A Better Way to Handle Debt Collection Calls

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Getting calls from debt collectors? Here's what you need to know before picking up the phone and dealing with debt collection calls.

Nobody wants to think about their debt. But for many people in the United States, this isn’t a choice.

Debt collection calls can make your waking life an ongoing struggle. It’s estimated over 30 percent of U.S. adults with a credit history have debt in collections.

If you’re one of these individuals, you probably know the aggravation of dealing with debt collection calls. Here are a few ideas to help you handle those annoying debt collectors.

Prepare Yourself Ahead of Time

No one wants to talk to a debt collector. It’s an extremely stressful thing that can aggravate the stress you’re already feeling from dealing with your outstanding debt. Although it’s never an enjoyable experience, there are some things you can do to prepare for collection calls. 

You should save the debt collector’s number in your phone. This way, you’ll only have to take the call if you’re ready for it. In general, you shouldn’t answer calls from numbers that you don’t know. But this is particularly true when you’re expecting a call from the debt collector.

When you do decide you want to answer the phone, it’s important to keep your cool. Some collectors want to get you in an emotional state. Try to think of what you’re going to tell the collector ahead of time so you’re not scrambling for answers when they call you.

It’s also important you don’t give away too much information when talking with the collector, as this can potentially be used against you later. 

Know What Debt Collectors Can’t Do Legally

Part of the preparation process for dealing with debt collectors is understanding their legal constraints. There are some important things you need to keep in mind that limit debt collection practices.

Harassment and misrepresentation are the two main illegal tactics that can be used against you. Here are some illegal debt collection actions as described in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:

  • Collectors can’t call continuously in a harassing or abusive way. 
  • It’s illegal to use threats or profanities. 
  • No one can put your name on any public lists outside of information given to credit agencies.
  • They can’t refuse to say who’s calling you.
  • Collectors can’t give you inaccurate information about how much you owe, who they are, or how they’re going to take action against you.

It’s a good idea to record your conversations with the debt collector. There are several apps out there that allow you to easily record active calls on your smartphone.

You should do this in case the debt collector uses an illegal tactic during a call. The audio recording can be used as evidence in court.

You can also ask for the collector to stop contacting you by sending a letter. They can then only contact you about specific changes, such as if they plan on taking you to court

Work with Debt Relief Professionals

The only way to free yourself completely from the burden of debt collection calls is to eliminate your debt.

A good first step is credit counseling, which can help you create a budget, get your credit score and even find a debt management plan.

But what if you’re carrying substantial debt that budgeting alone won’t fix? Some people turn to a debt relief program to tackle major debt exceeding $7,500 or even $10,000.

There are many debt relief agencies out there. But not all of them have the consumer’s best interest in mind when offering their services. Make sure you work with a reputable debt relief agency, or else you might end up in an even worse situation.

Freedom Debt Relief is one example of a debt relief organization that has a proven track record of helping thousands of consumers settle their debts for less than the original amount owed.

Look through online reviews before deciding to enroll in any program, and know the pros vs. cons to become debt-free.

Self-Care Is Important 

Dealing with debt and debt collections calls is extremely stressful. It’s important that you take some time to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Not doing this will run you down and cause you to engage with unhealthy activities to cope with the stress. Here are some things that can help you practice self-care:

  • Do something active. These are things that will make you feel good (yoga, swimming, a sport, or anything that invigorates you).
  • Don’t spend too much time on your phone. It’s easy to get caught up in social media feeds or watching endless videos. This can suck up your time and typically makes you feel worse afterward.
  • Simplify your space. Get rid of things you don’t need. Your living space plays a huge role in your mental health. You can even sell some unused items to generate a bit of money.
  • Take things slowly. It’s easy to rush through things when you’re feeling stressed out. But going too fast often just sets you back. Act intentionally and you’ll be in a better headspace, and likely get more done.  

No one enjoys dealing with debt collection calls. But this is an unfortunate reality for many consumers in the U.S.

If you’re currently dealing with debt collections, or think you will in the future, it’s wise to educate yourself about how to work through the process. 

About the author

Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs is a personal finance expert, and the founder of My Millennial Guide, a personal finance site helping you put more money in your pocket. He helps millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. He regularly writes about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. He has been quoted as a top personal finance blogger in major publications including Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, MSN Money and more.
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