What you need to keep in mind when collectors start to call.
Even when collectors follow the letter of the law, it doesn’t mean that the contact is going to be any easier on you. There’s still the stress of having a debt that you don’t have the means to pay back and the constant ringing reminders of that obligation on your phone – usually during dinner.
Fact: 1 in 4 FTC debt collection complaints is directed at a third-party collections agency.
So if you have a debt that’s gone to collections, you need to find a way forward and decide how you’re going to deal with collector. The information below can help you make the tough choices that you need to make. If you have questions or need help dealing with harassment, call us or complete the form to the right to connect with the right experts to find the solutions you need.
Tip No. 1: Decide on a plan for the debt
Just because you might be dodging a collector, it doesn’t mean you can avoid making a plan for the debt. You need to decide what you want to do about the debt so you can make a plan to move forward. That will help you decide how to deal with the collector.
Here are some questions to consider:
- How far past due is the debt? If the debt is less than six months past-due, there’s a chance you’re talking to an in-house collections department. In this case, you may still have the option of including the debt in a debt management program through a credit counseling agency.
- Is settlement an option? Particularly if this isn’t the only debt that you have in collections, you may want to consider working out a debt settlement program so you can settle with the collections for less than you owe.
- Can you work something out with the collector? Collectors may act aggressively and demand payment in-full, but their ultimate goal is to recoup the money. So if you talk to them instead of dodging and work out a payment plan that works for what you can afford, that can minimize the hassle.
- Do you have no intention of paying? If there’s some reason (the debt is old, you don’t acknowledge it, etc) you don’t intend to pay the debt back, you can actually tell a collector that and indicate you no longer wish to be contacted. It’s basically the equivalent of telling a collector that you’ll see them in court – if they actually decide to sue you for the balance.
Tip No. 2: Dodging doesn’t really help
This is especially true if the debt isn’t yet with a third-party collector. If you’re still dealing with the creditor or their in-house collections department, then it’s in your best interest to talk to them even if you can’t pay back everything you owe.
Remember, once the debt gets sent to a third-party collector, your options may be limited. For instance, credit counseling doesn’t usually work once debts have already been sent to collectors. So you want to keep in contact with your creditor to let them know you’re doing everything possible.
Even once the debt goes to a collector, dodging usually doesn’t help anything. You’ll be stressed every time your phone rings. You also have to worry about the collector contacting other people and even you job in an attempt to find you.
Tip No. 3: Set some parameters on calling
After a debt is formally sent to collections the conversations are regulated by the FDCPA. The collector has to follow the law or you can file a complaint with the FTC.
- A collector is allowed to call you ANY day from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM; that includes weekends and holidays.
- However, they are not permitted to call you at any time that’s inconvenient for you, so you may restrict their calls by stating times of availability when you may be contacted.
When you make the restrictions on call times, make sure to note what was said, the time of the call, and who you spoke to on the phone. If that collection company calls again, remind them of your restricted times and file a complaint with the FTC.
Tip No. 4: Don’t allow yourself to be bullied
Collectors have a right to be aggressive when attempting to collect a debt – and it often takes aggressive action to do that kind of job. But that only goes so far. At a certain point, aggressive tactics cross a line into harassment and abuse.
Get the facts on what collectors can and can’t do when it comes to contacting you. If a collector starts to overstep their bounds on a call, don’t let them get away with it. Calmly let them know that you know your rights and will not tolerate that kind of treatment. If it continues, file a complaint with the FTC. Make sure to always take down times, agent names, and a summary of each conversation in case you need to make a complaint.
Tip No. 5: Be careful with cosigners
Remember that any debt that had a cosigner or guarantor that goes to collections means that individual will likely be harassed about your debt, too. If you don’t pay off a debt and you’re avoiding the collectors, they go after your cosigner. So if you plan on dodging, you’re not doing any favors to the family member or friend who put their name (and credit) on the line for you.
The same thing is true for guarantors. Any time somebody is on the hook if you fail to pay, you’re placing a burden on others if your debt goes into collections.
True or false: Filing for bankruptcy stops collection calls for you and your cosigners?
The automatic stay that stops collection calls for you when you file for bankruptcy only applies to a cosigner if you file for Chapter 13, and even then creditors can petition to have the stay lifted.