If you have had calls from debt collectors, you were probably intimidated as some of them come across as being big and strong. They like to project the image of a toughie and a bully. Not all of them, but many of them.

But remember, they are just people like you and I and many of them are most probably also in debt. So, what is the big deal?

With this article I want to try and help you become cured of your fear of these so-called debt collectors.

How to deal with debt collectors

If you have ever spoken to a debt collector, the odds are that you have made one or more mistakes, which I will try and highlight and tell you how I would handle them if I was in your position.

If you are aware of your rights, it is unlikely that they will try any sneaky or illegal tactics with you when they call again, because they will know that they are dealing with someone who is informed.

Therefore, make sure that you become informed, or they will trample all over you.

Sometimes debt collectors call consumers mistakenly and try and pull the consumer into the debt collection cycle as well. If you are thinking that you would not receive such calls, brace yourself, as it is always possible.

 

1. The first mistake you must avoid is to omit to always Validate Your Debt – check, confirm, substantiate that the debt is in fact yours and that it is not an old debt, or that they have the wrong person.

One day you receive a call, and the caller tells you that you owe RXXXX for a certain debt. How do you know the caller is entitled to collect on the debt or that the debt they claim is correct?

You do not know the caller, and iro of who he/she says they are, does not mean that it is true.

It is known that some collection agencies try to intimidate consumers into paying unsubstantiated debts and amounts that were not even owed by them in the first place.

Any debt collector who calls you must validate the debt for which they are calling.

How do you do you get them to do that?

1. Ask for a statement of the debt that they are calling about. And the statement must be from inception to date showing all the payments that you have made and all the interest and charges that have been added to the account. There is another video that explains why you need to do this.

Section 108 of the NCA – states that a creditor must deliver to the consumer periodic statements. It is your right to receive such a statement. Therefore, you must demand it. If the caller says that they are representing ABC Bank, then they must deliver it. If they tell you, they cannot, cut the call as they are misleading you.

2. If they ask for your ID, do not give it to someone you do not know, as there is currently so much identity theft out there. So why risk it?

3. If they ask for your email address, then tell them that as they are representing ABC Bank, the bank has all your details, therefore they should be able to have access to it. If not, then they cannot be representing the bank.

By standing up to them you will now be in control. So, make sure that you have the proof of any claim they make before you start making commitments.

4. They often record the calls, so be careful of what you tell them, and never admit or agree to anything over the phone. They can later hold you to what you verbally agree to pay.

Golden rule is rather DENY. DENY. DENY.

5. Never sign an Acknowledgement Of Debt.

6. Handing over to an attorney is normal debt collecting practice so do not fret about it.

 

2. Another mistake consumers make is failing to Call them on Their Garbage Or Their Bluff

Debt collectors often try these tele-bully tactics by:

  • posing as a fraud investigator looking at so-called "suspicious activity on your credit card" to get you on the phone, or
  • impersonating a lawyer who is going to bring a case against you tomorrow, but who is really calling from a debt collecting call centre, or
  • they use a lawyer-sounding name, or
  • they tell you that they are calling from ABC Bank, and
  • the latest is to say they are calling from some courier company or the other and they want to deliver your credit card.

Know that these misleading tactics are not acceptable, it is misleading and totally dishonest in my opinion and contrary to the Code of Conduct of Debt Collectors.

Also, if a debt collector ever tele-bullies you with things like, “I'll throw you in jail”, or “police are on their way to arrest you”, or the next step is to take you to court, know that they are not abiding by certain laws while debt collecting.

Make use of Truecaller on your phone to identify these calls beforehand. You will also see that many of them have very descriptive names that identify them, resulting from the seeming abusive tactics, that they are known to employ.

 

THE DEBT COLLECTORS ACT of 1998, & CODE OF CONDUCT says that: 

  1. A debt collector shall at all times respect the confidentiality and privacy of any information supplied by a debtor and shall be factual, truthful and tactful
  2. Maintain the highest moral standards at all times and 
  3. A debt collector, in the process of collecting a debt, shall have due regard for the person, the property and the civil rights of a debtor, and shall ensure that any action taken against a debtor does not humiliate, threaten or cause distress to such a debtor. 
  4. They may not misrepresent the true nature of their business, or threaten to institute legal proceedings.
  5. A debt collector shall not deliberately lie about, or misrepresent any fact, truth, instruction or mandate in any way.

Those are just a few of the many rules that debt collectors must conform to.

If you wish to read up on these issues, there is a link at the end of this article, to the CODE OF CONDUCT FOR DEBT COLLECTORS and THE DEBT COLLECTORS ACT, 1998. 

Remember the callers are mainly mere call centre agents and they do not have decision-making powers.

OH, AND JUST FOR INTEREST’S SAKE, if anyone tells you that you can be jailed for debt, that is hogwash. You cannot be jailed for being debt. Maybe for fraud, but not for your debt.

Likewise, they cannot threaten you with sudden legal action tomorrow. There is a legal process that your creditor must follow and that takes time. You will be advised long before any legal action can be taken and will thus have enough time in which to respond.

