Depending on your financial situation, you could be receiving calls from collections agencies. They’re the companies your creditor, like a credit card company, is working with to get repaid for money they’ve lent you or services they’ve performed. If you don’t have the means to pay off a bill, you may have tried dodging their calls and perhaps have been unsuccessful. We want to help you understand what they’re allowed to do so you know how to properly deal with them. We’ll lay out stipulations outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how you can use them to your advantage. The more knowledge you have about what’s allowed, the more powerful we hope you’ll feel. We’ll also offer strategies for how you can stop collections calls altogether.
What is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act?
The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, touts itself as the group that protects America’s consumers. One way they do so is with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The law regulates how debt collectors can communicate with you, what qualifies as harassment, what is considered unfair, and many other facets of your debt. The time of day you can be contacted, where you can be reached, and how you can be contacted are all laid out very clearly. The more you know about your rights as a consumer, the more discerning you can be when filtering out unwanted communications.
For example, debt collectors are not allowed to call outside the hours of 8:00am to 9:00pm of your local time zone. They also cannot threaten violence as a consequence of not paying or show up at your workplace. If either of these happen, you should be skeptical of the validity of who you’re dealing with. Many have made a business of impersonating collections agencies to scam people out of their money. You should be confident in communicating to a debt collections agency that you know your rights and you will assert them.
What to do when you’re contacted by a debt collector
Debt collectors will call to follow up on a debt that your creditor was unable to reconcile. If they’re calling at a time when you’re able to speak with them, go ahead and have a conversation with them. Be sure to take detailed notes that you can refer back to in the future. If you’re not ready to speak with them, you can ask for them to call back at another time. They should respect your wishes and call back at the time when you’ve requested. If you’d like to be more in control of the communications, you can ask to be contacted by mail. This way, you have time to develop a response and have written proof of everything that has happened. A paper trail could work in your favor in case you have a lawsuit to deal with.
If you prefer sticking with a phone call, you could screen calls to make sure you aren’t answering until you’re ready. Or you could use a service like Google Voice that forwards your calls from another number to yours and asks the caller to identify themselves before you agree to speak. This way, your real phone number is anonymized. Make sure your creditors have your Google Voice contact information so you can use this method.
If the calls or communications have become too repetitive or against the rules the FDCPA has put in place, you can send a cease and desist letter to end communications. It’s best to do so via certified mail with a return receipt requested. This way, you’ll know that it was received. You can only do this for a third-party debt collector working on behalf of your original creditor.
Are there any benefits to dealing with a collections agency?
Dealing with, and not ignoring, collections calls can help you pay off your debt. While sending a cease and desist letter may stop the calls, it won’t rid you of your unpaid bills. And down the road, the collections calls could turn into a lawsuit or other dire consequences. If you’re able to pay off your debt, whether it’s through restructuring your debt or altering your spending budget, you’ll be better off in the long run.
If you need to get in touch with a collection agency, Kredit can help.