Getting calls from debt collectors is always overwhelming, and most times intimidating. But, when you learn the do’s and don’ts of handling debt collectors and also understand your rights when it comes to the debt collection agencies, you can ease your anxiety considerably.
Account Control Technology or ACT is a third-party collections agency, and an Accounts Receivable Management (ARM) company, based in Southern California. It was established in 1990.
Are they Legit?
ACT is a legitimate debt collection company, and according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), they are listed as an agency with an estimated staff of 3,000. Their annual revenue is approximately more than $200 million.
They combine the use of innovative technology, four-level quality assurance, intensive agent training, and top-tier data security to perform their functions. They also make use of cutting-edge voice analytics software, which is a top-of-the-line collection system that uses extensive skip tracing techniques to get ahold of their customers.
They collect debts for a wide range of clients which includes, banks, credit unions, retail businesses, credit card companies, etc.
Better Business Bureau Rating
The BBB has given this company an A+ rating when it comes to their interactions with clients. This rating usually is based on the feedback they receive from the public, regarding their treatment of debtors and the techniques they use when collecting.
So far, since their certification on BBB 16 years ago, they have received 64 customer complaints, and most of these complaints have to do with billing and collections, poor customer service, and non-compliance with the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)
The Consumer Protection Bureau has also received a similar number of complaints against this company, and in addition, Justia, the company that deals with court procedures list ten civil litigation cases, of which ACT is a defendant.
What do you do when Account Control Technology Contacts you?
When a debt collector like ACT is hounding you to repay a debt that you owe, their tactics can be annoying and predatory, to intimidate you and scare you into paying. This is illegal, and I shall tell you why.
The law regulates debt collectors, and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act prohibits this kind of aggressive behavior.
For you to deal with a debt collector peacefully, you need to understand a few things;
You can decide if you want to speak with them
When they first contact you by telephone, you are in a position to determine whether you shall talk to them or not. Hanging up is allowed if you need some time to at least get your ducks in a row and learn more about the debt, and the debt collector.
You should also take time to understand your rights, and also investigate whether the statute of limitation on the debt is expired or not. I shall explain more about this later on.
But, you do not want to act too fast on this, and it is always a good idea to take your time, as paying the collector too soon could mean trouble for you later on. So, take your time before you respond, and if possible, you can even contact a debt specialist to guide you on the next course of action.
Maintain a collections log
Now, once you do decide to speak with the debt collector, you must record everything, from the correspondence to the telephone calls. Ensure also to record the name of the representative you shall speak with, as this will come in handy later on.
This shouldn’t be anything fancy; you could use the record button on your phone, or write everything you discuss on a notepad or a spare piece of paper.
Believe me, when you need to straighten things out, later on, having a good account of everything that happened shall come in real handy for you. It will also help you keep a good track of how often the collector has called you, in case they violate your rights.
Request them to stop calling you
Under the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), you have many rights that protect you from unscrupulous debt collectors. One of these rights is the right to request them to stop calling you consistently.
You should request this in writing, of course, to have a record of it.
On the other hand, you must be careful when doing this, because once the collector ceases all communication with you, you shall not be able to keep tabs on the status of your debt, and in addition, if they honor your request, the next time they shall communicate with you again, shall be when serving you summons for a lawsuit.
Here are a few other rights you should be aware of;
Debt collectors are prohibited from using harmful and unfair tactics when trying to collect on a debt.
They should not contact anybody who is not the main person that owes the debt.
They shouldn’t threaten you with referral to an attorney, wage garnishment, or harm your credit without an actual intent or act on the threat.
They should not call you at unreasonable times, such as before 8 am, or after 9 pm.
They should not contact you at your place of work if you have specifically asked them not to do so.
They should not place calls to inform on you to your employer or disclose any aspect of your debt to others.
They should not use profane or obscene language during their calls.
They should not send collection letters which appear to be from a government office or a court.
They should not threaten to arrest you if the debt remains unpaid.
Don’t just pay the debt
This is the most common question, and a misconception, I must say. Most people do assume that if they pay off their debts in collections, they will end up having the debt deleted from their credit report and just like magic have their credit score improve.
This is not true.
