Okay, fine I was never a debt collector. But I was a teenager. This blog will be all about my teenage years and the angst that came with it. No? Okay, perhaps then I will blog about debt collectors and the angst that comes with them. Better? Okay, lets continue…

In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission saw a record number of consumer complaints about debt collectors. 164,361 in all.  Why? Perhaps part of the reason may be that there is more debt to be collected as a result of the “Great Recession”. More debt means more debt collecting, and therefore, more to complain about.

But is this the sole reason for the rise in complaints? We have all heard the horror stories of debt collectors and their threats. I have blogged in the past about debt collectors making fake courtrooms and sending out fake subpoenas to debtors. I have heard stories of debt collectors threatening children of debtors, telling them that there parents were going to get a divorce because they can no longer afford to feed them. Yikes!

But not all debt collectors are created equal. In fact the majority of them are just doing their job and are actually polite and understanding when trying to collect. (I am trying real hard to restrain myself from laughing out loud at this point). But all collectors must follow standards and laws set forth by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This bit of legislation tells the collectors what they can and cannot do when trying to collect a debt.

Try for a moment to understand where these people are coming from. First off, debt collecting must be really miserable job. Debt collectors are usually attempting to get money from people going through a rough patch in their lives. Death threats from debtors are part of the job. Stories of bomb threats, death threats and packages with human excrement shipped to them are not uncommon. Now I understand how angry a debt collector can make you, but excrement? Really? Wow….somebody was sure having a bad day. Yuck !!!!

From what I hear, most debt collectors do not hold that particular job for very long. Between the crazy ranting of some crazed lunatic threatening to take your life, and the uncontrolled sobbing of an elderly lady begging for mercy, the stress quickly can overcome the most stoic of people. I know that I could not deal with it on a daily basis. Debt collectors that I have talked to said that it is not uncommon to see a fellow collector break down and start crying after a particularly difficult call.

Debt collectors are people too. And while there phone calls may be a nuisance, it is their job. Not all debt collectors are mean. Some even enjoy their job. They tend not to take the insults and threats personally. And they seem genuinely happy with what they do. And it shows in the calls. They are nicer to you when they call. They are more understanding with your circumstances and try to work with you on the debts.

So what do you do when a debt collector calls? Well, first off, don’t immediately fly off the handle and dive into the poor guy. Let them talk, then calmly explain your situation and see what can be done. Most creditors are fairly receptive when you are calm and seem interested in coming to a solution. But they can quickly become aggressive if you are rude and threatening to them. And after all, we all live on this planet together. Can’t we all just…….get along?

There are times however, when the collector that calls you is just plain mean! They immediately go into you and make you feel small. If that is the case, politely ask to speak to someone else. If this doesn’t work, you have rights. Tell them that you are recording the call. And try to record it if you can. Document the call, when they called, what they said, how often they keep calling you. Try to get their name if possible. If you feel like you were violated in any way, contact the Fair Trade Commission and file a complaint.

Don’t ignore the collector. If you get a message on your phone from a collector, and you do nothing, the number of calls will escalate. You may find dozens of calls from the same collector over the course of the day. Send them a letter, call them back (after hours if you don’t necessarily want to talk to someone).  A “cease and desist” letter is good as well. I had someone tell me that they got over 25 calls in one day from the creditor. They got a fax number and faxed a “cease and desist” letter to the creditor. That night when she got home, there were another 25 messages! The next day, she put the fax machine on her desk and proceeded to fax and refax the letter, almost 40 times, throughout the day. When she got home, only 10 messages. She repeated this the next day, that night, only 2 messages, and finally after the third day of blasting letters to the collector, her phone finally got some rest.

But be careful! Some collectors may be trying to collect debts that are just about to expire, due to Statutes of Limitations. Sometimes, simply talking to a creditor can restart the time limits and the debts start all over again. In a case like this, doing nothing may be a better way to go. If the debt is older, you may want to talk to an attorney, before you go and renew the debt.

So, what have we learned here?  Excrement can actually be shipped? Rodney King is probably the most misquoted person in history? I don’t know. But whatever you may have gleaned from all of this… I hope it helps.

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