Nobody wants pick up the phone and hear a bill collector on the other side, but it happens. We overextend ourselves, buy things we can not afford, fall ill, lose jobs or some other emergencies arises and we start missing payments which eventually reaches a collection agency. Dealing with collection agencies is not always the first choice or a pleasant encounter; collection agents have a reputation of being rude, vulgar and harassing.
For a short while after graduating from University I worked at a collection agency. It was not a lot of fun when I was told by supervisors and trainers to be harsher on customers and threaten them as needed. Not surprisingly I left the agency fairly quickly, but I learned a lot from the inside. I learned the laws as well as how agents manipulate these laws.
Should a situation arise where you have to deal with a collection agency I hope the following tips can help you through this awful experience.
The first thing you need to do is educate yourself. What can a collection agent say or do? When can they call? What are your obligations? Understand your rights as well as your responsibilities.
In Canada collection agencies are regulated by provinces, although most have similar laws, some details will vary. Here is the collection agency act for Ontario. In the US they have the Fair Debt Collections And Practices Act.
Do Not Ignore
If the unfortunate happens and you do end up having an account in collections, do not ignore the calls and letters. Ignoring the issue will not get you anywhere, talk with the agent and try to find an appropriate solution for your financial problems. If it’s in 3rd party collection, the agent will have some discretion over the account.
Keep a record of everything you do and every conversation you have with the collection agency. If you mail a letter ensure it is registered and always ask them to send you everything in writing. Have phone conversations recorded, although you may need permission for this, it can go a long way when needed. Always ask for the persons full name and ID number, write down the time and date of the call.
What Collection Agencies CANNOT Do
Here are a few things the collection agency cannot do:
- A collection agency may NOT contact you until six days after they have sent you a written notice. The notice should include all the following information: The name of the ORIGINAL creditor, the balance owing and the name of the collection agency.
- They cannot contact you before 8am and after 9pm during the week and before 1pm and after 5pm on Sundays.
- They cannot contact you more than 3 times in a seven-day period regarding the same debt.
- Disclose any information to anyone else but you, they cannot say it is a collection agency calling or in anyway reveal that you owe money. This also applies to voicemails; they cannot reveal any details on a voicemail.
- If you feel that the agency has violated any of the above rules or in anyway has harassed you record the date, time and details of the event and contact your consumer protection agency.
When speaking with a collections agent be professional and try to solve the issue rather than trying to avoid it or get in a fight. Remember they are just doing a job.
Once an account is with a collection agency you can no longer solve the matter with the original creditor so do not try to contact them. You will only give yourself more headache and create confusion.
This is a guest article by Ray, the owner and primary author of Financial Highway, where he discusses investing, saving and practical money management concepts. You can check subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter.