Getting calls from debt collectors is unpleasant, especially when the person on the line is aggressive. Instead of losing your cool, follow these tips to handle them and protect yourself in the process:
Keep a Level Head
Don't let a debt collector threaten or scare you into reacting. Reacting from emotion can cause you to say things you will later regret. Remember, your conversations are recorded. Speak with conviction, but don't be rude. If you feel a call from the collection agency is not going well, request to have the conversation put on hold until another time.
Know That You're Protected By the Law
Thankfully, there are laws that prohibit debt collectors from crossing the line and harassing consumers. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulates how debt collectors can communicate with the public. Let's review some highlights from the Act.
Debt collectors can't:
-- Contact you outside of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
-- Annoy or bother you intentionally.
-- Communicate with you after you send a written request to end contact (unless they need to notify you of a new development like pending litigation or termination of your account).
-- Call you at work if your employer doesn't allow it.
-- Use abusive language or threaten legal action that's not possible or that they don't intend to act on.
If a debt collector is making you feel uncomfortable or using abusive practices, you need to record these events. Then submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
[See: How to Live on $13,000 a Year.]
Find Out the Statute of Limitations for Your State
Pushy debt collectors want your money, so they probably won't be inclined to share that there's a statute of limitations on debt, which varies by state.
A debt collector can no longer take you to court for an unpaid debt once a certain amount of time passes. Watch out for debt collectors who attempt to threaten a lawsuit anyway.
Keep in mind, this doesn't mean your debt disappears. Whether you choose to forget about the debt or pay it once you no longer face legal action is a personal choice. Still, it's a choice you have the right to make.
You can send a cease and desist letter to stop debt collectors from calling you after the statute of limitations period passes. The debt collector has to comply with your request or risk being in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Get Proof of the Debt Before Agreeing to Pay
You need to ask for a debt verification letter whenever someone contacts you from a collections agency. From this letter, you'll get two important pieces of information, including how old the debt is and whether the debt is legitimate.
Don't pay or acknowledge a debt over the phone without checking the age and accuracy of the bill. If you start making payments on a debt that's incorrect, you may have trouble disputing it later. Furthermore, if you admit to and make payments on a very old debt, the statute of limitations cycle may restart.
[See: 10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt.]
Prepare Before Each Call
Whenever you speak with a debt collector, you want to be cool, calm and collected. If you tend to get nervous on the call, develop a script to help you remember everything you want to discuss with the agent.
If you need to dispute an unpaid debt, have all of your documents available to ask and answer questions quickly. You can also run through your legal rights beforehand for a quick refresher in case you need to address a debt collector who isn't speaking to you with respect.
Ask for Everything in Writing
Keep a written account of each phone conversation you have with a collections agent. If you come to a payment arrangement or settlement, ask for it in writing as well.
Included in the agreement terms should be a confirmation that fulfilling your end of the deal will satisfy the debt entirely. If you ever need to appear in court regarding your debt, you want to have as much evidence as possible in your favor.
Debt collectors are skilled at making you feel as if they have the upper hand, but you have quite a bit of leverage. Knowing your rights and remaining unflappable during a collections call is the best way to go.
Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche is a financial educator, bestselling author and founder of TheBudgetnista.com. Through her LIVE RICHER Challenge movement, she's helped thousands of women worldwide begin to take control of their finances.
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