How to handle debt collectors when they call

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Receiving a call from a debt collector can be stressful, especially if you’re still tight on money. An initial reaction could be to ignore the situation in hopes that the calls will stop. However, hiding from the debt collectors or ignoring them will only make matters worse.

Sometimes the collection agency has the wrong contact information and may even be trying to collect on a fake debt. Unscrupulous collection agencies may also use aggressive or intimidating tactics to scare the alleged “debtor” into paying a debt that may or may not be real. That’s why the Better Business Bureau has compiled a list of tips to help you respond to debt collectors correctly.

Your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:

  • Debt collectors are required by law to provide the information in writing. Ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
  • You must respond in writing within thirty days of receiving the debt notice to avoid further action or contact by the collector. If you have any proof that the debt has been paid, you must provide it as well. Your letter and any proof disputing the debt should arrive at the collector’s place of business within thirty days. It is always a good idea when disputing a debt, to send your letter certified mail and require a signature acknowledging receipt by the collector.
  • A debt collector must prove that you owe the money before they can continue trying to collect if you dispute the debt in writing within 30 days.
  • A debt collector can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • They can’t harass, oppress or abuse you. No swearing, no repeated phone calls, no threats of violence are allowed.
  • A debt collector can’t call you at work if they know your employer doesn’t approve.
  • They can’t continue to call if you request, in writing, that they only communicate with you by mail. However, they can still try to collect the debt.
  • They can’t collect a debt you don’t owe, nor a disputed debt, nor can they report to the big three credit reporting agencies.

Additional tips for handling debt collection calls:

  • If you think that a caller may be a fake, ask for his or her name, company, street address and telephone number. Then, do your research and check bbb.org to confirm that the collection agency is real.
  • Never provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have verified the call.
  • Check your credit report by going to annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity under your name. If a scammer has a great deal of personal information about you, be safe and place a fraud alert on your credit report.

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org/northern-alabama/