How to deal with debt collectors.
That is the angle of nearly all of the national coverage of the collections industry. It is usually a list, and it is usually presented as a survival guide of sorts that tells consumers how to avoid getting bullied, harassed, tricked, and other nasty verbs that get linked to collectors. While having consumers remain informed about their rights and about the process is crucial, to do so with blanket assumptions about all collectors continues to hinder the conversation.
A recent entry into those "how to deal with debt collectors" archives comes this week from Mother Jones. Save for the title of this particular article, however, it offers some generally reasonable and useful advice.
The title? "8 Ways to Protect Yourself From Sketchy Debt Collectors." The point is well taken, insofar as consumers need to understand the warning signs of a sketchy or sleazy collector. But the problem with this title is that it perpetuates negative presumptions about all debt collectors, often eliminating the possibility of a two-way conversation before any collectors can even attempt to resolve the debt.
These 8 tips, offered by author Jake Halpern,(Mother Jones) are as follows:
1. If you're sued over debt, show up in court
2. Know statute of limitations
3. If debt is seven years old, there may be no real advantage to paying
4. Ask for validation letter before paying a collector over the phone
5. Check collection company on BBB and CPFB websites
7. If you pay, don't assume that it will automatically appear on credit report
8. If collector is threatening you or leaving information on answering machine for others to hear, look into possible FDCPA lawsuits
Here's the larger point to be made here. We all want consumers to be informed. We want them to be diligent about learning their rights and understanding the process. We should be able to equip consumers with those tools without encouraging them to assume the worst about all debt collectors.
Consumers should be listening carefully and they should be wary of any red flags when they speak with a collector, but they should also give that collector the chance to be fair and open a two-way dialogue first. That's what we wish somebody would say in these "how to deal with collectors" articles.