Debt collection can be a scary situation, especially given the current state of the economy. But, if a debt collector is calling you, there are steps you can take to reduce your debt and make sure the calls end. We have pulled together some of the best tips and tricks to deal with debt collectors.

Start by understanding your rights and the rules regulating debt collection. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has set debt collection rules, so take time to visit its website and request information regarding your rights and what the debt collectors can and cannot do. The National Consumer Law Center is another good information resource. You will also want to enlist the services of a debt attorney. Only a personal attorney will be well acquainted with debt collection law in your state.

In the 1970s, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to regulate debt collection companies and attorneys. Remember, this law does not regulate the creditors to whom you owe money. FDCPA covers all personal, family and household debts, including car payments, personal credit cards and medical bills. Under the law, creditors can contact you about your debt via mail, phone, fax or in person; but they may not call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you specifically agree to it. Collectors must speak with your debt attorney if you have one. If you do not have a debt attorney, creditors may contact people you know to learn your address, phone number or where you work. Usually, debt collectors cannot contact a third party more than once. In most cases, the collector will only tell you and your attorney that you owe money.

Under FDCPA, debt collectors are not allowed to harass or abuse you; these prohibited actions can include threats of violence or obscene language. They cannot give false or misleading representation by implying they are from a government organization or that you have committed a crime. Debt collectors are also prohibited from collecting more money than you owe, taking your property when they do not have the authority to do so or forcing you into a foreclosure filing.

If you are contacted by a debt collector, keep thorough records of any dealings you have with the person. Consider taping any phone conversations you have so there are no “he said, she said” moments down the road. If you choose to do this, make sure the person you are speaking with is aware they are being taped.

If you believe you do not owe the money or the amount given by the debt collector is incorrect, request verification. They are required to mail you a verification letter within five days of their first contact with you. If you believe the debt is yours and correct, set a payment arrangement in writing before sending a check or money order.

Never allow a debt collector access to your checking or savings accounts. In fact, consider sending money orders instead of personal checks. Never assume you will get goodwill from a debt collector – it’s their job to clear your debt and they may tap into your personal bank accounts to do it. Always control information when speaking with debt collectors. Do not tell them where you work, where you bank or where you live. Give them as little personal information as you possibly can.

Calls and other contact from debt collectors can be scary. Instead of dealing with them yourself, try to find a lawyer who is experienced in debt collection law. A personal attorney will look out for your best interests and keep you from any unintentional slip ups – like sending a check when you should send a money order – that could end up costing you. This lawyer may also be familiar with bankruptcy law and can educate you on your best options.

Mark E. Godbey, Attorney at Law
Mark E. Godbey & Associates
708 Walnut Street, Suite 600
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
(513) 241 – 6650 phone
(513) 241 – 6649 fax