The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that over 77 million people in the U.S. have at least one debt in the collection phase. For these 77 million people it is quite possible that a debt collector may be contacting them regarding the debt. But even if you are not one of those 77 million people, you may still be contacted by a debt collector. This is because records can become mixed up, data entered wrong, or maybe even you have the same name as the actual debtor. Whatever the reason, debt collectors have been known to contact people who don’t even have a debt due.
So whether you have a debt in collection or not, you should be aware of best practices when a debt collector contacts you. This blog takes a look things you can do to protect your interests when on the phone with a debt collector.
In Colorado, the law says that a debt collector who is calling you must identify himself within 60 seconds of making contact with you. While it is difficult to ever know whom you are speaking with, once you realize you are talking to a debt collector, keep track of whether the debt collector identified himself and how long it took to do so.
When you’re on the phone with the debt collector, be firm but polite and try not to give them more information than necessary. While you should never lie, it is not illegal for you to keep your financial, employment and other information private. Part of the debt collector’s job is to find out how much they can get you to repay. Keeping your information protected and confidential may give you leverage when it’s time to negotiate a repayment amount.
Don’t be afraid to ask the debt collector questions. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about what they know can help you. Also, asking questions can help you keep better notes of the conversation with debt collector. For example, if a debt collector were to threaten you with a lawsuit it would be good to ask him when and where he plans on doing so. If the debt collector then back peddles with no good answer, it might mean he is threatening you with an action which he doesn’t intend to follow through on – in some cases it’s illegal for the debt collector to threaten something he doesn’t intend to do.
In discussing the debt being collected, be very cautious in committing yourself to any plan or in even acknowledging any debt. You have a right to request verification from the debt collector, and in almost all cases you should make the written request necessary for the debt collector to verify the debt. And there is no need to immediately commit to a payment plan over the phone – take the time to consider the plan thoughtfully and if possible ask a legal or financial expert.
No matter what, take detailed notes during and after your phone call. Not only is it important to keep track of the facts the debt collector shared, it is also important for you to document any false or illegal things the debt collector might have stated. Having a good record will help you in the event you file a complaint or bring your own legal action against the debt collector. At a minimum, be sure to note:
- The name of the person on the other end of the line
- The company he or she works for
- The date and time of the phone call – and how long it lasted
- The things discussed like timelines, debt amounts, or any other notable comments (such as threats or abusive language)
Armed with the above information you should feel competent to handle a discussion with a debt collector.