Having debt can be stressful enough just by itself. Add in figuring out how to pay it off though and there are not words to express just how stressful that can be to the average individual. The debt collection agencies just compound this stress even more; calling over and over, making you feel more and more hopeless and like there is no way out. It can make you feel like you are losing control.
However; there are steps you can take to ensure these debt collection agencies treat you with courtesy and with respect.
Make Sure You Verify Everything Personally
There is no way to guarantee a debt collection agency’s honesty. This is one of the major facts of life. To them, you serve one purpose and one purpose only. This is to provide them with as much money as humanly possible. Obtain copies of your statements and keep them on file; at the very least, your latest statement. Statements all contain interest rates, late fees, as well as the current balance due. Take the necessary steps to dispute claims that do match the information that you have in your file.
Record Any Calls between You and the Debt Collection Agency
No one really wants to be taken to court and the same can especially be said for these debt collection agencies. To make sure they stay honest, you must keep records of your conversations. Having these records will prove to be useful should you ever have to file a claim against an agency with the FDCPA. (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) No proof means that there is no case.
Make Sure Any And All Agreements Offered To You Are Put Into Print
Any modifications should be put into writing. Debt collection agencies will say anything and everything to you over the phone. This does not mean that they have any intent on honoring these same agreements they made with you though. To make sure you get everything that you are promised, you need solid proof that a new agreement was ever formed.
Say As Little As You Possibly Can
There is no law that says you even have to speak with these debt collection agencies. Offer no information that is not directly related to the most current payment. Agencies have a tendency to ask questions that will determine whether or not you are capable of paying.
You are free to hang up the phone if you ever feel like they are crossing the line. Anything you say to the debt collection agency can and will be used against you. Even if you are not, keep in mind that they are always recording your conversation.
Know Your Rights and Their Rules
- Agencies are not allowed to phone after nine at night or before eight in the morning
- They are not allowed to bother you at work if you tell them not to do so
- They are not allowed to discuss your debt with anyone but you
- They are not allowed to make false claims as to the balance of your debt
Should you feel that the debt collection agency has broken any of these, feel free to get in touch with your attorney. File a court complain. Should you win, the agency may be required to pay fines and other such penalties.
Any calls that you feel are harassing or a nuisance, any inappropriate language or threats are all illegal and should immediately be reported to the Federal Trade Commission and to the state attorney general. The National Association of Attorneys General can provide you with your state attorney general. The Federal Trade Commission provides many publications that can help you in educating yourself as to your rights.
Keep a Witness On Hand
Witnesses are always an added bonus. A witness can be anyone who was there when the abuse occurred. Simply use speakerphone any time a debt collector contacts you. The witness must have actually heard the conversation though. They cannot simply speculate as to what they thought was said.
Have Back Ups for Any of Your Bank Accounts
Debt collection agencies can file suit for debt that are not paid. One of the options provided by the courts is the freezing of your checking accounts or of your savings accounts. This can prove to be quite an issue when it comes to flow of cash and to the budget of the family. Most experts will tell you that you should have an entirely different account when it comes to Social Security checks or to disability checks. This is because these are exempt sources and cannot be used for any payment of debt ordered by the court system. They also encourage individuals to tell debt collection agencies when they have filed for bankruptcy. This will result in an immediate stop to the collection of debt by the agency.