Debt collectors have a bit of what we call a “reputation problem.” So is it deserved? Or entirely without merit?
A Wall Street Journal reporter named Fred Williams decided to find out. He went to work as a debt collector for a large, mainstream debt collection agency. And he wrote a book about it titled Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices: Know Your Rights and Protect Yourself from Threats, Lies, and Intimidation.
WalletPop.com’s Martha C. White has a helpful interview with Williams that helps flush out some of the highlights of what Williams learned. And from that interview, we think there are…
5 Things You Should Know About Debt Collectors
1. Debt collectors really will say anything. They’ll make threats. They’ll make up information. Even knowing full well that what they’re doing is illegal. This is, of course, no surprise to us. We hear these stories all the time from our clients.
2. They get away with it to a large extent by using “trainees” to do a large bulk of the calling. The logic is that if a trainee makes a “mistake,” then the collection agency can cite lack of full training to fend off a complaint. Pretty sneaky. Then again, we would expect no less from the collections industry.
3. If you say you have a lawyer, make sure you really have retained one. If you don’t, an experienced debt collector will know if you’re making it up. And if they catch you in a lie, then you’re at a disadvantage.
4. Record any call or write down detailed notes of your conversation. It’s standard practice for them to take notes (though not necessarily to record their calls, because why would they want to create evidence against themselves?) So it’s important for you to have some sort of record as well. Especially since, according to Williams, debt collectors are not above simply adding information to their notes as it serves their purposes.
5. Get any agreement in writing! If you do decide to negotiate a settlement (and fyi, Williams says the end of the month is a better time to do so as debt collectors are under pressure to get payments in by the end of the month for bonus purposes), don’t make any payment until you have received a letter of discharge in writing (i.e., via letter, fax or emailed PDF). Do not make a payment over the phone under any circumstances. The only situation when you trust these guys is….never.
Of course, if you need help with debt collectors, we’re always here. Contact a Haines & Krieger attorney at 702-880-5554 and we’ll know just what to do to help you fight back.