How Dealing With Debt Collectors Really Works : Chapter 2
You may be surprised to learn that sometimes collectors offer suggestions that can be of enormous help. They may accept partial payments or work out a payment plan that allows you to live within your means.
Other times, however, collectors’ remedies may be impractical, such as borrowing money from friends or relatives or refinancing your home. The better you know your own financial situation, the more effectively you can respond to such suggestions. Collectors may suggest remedies in strong wording that stops just short of being threatening. As a last resort, they will take advantage of their legal right to sue you for what you owe.
Despite being on the receiving end of such tactics, most debtors understand that collectors have a valid reason to pursue past-due payments. According to U.S. Trustee J. Christopher Marshall, "In the vast majority of cases, the debtors are honest and desperately in need and deserving of a fresh start". Most people make major purchases with every intention of making timely payments. Nobody has foreknowledge of unexpected financial crises. Dealing with a debt collector can be stressful, but debtors know they have little room for complaint if the collector is honest and ethical.
Dealing with an unethical collector, however, presents an added list of troublesome challenges. Certain debt collectors will take advantage of the average debtor's ignorance of fair debt-collection practices. They also know that many people would rather settle a debt, even one assessed unfairly, than resort to complicated and costly legal action against the collection agency.
The easiest way to determine if a collector is operating within ethical standards is to familiarize yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), as prepared by the Federal Trade Commission, was enacted into law in 1977. Knowledge of the FDCPA is especially useful for determining whether or not you’re dealing with an ethical collector. Below is a quick rundown of the most common concerns covered by the act.
Collectors may not contact you at an inconvenient time, specified in the act as before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., unless you give the collector permission to do so.
Collectors may not call you repeatedly, nor use threatening, obscene or racist language when calling.
Collectors must be honest. They must identify themselves as debt collectors and not mislead you by implying they’re attorneys or representatives of government agencies. Although they may have a legal right to sue you, they can’t use the threat of a lawsuit to coerce you into making a payment. Keep in mind that a lawsuit is a civil matter, and that the law is not concerned with civil debts. Therefore, a collector must not suggest that you have broken a law or threaten to have you arrested.