In today’s world, the term “aggressive” has positive connotations. When hiring an attorney, for example, no one would want a passive advocate for their claims. People want an aggressive lawyer. Similarly, in business, companies want aggressive salespeople; and sport teams want aggressive players.
No wonder, I often have clients that try to excuse away egregious debt collector behavior on the telephone as “They were just doing their job.” How untrue!
Perhaps because we have come to so highly value the rugged individual, or perhaps as a result of guilty feelings over living off of credit for so long, or perhaps out of fear, people often allow themselves to be bullied by “aggressive” debt collectors. People lose their sense of right and wrong, and don’t know how to respond.
Knowing this, consumers are easy prey for bad behavior. Collectors know how to intimidate, how to prey on conflicting values, how to manipulate guilt, and how to instill fear. They know how to prey on weakness.
So let’s set the record straight: In the world of debt collection, “aggressive” is not a positive trait, and a collector who acts aggressively does so at their peril. Legitimate collectors follow the law; illegitimate don’t. It’s that simple. No one should allow themselves to be bullied or intimidated.
American law in this field is designed around simple principles: When a collector comes seeking your money, you are entitled to be treated with dignity, honesty, and respect. If you get off the phone with a collector and feel like something less, then the collector was probably acting outside the law.
Some ways that aggressive collectors frequently cross the line are:
- Calling you frequently
- Calling you at odd hours
- Calling you at work
- Calling on your cell phone
- Calling your relatives or neighbors
- Threatening to have you arrested
- Threatening that a process server is on the way
- Threatening to take your property
- Trying to get more of your personal information than they already have
- Trying to get you to pay on debt you don’t quite remember or are not sure of
- Demanding immediate payment over the phone
- Refusing to giving you complete information about who they are
There tactics are used all the time by illegitimate collectors. Although engaging in the conduct on this list does not mean for certain that a collector has violated the law, if, when you hang up the phone, you feel scared or somewhat degraded, most likely collector has violated your legal rights.
Follow your gut! If you feel an “aggressive” collector was “abusive,” they probably were.
Here are things you need to do in response:
- Always answer the phone and NEVER throw anything received in the mail away. Don’t be intimidated and don’t be a victim. Putting your head in the sand won’t help you. Gathering evidence will!
- Try to get as much detail as you can from whoever is calling you: Who are you speaking with? What company are they with? What account does this relate to?
- NEVER give out any out your personal information over the telephone! You can confirm your name and address – but don’t give anyone a chance to steal your money or identity.
- Take detailed notes of every call. And if you feel scared or threatened, write that down!
- Never pay a collector by telephone and never pay any loan or debt, unless you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that it is yours and you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of whom you are paying. …And NEVER pay without first seeing something in writing verifying the account! Confirm everything.
- At the end of every telephone call, tell your aggressive collector that you:
- Dispute the debt
- You want written verification
- Please do not call me again
- AND if they are calling on your cell phone, say, “Please be aware, you are calling on my cell phone. You don’t have permission to call me on my cell phone.”
Make sure that you write what you said in your notes after EVERY call, even if the notes seem simply to be repeating the same information.
With this information, you can begin to protect yourself and make a plan of what to do. This information will also help an attorney to determine whether your rights have been violated and what you can do about.
In all cases, you should stand up and not allow yourself to be bullied. If you do, you will just be more abused and you will be giving the bully incentive to do the same thing to someone else.
This article was submitted by Michael Fine, Esq. Mr. Fine is a friend and legal protector of the GetOutOfDebt.org website. The article is for educational information only.
For more information or assistance with debt collection issues, please contact:
Michael L. Fine
The Law Office of Michael L. Fine
3637 South Green Road, 2nd Floor
Beachwood, OH 44122