The Ultimate Consumer’s Guide [How To]Deal With & Protect Yourself from Bad Debt Collectors.

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The following is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice

As debt collection attorneys, we are well aware of the ways that abusive debt collectors affect the lives of consumers.

Despite strict laws and regulations…

…excessive phone calls, intrusive communications to family or friends, and unjustified contact at the workplace are tactics still used by debt collectors.

The good news:

There is often recourse for these abuses.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act (FDCPA), and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) provide restrictions and remedies directed at debt collectors and their unyielding pursuit of money.

For example:

One woman won $8.1 million dollars in damages from a debt collection agency for their constant and improper collection attempts.

This guide provides you, the consumer, an essential overview of your rights as they pertain to non-compliant collection agencies, loan servicers, or bill collectors.

At the end of each chapter, we’ve included the additional resources.



What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

You know that Knowledge is power. That’s why:

It is important to understand consumer protection laws such as the FDCPA, an extensive set of legislation enacted to protect consumers from unethical and non-compliant debt collectors.

In the video below, Attorney, Jordan A. Shaw, an FDCPA attorney who practices in this area every day, gives a simple summary of what the FDCPA is, and what it covers.



Extra Resources
1.   7 Amazing Reasons why Debt Collection Laws can Protect You
by Zebersky Payne, LLP – Full-Service Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
2.    The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
by Federal Trade Commission
3.     Comprehensive FDCPA PDF for download
by the Federal Reserve


How Debt Collectors Work: Insider Information

In this chapter, we discuss how debt collectors make money.

Understanding the collectors’ financial incentives helps shed light on the motivation behind some of their tactics.

We even share a few of the top “how to be an excellent debt collector” articles straight from the collection agencies themselves.


How does a collection agency make money?

Short answer:

Debt collection agencies make money when they successfully collect a debt. There are two common types of debt collectors:
1. Debt collectors contracted by a company to retrieve debts (“Third Party Debt Collectors”).
2. Independent debt buyers who then collect on those debts (“Debt Buyers”).

Third Party Debt Collectors work for a corporate client, usually known as the original creditor, to help retrieve outstanding debts. They’re most often awarded a percentage “commission” on the debt they collect.

The fee collected usually depends on the sum of the debt.

The debt collectors fees according to their collection

Because the debt collector’s client is a corporation and the original creditor’s client is, most often, the consumer, the business goals of a debt collection agency are very different from that of the original creditor. Here’s an example:

Debt Buyers, on the other hand, are companies who buy the rights to receive payment of bundles of debts at a low cost, hoping to make a profit by collecting more than they paid for it.

For example:

Costless Shoes may have 200 outstanding bills worth $25,000 in total with customers that they haven’t been able to collect on. Instead of going through the hassle of trying to collect the debt…

Costless Shoes may have 200 outstanding bills worth $25,000 in total with customers that they haven’t been able to collect on. Instead of going through the hassle of trying to collect the debt…

…Costless Shoes sells it to a Debt Buyer for $10,000.

This way, the debt buyer now has the possibility of making $15,000 in profit on their $10,000 investment.

What Debt Collectors are trained to Say and do

When a collection agent calls you, he or she has a goal in mind and a script in hand.

The collector is a salesman. Instead of sales and customer relations, they are focused on client relations and customer collections.

In other words:

The collection agent is not concerned with pleasing the consumer. He (or she) is involved with collecting money for themselves or their client.

Here’s how collection agents are trained to approach every call.

How collection agents are trained to get your money

So, there you have it!

There’s your insider’s view of debt collection agencies. Take a look at the extra resources for this chapter. There are even resources and tips debt collection professionals use.


Extra Resources


How to Spot [and deal with] Fake Debt Collectors

In 2014 alone:

Over 17 million Americans were affected by debt collection scams and fraud.

Here we’ll show you easy and actionable steps to keep your money safe from debt collection scammers.

