6 Tips For Dealing With Collection Calls From Creditors and Bill Collectors

In the main debt settlement sections of the debt relief program we have stressed the importance of being in communication with your original creditors, and their assignee debt collectors, during first and second stage collections. You should know at this point that debt collection calls, and dealing with debt collectors and bank recovery personnel on the phone, is part of any negotiation and debt settlement program.

Several debt settlement program sections detail the importance of communicating with creditors and debt collectors. Some of the debt collector call highlights we cover include:

  • Your conversation during a collection call should initially be kept brief and center on your financial hardships.
  • It is best that you initiate the calls in order to maintain the proper mindset during your interactions with debt collectors.
  • In some limited instances you will want to be in more frequent communications, such as when settling with your original lender just before they are set to send your account out to a collection agency.
  • You can limit phone calls you make to banks internal recovery departments, and other debt collectors, to once a month during certain stages of collection and depending on the creditor.
  • Negotiating settlement deals generally involves you making outbound calls, not mailing letters (without your having had prior telephone discussions), unless you are hiring a professional negotiator.

Your initiating calls to creditors and debt collectors, and establishing that you have a financial hardship, is an important function of the debt settlement process.

Unfortunately, being proactive in making the calls does not necessarily lead to less debt collection calls being placed to you. Debt collectors calling you all of the time definitely has an impact on your daily life. This debt relief program report focuses on steps you can take to control the collection calls.

If you have not read through the debt settlement sections of the CRN online program, but are several months late with credit card payments already and serious about settling, you can skip to this section: http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/settling-credit-card-debt-your-bank-before-charge-off/

Methods for filtering debt collection calls that have proven helpful.

It is important that creditors and debt collectors have a means to leave you a voice message. Without the ability to reach you, or leave a message, you increase the likelihood you will receive collection calls at your place of employment, or that locator collection calls will be made to your family and others. The end of this report will discuss how to handle collection calls that you may get at your job.

Setting up a second phone line has proven to be one of the most helpful ways to manage the amount of collection calls that come in. Getting an additional phone line using the technology available today is not complicated, or expensive. In fact, many people only use a cell phone, so using technology to add another phone number is preferred. It is best to set up a second line that you will use as your “voice mail trap,” where creditors and debt collectors are free to leave messages when they call.

There are several inexpensive solutions for creating a second phone line.

Option #1 is the Magic Jack (www.magicjack.com). You can order a Magic Jack for less than $40, and it includes one full year of unlimited long distance dialing, as well as a digital voice mail account. The device plugs into the USB port of your computer. You will need a broadband connection to make use of this device, which permits you to make or receive phone calls through your computer, by using a regular telephone handset. You can set up a voice mail message and check your messages online. So the entire process works silently. When you are ready to call back a creditor, simply plug any handset into the Magic Jack and call ONLY from that number.

Option #2 is a Skype account, which is also a voice-over-Internet (VOIP) account similar to the Magic Jack in operation.

Option #3 is a prepaid cell phone (pay-as-you-go), which gives you more portability in checking your messages while you are away from your computer. Consider this option if you travel frequently, and need to access your voice mails without being near a computer

Option #4 is a service provided by Google called “Google Voice” that will allow you to set up a method of call screening that can be set up for free. It will also allow the opportunity to return calls to creditors and debt collectors without having your daily use phone number captured by their caller ID. It is easy to set up and use.

Option # 5 is using some of the cell phone apps for smart phones that allow you to set all numbers that are not in your favorites to a “Do Not Disturb” Setting. Kicking debt collection callers to voice mail instead of even buzzing or ringing your cell.

Option # 6 is to develop an acceptance level that the phone is gonna ring with collection calls. You just look at the caller ID and do not pick up unless the call is from someone you recognize.

Not all debt collection calls will result in the collector leaving a voice message.

