Being confronted with a call from a debt collector can be stressful and leave you feeling down and confused about what to do next. Remember that debt is something which affects many people from all over the world, and you are not alone. There are many options for seeking help with debt relief including agencies and non-profits that are dedicated to assisting people who are navigating this difficult situation.
Finance Watch completed research into debt collection practices across the E.U. and found that consumers are not well protected. In fact, consumers are often carrying the burden of debt within economies while not receiving any protection when they inevitably fall into debt. It is a growing problem, and many agencies are working to make changes by creating the appropriate support for those who have found themselves in this situation.
Practices among debt collectors can be varied and it is not uncommon for them to stray into using incredibly persuasive, and sometimes illegal, techniques to retrieve the information they need. It can be hard to know the best way to avoid putting yourself in a position where you are unprepared for a call with a debt collector, and therefore, at risk of admitting information which would lead to legal or financial repercussions.
It is important to know the best techniques for handling calls from debt collectors as this will help you effectively manage your debt and keep stress to a minimum. Before we discuss these top tips, there is some key information to find out during the initial contact with the agency:
- The first step you should take regarding your communications with a debt collector is to find out the name of the person you are speaking to and which agency they work for. Then move on to asking for specific details about the debt, like the amount, who it is owed to, and avenues you can follow to dispute it.
- These steps will help you answer the next key question, which is whether this debt does indeed belong to you. It may seem unlikely, but in this technological age there are increasing instances where people are being asked to pay a debt that is either not theirs to begin with or is a mistake in the system. Ensure you are asking for every detail about the debt from the name the debt is listed under, when the debt began, and contact details for who it is owed to.
- The next step is to ask yourself; how do you want to speak to the collection agency? Phone calls at unexpected times of the day can cause unnecessary stress and negatively impact your ability to deal with the situation. Remember, you are well within your rights to request for the collector to only contact you at certain times, or even just through writing. Templates of letters outlining how to communicate with debt collectors can be found online.
If you have confirmed that the debt is connected to you and have decided to continue to discuss the matter over the phone, then it is time to think about the best strategy for dealing with this under pressure during a call:
Record and store all communications
This sounds like a simple piece of advice, but it can make the biggest difference when further down the line. It is vital that you save, copy, and store every letter that is sent, and ideally record each phone call so you can refer to this at a later date if you need to. It is amazing how key details can be easily forgotten and having a recording to listen to will help you when seeking further advice about your debt.
Understanding what not to say
It is easy to feel intimidated when speaking with a debt collector and you may be coerced into sharing information that they state will help your situation. One key piece of information to never share is your personal financial situation including salary or income figures, savings, or property that you own. Collectors sometimes ask for these details by stating it may help you qualify for lower payment schedules; however, they can use this against you when calculating repayments. An equally as important thing to remember is not to make any verbal or written promises to make payments, or to acknowledge that the debt is yours.
Do not make a voluntary payment
There is a Statute of Limitations on debt which means that if a certain amount of time has passed, which varies in length depending on the country, a creditor can no longer take legal action to receive payment for the debt. Debt collectors will often encourage people to make a small, off contract payment to indicate a positive intention to pay the debt. However, each payment whether within contract or not, resets the Statute of Limitations; therefore, it is vital you do not make any payments of this nature.
One of the most important pieces of advice is to educate yourself on your legal rights before speaking with a debt collector. Having a thorough understanding of your legal standing means that you can confidently discuss aspects of your debt, without fear of causing a problem down the line. It also means that debt collectors are not able to employ tactics to coerce information from you, or perhaps even use illegal techniques to get you to admit ownership. This is particularly important if you are discussing your debt via a phone call. It is recommended to find out key information about the legal rights in your country to keep to hand, so you can refer to this during the call and confidently call out the collector if they start to infringe on these rights.
Seek Legal advice
If possible, it is well worth seeking the advice of a lawyer or an attorney who works within this field, as they will be able to provide you with the correct steps to take to move forward with your debt. There are also many agencies and non-profits who can offer free advice and work with you to figure out if you are even able to pay off the amount owed, helping to end the cycle of debt.
Ultimately, the key things you need to remember when speaking with a debt collector over the phone is to keep your responses simple and find out as much information as possible about the debt and who is calling you. After this point you should try to refrain from discussing any personal information in detail, and ideally seek legal advice on how to proceed.
If you suspect a debt collector or collection agent is not treating you within the confines of the law, then reach out to consumer protection within your country or area, as they will be able to stop unlawful practices.