Learn one of the most important things you can do if you are dealing with bill collectors.
You are reading Debt Collection Answers Chapter 1, part 3. If you did not start at the beginning of this free guide to dealing with debt collectors, please return to the Debt collection Answers introduction.
One of the most important pieces of advice we can give you when you’re dealing with bill collectors is to maintain detailed written records about your interactions with them.
Your records will be essential if you file a complaint against a debt collector with the FTC or with your state attorney general’s office. Also, if you decide to sue a debt collector for abusing your rights, your records will provide evidence of how your legal rights were violated and can help your attorney make a strong case for why the collector should be required to pay you damages — money that the court will award to you if you win your lawsuit.
Your records should include copies of:
You should also save any notices or statements you may receive from a creditor indicating that the interest rate on your account has been raised or that you’ve been denied additional credit. In addition, save any notices from other creditors denying you new credit as well as any letters you may receive denying you insurance, the new job you may have applied for, or a place to rent. You may receive such communications after one of your debts is sent to collections because that fact will probably appear in your credit reports and will lower your credit scores. Creditors, insurance companies, employers, landlords, and rental agents will learn about the collection account if they review your credit histories as a result of an application you made.
For more information about credit reporting, read “Credit Reporting Agencies – A Brief Background” on page 43 of this book.
Whenever you communicate with a debt collector by telephone, be sure to download our free debt collection worksheet and make the completed form part of your records too.
The worksheet provides places to record information that may be important if you decide to file a complaint against a bill collector or to sue. Also, if you and the debt collector work out a settlement agreement for a debt that he is trying to collect from you, you should record the details of that agreement on your work sheet. You may need that information later if the debt collector violates the agreement.
Keep some blank work sheets near each of your telephones so that you can begin filling out the form as soon as you are contacted by a bill collector. Store each of your completed worksheets with the rest of your debt collection records.
If you talk to a debt collector while you are at work, on your cell phone when you are away from home, or in some other situation that makes it impossible for you to fill out a “Collector Contact Worksheet” immediately after your conversation is over, complete the form as soon as you can while the conversation is still fresh in your mind.
If you can’t remember every detail of the conversation, write down as much as you can recall. You may find that you can piece together the information you need to complete the form by reviewing your phone records and any correspondence you may have that relates to the debt and by tapping the memory of a friend or relative you may have told about the conversation.
Tip: Don’t worry about including too much information about a debt in your records. It’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little information. We cannot stress how important it is for you to keep good records when you are dealing with bill collectors.