4 Tips For Handling Debt Collectors Without Losing Your Cool

What do you do when a debt collector calls? Hang up? Yell at them? Ask them to call you back next week? Or do you make a payment immediately over the phone? According to former debt collectors, most people hang up, and a good portion of people yell obscenities before hanging up.

It’s tempting to get snarky with a debt collector, especially when they’re being snarky with you, but that approach doesn’t help your situation. Although traditional advice says never to speak to debt collectors, that’s not entirely true. It’s always safe to ask a debt collector to send you snail mail proof that you owe the debt. It’s also safe to be polite, even if you choose to hang up.

Before your next creditor calls, review these tips to handle the situation without losing your cool:

  1. Don’t get on a creditor’s bad side

It’s crucial to understand there are legal yet predatory practices that can sideswipe you if you don’t handle your debt. For example, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors can’t threaten you with jail time because it’s illegal to arrest or jail someone for owing a debt. However, the predatory practice is that debt collection agencies sue consumers without serving them a notice to appear in court. When they fail to appear in court, the company issues a warrant for their arrest.

While it’s technically illegal not to serve someone a notice, it’s not illegal to issue an arrest warrant for failure to appear in court even if no notice was served. It happens more often than you might think, and for debts of less than $30.

Don’t do anything that would cause your creditor to mark you down for this kind of revenge. Being polite won’t guarantee they won’t use this practice on you, but it will increase your chances of avoiding this problem.

  1. Maintain a detailed list of debts you’ve paid off or no longer owe

Keep a detailed log of all debts you owe, payments you’ve made, debts you’ve paid off, and debts that have expired due to the statute of limitations. Have this information handy for referencing when a debt collector calls.

Debt collectors aren’t always accurate, and get the details wrong more often than we might think. This fact is backed up by research data. As of 2016, “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that 39% of consumers complaining about debt collection practices said they were being contacted about debts they no longer owed,” Debtconsolidation.com reports.

Be ready with your data so you can politely correct the agent, and stop illegitimate debt collection calls.

  1. Remove the emotion from your communications

Approach each call with a debt collector as a matter-of-fact conversation. Ask simple questions to verify the legitimacy of the debt. Request proof of the debt through snail mail. Politely inform the agent that you’d prefer to write a check, and you have a policy not to provide your credit card information over the phone.

  1. Remember, debt collectors are people, too

Debt collectors are essentially salespeople whose job is to convince you to pay your bill, even if only in part. It’s not an easy job. Reading stories from former debt collectors reveals just how much the general population despises talking to them.

Remember that debt collectors are people just like you, working a job to support themselves or their family. They’re human and aren’t immune to the effects of abuse. Regardless of your financial situation, there’s no reason to be rude to a debt collector.

If you’re frustrated with your financial situation, it’s understandable that you might feel like you’re being pushed into a corner when they ask for a payment. Especially when your daily bills are overdue and you’re barely scraping by. Remember that existing fear around your finances can cause you to misperceive a simple request for payment as an unreasonable demand.

The truth is, when a debt collector calls, you can make a payment – or not. The debt is either legitimate – or not. There’s no need to be rude. The debt collector you’re speaking with is a human being doing their job, just like you. They’re going to go home to their family at the end of the day, just like you. Don’t add to their stress. You can be polite and firm at the same time.