When handling calls from debt collectors, consumers should keep written records of the calls, give the debt collector their current address, and tell the collector that they don't owe or cannot afford to pay the debt, reports Nolo. They should not give out any personal financial information, admit that they owe the debt, express open anger or make any payments before a settlement agreement. They also should be aware of the restrictions that federal law imposes upon debt collectors.
Consumers should keep a log of every collection call with the date, time, name of the debt collector and details about the debts, advises Nolo. Providing a debt collector with a valid contact address makes it illegal for the collector to attempt to contact employers, relatives or friends of the debtor. Sometimes if consumers explain why they do not owe the debt or are unable to pay, collectors may classify the debt as uncollectable and move on.
Consumers should never provide collectors with their Social Security number or bank account information, although they can provide general information about their financial difficulties to persuade collectors that they cannot pay, explains Nolo. Any payments they make extend the statute of limitations for the overall debt, so they should refrain from payments until they reach a formal agreement.
It is illegal for debt collectors to repeatedly harass consumers or call them early in the morning, late at night or at work without their consent, according to Bankrate. They are not allowed to use abusive language, lie about the amount of the debt, threaten legal action they are not planning to take, or claim to be law enforcement officials or attorneys. Consumers can report debt collectors that break the law online at FTC.gov, states the Federal Trade Commission.