 

3. The third mistake is continuing to Accept Abusive Phone Calls at Dinner Time

Let us imagine that it is evening and you have arrived home after a hard day at work, you barely get enough time with your little ones or with your spouse, or you are eventually able to settle down and relax watching your favourite tv programme. Why would you want to sacrifice this time dealing with abusive calls from a collection agent?

They probably believe this is likely the best time to reach you at home.

First ask them to identify themselves. It is after all telephone manners to identify yourself when calling someone.

Secondly, they should ask if it is convenient to talk to you. They cannot just barge into your life and time. How do they know you are not in a crisis situation? If they do not do these basic things when calling, then in my opinion, they do not respect you or your time and it shows that they are inadequately trained.

First, tell them that you are not sure what they are calling about, the line is very unclear, you are very busy now, and they must please send you an email of what they are calling about. Remember, they have your email address already, or should have. Simply tell them that you feel their behavior is harassing and/or abusive or intrusive of your time. Note that they can still legally contact you, and all that you are doing is trying to get them to stop their harassing calls. By requesting that they contact you by email is not avoiding the issue but giving them an option that is more suitable for you at the time.

Also note, that no calls are allowed between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. the following morning, unless you specify it is okay. And you probably would not do that, would you?

They may not contact you on a Sunday. That is your day.

 

4. Stop Tele-sharks From Embarrassing You At Work

The debt collector may not initiate, or threaten to initiate, communication with your employer prior to obtaining final judgment against you, in order to exert pressure on you, the debtor. Although a debt collector may communicate with your employer solely to verify your employment status or earnings.  Or where an employer has an established debt counseling service or procedure in place for the employees.

They may also not communicate with your employer, an acquaintance, friend, relative or neighbour, unless such a person stands surety for your debt, or unless it is to obtain your address or telephone number. Nothing else.

A debt collector may not communicate with a debtor when his or her legal adviser has notified the debt collector in writing to communicate with the legal adviser – this is where we assist our clients who are harassed by debt collectors. We take that stress load off their shoulders as we have attorney on record who handles all our legal issues.

 

5. Lastly, do not get wrangled, or coerced into paying on a Prescribed Debt or an Old Debt 

You can pay on an expired debt, or prescribed debt as we mostly refer to it, if it sets your conscious free. But legally, you do not have to pay old debt that has prescribed. I am all about personal responsibility. But you should know that you are not legally obligated to do so, even though collection agencies may still try to get you to.

Debts expire on your credit history report, as well as with collection agencies being able to sue you for those debts. Unsecured debts, such as Personal Loans, Credit Cards, Store Accounts etc are subject to the Prescription Act. For more information on your Prescribed Debt, view our video of this topic. Know too, that certain actions you take could increase the prescription period or interrupt prescription. So be careful how you respond to these queries or calls.

 

Here is a sample of how you can respond to debt collector’s call.

THE FOLLOWING IS CRITICAL:

MAKE SURE YOU ASK THE QUESTIONS IN THE ORDER IT IS GIVEN BELOW!

THE REASON FOR THIS IS THAT SHOULD THE CALLER BECOME AWARE OF YOUR INTENTION TO TRAP THEM THEY MIGHT PUT THE PHONE DOWN.

IF YOU ASK YOUR QUESTIONS IN THIS ORDER YOU WILL HAVE THEIR NAME AND COMPANY DETAILS FOR FURTHER ACTION.

Once you get to the email status you will start to find them backtracking or getting upset– they do not want to go there and might just put the phone down.

If they get upset, remind them that they called you and it is their responsibility to identify themselves. Note down the date and exact time………...this helps if you want to lodge a complaint in the future.

THE CALL

  1. You answer the call. Remember, you DO NOT know the person calling.
  2. Do not volunteer any information. – NEVER. NEVER confirm your ID or any account numbers. There are so many cases of identity fraud and accounts being hacked online. Do not imply that you know of any debt quoted and do not admit liability – NEVER! You DO NOT know the person calling.
  3. If the caller asks you to identify yourself. NEVER DO THIS.

Your answer is “You called me, first identify yourself by giving me the following information". (Write all this down diligently) If during this initial discussion the party on the other side wants to say or ask something, insist on them giving you the details first – if this fails JUST PUT THE PHONE DOWN! – They will soon get the message.

  1. Now you ask these questions:
  2. “Give me your full name – spell it for me.”
  3. “Give me your telephone number.” Repeat it to make sure you have it correct even if it shows on your phone. If they say it is on your phone, tell them it is not as it is an old phone.
  4. “Give me the full name and location of your firm – spell it for me.”
  5. “Give me your email address – spell it for me.”
  6. Thank them and say: “I will send you an email.”
  7. At this point, kill the conversation, say goodbye politely (I know it is not always easy, but try and keep your cool) and put the phone down.
  8. If you receive any future similar calls ask for the caller’s name and company – tell them someone has already called today. Cut the call – “Goodbye”.
  9. Do not waver from this in any way – no matter how insistent they are. You now have their details.
  10. Keep a record of all calls.

Remember you have not run away and are or will be paying based on what you can afford.

  

If you wish to view and read the Debt Collector's Act click here. 

Debt Collector's Code of Conduct can be viewed here