Steps for  using option #4 above:

  • Go to the following link and set up an account by following the prompts: Google Voice Service
  • You can set up a number of options for this account so read the instructions carefully to insure it is functioning the way you want it to.
  • You can set this new number up so that all calls received will go directly to voice mail or you could choose to have the calls forwarded to a specific number if you prefer. The suggestion would be to have all calls go directly to voice mail.
  • When you receive a call you will be notified by e-mail that you have a message with a link to it so you can listen to the message.

Here is the added bonus to this service. You can also place outgoing calls from this number. You can log into your Google Voice account and place a call. Google voice will connect your home phone and once you have picked up the phone your outgoing call will be placed. This will isolate your home phone number from the caller ID capture used by most creditors and these calls are free anywhere in the United States and Canada.

Giving out your second phone number to creditors and collectors.

Notify your creditors of your new phone number by accessing your accounts online (if you still have online access), by logging into your creditors websites. Go to your profile, and change any number you do not want called to your number that is now set up for creditor or collection agency calls. You can also simply call your creditors from your new number and inform them of the change in contact information.

Creditors do tend to keep old contact numbers in your file. Even though you change your number online or by calling in directly, this may not stop all calls to other numbers they have in their system. It will reduce the number of collection calls. When making your outgoing calls to creditors, limit yourself to this service and you will further focus future calls to the new number you have set up.

If your credit card debt is later passed onto a debt collection agency, or sold to a debt buyer, you want the second phone line to be passed along as well. This way collection calls from debt collectors will be focused on this new number. When you make proactive outbound calls to debt collection agencies from your second line they will be more focused on the number you called them from in the future.

Debt collectors calling you at work.

Collection calls to your place of work are prohibited once you inform the debt collector that your employer does not allow you to receive personal calls. If you receive collection calls at your job, a simple statement such as “you are calling me at my job and personal calls are not permitted. Do you have my personal number on record? Let me be sure you do, it is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please make certain you remove my work number from your file. You have my personal number and that is the only way you should contact me”. Be sure the number you provide is the number you have set up for all incoming creditor and collector calls.

If phone calls to your employer persist, or a collector discloses the purpose of their calling to another person at your work, be sure to let your CRN specialist know if you are a member. They can discuss some additional options with you.

Readers of the debt relief program are welcome to post questions and comments about dealing with collection calls in the comment section below for feedback.

If you are new to the CRN site and would like to get comprehensive information about settling debt, you will want to read through the debt settlement section of our free online debt relief program. Get started with: An introduction to debt settlement.

 

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About Michael Bovee

Michael started CRN in 2004 with a mission to provide detailed debt and credit help and advice that encourages and allows people struggling with debt to solve their debt problems just like a pro - but without the high fees.

Comments

  1. Dear Michael and all the rest of you at CRN,

    Thank you for your excellent site and your work and your information.

    Regarding phone calls from collectors:

    In anticipation of pursuing debt settlement, I just established a free voicemail account with http://k7.net ; it includes a new, unique phone number which, when called, plays my outgoing voice message and records (after the beep) voicemail left by a caller. I just added this telephone number to my contact profile information in all my credit card accounts, and I deleted all other phone numbers from those accounts. My plan is to receive voicemail at this new voicemail-only number and to return the calls once or twice per month using my skype account.

    So my question is: does this sound like a good plan to you? Is it just as good as all the other phone options you mention? Can you see any disadvantages to this plan? What is the likelihood that the credit card companies will have saved my previous phone numbers in their system, and that they will call me on those numbers?

    Many thanks,

    Mark

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Mark – I am not familiar with that service, but it sounds like it offers pretty much the same functionality as Google voice for your purposes. And setting up this type of message system is still a good plan.

      The creditors are likely still going to have your other contact points in their systems, and calls can still come to those numbers. My experience is that the collection calls will be less. Depending on how long it takes you to settle with these lenders (and who your creditors are), your accounts could be placed for, or sold off to, debt collection agencies.

      When accounts are placed with debt collectors (creditors still own the accounts), there are instances where creditor and debt collector have shared access to data and systems. In this case it is more likely that the debt collector will also be able to see those additional contact points (even though you changed the numbers recently). Not all creditor/collection agency relationships involve shared systems, and in these instances, less info is available to the collector.

