When you think of debt collectors, you don’t tend to associate them with the highest levels of customer service and although there are certain rules and regulations that they should follow, this is not always the case.
There are some debt collectors, who use dishonest tactics to try and trick you into paying the debt with a threat of “punishment”, such as legal action. So, it’s important you know what exactly you should do if you’re faced with an abusive debt collector. We’ve put together some useful tips and information on what you should do if a debt collector comes calling.
1) Prepare Yourself with Information About Your Debts
For many people, it’s much easier to hope that a debt problem will just go away! However, this isn’t the case, and you should act as soon as possible before additional interest is added to your outstanding balance.
So, when a debt collector calls, it’s worth finding out:
- Exactly what they want, which company the debt has come from – including the name of the original creditor (not just the debt collection agency),
- Dates of when the debts occurred,
- The amount they believe you owe, including the interest.
- The name of the debt collection agency and their address,
You can also get this information in writing, including copies of your original credit agreement, which is a legal requirement. You can also request that they only contact you via the post, which will reduce the number of phone calls you receive and any home visits.
2) Try and Remove Your Emotions from the Situation
Of course, this is easier said than done if you’re dealing with someone rude on the other end of the phone but keeping calm, rather than getting angry is best. You’ll be able to get more information out of them this way which will give you the tools to take action against them.
3) End the Call if You Need To
If you’re not liking the debt collectors’ tone of voice or feel like the conversation is getting heated or confrontational in any way, you can simply just end the call and block their number if it displays their caller ID. Although this won’t make your debts disappear, it will give you some time to plan your next steps.
If you’re being bombarded with phone calls, you can request that they stop ringing you – but the catch is that you must request this in writing. You can find their address from any bills or emails they may have sent you, on their company website or whilst you’re on the phone to them.
4) Identify Abusive Practices
Debt collectors may try a number of tactics to try and get you to pay back the money you owe. One of these tactics is harassment. This is defined as “any action that makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened”. Learn more about what’s considered harassment by a debt collector with Citizen’s Advice.
If you’ve experienced this, your first step is to find out who is harassing you and collecting the debt. Once you’ve done this you will need to collect evidence of any harassment to form your complaint to the debt collection agency or an independent professional body.
Additional Advice When Dealing with Debt Collectors
Here are the answers to some of the most popular questions about how to deal with debt collectors:
What to do if You owe Money but can’t Afford the Repayments?
Debt collectors will try and use fear and ignorance to try and get money from you. If you can’t afford to make the repayments remember, you will not be expected to pay the full amount back in one go and you can opt for a repayment plan.
If this plan is still unaffordable, seek advice from an independent organisation like Step Change or the National Debt Helpline. Once you’ve reached out to a debt charity, you will receive a 30-day grace period to organise your finances and establish how much you can pay. However, the charity you speak to will talk you through the options and support you with this.
But, I Don’t Want a Debt Collector to Enter My Home?
That’s completely understandable – but not to worry, if you refuse to let them in, they are legally not allowed to force their way in, push past you if you answer the door, and must leave if you ask them to.
However, if you leave your door unlocked or a window open, they can enter your property by “gaining peaceful entry”. The only way a debt collector will enter your home is if all reasonable measures have been attempted first – but this is the very last case scenario.
Will I go to Prison for Debt?
In almost all cases, the answer is no. You won’t go to prison for debt. It’s only really the last case scenario and applies to debts such as:
- Unpaid Council Tax,
- Criminal Fines,
- Child Maintenance arrears owed to the CSA,
- Business Rates,
Even with these debts, prison tends to be the last resort and mainly applies if you’ve refused to pay or ignored the debt – including any warning letters.
How do I Complain About a Debt Collection Agency?
If you feel like a debt collection agency isn’t treating you fairly, you are completely entitled to file a complaint. There are several ways you can go about this, but it’s recommended you do this in writing (by email or by sending a letter) which allows you to keep a copy of what has been said.
According to a blog post by the debt charity, Step Change, there are a few things you should include in your complaint:
- The word “complaint” should be used to ensure it’s dealt with through the proper procedures,
- Explain what you believe they’ve done wrong – you can also back this up with any evidence you’ve collected.
- Tell them what you think they should do to fix this,
- Ask for a copy of their complaints procedure so you know what to expect,
- Ask them to pause your account and stop further action (including phone calls) whilst they investigate,
- Ask them to reply in writing – not over the phone.
Once your complaint has been submitted, you should get confirmation that they’ve received it – including how long it will take them to deal with it and find a resolution.