I have been a debt collector for a number of years. My clients are not big banks or credit card companies. My clients are small business owners. When small business owners do not get paid, it impacts them immediately. They cannot pay their bills, or feed their family. I am passionate about the right of my customers to be paid, and I am proud to be their advocate.
My job is to walk the line between the creditor and the debtor: to negotiate and come to an arrangement that works for all parties, while all the time remembering that my number one goal is to get my client paid. Most people want to do the right thing, and they want to pay what they owe, but life gets in the way. Others may just need more information or have a valid dispute.
Every single one of my customers performed their service or delivered their product expecting to be paid for it. Just imagine if your boss told you at the start of the work day that you were not going to be paid. If you are unable to pay, speak to your creditor, and you can perhaps avoid having your file sent to a collection agency.
However, if if you are contacted by a collection agency, here is some advice.
- You have the right to be treated fairly and respectfully. Consumer (business to consumer) debt collection is governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Debt collectors must provide verification of the debt they are attempting to collect if you ask for it. They must not be abusive or deceptive. The FDCPA is a protection against abuse. Although some “Stop Debt Collector” ads may lead one to think otherwise, it is NOT a way to get out of paying a debt. Even if you successfully evade the debt collector, a valid debt does not go away unless it is out of statute or discharged in bankruptcy. Commercial (business to business) debt collection is not as highly regulated, but still commercial debt collectors cannot break the law.
- While there are certainly bad players out there, there are also many good reputable collection agencies who recover money for businesses and help the economy. Each state has different license requirements. Check with your state, or do not be afraid to call your creditor to make sure the collection agency is on the level.
- If the agency checks out, do not ignore them. If you do not wish to speak on the phone, respond in writing. Ignoring a debt does not make it go away.
- A debt collector’s job is to get a debt paid. If you do not wish to pay the agency, pay the creditor directly, but let the agency know you have done it so that you get credit for the payment.
- If a debt collector is calling your number and looking for someone else, contact them and let them know that they have the wrong number. People change phone numbers often these days. If you do not let the collection agency know, they have no way of knowing they have the wrong person.
- Remember that the debt collector did not cause the debt and that they too, are in a tough spot. If you are treated with respect, be respectful in return, you may find you can reach a settlement with the least amount of stress.
- Come up with a plan to pay off the debt, to the best of your ability, and communicate it. Be reasonable and do not over-commit. In the same vein, suggest as much as you can so that you can get the debt paid as quickly as possible.