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How to Handle Debt Collectors: What to Do When They Call

Try to stay calm when you answer debt collection calls.

If you have any debts in collection, you may feel unsure of how to handle debt collectors when they call. People usually feel anxious when talking to debt collectors because discussing an overdue debt is inherently stressful. In addition, these callers may try to intimidate people into cooperating. Even if your first thought is to panic when a debt collector gets you on the phone, it’s important to remain calm and ask some questions to check that the caller is legitimate. These are some strategies to follow:

Don’t Panic

If you panic, you’re not able to think clearly. That puts you at risk of falling prey to a scam. For example, a caller may claim he’s a debt collector and ask for your social security number or bank account number. If your first reaction is to panic, you may accidentally blurt out this information without thinking. A better response is to take a deep breath and wait a few seconds before you say anything. Do not give the caller any sensitive information about yourself; instead, ask him to answer some questions for you.

Ask for Contact Information

Ask the caller for his company name, phone number, and address. Once you have this information, get off the phone. You can call your creditors, share the contact information you received, and ask if they authorized this company to collect from you. That way you can determine if the caller is telling the truth. You should also ask for the caller’s license number because, as Consumer Finance notes, some states require debt collectors to be licensed. Comparing the caller’s answer with state licensing records is another step you can take to protect yourself.

Ask for Information about the Debt

You may have certain outstanding debts that you think of when a debt collector calls, but don’t assume the caller is talking about the same debts you are. Ask how much you owe and who your original creditor was. If the caller’s answers don’t match what you know about your debt, the caller might be a scammer trying to collect payment for a fictitious debt. Even if the answers sound right, ask the caller to send you the information about your debt in writing. You want to have accurate records of your finances. Don’t enter any agreements or pay money until you receive a written statement from the debt collector and are certain it’s correct.

Report Debt Collector Abuse

Figuring out how to handle debt collectors is always challenging, but it’s even more stressful if the collectors are abusive. Remember that you do not have to tolerate harassment and that there are laws on your side. If a debt collector harasses you, such as by using profanity or threatening to hurt you, write down what the debt collector said. Also write down the date and time of your conversation. Then, call the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general’s office to report the abuse.

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