Receiving a debt collection call out of the blue can be a nerve wracking experience. This is especially turning when the debt collector begins harassing you at work and making threatening statements.
It’s important to know how to properly handle a debt collection call so that not only can you get them to stop calling you, but also so you don’t end up paying more than you have to in order to settle the debt.
Know Your Rights
Many people are unaware that there is actually a set of rules which dedicate how debt collectors must behave when collecting on a debt. These rules are collectively called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
This act prevents debt collectors from making threats, harassments, and calling at all times of the night, among other things.
Since most people aren’t aware of this law, many debt collectors completely ignore these rules and engage in threatening, harassing behavior. Therefore, it’s important that when you receive a debt collection call, you tell them clearly that you understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Simply stating that you know your rights will often time be enough to stop them in their tracks.
Get Everything in Writing
Once you have told the debt collector that you know your rights and you won’t stand for any behavior that otherwise infringes on them, your next step is to tell the debt collector that you want all further communication to be done via mail.
Many people get in trouble by negotiating with debt collectors over the phone. When there is no written proof that an agreement took place, many times debt collectors will simply break the agreement. There have even been cases of debt collectors getting electronic access to people’s bank accounts and clearing them out.
Once you have told the debt collector you will no longer communicate over the phone, they will be obliged to comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Write a Debt Validation Letter
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to demand that a collector attempting to collect on a debt show documentation that the debt is actually yours.
If they are unable to provide this documentation, which is many times the case, they will have to stop attempting to collect and remove any negative entries from your credit report.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the law requires you to send this letter within 30 days of being contacted by the debt collector. They, in turn, have 30 days to reply with the documentation that validates the debt.
Since debt collection companies many times purchase large quantities of old debts from original creditors and then attempt to collect on them, it’s not uncommon that they have incomplete or inaccurate information. Therefore, debt validation letters have a very good success rate.
Negotiate a Settlement
If you send the collector a debt validation letter and they were able to provide you with proof that the debt is indeed yours, your next step should be to negotiate a settlement on the debt. The important thing to keep in mind here is that there is usually room to negotiate a settlement way less than what they are initial attempting to collect.
As far as a settlement price, start at 50% of what they are asking and go from there. You’ll be surprised how little they will often take. Again, never agree to a negotiated settlement over the phone. Get everything in writing and never give them access to your bank account.
Get The Collection Removed From Your Credit Report
As part of the settlement, it’s also wise to make them agree to remove the collection entry from your credit report once the payment has been received. This is often termed “Pay for Delete” and it’s one of the best ways to remove negative entries such as collections and charge offs from your credit report, says Ryan Greeley of the Better Credit Blog.
After the agreement has been made and you have written them a check, follow up in 30 days by checking your credit report to ensure that the collection has been removed. If the collection is still on your credit report, write them another letter demanding that they hold up to their part of the agreement.