      When debts are sold off to debt buyers, it is less common to have all encompassing data passed on to the debt buyer, which in the past could mean only the last known address and limited phone numbers would be included. But the debt collection industry is going through some dramatic changes currently. There is a great deal of attention by the OCC and the CFPB about how banks and debt collectors exchange and share information. I fully expect there to be much broader information and data sharing between every player in the collection cycle before the end of next year. But with those changes I also see the potential for consumers to have the ability to much more effectively manage collection calls and other communications. One result of new federal rules I am hoping we will see would allow you to designate specific numbers as “inconvenient”.

      I will cover these developments and changes in debt collection laws and rules as they take shape, and will post updates to this page as well. If you are subscribed to the RSS feed you can get new information as I publish it.

      For now, I would follow what you are setting out to do, and make your monthly calls to creditors from the different number too.

  2. Help! I have had a credit card debt that was just sold off to a collection agency. I had been paying atleast 125.00 a month on this account with maybe one or two missed payments. My biggest concern is this: My sister co-signed the original loan and she has worked hard to get very good credit. How can I make the best deal so that her credit is not impacted.
    Also, the creditor is claiming that if we set up monthly payments, they will have to have it taken directly out of my account and I do not want them access to my bank account. They said they do not take payment any other way.
    I live in Massachusetts and would appreciate a fast response. I have not negotiated anything with them …yet. The outstanding debt is now $2600.00-the collection agency is willing to settle for 2k. I have only spoken to them twice, but have to call them back today and need help.
    Is it legal for them to take the money out of my account? Can’t I pay them with a cashiers check?
    Thank you so much in advance.

  3. I forgot a couple of things in my panic…I told the agency I could only afford $200.00 a month to pay this off, although I will be getting money back from my taxes (under a grand) and will be making larger payments when I can.
    Thank you!!!

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Julie – Can you post an update with what you may have decided to do, if anything yet? You mentioned being in a hurry, but I was called out of town unexpectedly and am only responding to comments this weekend.

      The pressure to make a decision when setting up a settlement or payment plan with a debt collector is mostly perception (unless they are working on a contingency and are about to lose the right to collect on your debt). You may not have to be in the hurry that you are.

      Making payments, or funding a settlement you work out with a debt collector using your bank account, is not the sketchy decision it was 10 years ago. That is, as long as you have a deal documented in writing. You can dig your heals in and only agree to pay via mail, and they may relent, but they may not. Here is a report about how to best pay settlements.

      Who is the debt collector you are dealing with? When did you first hear from them by phone or by mail?

      • Hi Mike-thank you for your response. I decided to call the agency..the debt was through GM financial -(will get back to you regarding the agency name because it’s not handy at the moment) $ tell them I wanted my debt broken down in writing. They asked me if I was claiming the debt wasn’t mine -I said I’m not saying that, I just want to see in writing. They passed me over to their compliance dept & two weeks later I am still waiting for the letter. Apparently the agency has to get the info from GM Financial & will take up to a month for me to receive. I have $1500.00 I can send them but they won’t talk to me about anything until I’ve received the letter back. Meanwhile, my sister’s credit is affected and of course I’m not making excuses, but I’ve paid them at least $125.00 every month- missed one or two payments. This has been over the course of three years. I took a 2k loan to have dental work. There was no interest for the 1st year-my payments were only $80.00 per month that year. Affordable and I made every one. Than the interest kicked in & my monthly payments kept rising. They got up to &200.00 a month & I was self supporting & could not afford that much. Needless to say I didn’t pY more than $150.00 a month. I am most concerned with my sisters credit. Can you advise how much of an impact this will have on her credit history ? Thank you so much for your time!

        • Michael Bovee says:

          Julie – Check to see what is reporting to your sisters credit report. It may not even have been on hers. If it is, the damage caused by a single account going delinquent will vary from one person to the next. The fewer positive items on your credit report, the less able to absorb entries from bill collectors and collections.

          Was yours a Care Credit account?

