Let’s be honest, being in debt isn’t fun. Nobody wants to have debt or the worry that goes along with it. For some people, the worst part of debt is dealing with debt collectors. They’re the ones who can make anyone hesitate to answer their phone. Stories of debt collectors preying on and intimidating consumers are all too common. If you are living in fear because you have debt collectors contacting you, here are five tips for dealing with debt collectors while you focus on getting your finances back on track.
Keep conversations with debt collectors short and firm
It’s tempting to make excuses or give out unnecessary details about your life in hopes that the collectors will back off. Word of advice? Don’t bother. The whole point of the call is to see if you can pay, so just cut to the chase. Keep everything on a need-to-know-basis. Only disclose what you can pay, when you’ll be able to, and the best way to reach you.
It’s important to note that you’re under no legal obligation to answer the phone or maintain communication when dealing with debt collectors. Ignoring them, however, will tempt them to take legal action against you.
Show you are making an effort
No one wants to stay in debt longer than they have to, but sometimes you just can’t pay right away. If you know you won’t be able to pay in full, let them know. While it’s true that they’re often under pressure to meet their collection quotas (hence the pressure they put on you), the threat of losing the commission entirely is enough for most collectors to back off.
Even paying as little as $10 a month is better than nothing at all.
Scare-tactics and vague threats aren’t uncommon when dealing with debt collectors, so it’s important to stay calm. Just because you owe money doesn’t mean you’re at the mercy of the debt collection agency. You aren’t obligated to give them any information unrelated to paying off your debt nor are they legally entitled to it.
If you feel anxious when the phone rings, let it ring, take a deep breath, and then call them back. You’ll feel more in control by choosing to talk about your debt on your own terms.
Don’t hesitate to negotiate
People often don’t think to negotiate with their debt collectors, but more should. Debt collectors make most of their commission within the first one to two months of calling you, so the longer you go without paying, the more leeway you have to negotiate.
If you plan on negotiating, be sure you get everything in writing.
Know your rights
Not enough people know that they’re protected under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and some debt collectors will try to take advantage of this. Here’s a quick rundown of the lines that can’t be crossed when dealing with debt collectors:
- Debt collectors can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- They can’t harass, threaten, or falsely declare legal action
- They can’t use inappropriate or obscene language
- They can’t directly contact you if you’ve sought an attorney. They must contact the attorney representing your case
- They are not allowed to contact your workplace to inquire about the debt (unless you give them permission to)
- They are not allowed to disclose information about your debt to third parties. They are allowed to contact third parties or close associates to locate you, but they may only do so once
- They have to stop all contact with you if you send a written letter telling them to cease contact. This does not erase any debt and they will try to recover it through other means
Your rights as a consumer are just as important as your rights as a citizen. If you feel you’re being taken advantage of by a debt collection agency, seek legal representation.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.