Debt collectors are hardly known for their courtesy and customer service. Year after year, debt collectors rank among the FTC’s most complained list. The FTC even has a list of debt collectors who have behaved so badly that they've been banned from the industry altogether.
In their attempts to collect from you, debt collectors may use an aggressive tone, display no sensitivity or concern for your finances, or talk to you disrespectfully. Some collectors cross the line and use threats or scare tactics to try to get you to pay up. If you happen to talk to a nice debt collector, consider yourself lucky.
Since the opposite is more likely, knowing how to deal with rude collectors can keep you from being bullied into a payment you can't afford. Here are some ways you can deal with rude debt collectors.
Know Your Rights
Debt collectors, third-party debt collectors to be specific, are required to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This is the Federal law that outlines what debt collectors can and can't do when they're collecting a debt from you. The law says they’re not allowed to call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., threaten you with violence, threaten to put you in jail for the debt, or repeatedly call you to annoy you.
The FDCPA doesn't apply to the original creditors that you created the debt with.
Before you accept a debt collector’s call, grab a pen and paper and jot down notes on the call. If you need to file a complaint or sue the collector, these notes will come in handy as you make your case against the debt collector.
Keep Your Emotions Under Control
It may be difficult, especially if you’re talking to a particularly rude or aggressive debt collector, but keeping calm is best. Debt collectors are trained to have a thick skin against consumer harassment, so getting angry won’t get you anywhere. It won’t stop the collector from calling you. It won’t erase your debt.
Stop Trying to Explain Yourself
If financial difficulty is preventing you from paying your debt, you may hope for a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately, far too often debt collectors aren't concerned about your finances and instead will ask you to inconvenience yourself to pay the debt. Recognize when you're not getting anywhere and stop trying to plead your case.
End the Call
If a conversation with a debt collector starts to turn into something you don’t want to deal with, simply end the call. Hang up if you have to.
Don’t Pick Up the Phone
You don’t have to speak to debt collectors, especially rude ones. Once you’ve identified the phone number a collector calls you from, use your caller ID to screen their call. If they’re calling your smartphone, you may even be able to download an app or adjust settings that will send their calls straight to voicemail. Just know that avoiding their phone calls won’t make a debt collector go away. They may keep calling until you pay the debt or they sell the account to another debt collector.
Make Them Stop Calling
You have the right to ask debt collectors to stop calling you. The catch is that you have to make the request in writing. That may mean talking to the debt collector at least once to get their mailing address. Or, you may be able to get the address from any bills they’ve mailed you.
Note that after the debt collector has received your written request to stop calling you, they can contact you just one more time to let you know what they plan to do next.
Dispute the Debt
You have the right to dispute the validity of a debt if you don't believe it's yours. Just like your request to cease communication, you’ll have to make this request in writing. Once the collector receives your dispute, they’re required to send proof of the debt or stop contacting you. Note that if the collector does send proof of the debt, they can resume collection activity. Following up with a cease and desist letter can stop debt collection calls on a debt that has been validated.
Hire an Attorney
If debt collector calls are causing you trauma or stress that leads to medical bills or affects your job, you may have a legal case, especially if the collector has done something illegal. Make sure you keep notes of your conversation with the collector and contact a consumer rights attorney to find out whether you have a case.
Report Them to the Authorities
You can complain about rude and abusive debt collectors to the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. With enough complaints about a particular collector, legal action may be taken against the collection agency.