Most people have fallen behind on bills or overlooked one at least once in their life. There’s nothing as heart-sinking as those incessant telephone calls and letters with the big red “Overdue” stamped across the front. However, ignoring debt collectors won’t make the problem go away. Shockingly, only 68 percent of people pay their bills on time regularly, which means over 30 percent of people are likely dealing with some form of debt collection.
It’s better to contact a lender the moment a person realizes the bill can’t be paid in full on time. Debt collectors want to work with people, and oftentimes a new type of arrangement can be made. However, if that’s not an option, there’s an art to correctly dealing with debt collectors. Start with these five tips.
1. Know Debtor’s Rights
Simply knowing the law is immensely powerful. Even when a person owes a debt, they should not be bullied, calls can only be made between 8am and 9pm, debt collectors can allude to the idea that they’re actually attorneys if they’re not, and no one can be contacted at work. If a collector contacts someone via phone, they have to follow up with a written detail of the debt within five days.
2. Take Notes
When dealing with debt collectors, take notes about times of calls and what was discussed. It’s easy to lose track, and this is important if a collector breaks any laws down the road. It’s best to ask for all communication to happen via mail so there’s no worrying about screening calls, plus it’s easier to keep track of tangible documents.
3. Get the Details
Ask the collector to mail copies of all the details like the original creditor, dates, amounts and other pieces of information. Keep all records in case there’s trouble later on. If there’s an agreement to pay, make sure this is also in writing.
4. The Risk of Ignoring
Ignoring a debt collector might seem like the path of least resistance, but that’s what can trigger a lawsuit. Lawsuits can result in wage garnishment–it’s much easier to come up with a repayment plan without going to court. Debtors may also become responsible for court fees.
5. Don’t Pay Unless You Owe
It also might seem easy to just pay up, especially if the debt is really small. However, payment is proof of guilt, so only pay if the debt is owed. That’s why it’s necessary to ask for details and make sure the amounts are correct.
Debts can easily get bought and sold by different collection agencies. Just because a person owes XYZ Company doesn’t mean that’s who will be collecting. For example, a Los Angeles collection attorney might buy a portfolio of debts because he’s confident he can get a collection–which is why debt collectors are so aggressive.