Debt collectors are highly motivated to convince debtors to pay the debt because they work on a commission. This business model has created the reputation for bill collection agencies that we know today.
The collector might engage in threatening behavior and harassment. However, like any other business they are governed by laws that prohibit certain abusive practices.
There are three reasons for a debt collector to contact you: your creditor has not received a payment from you within the time frame discussed in the contract; you are a victim of an identity theft meaning someone used your identity to obtain credit and didn’t pay it off; and finally, you might be contacted by collectors who are looking for someone other than you .
When contacted by a collector, take as much information as possible from the caller. Ask for the name of the company, address, the caller name, fax and phone number, amount owned, and the name of the creditor who passed your account to them. Also, tell them you expect to receive a notice in the mail concerning this debt. The last step is very important because you need to have proof of the debt in question in writing.
If you discovered that the debt is not yours, never pay it off simply to get rid of the collector. Also, never ignore the collector either. They will not stop contacting you, and may even file a lawsuit against you. If you are repeatedly being contacted by a collector looking for someone other than you, it may be considered a form of harassment. To stop this you need to send them a letter requesting to cease calls.
If you established that the debt is yours and you don’t feel comfortable dealing with a collector via phone, tell them you want all future correspondence in writing. You need to send this request via a certified mail and request a return receipt. If you want to allow calls only between 5pm and 6pm, tell them about it in the letter. By law collection companies are required to respect your privacy and will have to cease all phone calls to your home, relatives, neighbors, and work.
Once you have their claims in writing it’s easier to seek legal help, and keep records of your correspondence.
Send all your responses to bill collectors via Certified Mail. This way you will have proof of receipt by the addressee.
Remember that the amount they claim you owe is negotiable. You can negotiate the total amount due, number of payments, and the payment deadline. Once you worked out the payment plan, request it in writing.
What a debt collector CANNOT do:
* Use deceptive practices. For example, threaten you with arrest or trick you into paying for collection calls.
* Use obscene language.
* Call you at work after you tell them that your boss does not approve these calls.
* Deny you the right to receive a written notice (within five days after your first phone conversation) that would tell you how much you owe and the name of the creditor that says you owe the money. If you do not receive the notice within five days, call the collection agency and ask for its address and fax number. Then, send a letter to the collector noting its failure to send you the required notice. As a minimum, make a note in your file.
* Refuse to give its name and the name of the collection company when asked.
* Put a debt on your credit report if you file a dispute. It must validate the debt by obtaining a verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment from the creditor before continuing their collection efforts. The results of the investigation must be mailed to you.