Debt collectors can be annoying, aggressive and relentless. When you are in a financial struggle and you are incapable or paying your debts, the last thing you want in your life is to be harassed by endless phone calls, e-mails and so on. Debt collectors are the ones who buy your debt from your original creditor, when the debt isn’t paid by you for a certain period of time, usually around 6 months. Debt collectors will try to get the money back from you through any possible means and give back a percentage of it to the creditor they bought it from.
Although you have to be responsible for your own financial obligations, that doesn’t mean you have to let yourself intimidated by their unscrupulous tactics and threats.
Here are some tips to help you deal with debt collectors:
- Never give in immediately. No matter how ashamed or scared you might feel, think before you act. Never give in and pay anything when they first contact you. Do your homework, analyze your options and don’t let them intimidate you with legal terms and threats. The best thing you can do is to ask for as many details as you can on your debt and then tell them you will call them back.
- Always ask them for proof. There are lots of cases in which your report contains errors and the debt might not even be yours. If anything sounds suspicious or unfamiliar, ask for a report from the credit bureaus and ask the debt collector to send you a verification of the debt. That should at least keep them busy and quiet for a while.
- Do your homework and learn your rights. The FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) clearly stipulates that collectors can’t disturb you within certain hours (before 8 am, after 9 pm) or at work, once you’ve asked them not to. They might also try to pose as attorney or even law enforcement, which is also a violation of the FDCPA, or threaten you to seize your property or sue, which they are not allowed to, unless they know they are about to do so and they can do it. Another useful thing to know regarding their right to sue you is that there is a time frame in which they can do so. The statute of limitations is from 3 to 6 years, varying from state to state and depending on your debt. After that period, debt collectors can’t sue you for that certain debt. If you bump into any of those scenarios, you are entitled to take legal action on debt collectors. Also, it would be wise for that purpose to keep records of your conversations with them, messages and calls, in case YOU need to take legal action on them.
- Hire an attorney if you can’t reach an agreement with them. A lot of debt collecting agencies rely on your embarrassment, weakness or lack of information. If they see you fighting back and being prepared to do anything it takes, it is highly possible that they’ll drop your case and go harass an easier target.
- Try to negotiate. If they are right and you are wrong, the debt is yours and they are not breaking any laws when contacting you, you can still try to negotiate with them. More often than not, collectors will settle down for anything, as long as they can get back anything from you. They go by the principle ‘Anything is better than nothing’. Use that to your advantage and try to reduce your payments as much as you can. Odds are, if you know your game, you’ll end up paying back less than what you owe. You can also try to work out a deal to pay for deletion, meaning you agree to pay them the full amount if they agree to have your collection removed from your report. No matter what you choose to negotiate for, don’t forget to get it all in writing.