It starts happening almost as soon as you start getting behind on your bills. Some, or all, of those bills get sent on to third-party collection agencies.
When that happens, the calls start, sometimes multiple times a day. If you make the mistake of answering the phone you’ll be badgered, shamed, and cajoled into paying money you might not have.
Here are a few tips to help you deal with these people. Note, this information pertains to third-party debt collectors, and not the original holder of the debt.
Know your rights before you get on the phone.
No, the collection agency cannot send you to prison, tell your employer about your debts or show up at your house. And if they say they will, they’re in violation of the law. Creditors are not allowed to threaten you with any action they don’t intend to take, or any action they can’t legally take.
Keep a record of everything that’s said. It will prove useful if you need to launch a complaint against the agency later. You can also record the call if the other party gives permission.
Send some snail mail.
It’s tempting to let the mail pile up when you’re deep in debt. However, mail can be helpful. Debt collectors have to contact you in writing before they start making phone calls.
You can sue these letters to gather the information you need to send a collection agency written notice that you are not to be contacted by phone. Under the FDCPA you have the right to receive all communications from the debt collector via mail and only via mail.
Some collection agencies will back off the moment you say you don’t want to be contacted, but they don’t have to unless you put it in writing. We recommend sending this as a certified letter so they can’t say they never got it. Make sure you save a copy. Letters from collection agencies contain some of the information we need to handle your bankruptcy appropriately.
Note, taking this step does not stop a collection agency from suing you. It just keeps them from hounding you over the phone.
Be careful about volunteering information.
Some agents will start asking a bunch of questions about your personal situation. They may make it seem like you’re “applying” for a payment plan.
In reality, they could be gathering information about your assets so they can pass it all on as evidence in the event they decide to launch a lawsuit.
If you decide to make a partial payment, use a credit card or a debit card for the same reason. You don’t want to put your bank account information on file under any circumstances.
Tell them about your bankruptcy.
If you’ve begun a bankruptcy case you might opt to get on the phone with collectors long enough to tell them you’ve filed. Give them your attorney’s contact information and your case number, if you have it handy. You should not hear from them again outside of a courtroom. Most of the time, you won’t hear from them again ever.
Ignoring collection agencies will not make them go away, but you can make them a bit less obnoxious.
Are you being hounded by third-party debt collectors? It may be time to consider bankruptcy. Contact Sadek and Cooper to schedule your free consultation today. We’re here to help you get back on firm financial footing.