Dealing with debt collectors can be unpleasant. They can be relentless and will often use any trick in the book to get the person on the other end of the call to pay on a debt. It is important that consumers be aware of their rights and know how to react when communicating with debt collectors. The following ten tips are proven to be successful with debt collection calls.
- Never Ignore the Debt.
One of the biggest mistakes made by consumers when facing a debt collection action is to ignore the debt and any communications from the collector. If the consumer ignores the communication, he or she may end up with a default judgment on the debt if the collector proceeds to take the matter to court. Once this happens, it becomes very difficult to dispute the amount owed.
- Request Verification of the Debt.
The consumer always has the right to request verification of the debt. Under federal law, the consumer has this right to request written verification within 30 days of first being contacted by the debt collector. This verification of the debt will allow the consumer to dispute it if the debt is not collectible or is invalid.
- Do Not Be Afraid to Dispute the Debt.
Just because the debt collector says the amount is owed, does not mean that this is the truth. If, after receiving verification of the debt, the consumer is able to review what they say is owed and finds that the debt does not belong to the consumer, that it is for an amount different than what is owed, or that the debt is past Florida’s statute of limitations, the consumer is within his or her rights to dispute the validity of the debt. At this point, the burden is shift to the collector to validate what they say is owed.
- Stay Calm.
One of the reasons debt collectors have the reputation they have has to do with the tactics used when communicating with consumers. Many will resort to threats, even scare tactics to get the person to pay the debt. It is extremely important that the consumer stay as calm as possible during any and all communications, most of which are recorded. If the collector begins to become hostile, simply end the communication at that point.
- Get All Agreements in Writing.
If the consumer is able to get a payment agreement worked out with the collection, it is extremely important that this agreement be confirmed in writing and signed by someone who is a representative of the debt collector before any payments are made. Having agreements in writing protects the consumer in the event the debt collector later tries to claim that no agreement was made.
- Send Communications Via Certified Mail.
Mail can be very unpredictable. If the consumer is sending something to the debt collector, whether it be a signed agreement, a letter or payment, it is always recommended that this item be sent via certified mail. While, yes, it is more expensive, this method provides proof that an item has been successfully delivered and accepted by an agent of the collector. Also, showing the certified mail receipt can be used as evidence if the collector later tries to claim that the mail was never received.
- Know Your Rights.
While someone may very well owe on a debt, this fact does not mean he or she is without rights. Many debt collectors will bank on the fact that the consumer is not aware of what his or her rights entail. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has several online resources that explain these rights, and one of the most important of these is under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA prohibits collection tactics that are threatening, abusive or deceptive, as well as limits the time of day at which a collector can communicate with the consumer and to whom the collector may exchange information. If the consumer believes that his or her rights have been violated under the FDCPA, contact the Florida State Attorney General to report the violation.
- Never Provide Bank Information.
The debt collector may try to get the consumer to provide his or her bank account information during conversations. Never provide this information. Once it is given, the debt collector will likely use it to make withdrawals from the account. It is best to pay via certified or cashier’s check, Western Union, or even a third-party payment service, such as PayPal, so that the consumer can maintain control over when payments are made.
- Contact an Attorney.
Consumers do not have to deal with debt collectors alone. It often helps to have a professional in your corner in case the debt collector is not willing to work with the consumer on a settlement. It never hurts to reach out to a consumer law attorney to get an opinion on how to handle the debt collector.
- Document Everything.
Chances are the consumer will speak with several different people associated with the debt collector, and what one person says may not be what another says. It helps to document everything said in a conversation, whether it be by recording or by taking notes of what was discussed. Write down the date of the communication, what was said, and the name of the individual, as well as a direct number to reach that person, if possible. Keep all written communications received from the collector, as well, in the event these are needed later for a legal claim.
If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.