Business Service Providers For Debt Collectors

Question: How Should I Deal With Debt Collectors?

"I am getting a lot of calls from a particular collection agency about a debt that I plan to pay back, but can't afford to at the moment. I have explained to them that I will pay the debt when I can, but they keep calling asking for a date or a partial payment. How should I deal with these persistent debt collectors?"

Debt collectors can be some of the most persistent and unwanted callers imaginable, making repeated calls, intimidating debtors, and often driving people to the point of not answering their own phones.

Fortunately, while it's not uncommon for a debt collector to 'cross the line', you do have remedies to correct any bad behavior. When your debts have been passed off to a collection agency, you are protected by what is known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The FDCPA governs what's permissible behavior for collection agencies when contacting consumers. Some of the most notable restrictions include:

  • Collectors may not call before 8 in the morning or after 9 in the evening.
  • Collectors may not talk to anyone but you about your debt (unless you have appointed a third party to deal with it, such as an attorney).
  • Collectors may not threaten you with non-civil legal actions, such as arrest.
  • Collectors may not use any obscene language when speaking with you.
  • Collectors may not call you at work if you have asked them to stop.

Collectors may not annoy or harass you with repeated calls.
Because 'repeated' is not defined particularly well, this is one of the rules that people seem to argue about the most. How many calls constitutes being 'annoyed' or 'harassed'? If you're getting what you feel are too many calls, bear in mind that:

  • Because collectors may not talk to anyone but you about your debt, they can't leave detailed messages if you have a machine, or if you're having someone else answer the phone.
  • If you don't answer the calls at all - no number of calls is probably considered 'excessive' - they're just repeatedly trying to reach you.

Even if a collection agency is acting well within the law in trying to recover a debt, you still have the right to get them to stop calling. By sending a "cease and desist letter" to a collector with your name, address and proper reference to the account they are calling about, they may not make any further calls under the act.

Sending a cease and desist letter does not do anything about nullifying the debt itself however, and can actually lead to worse problems. The collection agency may still sue to recover what's owed, and are more likely to do so if they are unable to contact you to make alternate arrangements.

How you should deal with the debt collectors in your personal situation should depend largely on how they're dealing with you, and what you plan to do about the debt. Know your rights, but bear in mind a reasonably polite collector is just doing their job.