Whether you got a debt collection call about your own debt, a debt collection call for someone’s else’s debt, or a debt collection call for a friend or family member, most people have received a call from a debt collector.
Receiving a debt collection call can be confusing and stressful. If you are receiving debt collection calls, here are some tips for talking to a debt collector.
Get the basics – who/what/why/how
The first thing you should do with any debt collector is find out who they are and what they are calling about. And you should take notes during your phone call in order to document all of the details.
In terms of who, get the name of the debt collector and the debt collection company, along with a callback number. When you end the call, you want to be able to do some research to determine if it is a legitimate company.
In terms of what, find out what the debt collector is calling about. An “unpaid” or “delinquent” debt is not specific enough. You should ask what alleged debt they are calling about, the amount of the debt, and when the debt collector started collecting on the debt. When you end the call, you want to be able to figure out if they are calling about an actual debt that you may owe.
And in terms of why and how, ask them what the options are. Most debt collectors will offer two options—a settlement option based on a lump sum payment or monthly payments towards the balance. Those amounts will not only help you decide on a potential course of action, they will also provide clues as to whether the debt collector and/or the debt are legitimate.
Do not commit to anything
Think of your call with the debt collector as a one-way street: get information, do not give any information (other than verifying who you are).
The biggest mistake a consumer can make is committing to pay without knowing all the relevant and necessary details. Do not assume that you owe a debt simply because a debt collector is calling you, or because a debt collector knows who you are.
For example, it may not be a legitimate debt or debt collector. Or perhaps you think you owe the debt, but you think the balance is incorrect. Or the interest rate or collection fees are incorrect.
If you pay the debt or make payment arrangements, you can hurt yourself in a number of ways. One, you may unintentionally restart or prolong the statute of limitations. Two, you may be hurting your potential legal defenses down the road. Three, you might be paying the wrong company—and your payment(s) will not go towards the debt. Four, you may not even owe the debt—but you just paid it.
Feel free to ask questions
A debt collector has the right to collect a legitimate debt from a consumer. A consumer also the right to be treated fairly by a debt collector.
In other words, you can, and should, ask questions. If you are confused about the options for resolving a debt, ask the debt collector to explain more. If you are confused about the next steps, ask the debt collector to clarify.
If you are confused about who the debt collector is, ask them to repeat the name of their company and the company’s address.
It can be very stressful to talk to a debt collector, and you may feel pressured to make a commitment—either to call the debt collector back or make a payment. But you should not do anything until you completely and fully understand the situation, your options, and your rights.
When to call an attorney
If you feel like you were misled or mistreated during a call with a debt collector, call an attorney. If you are not sure whether a debt collector is legitimate, or whether you actually owe the alleged debt, call an attorney.
Debt collectors are highly regulated under the Fair Debt Collection Practices (FDCPA). And if a debt collector said something that doesn’t sound quite right, a consumer rights attorney like me can help you understand your rights, your options, and help you decide on a course of action.