How to keep collectors from controlling your life.
Written by Matt Wegner, Founder and Lead Counselor, Matt Wegner Coaching, www.financialexcellence.net
If you’re receiving calls from collectors you are going through a scary and emotionally draining time. While some collectors are professional and relatively easy to work with, nothing is worse than harassing calls at all hours of the day and night. But you do have some protection under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Here is a summary.
Collectors may NOT:
- Call you outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. That means your time, not theirs.
- Call you at work after you request in writing they stop doing so.
- Take a bank account or garnishee wages without appropriate legal action (law suit). The exceptions to this are federally insured student loans, and IRS debt. The government can pretty much do what they want.
- Threaten you.
- Lie to you.
- Harass you.
How to deal with collectors:
- Pay necessities first. Necessities include food, clothing, shelter (including utilities) and transportation. Always take care of these before paying any other bills. Don’t let a collector set the priorities for your money. If you owe the money legitimately you will pay it when you have the money, but not at the expense of your basic necessities.
- NEVER give them electronic access to your account.
- Remember the collector is not your friend. The collector’s sole purpose for calling you is to get your money. Period.
- Do not make decisions based on emotion. Collectors are trained to invoke strong emotion in you. They know that when they upset you or you get angry, you are far more likely to pay them. The top two emotions they invoke are Fear and Anger.
- Set the ground rules. Tell them you will not talk to them any more than once every two weeks and you will not accept foul language or name calling. If they break the rules they will talk to a dial tone.
- Get an answering machine with a memo button to record their calls. Make sure you start the call by informing the collector the call is being recorded.
- Be proactive. Bother them more than they bother you. Call them often to let them know you have a plan and you will pay them as soon as you have the money.
- Rehearse your response. By preparing for the conversation and practicing what you will say, you can avoid much of the pressure and situations where you will be the most uncomfortable.
Being in a situation where creditors call is never enjoyable, but knowing the legal limits arms you with the information you need to remain in control of the situation. Being in control is often just enough to help get you on the road to recovery.