While they aren’t required to say so, anything you say to a debt collector can and will be used against you to try to make you pay. Moreover, while it’s best to avoid engaging in adversarial conversations in general, it is of utmost importance to remain calm and professional and indicative of a willingness to be helpful — even as you make every effort to protect your best interests.
With that in mind, here’s what NOT to say to debt collectors.
1.“Yes, I do owe that debt.”
Accepting responsibility for a debt without being presented evidence the debt is actually yours — and recent enough to be legally pursued — is folly. They could well have you confused with another person, or the debt might be what’s known as a zombie debt — one for which the statute of limitations for legal collection has passed. However, when you admit to ownership of it, you restart the clock, bringing the “zombie” back to life.
2. “Sure, I’ll send a good faith payment–”
This is the same as accepting responsibility for the debt, with all of the consequences outlined above. Do not agree to send any money at all until you have written proof the debt is yours.
3. “My banking and payroll information are–”
That’s a good way to go to the store to make a purchase with your debit card only to learn your account has been emptied. Never agree to make a payment — even a miniscule one — over the phone, even after they’ve given you reliable documentation to prove the debt is yours. Never give them direct access to your bank account. Always pay by check so they can only get what you send.
Similarly, when they know how much you earn every month, they can use that information to try to coerce you into making payments larger than your budget will comfortably permit. Regardless of how friendly and helpful they sound, their goal is to get the money — by any means they can.
4. “You can also reach me at–”
Collectors are prohibited by law from contacting you at work after you’ve asked them to refrain from doing so. Giving them your work phone number is the same as giving them permission to call you there.
Similarly, providing contact information for friends and family members is tantamount to saying it’s OK to get in touch with those people about your debt as well. And, as these Freedom Debt Relief reviews demonstrate, it’s already stressful enough dealing with outstanding debt — the last thing you need is collectors calling you your home, work and loved ones while you try to get a game plan.
5. “F– you, you dirty rotten–“
Never let them make you blow your smooth, regardless of the tone they adopt when communicating with you. Statements of that nature will make you look really bad if the call is ever played back in a courtroom (and yes collectors do make recordings — you should too).
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to sue an abusive collector in court, but you do need to come across as the victimized party to have a shot at winning. Always keep calm and carry on recording the call — being careful to be the one who sounds most sincere.
What’s more, rational thought tends to evaporate in the face of anger. You might make a decision for which you’ll be sorry later. You’ll have a much better shot at coming away with a favorable outcome if you keep your wits about you.
Any of the five utterances above will give a collector more ammunition with which to potentially force you into a position in which you’ll surrender control of the situation. Never volunteer information. Focus the early conversations on making them provide you with proof the debt is yours — and current.
Keep in mind, though, you’ll still owe the debt — if you really do — even if they can’t prove you do or that it’s current. However, there isn’t much they can do to make you come up with it in either of those instances. This is why knowing what not to say to a debt collector is so important.