You come home from work and take off your shoes, wincing because your toes have been pinched. You change into jeans and a ratty old t-shirt and settle down on the couch to watch your favorite reality show. Then – of course – the phone rings in its cradle, and you get up to check the Caller ID. Yikes! You recognize the number; it’s a collection agency, and you have no idea what you’re going to tell them. The last time you answered the phone, they are harrassing and abusive.
If you’ve fallen into debt or are having a dispute with a company, then you’re likely to hear from multiple collection agencies. They’re obnoxious annoying, and they want their money; you just want them to stop calling your house. If you had the money or the desire to pay them, you would have dropped a check in the mail, right? And you don’t appreciate the way they talk to you on the phone.
Collection agencies are known to call several times each day, sometimes within the time frame that’s allowed by the law, and sometimes not. It doesn’t matter whether you answer the phone or let the machine get it; they will continue to call, and sometimes they use illegal and abusive tactics to attempt to collect the money they’re owed. So how do you handle abusive collection agencies?
According to recent statistics, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) receives more complaints annually about abusive collection agencies that from any other type of business. Although the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is in place to regulate debt collection activities and behavior, many collection agencies refuse to abide by those laws. They assume that consumers are unaware of the laws protecting them, and continue to behave in abusive and illegal manners.
It also has to do with the employees of abusive collection agencies; many are poorly trained and are not advised by the laws that protect consumers. They know that they will only receive their commission if the debt is collected, so they are willing to resort to any means possible to collect the money you owe.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to prove that you have been harrassed by an abusive collection agency, and the agencies know this, so many simply don’t care about the laws. They are aware that if they ever get into trouble for their abusive practices that they can simply dissolve their current agency and form a new business from the ground up.
So how do you handle these abusive collection agencies?
1. Get Informed
Read up on the federal and state laws regarding fair debt collection practices to find out if their behavior is considered illegally abusive by the government. If their behavior is against the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act), then you have a case against them for abusive behavior.
2. Send a Letter
Mail a letter to the abusive collection agency’s address informing them that they have violated the FDCPA. Send it by certified mail, with return receipt requested, so you have proof that you have notified them about their abusive practices. In the letter, explain in detail the conversation in which the abuse took place. Give the name of the representative with whom you spoke, their badge or ID number (if applicable) and the date and time of the conversation. The more details, the better.
3. Tell Them to Stop
When the abusive collection agency calls again, tell them very clearly that you do not want to be contacted at work or at home again. It is usually best to ask to speak with a supervisor, and to make your request with them. Ask that your request be notated in their computer system, and inform them that further steps will be taken if you continue to receive calls.
4. Contact the FTC
Although the FTC doesn’t personally investigate or resolve claims, they will have your complaint on record. If enough people call about the abusive collection agency, a sanction will be placed and the company will be watched. This is the best way to document your problem and to show proof that you were seriously mistreated.
5. Contact Your State Attorney General
You should also file a complaint with your state’s Attorney General. The Attorney General will investigate the case, so be sure to provide adequate information.
6. Record Conversations
If the abusive collection agency continues to call, record every phone conversation that you have with them. In the conversation, be sure to tell them to stop calling you, and that they are violating the FDCPA. You must also inform them that you are recording the conversation. Later, you can sue using the recorded conversations if they demonstrate abusive or illegal tactics.
For your reference, here is a sample script that you can use when you have problems with collection agencies:
Collection Representative: Is this [Kay Reynolds]?
You: Yes it is.
Collection Represenative: Good afternoon, Ms. Reynolds. This is Amanda with ABC Collections contacting you again about your delinquent credit card account with [Chase] Bank. Could I get a payment of $100 by check or debit card over the phone from you today?
You: No, I’m sorry, but I can’t pay you right now. I’ve recently lost my job and have bills I’ve got to pay. I will send money as soon as I have it.
Collection Representative: Ms. Reynolds, I need to inform you that this account is seriously delinquent and that we will continue to attempt to collect this debt.
You: I understand that you need to collect the money, but I’ve made it clear that I am unable to pay right now. It is a waste of your time and mine to keep calling me when I can’t pay. I am requesting that you contact me only in writing in the future, and that you stop calling my home phone.
Collection Representative: All right, Ms. Reynolds, I’ve noted your request in the computer.
If They Call Again:
Collector: I’m sorry, Ms. Reynolds, but we will continue to contact you by phone until you settle this debt.
You: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that collection agencies must stop calling people at home orat work once a request has been made that you stop. I will send your company a certified letter tomorrow, which will have my no-contact request in writing. If you continue to call me, then I will be forced to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and with the Attorney General.