8 Debt Collection Mistakes Not to Make


You think you’re on top of things … and then the phone rings. A debt collection agency claims that you owe them money. What do you do? Or perhaps the bigger question should be: “what do you not do?”

Too many people make mistakes with that first phone call—mistakes that can cost them dearly. Read on to know how to avoid these common debt collection faux pas.

1. Ignoring Those Calls

What we mean: Thinking that you can just ignore the calls when the number shows up on caller ID won’t make the debt—or the collector—go away.

It can be intimidating when you answer the phone and a voice at the other end starts talking about collecting a debt. But if you continue to ignore the calls, they will start to send collection letters—and possibly notice of legal action. Don’t let it get to that stage.

What to do: Answer the phone, remain calm and know your rights (more on that below.) Before they call again, get your paperwork in order (more on that later, too), so you won’t be caught off guard when you answer the phone. If they’re already sending letters, don’t toss them—read them and seek advice.

2. Not Verifying the Debt in Writing

What we mean: Always ask for written verification of the debt to be mailed to you. In trying to track down a debtor, companies may resort to something as simple as checking the phone directory. Do you want to be held responsible for someone else’s debt simply because that person has the same name as you?

Debt collectionWhat to do: Explain to the caller that you do not make any decisions on the phone, and that you need written proof of the debt. (By law, they must provide it.) Request that they mail you all of details of the debt, including the name and address of the borrower, the amount borrowed, the date the debt was incurred and, if possible, a copy of the original debt application or approval letter.

3. Not Knowing the Legal Status of Your Debt

What we mean: Some debts are subject to a statute of limitations. While the actual amount of time varies from state to state, this means that if the creditor has not made contact with you in a specific time period (typically five to seven years), that debt can legally be struck from the books.

What to do: Check the debt statute of limitations for your state. The statute applies when the company owed the money has failed to make reasonable efforts to obtain the money owed, not when you have ignored attempts to collect. When does the clock start ticking? Usually from the date of last activity on the account, but this may vary by state.

If the statute of limitations has expired on your debt, write to the debt collector, advising them that it has expired, and not to contact you anymore. Sending the letter by certified mail ensures that they have received it. If the statute has not passed, talk to a legal or financial professional experienced in debt collection to learn about your repayment options.

  • DJJones

    Thank you for the article. Very informal. I wish I knew then what I know now. However, I am pleased to have this information at hand for future references.

  • http://www.coralseamercantile.com.au Coral Mercintile

    Very useful information about debt collection. These all the instructions should follow the debtor. If you ignore the debt collector then he can misunderstand you and migh be deal with you in other way which cannot good for you.

  • http://www.RobFrankel.com robfrankel

    Collection agencies are not the best solution for either party. Get it settled faster, paid faster (at a discount for the debtor) while totally online — never missing work. Services like OneDayDecisions.com are becoming more popular, especially because they are cheaper than court and get you more than collection agencies.

  • Johnny Good

    Debt collectors don’t care about finding the true debtors. They care about making money. They will do anything short of murder to get money out of you no matter who you are or whether or not you actually owe them anything. I repeatedly tell them that I am not the person they are looking for ( my finances are perfect, because I read here how to meet urgent expenses) and that we were just assigned the phone number a little over a year ago. The continue to call over and over again.

  • http://www.suethecollectors.com suethecollectors

    great advice and very well described