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Handling Collections

Collections agencies get a bad rap, and it’s not all undeserved.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was established to protect consumers from abusive practices by debt collectors.  While many collections agents see themselves as specialized customer service agents, others see themselves more as intimidating bouncers.  The FDCPA set up guidelines for collections agencies to follow.  

For example, once you’re contacted by phone, the debt collector must notify you in writing detailed information about the debt, including the amount owed, the creditor who referred the debt, and it must disclose that you can dispute the debt as long as you do so within 30 days.  They are allowed to contact you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless you give them permission to do so outside of those hours.  

They can contact you directly unless you provide them with your attorney’s information and direct them there.  You do have the right to simply state that you don’t want them to contact you directly anymore.  In that case, your file will be referred to a collection attorney.  They can call you at work, unless you tell them it’s prohibited.  They can contact others to get personal information like where you live and work.  

When doing this, they cannot mention the debt, unless they reach your mother and she asks who they are.  In this case, they can disclose their name and their employer’s name.  They can repossess purchases made, and they can take you to court.  As you can see, there is a lot debt collectors can do, so it’s easy to see how they can sometimes get out of bounds.  When dealing with debt collectors, keep in mind that they are not allowed to:
  • Use threats of any kind.  In addition, they cannot make idle threats.  Although they can take you to court, if they have no intention of doing so, they cannot threaten to do so.
  • Harass you.  Excessive or repetitive phone calls are prohibited.
  • Deceive you.  They are not allowed to pretend to be someone else in order to get you on the phone.  They must identify themselves truthfully.
  • Lie about consequences.  You cannot be imprisoned for failing to pay bills, so if you are told you’ll face criminal charges, it’s false.
When collectors call, you don’t have to answer the phone.  Rest assured, however, that they will find another way to reach you.  If you do answer the phone, make sure that you get the name of you who are speaking with, who they work for, the supervisors name, and the mailing address.  

Ask for proof of the debt.  Even if you’re sure you owe the money, mistakes can be made, so double check to be sure.  Once you’re sure the debt is valid, explain your situation, make an offer that you can handle, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Once an agreement is made, get it in writing.  Be careful not to get sucked into an argument, and follow the same rules to which the creditor is bound: don’t make idle treats.  If you are not planning to file bankruptcy or get a lawyer, don’t say you will.  

If you find yourself in a situation in which you and the collector cannot agree, ask to speak to the manager.  If that fails, you may still have the option to speak to your creditor.  They just want their money, and they know that if the collector is unsuccessful, they won’t get it.  If you still can’t come to a resolution, remember that you may still seek a credit counselor, or even a debt lawyer.

 

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