Debt collectors can be tenacious with their communication and demands. Sure, you can just avoid the calls endlessly and hope for the best, but there is often a better way to truly resolve the situation. Debt that cannot be collected, especially if it is a significant amount, can lead to being sued by the collection agency or financial institution. A lawsuit can cost you even more money than you owe, so it is better to have a plan.
Decide Whether to Communicate and How
Communication can help you reach a conclusion, but it may also complicate your predicament. Before beginning communication, you should learn about your rights under your state’s laws and the federal collections standards. Your debt may have even lapsed under its statute of limitations if it has been a while.
One of the worst things that could happen is that you accidentally reaffirm a debt that you have no intention or capability of paying back. You will have to monitor your phrasing and communications closely. If you give a debt collector information about yourself, you may be doing their job for them. And under no circumstances should you give them any of your financial information; you want to be in full control of any potential payments.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), once you have hired an attorney to handle this situation, debt collectors must only communicate with your attorney unless you give them permission to speak with you. This option can be a huge boon when you are dealing with an unshakeable debt collector.
The FDCPA also has provisions for requesting that all communication ceases. Sending a written letter requesting a halt on communication is a bit of a nuclear option; their only recourse becomes serving you with a lawsuit.
Verify the Debt
If you are unsure what the debt collectors are referring to or think it may be an error in their system, you could always tell them that you think you do not owe the debt. If you request that they validate the debt, the collections agency cannot contact you again until it has verified that the debt is legitimate and current enough to pursue.
Keep a Record
If you have decided to communicate with the debt collectors, you will want to keep thorough records of every interaction. If they overstep their legal bounds, you may become eligible to pursue a harassed by debt collectors lawsuit.
A simple log of each interaction can help you find inconsistencies or other trends that may help you renegotiate the debt. Mark down who contacts you and about which debt each time you are contacted. If you want to get fancy, you could record any calls with the collection agency, though if this situation escalates to a court case, phone records could be summoned by a subpoena anyways.
Share Select Information
While you should never admit that you owe the debt, there are some cases where information can be strategically given to a debt collector.
One example is if they have been contacting your friends or family looking for your current phone number or address. Once they have confirmed your new address, they are not allowed to contact other people about your debt. If you want to avoid a debt collector speaking to coworkers or other people you know, you could volunteer your current mailing address.
You could also let the debt collector know that you cannot afford to pay off the debt they are inquiring about. If you legitimately can not pay it, this may dissuade them from pursuing it further. Debt with a low chance of repayment has a decreased chance of active collections or litigation.
Don’t Agree to Anything Yet
It is easy to make a mistake that resets the statute of limitations or gives the collections agency an opening. Never make the small, “good faith” payment that many of them suggest. Any payment will reset the clock and make it look like you are able to pay. Hire an attorney to handle all communications if you are not confident in your ability to choose your words wisely.
About the Author:
With a law degree under his belt and years of experience, Mark Scott set off to make the law more accessible to all. He decided to help people lost in the maze of legal terminology to find their way. Mark writes clear and concise pieces and gives simple advice that is easy to follow. On account of positive feedback from readers, he decided to dedicate more of his time to this goal and became a legal columnist. In his writings, Mark covers a wide array of topics, like how to seek legal counsel, or how to deal with different procedures. Furthermore, he directs his readers toward other trustworthy resources for more in-depth information.