Tuesday, November 25, 2008

5 Things to Never Say to a Debt Collector

I'm pleased to publish this guest post from my pal Jonathan over at Master Your Card:

Dealing with a debt collector is hardly ever pleasant, even if the debt collector is respectful and cordial. No matter how nice the collector seems, the fact remains that you're behind in your payments and it's this person's job to get the money from you. This is simply not a scenario that lends itself to pleasant conversation.

Debt collectors have a slew of tricks up their sleeves. Although there are rules that dictate how collectors can talk to people, there are many different methods collectors use in order to get the money they are tasked to collect. For this reason, you need to remain on guard when having a chat with a debt collector, no matter how friendly the conversation may seem.
  1. "Here is my checking account number." By allowing the collector access to your checking account in order to access whatever payment you need to make, you're opening up a can of worms. Depending on the original agreement, you may find that more money is debited from your account that you thought would be.
  2. "Stop calling me, stop contacting me, and leave me alone." According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can demand that a collector stops contacting you altogether. You'll have to make this request in writing, but once you do this you won't hear from the collector until the debt heads to court or the collection agency just gives up. This is not a smart move. You need to stay informed when it comes to your debt, no matter how unpleasant it is.
  3. "Forget it…I'm declaring bankruptcy next week." The mere threat of bankruptcy doesn’t protect you from collectors. If anything, it may force the collector to kick efforts into high gear before you go file the papers.
  4. "No, I don't need that in writing." You work out a settlement agreement with your collector, but then you send in the payment before getting the agreement in writing. The next thing you know, you get a statement thanking you for your payment and demanding the remaining balance. Without the agreement in writing, you will have a difficult time proving the verbal agreement you had with the collector you originally spoke to.
  5. "Screw you, you blankety-blank-blank-blank." Yes, you're frustrated and stressed out that you allowed yourself to get into this financial mess, and the person calling to insist on payment may seem like an easy target to vent your frustrations on. Try to keep everything in perspective. A debt collector is someone doing a job. This person is actually in a great position to help you by accepting a payment plan or a settlement instead of going after the full amount plus fees and interest. Try to work with the collector instead of taking out all your anger on him or her.
Sometimes debt collectors cross the line and break some rules (and basic manners) in order to collect money. They may intimidate or ridicule you, or on the other hand they may act like your best friend in order to get into your wallet.

Most collectors, on the other hand, are just people doing their job while staying within the rules governing debt collection. Try your best to work with the collector to get your debt paid without falling for any tricky ploys the collector might try to use on you.

For more by Jonathan, read his latest post on credit card arbitrage.


Little Miss Moneybags said...

Regarding #2, you CAN (and if they're bothering you multiple times a day or at work, SHOULD) say they can only contact you in writing from now on. You'll have to make this request in writing, however.

Anonymous said...

I find the best thing to do is send the bill collector a debt validation letter along with the Do Not Call Letter. That way you can cease the harassing threatening phone calls and start building a case. If your harassing bill collector screws up in anyway you then have a case and are prepared to start a law suit. I have helped many people collect thousands of dollars this way and then resolve the debt for pennies on the dollar. In fact I have even resolved my own debts this way. See my blog for details.

Anonymous said...

Re: Allan's comment above. I work for a law firm that sues on severely delinquent consumer debts, and can say that the "debt validation letter along with the Do Not Call Letter" are practically useless. They do not protect you from a lawsuit, nor from judgment. Rather, the firms selling these products tend to be scams wherein you end up owing both the creditor as well as the company that sold you the packet of allegedly helpful "debt validation letters" and their ilk. On the whole, you are better off financially by working out a settlement agreement with your creditor.

fr7 said...

allan, am a debt collector. and your advice is not really good. its taking advantage of a person who is just doing her job. i think the main point of all of these is pay your bills on time so wont be in collections. make sense right?

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