Many Americans are struggling to pay their bills. A recent study showed that 35 percent of folks in this country have past due debts that have been placed with a collection agency. Those who are drowning in a mound of debt may be humiliated and intimidated by the collection agency calls. Too many people panic and try to avoid these calls. Here are some ways to get the upper hand when dealing with these omnipresent, collection agents.
Save The Emotional Display
These calls often bring out the monster in all of us. The bottom line is they want you to pay. They will say and do almost anything to make that happen. Keep the call short and professional. Initially, these agencies are required to send you a notice to verify the debt within five days after they contact you. Don’t engage with them until you have the letter in hand.
Get Proof of The Debt
Don’t just assume that the debt is yours. These companies can make mistakes. It is estimated that more than 20 percent of these bills are erroneous. Even if it is your bill, you have 30 days after getting proof of the debt to dispute it. You can send them a letter stating that you will not pay this bill and the reasons why. Additionally, notify the three credit bureaus and let them know about the errors in your report. You have a right to get certified mail to verify the debt. While waiting for this mail to arrive, it should silence the calls.
Don’t Fall For The Scare Tactics
Most agencies will follow the laws and try to get you to pay ethically. However, there are some agencies that will use a gamut of tricks to shake you down. According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, an agent is not allowed to use abusive or offensive language, and they cannot harass you by calling over and over. They may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If they call you at work, you can tell them to stop. They must stop calling your job if you request it. They are not allowed to claim to be an attorney or to threaten to sue or take legal action against you. Unless they intend to, they cannot threaten garnishment or say they are going to seize your property either. If the agent has violated any of these laws, you have a right to file a complaint with the FTC.
Watch The Excess Fees
Many times, these companies inflate the debts. They will add all kinds of fees onto your account. The original contract you signed had the interest charges and other fees outlined for you. Most states have laws that cap the amount of interest fees they can attach to the bill. If they are charging you way more than the initial amount of the bill, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They can often help resolve an issue with the debt collector.
These agencies want the bill paid in full, but they will work with you as long as you are communicating with them. Most people avoid them and create a negative miscommunication. Most will accept payment plans to get the debt paid. Make sure to get any payment arrangements in writing. If they come back with a payment amount you can’t afford, don’t be afraid to push a bit and tell them what you can. If you cannot get anywhere with your agent, ask to speak to a manager.
Know the Time Limits
The biggest threat that a creditor has is taking action in court. Yes, they can take you to court, but they only have a specific window of time to do so. The window is anywhere from three to six years. You still owe them the money, but they cannot pursue the debt in court after the state of limitations runs out. Check the specific limitations for your area to make sure they are in compliance.
Dealing with a collection agency is never fun, however, most agents are cordial to those who are communicating and trying to repay the debt. Make sure they follow the state laws and don’t press their boundaries. If you feel like you are being harassed by a debt collection agency, you always have help available through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.