          It sounds like the debt collector is interpreting your request as asking for debt verification. If I am correct in that, they will not want to make any other collection efforts (which could even mean settling with you), until they have met the request. It is becoming more normal for debt collectors to do what they are doing.

          • Hi Mike- the Collection Agency I am dealing with is National Enterprise Systems. If you can give me some advise with dealing with them I would greatly appreciate it. I spoke with the compliance dept because I asked the company for a detailed summary of my bill from Care credit-GE Financial. This apparently takes awhile because three weeks later still no summary. My sister is anxious for me to pay them off but I only have $1500.00 to give them & the first time I spoke to them they said they would settle For 2k. My entire bill is $2600.00. Do you think they might settle for the $1500.00? Also I plan to pay off the entire bill in time as I have read that if I do this it will look better for mine & my sisters credit. That is my biggest concern. My sister wants me to call the credit agency today and tell them we got the letter & just pay the 1500.00. Do you have any advise on this? Thank you very much!

            • Michael Bovee says:

              Julie – My experience is that National Enterprise Systems settles debts like this for 40% of the balance owed. That would be my target in negotiations, but only if you have not already indicated you have 1500. If that is an amount you already referenced, than that is what I would stick to.

              Neither you or your sister would typically see any additional credit scoring benefit from paying off vs settling for less once an account is already showing as charged off by the original creditor. Can you tell me where you read differently?

              If you settle, get everything in writing before making any payment. Learn more about settlement agreements here: http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/debt-settlement-letters-agreements/

              Are you aware of the many millions dollar settlement GE Capital entered into recently with the CFPB over their Care Credit practices? Were you contacted about any refund? You may want to bring that up. The billing practices you described after the first year were part of what was indicated be regulators to be misleading to consumers.

          • My apologies, Mike. The debt collectors name is NES of Ohio. Also, the dollar figures I gave you was from my bill I happen to have a copy of from 11/08/13. I cannot find my bill receipt from December, right now because I am at work..but a payment of $120.00 was made the end of November and on Jan 15th it went to NES of Ohio. Does that change things?

            • Michael Bovee says:

              Not yet. Pull your credit report when you get home too.

              • Hi Mike- I called NES last night & they confirmed Compliance received the debt verification letter & I should have by Sat or Monday. I also pulled my credit report. Equifax states that my past due amount was $818.00 and I was 180 days late the last few months of the year. Although they did note my last payment received end of November. The charge off amount is :$1900.00. Was there anything else you wanted to know? My sister already received her free credit reports a few months ago & doesn’t want to pay to have them done again- unless you know of some other way she can check hers? I greatly appreciate all of your help. Thanks again.

                • Oh-the charge off date is: 01/27/14.

                  • Michael Bovee says:

                    Thanks Julie, that confirmed my first impression of your debt.

                    If it were me, I would look to settle this in a single lump sum payment for as much savings as possible – making sure to get the deal documented.

                    You will not be able to undo the charge off. It will lose its potency over time. The more positive credit on a report, the less of a hit one item like this tends to be, and the quicker the recovery of the credit score.

                    It is unlikely there will be any extra benefit/drawback to paying this off now that the credit damage is done.In fact, the quicker you settle the debt, the zero balance owed will be updated, and the debt to income ratio improves.

                    • Thank you so much for all of your help & I will be studying your links & taking your advise. I will update you with the entire resolution.

      • Dear Michael,
        I settled my debt today for $1500.00 with NES of Ohio. As soon as I mentioned Care Credit’s recent lawsuit they couldn’t settle fast enough! They are giving me until Feb 28th to get the check (yes they are taking a bank check) to them. I asked them to email a settlement letter (on their letterhead) & I have it printed and saved to my laptop.
        I can’t tell you how relieved I am.
        All thanks to you! I don’t know what I would have done without all of your great advice.
        I am planning to look further into the lawsuit against Care Credit & have already started researching.
        You have also made me become more aware of my credit & how important it is to keep an eye on your credit reports & to stay current with any debts I may have.
        Thank you so much!