First, here’s how a fake debt collector scam works:

Someone will call you claiming to be from a debt collection agency, or an organization of authority, like the sheriff’s office. They’ll say that you owe a debt and they are pursuing payment.

(Chances are, the debt collection scam artist already researched you and used a real debt you owe as their “bait”.)

But, if you provide them with the banking information and personal details they request, it will not be used to pay off the alleged debt. Rather, they will use the information to steal your identity or utilize your credit for purchases. Here is how to spot a fake debt collector:


Here’s what you should do when dealing with a suspected fake debt collector:

Step 1. Don’t give out your private information.
Everything you say and do, will be used against you. Never share or even confirm any sensitive information with an unknown caller. Having your details gives them the ability to withdraw funds from your current accounts, your credit cards, or even open new accounts and loans under your name.

Sensitive information you should never give to unknown callers:

Social security information

⦁ Bank account details

⦁ Credit card details

⦁ Passport or ID number

⦁ Mother’s maiden name (used to reset passwords)

⦁ Online passwords

⦁ PIN codes

⦁ Date of birth

All of this information is used to access your money.

Step 2. Ask the debt collector for their full details.
Fake debt collectors are often not real companies. If you ask for their details, they will give false company details or avoid giving you their full details when asked.You have the legal right to:

i. Request a Validation Notice (or letter).

You have the legal right to refuse further communications with a debt collector until you receive something called a “validation notice”.It’s a document that confirms the debt you owe and additional information about the creditor. We will discuss debt validation further in chapter 5.

When you’re unsure whether a debt collector is real, ask for a validation notice. Real debt collectors, by law, have to send it to you.

Here’s what to say:

After you’ve asked for the validation notice, you can give them your mailing address or, better so, the address of your consumer lawyer.

ii. Ask for full business details

Think it’s strange that the FBI or IRS is calling you for a debt payment? It almost always is.Collection scams often make it look like they’re calling from somewhere with authority.

For example:

Law firms

⦁ Law enforcement (police stations, FBI)

⦁ Banks

⦁ Courts

Always ask a debt collector for their full business details and their full name.Real debt collection agencies have to truthfully identify themselves – by law.Once you have their details, tell them you’ll speak to them again once you have verified they are real and end the conversation.

You can verify them by:

I. Googling the company and calling the number on their website. Are there other people in the office? Do they have you and your debt on file?

II. Inputting their company’s details into the Better Business Bureau search (https://www.bbb.org/). That way you can know if they’re real and if there are any outstanding complaints against them.III. Check your state’s debt collector registry if it has one.

Step 3. Break all communication with the possible debt scammer.
Demand that the collector stops contacting you.A debt collector must stop contacting you (on your cell phone) in pursuit of the debt if you ask.  If they continue to call, start taking notes of their calls using our debt collector call log sheet. Step 4. Contact your creditor.
It’s a good idea to go to the source:

Communicate with the primary business they claim the debt belonged to in the first place.
If the debt and the collector are real, the original creditor will be able to confirm it.

Ask them to:

i. Verify the debt. 

ii. Confirm the authorized debt collector.

Step 5. Report the call.
So, you’ve found out they are definitely a scam artist.If you determine that the collector is a scammer, contact your State’s attorney general or a consumer lawyer to discuss the calls.

You can find your attorney general’s details by typing this into Google: “[your state] attorney general”.

Your State’s attorney general can help you to further understand your rights and give you advice about what to do.

If the debt collector is real, but is abusive, attempting to collect a debt you do not owe, or contacts you after you have asked them not to, contact a licensed debt collection attorney or TCPA attorney.

You may be entitled to monetary damages.


Extra Resources

1. How to expose a fake debt collector
    by Life Hacker
2. How to tell the difference between a fake debt collector and a real one
    by Nolo.com
3. Fake Debt Collectors
by the Federal Trade Commission
4. How to verify if a collector is legitimate?
by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

5. Beware: Zombie Debt Collectors on the Rise
by CNN Money



Know your rights – the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act.

