never admit that the debt is yours

Even if the debt is yours, don’t admit that to the debt collector. There is no reason to do so and it could get you in trouble later on if you try to dispute the debt on your credit report as inaccurate. Many times old debts have fraudulent interest charges that you aren’t obliged to pay but debt collectors will attempt to collect anyways.

Again, it’s best to just tell them to send you everything in writing and then hang up. You have the right to do so, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.

3. Do not pay a debt collector over the phone

One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with debt collectors is that the collector convinces them to make a small payment over the phone on the spot. The person then hands over the debt collector their bank account information or their credit card and the next day find out that they’ve been cleaned out. Yes, this does happen.

If you decide to make them a payment, even a small payment, only do so when the agreement has been sent to you in the mail. Email is OK, but I still prefer snail mail when dealing with debt collectors. Even then, never give them access to your bank account, even if you have the agreement in writing. Send them a check.

4. Don’t take any threats seriously

Debt collectors will make all kinds of threats, including threatening to call the police (which is illegal but won’t stop them). They’ll also tell you they’re going to call your friends and family and tell them you are a deadbeat. They’ll threaten to call your employment and get you fired. They can be truly deceptive. Don’t buy into it.

Another strategy debt collectors often do is try to get you either fired up or fearful so they can manipulate you when your emotions are high. In this case it’s best to just remain calm and don’t believe what they are tell you. Pretend that you’re talking to a 3 year old.

5. The law is on your side

So this all begs the question, how should I deal with debt collectors? Well, it’s pretty simple and it’s important to keep in mind that the law is on your side. In other words, you have lots of protections. Debt collectors know this, but they just assume you don’t because most people don’t know about The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This is the law that will protect you from these predators.

By citing this law you can demand that they basically stop attempting to collect. You have vast protections under this law. My recommendation is that you read through the list of protections so you’re ready to fight back.

How to properly handle debt collectors

When a debt collector calls, tell them to stop calling you by citing the The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Request that all further communication be done via snail mail and then hang up. If they call again, tell them that they are in violation of the The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and ask to speak to their manager. Tell the manger that you have requested that they stop calling under the The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and that should do the trick.

Any payment agreement you come to should be done in writing and remember to never give out your bank account information or credit card.