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Published On: Thu, Mar 19th, 2020

Top Debt Collector Myths

Debt collectors can be quite intimidating. If you’ve ever had an account go to collections, you’ve experienced this firsthand. Ironically though, much of their potency in this regard is owed to several misconceptions the public holds about their power and capabilities. Here are several of the top debt collector myths they’ll wish you didn’t know.  

photo/ Mary Pahlke

  1. They Can Send You to Jail

While debtor’s prison figures prominently in the works of Charles Dickens, they simply do not exist in the United States — anymore. Debt collectors cannot send you to prison over debts you owe, for the most part. Yes, if you’re seriously delinquent on child support, or you willfully miss a court date, you can be arrested. But if you’re in default on a credit account, the most they can do is ask you to pay with mild sternness.

  1. They Can Garnish Your Wages

While it’s true your wages can be attached for certain types of debts, it can only happen after a judge has ruled against you in a hearing. Which, in turn can only take place after a process server has served you a summons. 

Oh wait; actually, it takes two hearings. The first time you go to court, the judge will order you to pay — if the hearing goes against you. The collector must then go back to court to ask permission to garnish your wages if you do not follow through. 

As you can imagine, this takes quite some time. 

Meanwhile, some collectors try to make it sound as if they can call your job and order your pay sent to them rather than to you.  Yeah, it doesn’t happen that way — not even close. 

  1. They Are Free to Call and Harass You at Will

Federal law prohibits the placing of collection calls before eight in the morning and after nine at night — in the time zone in which you reside. Further, once you’ve told them you got the message and send them a letter requesting the cessation of all contact, they have to stop altogether. 

Additionally, a collector must never call you at work again if you inform them your boss does not permit the acceptance of personal calls of any nature. With that said, while your verbal request is supposed to be sufficient, send a certified letter in this case too — with delivery confirmation requested. 

  1. Paying a Collector Removes the Debt from Your Credit Report

This is yet another tactic designed to get you to cough up the cash. The fact of the matter is once a debt goes to collections, you’re deemed to have defaulted on it — period.

Paying it afterwards does not change the fact that the debt was in collections. If you’re truly concerned about how to get out of debt, paying it will eventually have a positive effect on your credit report — but not right away.

  1. They Can Use Your Family and Friends to Help Collect

Nope, and as a matter of fact, this is also prohibited by Federal law — specifically the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. All they can do is ask your acquaintance to ask you to return their call at a number they provide. They cannot disclose why they’re trying to reach you, or from where they are calling. 

What You Can Do About It

Keep detailed records of your every interaction with a collections agent. Mark the date, time and location of phone calls. They’re required by law to identify themselves on the phone and inform you that everything said during the call will be used to try to collect on the debt. 

As soon as you know you’re speaking with someone in that capacity, inform the person you are about to record the call, ask their permission and proceed accordingly. Tell them you’re going to hang up if they deny permission and do so. 

Keep every letter, email and/or text message you get. This documentation will prove useful should you have to file a claim for harassment with the Federal Trade Commission. 

Hopefully, debunking these top debt collector myths helps ease your mind when collectors call. Do know, none of this means you won’t owe the debt. However, you do have a measure of control over the nature of the interactions. 

Author: Amara Etter

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