How I Speak To Debt Collectors

by anne on August 19, 2011

I got a call from a collection agency yesterday. Actually, I’ve been aware one was trying to contact me, or contact someone – they’ve left some pretty obscure messages on my phone. I have a policy of not returning calls if I don’t know who I’m calling back. In this case, I was home and I answered even though the call was only identified as an 800 number on my caller ID.

  • First of all I’m not aware of any debt I owe; I’m generally debt free. It’s possible I’ve lost track of something, but I doubt it.
  • Secondly I’ve received umpteen calls over the last year or so for someone who must have had this number before I did. I’ve never heard of the guy. With those two things in mind I’m suspicious of any collector. My hunch is they are trying to find Sam what’s-his-name and he isn’t here.
  • Finally I know I don’t have to take any abuse from these folks at all, even if it turns out I owe some money I’ve forgotten about.


Red flags

The caller did identify herself and implied she was representing a bank. I told her truthfully I didn’t recognize the bank she was talking about and had never done business with them.

She then pushed for my social security number, “to make sure she was talking with the right person.”

This is a huge red flag.

I don’t know that the call was an attempt at identity theft, but it may have been and I wasn’t willing to play – nor am I required to. I do understand that they have some obligation to making sure they are talking to the right person, but I figure if they have my phone number and name that’s all they need to give me information about the debt they are claiming I owe.

Know your rights

That’s backed up by law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act FAQ spells out what a collection agency can and cannot do, and what my rights are. I was perfectly within my rights to insist that if they had business with me that they contact me only by mail. She, of course, started down the road of “we want to be sure who we’re contacting and can only do that with your social security number.” I repeated my request to be contacted by mail only, and when she started in again simply hung up.

If this was a legitimate attempt to collect something I’ve overlooked I assume I’ll get notice by mail. Of course just because a collection notice is sent by mail doesn’t guarantee it’s legitimate, but it may be. And if it is I’ll get it paid.

Debt collectors work mostly on commission. They are taught to push – that’s how they get paid. It can’t be a pleasant job.

Just because they push and sound official doesn’t mean we can’t push back. Even if we owe the money they are attempting to collect we don’t have to take any abuse at all. By knowing our rights we can stand on firm ground.

What questions do you have about debt collection?

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne Wayman

Image Attribution Some rights reserved by alancleaver_2000

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