It’s natural to get stressed out during a debt collection call. Debt collectors are in fact trained to ramp up that stress.
It’s important to realize you have the power in this situation. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act protects you.
Take these steps to ensure you get the full extent of that protection.
#1) Get some vital information.
There are an awful lot of debt collection scams out there. There are also some borderline scammers collecting on “zombie debts,” which are debts that are so old they’ve passed the statute of limitations, or which you’ve already paid on, but so long ago you might reasonably have trouble remembering that you did.
To combat this, always get the name and address of the original creditors, the date of your last payment, and the amount you paid. Compare this information to your own records. If it doesn’t match up, it’s probably safe to ignore the debt collector.
#2) Ask them to verify the debt via the mail.
If you’ve never talked to this debt collector before then you can ask them to verify the debt via snail mail. Usually, they’ll send a letter before they start calling. This letter will give you 30 days to dispute the debt.
Often, if you do, they’ll come back and reaffirm it, but this can be a useful tool for buying some time. It’s also another safeguard against scammers.
#3) Ask them to contact you by mail, and only by mail.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to put up with dozens of phone calls. If you tell debt collectors they may contact you only by snail mail the FDCPA demands that they honor that.
You may have to send them this demand in writing. Do so via certified mail, return receipt requested.
#4) Avoid giving them too much information and ammunition.
There are some pieces of information you should never give a debt collector. This includes information on your employment, income, or assets.
You can be assured they will use this information to harass you at work. They may even use it to launch a lawsuit against you.
If you set up a payment arrangement, be sure you honor it. This will, by necessity, involve giving collectors some of your financial information. If you don’t honor it, they will use it against you.
#5) Consider bankruptcy.
If you have many debt collectors calling you and can’t seem to get ahead, it may be time to consider bankruptcy. Most people who are receiving debt collection calls are unlikely to get on firm financial footing without some sort of help.
Unless your brush with a collection agency is a one off, it’s at least time to consider meeting with a bankruptcy attorney, who can both help you determine if this action is right for you while helping you defend yourself against creditors.