Debt collectors are trained to coerce consumers, and they will use every tactic possible to get you to make a payment, including repetitious phone calls at all hours, or even threatening to garnish your wages or expose your debt publicly.
Here are some of the questionable things debt collectors may say or do and how best to handle them. Remember that even if you owe money, you do have rights and you can use the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as a resource. Also be sure to track all of your correspondence in-case you need to take legal action against overly aggressive collectors when they cross the line.
1. REFUSING TO PROVIDE CREDENTIALS
If a debt collector randomly calls and claims you owe a debt when you’re not sure that you do, you should follow your intuition and dispute it within 30 days by asking them to validate the debt.
According to the FDCPA, you have the right to send a bill collector a debt validation letter requesting more information in the form of a copy of the loan agreement, credit card application, or payment history. This will confirm that the company contacting you has legitimately been assigned to the debt.
While many bill collectors will send this information out to you within a few days of receiving your letter, some may send you inadequate or incorrect information. Others will disregard the law and fail to provide proof of the debt. If a debt collector refuses to comply, hang up the phone and cease all communication.
2. CLAIMING THAT PAYING OFF THE DEBT WILL IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT RATING
Unfortunately, negative marks against your credit rating such as going to collections or being more than 90 days overdue will remain on your record for seven years. This means that paying off your debt won’t automatically have a beneficial effect on your credit rating. You may be able to negotiate a written agreement from debt collector promising to remove all negative information from your credit reports, but you have to do this before you pay, while you still have some leverage.
It’s essential to obtain a copy of your credit report to see the amounts and the companies to which you owe money. If the debts are several years old, leaving them unpaid may be your best bet because they will eventually “fall off” of your credit report.
3. ASKING FOR YOUR BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION OR POST-DATED CHECKS
Beware when a debt collector says he or she will accept a post-dated check because once it’s sent, you can’t be sure when they are going to cash it. Debt collectors have also been known to change the amount of a payment on a check, and even to access people’s bank accounts once they have the account information. Instead of agreeing to a post-dated check, use a money order or certified check with a return receipt requested.
Refuse to answer questions about where your bank accounts are located or any other details about your financial situation, such as how much money you have, whether or not you’re working, or how much salary you earn.
4. THREATENING TO TAKE YOU TO COURT OR TO GARNISH YOUR WAGES
Under the FDCPA, bill collectors can’t legally threaten to take you to court if they have no intention of doing so. They also can’t haphazardly garnish your wages without adhering to a structured legal process.
If a debt collector pursues a court judgment, you will be given written notice as to the date, and you will have the opportunity to present your case to a judge. So if you dispute a debt, or need to stall payments because you don’t have the funds, don’t let legal threats upset you. In many cases, these are empty warnings and pure posturing on the part of debt collectors.
5. CALLING LATE AT NIGHT OR ASKING TO SPEAK TO YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS
Although debt collectors are allowed to call you on the weekends, they are not allowed to call you after 8 or 9 pm, depending on which state you reside. If the collection call originates from California and the number called is in New York, the time limitations are based on the Eastern time zone. If you don’t want debt collectors to harass you at work, then don’t provide them with the phone number in the first place.
Some of them will even have the bravado to ask to speak to a family member or friend who may be able to loan you the money. The truth is that they’re just trying to find out who your closest relatives and friends are in case they ever need to contact them to try and track you down.
Refuse to engage in this invasive dialogue and simply tell them that you’ve exhausted all your financial resources. Sometimes you need some space to take a step back to assess where you are financially before committing to payment arrangements you won’t be able to honor.
Remember that the FDCPA has stringent rules to protect you from harassment. In fact, you’re under no legal obligation to speak with a collection agent, and you can even send a “cease and desist” letter to the collection agency with instructions to stop contacting you. However, the collection agency can sell the debt to another collector who won’t be legally bound by this correspondence.
Schedule a free consultation today for a risk-free debt assessment. The only thing you have to lose is your debt.