Reasons why you should answer your phone when the debt collector calls
Calls from debt collectors can be overwhelming and intimidating. But learning some dos and don’ts about handling debt collector calls and understanding your rights when it comes to debt collection agencies can ease your anxiety. More importantly, by knowing what to do and say when a debt collector calls, you can avoid making a mistake that could put you at legal or financial risk.
What to Do When a Debt Collector Calls
Here are some things that you should do when dealing with collection calls or speaking with collection agents.
Keep a Collections Log
A collections log is a written record that you make of the date and time that a collector calls, the employee that you speak with, and what the collector says to you. Your log does not have to be anything fancy — writing it on a notepad or spare piece of paper is fine.
A collections log will help you straighten out who is calling you from where, and what debts each collector is calling about. It will also help you keep track of how often a certain creditor calls and document inconsistencies in what collectors say to you from one call to the next.
Write to the Collector to Request it Stop Contacting You (If that’s What You Want)
Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, if you request that a debt collector stop contacting you completely, it must do so (with a few exceptions). Your request must be in writing.
Think carefully before you do this. If you want to keep tabs on the status of the debt and/or open up the lines of communication with the collector in order to negotiate a settlement, this might not be in your best interest. If you request that the collector cease communication with you, it cannot contact you except to serve you with a lawsuit.
Tell the Collector If You Think You Don’t Owe the Debt
If you feel the debt isn’t legitimate, or that you don’t owe it, you should tell the collector why. Often, collectors aren’t even aware that your debt may be uncollectable. Many times, if your reason is valid, collectors will voluntarily cease collection on the debt, as their resources are better used on consumers who don’t have a valid objection to paying the money.
If you act quickly, you can request in writing that the debt collector validate the date (provide certain information about it) and stop collection activities while it does so. However, consumer lawyers report that debt collectors usually don’t provide much in the way of information in response to these requests. To learn more, see Debt Validation.
Tell the Collector You Can’t Afford to Pay (If You Can’t)
There is nothing that legally obligates a collector to stop collecting just because you can’t pay. However, telling collectors that you can’t pay, and giving them a short explanation of your financial difficulties, may lead them to move on to other consumers. It may also prevent your file from being referred to litigation.