Dealing with calls from a debt collector can be unpleasant at best; stressful and dehumanizing at worst. Most debt collection agents are paid on commission and receive minimal training, which can lead them to behave aggressively. The law forbids them from using threatening language or profanity. (That doesn’t mean they won’t, however).
Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission has put in place a number of measures designed to protect consumers from harassment by debt collectors. For example, debt collectors are not supposed to call before 8 am or after 9 pm, and they are not allowed to call you at work if you tell them not to – either verbally or in writing.
Here are several additional things to remember to help you deal with debt collector harassment.
If the phone rings and it’s a debt collector, keep the conversation as short as possible. Ask for them to send a letter outlining the amount of the debt and the original creditor. Do not volunteer any personal or banking information including social security, credit card or bank account numbers.
Ask for ID
Debt collectors cannot act anonymously. When asked, they must identify themselves to you with their name and the name of their collection agency. Additionally, they are not allowed to suggest or falsely claim that they represent or have any connection to government agencies.
Verify the Debt
Request written notice of the debt, which should include the amount owed, the name of the original creditor and information on how to dispute the debt if you don’t believe it is valid. By law, collectors must provide this within five days of your request. If it appears the debt is a result of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
Verify the Agency
If you determine the debt is yours and you agree to pay it, make sure the collection agency is valid. Do your research online and ensure you are sending payment or giving your payment information to a reputable collection agency. Keep an eye on your credit report and bank accounts to be sure your payment is correctly applied and they are debiting only the authorized amount.
Ask for Help
If you’re dealing with multiple collectors or feel you’re unable to repay the debts you owe, it’s probably time to ask for help. Credit counseling, a debt management plan or bankruptcy counseling – all available from Take Charge America — can help you get back on track financially.