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As 2016 winds down, debt collectors making collection calls tend to get more aggressive. Companies are trying to close out their books and write off accounts as “bad debt.” Calls start to increase this time of year and you should be prepared in case you get one. So, what do you need to know before talking to a debt collector?
- Ask for proof of the alleged debt in writing and make sure you know who you allegedly owe. Get the name, employee ID, telephone number or e-mail address of the collector who called you. Don’t ever agree to make a payment unless you have something in writing from the collector.
- Find out what the alleged debt is for. Do you recognize the account? Do you recognize the amount? Check your credit report after the call to see whether the debt is being reported. Your credit report may also help you figure out how old the debt is and what the outstanding balance is.
- If you recognize the debt, go back through your bank records to see when you last made a payment. It’s important that you do NOT re-start the statute of limitations (the deadline for filing a lawsuit). A $5, $10, or $25 payment on an old debt can make the entire balance due and owing again. Talk to a lawyer about what statutes of limitations may apply on your accounts.
- Take notes on what the collector says to you. Did the collector threaten to mark your credit report or sue you?
If you have any questions about collection calls you may be receiving, talk to a lawyer in your state. The National Association of Consumer Advocates has a “Find an Attorney” resource, available at http://www.consumeradvocates.org/find-an-attorney.
You can also submit a complaint against collection agencies with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau online at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/. There are state and federal laws (namely, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) that require collectors treat you fairly.
Try not to give in to high pressure tactics. It’s important to know your rights BEFORE it’s too late.