  4. Hi Michael,
    Just wondering…when you begin initiating phone calls to your original creditors, how do reach the appropriate department?

    Thanks,
    Melanie

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Melanie – Unless you have a dialogue with a specific recovery department, you can call the number on the back of your credit card, on your monthly bill, or when logged in online etc. Often times your call will be taken through the automated prompts (enter your account number etc), then the creditors system will route your call to the appropriate department. Your creditors handle this process differently from each other, but generally:

      * Your accounts not yet 60/90 days delinquent will get routed to regular customer service reps at the bank. These folks are trained in regular account turn around efforts, not negotiating settlements.

      * Your accounts past 90 days late will get routed to internal recovery collectors. These bank reps are typically the most trained to work with you to settle your debts direct with the bank, but there are lenders that have an additional layer of internal debt collectors that you may not connect with until several weeks prior to the account charging off and getting placed with a debt collector, or sold to a debt buyer.

      * Your calls can be re-routed to an outside collection agency even before charge off. Depending on the creditor, they may not have invested in robust internal collections. American Express never has, nor have others.

      Reaching the appropriate department is often handled by phone systems when that system can identify your account. You will be routed to the correct department by customer service otherwise.

      Once you are working with the recovery department, you will generally be calling the same office and/or even the same persons extension. Keep track of those numbers, extensions, and people, in your notes.

      Collection notices original creditors send, separate from a normal monthly bill, will often have designated phone numbers that go to the correct departments too.

  5. Hi Mike. I didn’t read the pRt about if after u style I can continue to pay Care Credit to help make my sisters. (And my) credit report “look better”- I just remembered it was Care Credit that told me that! I was not aware of the fines care credit has had to pay for their deceitful practices. Do you recommend doing anything more about this than just mentioning to the Collection Agency? Thank you again!

  6. Hi Mike-actually it was Care Credit who I called as soon as I received the letter from the collection agency. They told me if I ended up settling the debt for less than what was owed but continued to pay Care Credit until the balance was paid off thT would make both my sisters & my credit look much better….I was also unaware of the fines they have had to pay because of practices like I have experienced. Do you recommend just bringing up with the collection agency? Thank you!

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Julie – It is odd that Care Credit would tell you something like that. I want to be certain I understand what is going on with your account.

      When is the last time you made a payment to Care Credit? Was it the required minimum, and did it bring the account current? If not,when was the last time you made a normal monthly payment?
      How does the account appear on your credit report today? If not appearing as a charge off, what is showing in the 30/60/90/120 day late area of your credit report?
      Before NES called to collect, had you heard from any other debt collectors?

  7. The last payment I made on this account was the beginning of December. I have not looked at my credit report & my Care Credit does not specify if I am 30,60 or 90 days late but my total amount past due was $694.00 with a total amount due of $813.00 on a balance of $2594.38. I was only paying $120.00 a month. And yes, a Care Credit customer service person did tell me our credit report would look better if I continued to pay the entire balance owed Care Credit.

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Julie – If your account was considered current in December, than what Care Credit said about the impact to your credit reports is relatively accurate. It would mean your debt is not charged off, even thought NES is collecting, and can be brought current for the 813.00 you reference (though you should verify that with Care Credit).

      National Enterprise Services is the debt collector for Care Credit/GE in the earliest stage of collection. They are, for the most part, contracted to make collection calls and send collection letters to you, in an effort to get you to pay some, or all of the balance. NES may also be able to tell you whether the 813.00, or some other amount, would bring your account current. You will want to verify with either or both Care Credit and the debt collector about making normal monthly payments after that.

      I would still encourage you to check your credit report and verify how this is reporting. If you have not already pulled them, go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com to access the free reports you are entitled to by federal law (one per 12 month period from each of the majors). I suggest pulling one credit report every 4 months using that site as a free credit monitoring tool. You can also use free tools like http://www.credit.com/free-credit-report-card/

  8. I will pull my credit report & check back with you tomorrow. Thank you very much . Do you think I should hold off on calling the collection agency & offering a settlement until I do so? My sister wanted me to do that today…

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Julie – If it were me in your shoes, or even me in your sisters, I would want to base my decision and action on all information available. And that would mean waiting. I cannot think of a reason it would make a difference unless your account was going to charge off today.

