Oh, San Francisco Chronicle. Really?
Before I suggest that you all register on the Chronicle‘s site in order to comment on their entirely misguided and aggressively written blogitorial, some things to keep in mind:
1) Be civil
2) Be factual
3) Be succinct
Those are three things the Chronicle is eschewing in this piece, “6 Ways To Keep Aggressive Debt Collectors At Bay.” From the opening sentence of its opening paragraph — “Debt collectors are a lot like vultures” — to the suggestion that most all collection agencies operate illegally, the typer of this piece of jingoistic vitriol doesn’t really have the best in mind for consumers. It just wants to take pot-shots at what it perceives to be an easy target. This is why it’s important for you to visit that story on the Chronicle‘s site and civilly, factually, and succinctly explain that: No, you’re not a vulture. No, you do not operate illegally. And no, refusing to communicate with a collection agency is not going to make the financial responsibility for the debt go away.
Here are the six ways:
1) Get Everything on Paper
“A debt collector can’t legally pursue you unless he or she gives you a written statement outlining your debt within five days of contacting you.” That…’s not entirely true. Or, rather, the typer is not giving the usual story. Most collection agencies will send written notification first — a letter, detailing debt amount, creditor, required disclosures. They’ll follow that up at a later point, usually 30 days later. The advice here is fuzzy, and could actually put the consumer at greater risk.
2) Write a Cease and Desist Letter
“In-house collection agents for banks and credit card companies are forthcoming about their identities. Third party collectors who buy your debt from your credit issuer are not. They’ll try to keep their identities a secret, because they know that the Fair Debt Collection Act gives you the power to demand, in writing, that they stop calling you.” Nope. That’s not why. Most third-party collection agencies are required to guard their identities to protect against third-party disclosures. Written communications sent to consumers cannot allow a third party to know that it’s a communication about a debt. Of course, it’s more exciting to suggest that it’s a Conspiracy of Silence meant to trick consumers, when, in fact, it’s a part of the FDCPA meant to protect consumer’s privacy and dignity.
The other issue that’s not mentioned is: if a consumer cuts off written and telephone communication with a collection agency, they’re also cutting off almost all opportunities to work out a settlement or a payment plan with the collection agency. It also makes it much more likely that the collection agency will then pass along the account to a collection attorney for suit. And that’s usually not a great idea for anyone involved.
3) Know Your Rights
“Never, ever believe anything a debt collector tells you.” Oh, no.
4) Negotiate Your Debt Down
“Don’t accept any of their payment plan offers when they call.” This guy’s advice, in all six of his suggestions, can be boiled down to: make the interaction as contentious as possible because that’s the way Grown-Up Adults Should Act with Other Grown-Up Adults.
5) Record Everything
This actually isn’t a bad idea for either party. Nothing cools a game of “he said/he said” like a recording.
6) Contact an Attorney
See #4 above.
So — this is that Grassroots Activism I’ve mentioned in the past. Take a moment, register at The Chronicle, and respectfully, civilly, factually, and succinctly let people know that this blog does not characterize your industry fairly at all. And then come back here and share your comments as well.