If you’re getting calls from debt collectors, you might have several issues going on in your life. You probably don’t have a lot of time to talk to a stranger trying to get you to pay them money. Or you might have all the time in the world but no money to give. If you get a call from a debt collector, know your rights.
First off, don’t panic. You may have been expecting the call, or maybe you weren’t. Collect your wits quickly or ask the agent to call you later. Do not admit to anything on their recorded line. Instead, give yourself time to prepare for the conversation. If you can focus on the debt and your ability to repay, the more smoothly your interaction with the collection agent will go. Don’t give them any initial negotiating advantages. Most collection agencies take extensive notes on their conversations.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act sets forth what debt collection companies are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. The FDCPA prohibits many types of abusive debt collection activities and behavior. You can protect yourself by knowing what a debt collector is not allowed to say to you on the phone.
Debt collectors can’t use any profanity. They can not threaten to harm you, or make any threats whatsoever, for that matter. They cannot claim that a criminal action will be filed against you. And they cannot lie to you or make false representations regarding the debt.
They are also not allowed to call you at inconvenient times. Nor can they call you repeatedly. And if you request it in writing, they must not contact you at work.
The debt collector must validate the debt. You are entitled to request accurate accounting for the debt. Many times collection agencies attempt collection using incorrect or outdated information. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from trying collect interest, fees, or other charges unless provided for in the contact giving rise to the debt.
When You Get a Call from a Debt Collector
Log the call. Note the number and the call time. Keep these records in case they become relevant to an FDCPA violation complaint.
Be friendly. The agent on the other end of the phone has a job to do, too. If you owe the debt, and can afford to pay it, do not avoid the creditor. If you owe the debt but cannot afford to pay it, consider hiring an attorney either to settle the debt or examine your bankruptcy options. But if you do not owe the debt, cooperate with the creditor until they are satisfied that the debt is not, or is no longer, yours. Attempt at all times to maintain a professional, pleasant demeanor, even if the debt collector makes that difficult.
When you receive a call from a debt collector, know your rights, but don’t flaunt them. Do not panic and do not get stressed. Take your time, validate the debt, set some ground rules with the creditor, and try to work out a deal. Debt problems, generally speaking, do not simply resolve themselves, so if you owe a debt, you cannot avoid collection attempts forever. If you can afford it, pay it. If you can’t, call Lee Legal at (202) 448-5136 to explore your other options.