    • Michael Bovee says:

      I would not offer a settlement at all if you are catching this early, and are able to avoid having your sisters (and your own), credit affected any more than has already happened. If it were me, I could wait another day, or several, to call the collection agency.

      Critical time measurements are measured by 30 day increments at this point, with the most critical one being 180 days late.

  9. Back in 2006 I took out some payday loans which were all paid back. I never recieved any information about any of them being unpaid until late last year. I explained to the gentleman that the debt was paid off… did not hear anything else until just recently leaving me messages telling me there will be charges files against me for fraud. I know these bills were paid…can they come and file charges against me after 8 years

    • Michael Bovee says:

      I highly doubt you are dealing with a legitimate debt collector. Debt collectors following state and federal laws do not threaten you with charges being filed, but fake collectors do.

      What state do you live in?
      Did the debt collector tell you the name of the company they work for? Their own name? Did you capture the phone number on caller ID?

      • Hi Mike.. I am in NC and the numbers I have showing up on caller id are all different, At one point it was showing as 000-000-0000. I do not recall the name of the company as they speak very fast. I did not think I was dealing with someone legit but was not sure and for about two weeks they were calling at least 6 times a day. I am sure they will be calling back. I do not answer the calls anymore, I allow them to go to voicemail and then listen to them. I will try and get a name for you.. Thanks so much for responding…

        • Michael Bovee says:

          Gather as much detail as you can and cal the FDCPA and consumer law attorney in North Carolina I am emailing you contact details for.

  10. Hi Michael,

    I’ve been reading your site and have been finding it helpful. I leased a vehicle and recently turned it in back at the beginning of July. I received an invoice from the dealer for $2100 for turn in fees and excess mileage fees. I am in a tough financial situation because of some unexpected emergencies and some medical bills I have been helping family members with. A collection agency called me about 2 to 3 weeks ago and they contacted my job first and spoke to someone else. They asked for me and mentioned they were attempting to collect a debt. I called back and the man was very rude and said this is a very delinquent bill. I told him I am having financial troubles and he was aggressive with saying I shouldn’t make excuses. He offered to settle it for three payments of $700 but I cannot do that right now either because of bills like rent, utilities etc that I need to pay. He said those were my only two choices and when I told him I couldn’t do either right now he said “Fine, collection process will continue” and hung up. I am pretty worried that something drastic might happen like a lawsuit. I called the original creditor and they said I can only pay in full with them and to otherwise deal with the collection agency. I do want to get this matter resolved but I don’t have the financial means to pay what they are demanding right now. My question is… Is there a way to get negotiate a better payment plan or perhaps even settle it for less?

    • Michael Bovee says:

      Thanks for moving the discussion to this page of the site Ryan. I want my feedback, and any additional discussion, to center on that debt collectors phone call to your work.

      Debt collectors are not prohibited from calling you at your job. But debt collectors are prohibited from disclosing. to people who pick up the phone calls. that they are trying to reach you to collect on a debt.

      You have some leverage as a result of that. I would encourage you to call an experienced debt collection rights attorney. The type of experienced attorney that can help you will often do so at no charge (not kidding), as their fees will be covered by the other side. And you can certainly go over your situation to see what the attorney can do for you, in a no cost initial phone consultation.

      Post the name of a larger city near you and I can provide a helpful reference to an attorney or three in the area.

      • Hi Michael,

        Thanks for your reply. I am in San Mateo, CA near San Francisco, CA. Is there anything I should be doing in the meantime? I’m pretty concerned that the collections agency is already taking some escalating action, although it does seem pretty early because my first call was received on 10/13.

        • Michael Bovee says:

          Contact Jeremy, the attorney whose contact details I emailed you. If you work with him, his advice of what to do next will trump what I suggest right now. If not, post an update after you consult with him and lets go from there.

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