Real debt collectors are subject to strict regulations.

Debt collection agencies are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, which legally protects the consumer from unethical and unfair treatment.

Here are a few things that debt collectors are NOT allowed to say and do:

Debt collectors cannot (lawfully) harass you. 

For example:

⦁ Threaten to physically harm your or people you know

⦁ Publicly expose people who have not paid their debts (however this information can be handed to credit reporting bureaus).

⦁ Use explicit or offensive language

⦁ Use repeated phone calls to annoy or harass someone.
Moreover, collection agencies cannot make false statements (lie to you). For example, they aren’t allowed to:

⦁ Say they’re calling from a law firm or government agency if they aren’t.

⦁ State that you have committed a criminal offense by failing to pay a debt.

⦁ Falsely claim that they operate or work for a credit reporting company.

⦁ Lie about how much you owe.

⦁ Say that documents they send you are legally binding if they aren’t. OR: ⦁ Falsely claim that the papers they send you aren’t legal forms when they are.

Keep in mind….

Some debt collectors will use deception to pressure you over the phone.

The good thing is that many are against the law too. For example, they cannot:

⦁ Falsely suggest that you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay off the debt.

⦁ Claim that they’ll take or sell any portion of your property and income. (Except, if they are allowed by the law in your State to do so.)

⦁ Falsely claim that they will take legal action against you if they don’t intend to do so

.⦁ Share false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;

⦁ send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or

⦁ Use a false company name.

Lastly,

Debt collectors can’t engage in unscrupulous practices when trying to collect a debt.

For example:

⦁ They can’t try to collect interest, additional fees, or other charges on top of your debt. Unless, the original debt’s contract – or your State’s law – allows the charge;

⦁ They can’t deposit a post-dated check early;

⦁ They can’t take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or

⦁ They can’t contact you by postcard.


Extra Resources

1. “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act”
    by the Federal Trade Commission
2. 5 Illegal Tactics Shady Debt Collectors love
by CBS News
3. What to do if a collector tries to collect a Time-barred Debt?
by Nolo.com



What to say when debt collectors call you?

Debt collectors commonly work from a script, like a telemarketer.
It shows them what to say, how to say it, what objections or excuses they think you may come up with, and how to get the information they want from you.
So, we created our own script, too…

 The Anti-Debt Collection Abuse (First Call) ScriptThe Anti-Debt Collection Abuse (First Call) Script

—————————————————– SCRIPT —————————————————

Collector: Hello, is John Smith there?

Consumer [You]: Who is calling please?

Collector: This is Ms. Monstrom from M&P Collections, we represent Buymart for your outstanding balance of $2,300. How would you like to take care of this bill today? Credit card or bank transfer? (collectors will try to close the deal quickly)

Consumer [You]: Could you hold on just a moment; I am going to record this call. Thanks.(start recording the call using an app on your phone or a recorder, there are many options to choose from. Once you are recording ask them to repeat their name, company and the reason for calling)

Collector: *Repeats herself.Consumer [You]: I’m not sure that debt is mine. Please send me a validation notice of the debt according to FDCPA practices. Collector: you must submit the request in writing.

Consumer [You]: Thank you, please stop calling my cell phone and send my bills and all pertinent information in writing

.——————————  End of Script —————————–

You DO NOT need to tell a debt collector:

⦁ How much you are paid.

⦁ When you are paid.

⦁ Details of your partner or spouse’s employment.

⦁ Your living expenses.

⦁ Information about your assets such as car, house, furniture, etc.

⦁ Your banking details.In some cases, A debt collector might continue to contact you, against your wishes. For

In some cases, A debt collector might continue to contact you, against your wishes. For example: you may not owe the debt, or they’re verbally harassing you, or you already have a consumer rights lawyer dealing with the case for you.If that’s the case, you can request a cease and desist from them.

Here’s what you can do:

Send a written letter to their office stating that you do not want them to contact you. But…

Send it by registered post, otherwise they may deny receiving it.

