Collection calls are stressful. Some stranger is calling you day and night, hounding you for money. You feel embarrassed, ashamed, and stressed.
Every ring of the phone becomes a reminder of something that’s gone wrong in your life.
So it’s little wonder debtors tend to make big mistakes when third-party collection agents call. Here are a few of them.
Failing to check the statute of limitations.
The debt may be far too old to worry about. But if you pay even one penny on it, you could start the clock all over again.
The collection agent may even know the bill is past statute, but he or she gets a commission if you pay it anyway, and so is motivated to take his or her best shot.
See also: Are You Dealing with Zombie Debt?
Giving the collection agent your work number.
Because the collection agent will use it, and if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself frantically whispering you can’t take calls like this at work. The collection agent will ignore you and try to proceed with the call.
Remember, the agent is not entitled to any information about you at all.
See also: How to Deal with Collection Calls.
The agent may tell you they need you to “fill out an application” for a “payment plan.” They might ask how much you make, whether you have a checking account, whether you have a savings account, and a bunch of other questions.
What they’re trying to find out is if you have any assets they can go after. While most creditors can’t have your wages garnished in Pennsylvania, they can sometimes apply levies to your bank account. Giving them information which tells them it’s worthwhile to file a lawsuit is a bad move.
See also: What You Need to Know About Being Sued for Debts in Philadelphia. If you’re in New Jersey, you need to be even more careful, because they can try to get your wages garnished. See also: What You Need to Know About Being Sued for Debts in New Jersey.
Telling the collection agent about your personal information.
The debt collectors are trained to think of anything you tell them as a mere “stall.” They tell their agents it’s not that you can’t pay the money, it’s that you don’t want to. They then advise their agents to get even more stern and forceful on the phone.
The collection agent doesn’t really care. At best, you may convince them the debt can’t be collected. At worst, you’ll accidentally reveal more than you mean to. Either offer to pay them something or get off the phone. There really is no middle ground.
Allowing the collection agency to bully or scare you into paying.
Sure, the agent sounds like a stern parent who is borderline accusing you of being a thief. Sure, they use all sorts of scary language like, “being forced to take further action,” a non-statement which really means nothing at all.
And sure, some really do violate the FDCPA by making all sorts of crazy threats.
But collectors are really limited in what they can do to you. And these people are not your friends. You don’t need to care about whether they have a good opinion of you.
Rushing to accept a settlement offer.
Collection agents are really good at making debt settlements sound like this huge, magnanimous favor they’re doing for you. In reality they probably bought your $300 debt for $50 and so make great money by offering to “let” you pay $225.
If you only have one collection agent on your back for one debt this could make sense, as long as you know it’s not going to help your credit score nearly as much as payment in full would. If you have multiple debts in collections, trying to settle them out just means throwing good money after bad. It also could complicate the bankruptcy case you really need to file if you’ve got multiple collectors after you for multiple debts.
See also: What You Need to Know About Settling Debts.
Forgetting you don’t even really have to talk to this person.
You can always tell the collection agent to put a “do not contact” order on your account, demanding they contact you by mail, and mail alone. Sometimes to get them to actually honor the order you have to write them a letter demanding they cease and desist all telephone-based collection efforts.
And if you hire a bankruptcy attorney? After that you can just give them your case number and your attorney’s name, and tell them you’re protected by the automatic stay. They won’t call again, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing this will all be over soon.