Sometimes we need to know what to do and other times what NOT to do so let me give you five suggestions on what NOT to do when a debt collector contacts you.
1. Don’t dodge the calls or letters.
If you are getting calls, answer them. Either the debt collector will follow the law and treat you with respect or it will break the law and you can have the option to sue the collector. At least you will get closure on it — by ducking or avoiding you get nothing but more stress.
2. Don’t panic.
It is not fun talking to a debt collector. But just because a debt collector calls you or writes you doesn’t mean you owe the money — after all when a debt collector sues you it most often will not be able or willing to prove you owe the debt and it owns the debt.
Listen to what the collector has to say and ask the right questions of the collector or send the right kind of letter to get information from the collector.
3. Don’t pay someone you don’t know.
This seems obvious but we can all fall victim to this — especially if we panic.
Someone mean calls on the phone and we assume we owe the money — particularly if they are making threats. Keep in mind that there are so many scams out there — especially by foreign sounding collectors who are supposedly collecting pay day loans.
Make sure you know the company, the debt, and when you supposedly defaulted on the debt before you give someone any money and never give out your banking account info on the phone.
4. Don’t pay on a time barred debt that is beyond the statute of limitations.
This follows along with the previous one but just keep in mind that collectors like to get you to make even a “token payment” — they will say it is a “good faith payment” — and then they will claim you have restarted the statute of limitations and now they can sue you.
If it is beyond the statute of limitations and you want to pay it, then pay it all at once at a discounted rate and make sure the company you are paying can and will show the entire debt as being paid off. A favorite dirty trick is to then sue you for the “balance” even when the debt was supposed to be paid off.
5. When you are sued, make sure you answer the lawsuit — don’t let a default judgment go against you.
If you get sued by a debt collector — a debt buyer such as LVNV, Midland, Portfolio, etc — make sure you answer the lawsuit. If you don’t, then you let the collector win even by default judgment if you don’t owe the money.
If you stand up and fight — or even if you settle — you will at least not lose automatically. And many who stand up and fight win which means the collector can’t collect against you, can’t credit report against you, and may have even violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when it sued you.
Be deliberate in your interaction with debt collectors. They want you to panic, to get scared, to get angry — anything so you will not think clearly.
Instead think clearly — find out your rights — and then take massive action to get to the right outcome with the debt collectors.