An unexpected call or letter from a debt collector can be quite unsettling. This is especially true when a debt collector starts to get aggressive and threatening, which happens often.
Before we get into specifics about dealing with debt collectors, the most important thing to keep in mind right off the bat is that debt collectors are attempting to get your money as quickly as possible.
They’ll use all kinds of tactics to achieve this, which is usually in the form of trying to scare you or upset you enough so you’ll pay. This is often the point where people make mistakes, such as giving them access to their bank account. In order to properly deal with debt collectors, the best technique is to remain absolutely calm and follow these guidelines.
1. Tell the Debt Collector You Know Your Rights
Regardless of what a debt collector might tell you, you have a lot of rights when it comes to how a debt can be collected. In fact, by merely mentioning that you understand your rights will many times stop a debt collector in their tracks.
Your rights fall under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This act dedicates the rules debt collectors must play by when they are attempting to collect a debt. Unfortunately because so many people are unaware of their rights, collectors many times completely ignore these rules, breaking the law on a regular basis.
Therefore, it puts you in a good position when you tell the debt collector that you are aware of the The Fair Collection Practices Act, and any violation will be documented. What are some of the most common violations?
Here is what we see the most often:
- Contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time.
- Failure to cease communication upon request.
- Threatening arrest or legal action.
- Abusive or profane language.
Here is a full list of your rights under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
2. Don’t Allow Them to Provoke You
Playing with your emotions is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to collecting a debt. Most commonly what we see is debt collectors will attempt to make you feel guilty. In other words, they’ll try to make you feel like a deadbeat. Don’t fall for this nonsense. It’s all an act.
If this doesn’t work, they’ll switch acts and attempt to make you so angry that you rather pay them, even if it means not making rent, than have to deal with them for another minute.
Always remain absolutely calm and cool, even professional, when talking to a debt collector. If it helps, laugh at them when they try to provoke your emotions.
3. Never Pay a Debt Collector Before Your Basic Needs
As a general rule, you should never pay a debt collector if it puts your ability to pay for necessities in jeopardy. In other words, don’t pay a debt collector when you need that money for groceries. It’s just a foolish thing to do. Sadly, most debt collectors could care less.
More specifically, always make sure your rent/mortgage, groceries, utilities, and other necessities are taken care of before you even consider paying off an old debt. It’s simply not as important, regardless of what a debt collector might have you believe.
4. Verify the Amount They are Collecting
Regardless of whether you receive a collection notice via a letter or a phone call, you need to make sure that the amount they are attempting to collect is accurate. There are several things you should be looking at before agreeing to making any payment.
Before you do anything else, you should send the collector a Debt Validation Letter. This letter is part of The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and basically allows you to request that the collector validate that not only is the debt yours, but that the amount they are attempting to collect is correct. For an example of a Debt Validation Letter, check out this article.
Another thing you should be looking out for is outlandish late fees or additional interest added to the original debt amount. Remember that in most cases you can negotiate to significantly reduce, or even eliminate these fees.
5. Agreements Should be Made in Writing
Want to know how dishonest debt collectors can be? Check out my interview, A Regretful Debt Collector Tells Me His Story.
Debt collectors are notorious for making false promises, reneging on agreements, and even clearing out people’s bank accounts. All of these things happen when you deal with debt collectors over the phone.
Protect yourself by never making agreements with debt collectors over the phone. Simply tell them to send you everything in writing and hang up. You can also use email, just as long as it’s not some kind of verbal agreement that can’t be proved in court.
The unfortunate fact is that many of you are probably reading this after you have made some kind of verbal agreement with a collector and they’ve already taken you for a ride. Unless you have agreements in writing there is, sadly, little you can do without getting a lawyer, which may or may not be worth the expense.
That said, just make sure that all future agreements are in writing, whether it’s with a debt collector that you’re currently dealing with, or a debt collector in the future.
Remove Collections From Your Credit Report
Once you have stopped the debt collection calls, you should attempt to remove the collection from your credit report by using the techniques outlined in my article: How to Remove Collections From Your Credit Report.