Have you been contacted by a debt collector? Don’t panic! Stoneleigh Recovery Associates is dedicated to consumer education*. While our employees work to collect on behalf of our clients, all of our employees are consumers, too. They’ve been in your shoes and want to help you overcome your debt by equipping you with the proper knowledge and resources to understand your rights and obligations. While this article is not legal advice, you will find helpful information and tools.
Here are some suggestions on how to work with debt collectors, from the perspective of an industry insider:
Educate Yourself on the Process
Third-party debt collectors must strictly adhere to federal and state laws and regulations, so protecting consumer rights is in our best interest.
In order to protect your privacy, the collector/agent will need to confirm your identity before providing any details about the debt. You will be asked to provide identifying information such as your date of birth, last four digits of your social security number or your street address.
Once you’ve confirmed your identity and received details about the account, if you believe the information is not accurate, you can ask for verification of the debt. This is also called disputing the debt. This means that you are asking the debt collector for proof that the debt the agency seeks to collect is valid, legitimate and/or the balance information is accurate.
While you may have different rights under the law where you reside, it is the policy of SRA to honor all disputes, no matter how they come to our office. If we receive a dispute over the phone or in writing, we put the account on hold and do not resume collection activity until we have mailed validation documentation, as explained in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP)—also known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—has an entire section on their website that is dedicated to debt collection. The BCFP offers resources such as sample letters, how-to guides, educational materials and much more. For more information, visit their website at consumerfinance.gov.
Understand Your Rights
As a consumer, you have rights under the law such as the ability to dispute a debt and make a third-party debt collector stop calling you. For how-to tutorials, watch our YouTube series: Debt Education.
No one is immune to the possibility of going into debt. We are all consumers, and sometimes things happen that we cannot control. Thankfully, we have government agencies, industry groups and ethical businesses who make sure we are being treated fairly and provided with resources to help us understand our rights.
As previously mentioned, the BCFP’s website has many resources available to help you understand and overcome your debt. Another great resource is your state’s Attorney General website. Each state has an Attorney General who works as the “People’s Lawyer.”
According to the Illinois Attorney General website, “You should know that the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Illinois Collection Agency Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act all provide protections guaranteeing that debt collectors treat you fairly. These laws do not, however, forgive any legitimate debt you owe.”
Know What You Can Afford to Pay
If your budget is tight, it can difficult to make room in your budget to pay off your debt. The BCFP suggests creating a bill calendar to help you manage your monthly expenses.
It may be helpful for you to speak with a collection representative to see what options are available to you in paying off your account. Sometimes, they will request some information regarding your income and expenses to better understand your situation and help outline options that are available to you.
DON’T Freak Out
Stress can get the best of us, and financial stress may feel overwhelming at times. If you get a call from a debt collector, it’s important to stay calm and take things one step at a time.
Planning out your debt pay-off journey can help you strategize the best way to overcome your account. Our representatives are willing and able to provide you with different ways to approach your debt.
DON’T Avoid the Calls
Avoiding calls and other communications from third-party debt collectors won’t deter agents from trying to contact you. If you want to stop receiving calls, your best move is to verbalize to an agent to stop calling, or you can submit a “remove my number” request on our website. Submitting your number to be removed does not mean that the debt we are calling about has been resolved, deleted, closed, or invalidated.
For more information on dealing with debt collectors, check out these resources:
- Illinois residents: http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/debtcollection.html
- Find your AG: http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php
For credit counseling, check out these resources: **
*Stoneleigh Recovery Associates is not a court of law. This article should not be intended as legal advice. Laws change all the time. SRA will make its best effort to update Debt Education content as laws change.
**Reference to any specific view, company, person (etc.) is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Stoneleigh Recovery Associates.
Stoneleigh Recovery Associates is a debt collection company. To the extent that this is an attempt to collect a debt, please be advised that any information obtained will be used for those purposes. For more information, please visit our about us page.