Legally – once they have received this notification, they can only contact you if they file a lawsuit against you. If they reach out to you regardless of your cease and desist, good news:

You’re entitled to legally protect yourself and may be entitled to damages per dialed call they make after the cease and desist request. Now it’s time for our last chapter.

In chapter 6:

We will show you how to build a case against an unscrupulous debt collector.


Extra Resources

1. Do this when Debt Collectors Call
by CNBC
2. “What to do when a Debt Collector Calls”
by the Balance.com
3. Handling Debt Collection Calls: Do’s and Don’ts
by Nolo.com



Documenting your FDCPA Case against Abusive Debt Collectors

Do you feel that you were unfairly treated by a debt collector?

Here’s how to how to build a case against them, using the FDCPA.

Step 1. Start collecting information.
A well-documented case is a strong case.

When preparing for battle with a debt collector, it helps to have as much documented evidence of their misconduct as possible.

That’s why:

You need to start keeping track of your communications with the debt collector.

Both the FDCPA and TCPA (Telephone Consumers Protection Act) outlines strict rules and regulations about what debt collectors can and cannot do when on the phone with you.

But, if you are building a case, you need evidence.

For starters, get into the habit of collecting information on each of their calls with a “call log”.

A call log is simple a document with summarized details of a phone call made or received.

Here’s an example:

If you’re going to make your own call log, you need to include:

⦁ Dates and times the calls were made.

⦁ Where the call came from ( in this case a debt collector).

⦁ What phone number they called (landline, mobile, work?)

⦁ Whether the call was made by an automated calling machine.

⦁ If they left a voicemail. 

But, to make things easier we’ve made a call log for you!

You can download it here.

Next, whenever you the debt collection agency calls you, record the conversation and keep it as evidence.

There are two ways to keep records of your conversations: written notation and audio recording (an audio recording is best).

But, beware!

Always let the caller know you are making a recording of the conversation.

It’s against the law in many states to record conversations without both people’s consent. As long as you let them know and have their consent, then feel free to record the conversation.

Read on….

Whether you make a recording of the conversation or not, it’s always good to create written summaries of each conversation with a debt collector.

It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Just something to help you remember what was said. Bullet-point lists work great too.
Here’s an example of a written summary:

Call summary for call recording

Step 2. Review the debt collector’s actions.

Have they done something they shouldn’t have?

Now that you have started collecting information on the debt collectors, let’s see if they’re actually breaking any laws…

Here are 3 common ways a debt collector breaks FDCPA law:

1. They are use automated calling machines. Watch what FDCPA consumer lawyer, Jordan has to say about pesky “robo-callers”.

2. They call outside legally allowed times? (8am-9pm)
3. They obtain your number through “black hat” means.

Next, it’s time to call in the professionals…

 

Step 3. Get in touch with a licensed Debt Collection Attorney

You have your records and a checklist with a few (or many) big red ticks.
Now, it’s time to take your evidence to a debt collection lawyer.

But before you do that:

(Here’s some insider information)

When a debt collector loses a consumer protection lawsuit, they have to pay the consumer’s legal fees, as well as any damages awarded.

So, most of the time, if a debt collector realizes they’ve done the wrong thing, they usually prefer settling early to avoid additional costs.
Now, we are of course biased and want you to use our licensed FDCPA services, but…

…if you would like to look for a different lawyer, we can recommend looking on Avvo.com.

 

Need to know more? Have comments, maybe a question or two?

We’d love to know. Comment below!


Extra Resources

1. When to contact a debt collection Lawyer
by ZPLLP, Full Service Nationwide FDCPA Lawyer
2. 10 Best Android Apps for Automatic Call Recording
by Beebom.com
3. 10 Best Call Recording Apps for iPhone
 by Beebom.com
4. How to Hire a Lawyer
by the Federal Trade Commission

Jordan ShawThe Ultimate Consumer’s Guide [How To]Deal With & Protect Yourself from Bad Debt Collectors.

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