Things You Should Say — And Shouldn’t Say — To Debt Collectors
If you’re getting collection calls, you may be wondering what you can and cannot say. While there is no one set of rules when it comes to handling collection calls, there are some general guidelines that you can follow when dealing with debt collectors.
- If you have a valid reason why you think the debt is not owed, or why the amount owed is incorrect, don’t be afraid to tell the debt collector this. The debt collector will probably ask you follow up questions about why you dispute the debt, which you can answer if you would like but you are under no obligation to do so.
- You can tell the debt collector you cannot afford to pay–and even that you may be considering bankruptcy. You do not have to give details of your finances, or back up what you’re saying by giving financial documentation. But if you really can’t afford to pay, you can and should tell the debt collector this. Often, just knowing you are considering bankruptcy will get the collection calls to stop.
- Tell the debt collector if you do not wish to be contacted by your cell phone. However, you should have some way for the debt collector to reach you (for example, by making sure the collector has a current address for you). This way, you know what’s going on with the account.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the debt collector who they are, who they represent, and what the debt is for. Debts can be bought and sold, and there may be new owners of your debt, with multiple servicing companies and debt collectors. You do have a right to know the name of the company contacting you, and what debt they are trying to collect.
- You should not provide any personal information to the debt collector, more than what you need to make sure they can reach you. For example, don’t give them your Social Security number (which they may already have anyway), information about your employer, or information about how much you make.
- If you do opt to pay the debt, or you are able to do so, you can often negotiate to have the debt removed from your credit report. Try to negotiate this, before making a settlement of the debt.
- Don’t admit you owe the debt, even if you do. You can say things like “I’d like to pay this off,” or “I don’t know much about this, but maybe we can reach a settlement,” or other vague terms, but try to avoid outright admitting the debt is valid.
- Don’t make a random, good faith payment. On older debts, this could renew the statute of limitations, and it does little to help you anyway, since interest is always accruing. Come up with a settlement with the debt collector, before making any payments (unless you’re making a one time, total payment to satisfy the entire debt, if that’s what you want to do).