Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
When a debt collector comes calling, they may try to use intimidating tactics or pose as a government official to scare you into cooperating. If you do have an outstanding debt, you should work with them to get it paid off, but you can do it on your terms. Our friends at Marketplace have some tips for doing just that.
You don't have to be a terrible person to run afoul of a debt collector—an overdue parking ticket in another state, a utility bill that was never closed out, sometimes it's not your fault, but you do have to take care of it. Marketplace offers a few tips to help you deal with harassing debt collectors, but a few stood out to us.
First of all, they suggest dealing with debt collectors head on. Avoiding their calls and messages won't make them go away, so just demand they identify themselves appropriately (by law, debt collectors cannot represent themselves as a government agency or law enforcement—they have to tell you who they are and what company they work for) before you hand over any potentially sensitive personal information. Also by law, a debt collection agency has to inform you of your right to dispute, and respect it. They can't just tell you "it's too late for that," or that you'd have to work out a dispute with the original debtor—they have to work the dispute on your behalf.
Finally, if you're being harassed by a bad debt collector, Jack Brown, president of Gulf Coast Collection Bureau in Sarasota, Fla, offered some recourse:
"The perception of debt collectors is that there's a bunch of pit bulls out there who will beat up consumers, talk to them rudely, yell at them, lie to them — do whatever they can to get a dollar out of them today," says Brown. "In any industry there are bad apples, bad actors, and there's 99 percent of the folks out there doing the right thing. They are out there complying with the laws and they are working. But there is that 1 percent out there that may cause some issues. If you ever deal with that type of agency go to AskDoctorDebt.com, get some information on what you rights are, what you can expect during a collection call, how you can get the calls to stop if they're not treating you in the right away. ACAInternational.org, that's our international trade association for debt collectors and you can also submit a complaint against an agency through that site if you have an issue."
Hit the link below for more tips to deal with debt collectors on your terms, and how to deal with bad ones that try to bully you.
Photo by Stephen VanHorn. (Shutterstock)