FICO, the company that is responsible for calculating your credit score, says that – the fact that you have collections listed on your credit report will undoubtedly lower your FICO score, and paying them will change the status from unpaid to paid.
The collections entry will still be shown, and as such, it shall still reflect negatively on the report.
Also, just because they called, doesn’t mean you should start running up and down looking for funds to settle the debt. No! Don’t pay the debt immediately, but rather ask them first to validate that debt before you can even consider paying it.
Debt validation is the process of requesting the debt collector to verify that you do own the debt. This will involve sending them letters and requesting for this, and, they should also send back a reply within 30 days, that shows evidence that you do, owe the creditor the debt.
If they fail to do this, you have a right to ask the credit bureaus to delete the debt from your credit report as it is an unverified entry.
Negotiate with the debt collector
If they have managed to prove that the debt is yours, then, the next step for you would be to negotiate with them on the best possible way to repay the debt.
Did you know that if you do not have the money, you can ask for some time to find what you owe and pay in due time, it is also very common for debt collectors to allow you to pay less than you owe by a certain percentage, depending on your negotiating skills?
You can also tell the collector that you are currently not in a position to pay the debt and give them a short explanation of your financial difficulties. If they are understanding, this may lead them to move on to other customers, and prevent them from taking the next step of litigation.
Provide the debt collector with the right personal information
For most people, the instinct is to hide from debt collectors, change their telephone numbers and even their address, but this will not prevent them from trying to reach you and collect on a debt you rightfully owe.
They will keep sending letters, and there’s nowhere you can hide when most of our information is already online.
If they have successfully validated your debt, it is now time for you to find a way to repay it, and it can be a simple and easy process when you co-operate with them.
So, what shouldn’t you do when dealing with debt collectors?
Do not disclose to them your personal Financial Information
Some may call you and request for your bank account number, or income information so they can assess your financial position, but, it is advisable not to do this.
Do not provide them with your account numbers, your bank statements, or even your bills and other personal information. They can use this against you, especially if they end up winning the civil litigation case they may bring against you.
Only provide them with basic information such as your name, social security number, address, etc., and you can tell them about your financial troubles so they can be lenient and willing to offer you a better repayment deal.
Do not make a “Good Faith” payment
Often, consumers will voluntarily make a small payment to the debt collector when they are first contacted due to a moral obligation. You may think that this is a show of good faith, but in doing this, you are making things very bad for yourself.
This is because of what we call “statute of limitations.”
This is a time limit within which a debt is no longer collectible.
A debt that has exhausted its statute of limitation is known as zombie debt.
This, however, does not stop debt collectors from trying to get you to pay for the debt, even if its limitation is over. They work at resetting the statute, and you are then on the hook for it all over again. It helps if you know the law of your state and ask for a debt validation before acknowledging the debt.
What this small payment does is extend this statute of limitations, and then the clock starts ticking again from the date you made your last payment. Every new payment, no matter how small, restarts this clock, and the debt will now have seven more years before it can expire again.
Do not make promises you cannot keep
Even when you have validated the debt, you must refrain from making statements such as “I know that I owe the debt, and I shall pay it as soon as possible.” This acknowledges your obligation and may revive the statute as well.
Any promises you make for payment could be interpreted as a new contract that renews your liability all over again.
Try not to lose your temper
Using abusive language and profanities is not only for debt collectors. Consumers also tend to get rude when they are confronted with a debt in collections. If you enter into screaming matches, with the debt collectors, and you become hostile, this could hurt you more in the future.
Most of these calls are usually closely monitored, and the collectors record them for future use, and as such, if they ever present your conversations in court that show you have been rude and abusive, the judge may not be understanding.
It is very easy to find yourself in debt, and on the receiving end of calls from collection companies. It is always wise to act professionally, and ensure that you do not let on how agitated you are about the debt or the call.
Take things in stride, remain calm, research on how debt collectors work, and always remember that YOU HAVE RIGHTS. It is not okay to be threatened by debt collectors; neither is it okay for you to feel victimized and scared.
You can always involve a lawyer, or a professional credit repair company, to help you negotiate and deal with the matter at hand.
Being professional at all times will save you great embarrassment and unfair rulings from a judge in the future.