Hearing from debt collectors and dealing with debt collection can be an extremely stressful experience. Debt collection agencies use a variety of strategies to collect what they believe is owed to them. We understand that the tactics they use can be confusing and many are designed to confuse you into doing things you’re not actually legally required to do. Here are four tips to help you navigate dealing with debt collection and protect yourself from aggressive collection practices.
1. Know Your Rights
Did you know that you have rights that are protected by law when it comes to debt collection? The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines your rights. Some debt collection agencies use methods that are deceptive and even border on harassment, which is why knowing your rights is important. For instance, it’s illegal for your creditors to try to reach you after 9 PM or before 8 AM. They also are not allowed to contact you at your place of employment, as long as you’ve told them explicitly not to. Making legal threats against you is also off limits unless the agencies are actively pursuing a case and can prove that fact. If a debt collection agency breaks any of these rules, be sure to report them to your state government or the Federal Trade Commission.
2. Stay Quiet and Stand Your Ground
Are you wondering what to say when dealing with debt collection? The best tactic is to say as little as possible and keep the conversation short. When speaking to a collector, they are trying to determine if you have the capacity to pay by interviewing you. The less you say, the better off you are. It is important to stay in control of the conversation by remaining focused and calm, no matter what they throw your way. Determine what your response will be ahead of time and stay with your script then get off the phone as quickly as possible.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Dispute
If you believe the debt to be false or that you don’t owe the money, you are permitted to dispute the debt in writing. To dispute a debt, you must send a letter within 30 days of receiving notice from the debt collector stating you are disputing the debt. It’s wise to send your dispute via certififed mail so you have proof that it was sent and the collection agency cannot deny receiving your communication. You should also maintain a copy of the letter for your own records. Be aware that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides the debt collector rights, too. A collection firm can resume their collection activities toward you if it provides you with proof of the debt, such as a copy of the bill you owe.
4) Negotiate a Better Deal
The reality is that by the time an account goes to third party collections, the debt collector is looking for whatever payments they can negotiate, because some is better than no payment at all. There is a good chance you can work out a deal to pay less than the full amount of the debt. Consider offering 10-15% of what they say you owe and realize that you will likely settle somewhere between 30-50% in the end. Whatever you negotiate, be sure to get details in writing and agree to pay by certified check or money order instead of providing the collector with your banking information.
By knowing your rights, standing your ground and pushing for negotiation, you’ll be able to eliminate much of the stress that comes from dealing with debt collection.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution to ease your stress, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
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