When it comes to commercial debt collection, many times our first instinct is to scream, yell, and demand immediate payment. When that hostility is met with a negative response, our next instinct might be to threaten legal action or even physical harm. Debt collection can be very frustrating.
Of course, none of those instincts are going to lead to actually collecting the debt. We have written dozens of articles discussing why raising your voice or making threats will only make the situation worse. While those urges can be hard to resist, it helps to keep your eye on the prize and focus on actually collecting the balances on past due accounts.
In order to successfully collect an outstanding debt, you are going to want to place the odds as much in your favor as possible. One way that you can help increase your odds of collecting is to always give the consumer the impression that you are collecting a legitimate debt and following all of the federal and local legal guidelines.
Why Does This Matter?
If a consumer has fallen behind on an outstanding debt with you, chances are pretty good that they are behind on other debts as well. Many times, when debts begin to pile up, consumers can lose track of which ones they have made payments on and which ones they haven’t. These customers are also the most likely targets for unethical companies that might attempt to collect illegitimate debts.
Conducting your business with the debtor in manner that follows all of the federal and local regulations will allow the consumer to identify you as a legitimate collector that is pursuing an actual outstanding debt. While this may seem like a rare case, all you have to do is follow the laws and it could pay huge dividends.
What Does a Legitimate Debt Collector Do?
In simple terms: They follow the rules.
There are government policies such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in place that require collections to be conducted in an appropriate manner. In some areas, like California debt collection, there are even more strict regulations in place. Simply following these policies can go a long way towards making sure the consumer knows you are a legitimate collector.
Here are some basic guidelines that you will always want to follow:
- Never contact the debtor at an inconvenient time. This includes calling early in the morning or late in the evening. You can even take this one step forward and avoid calling the debtor during meal times.
- Never attempt to contact anyone besides the debtor about the debt. This means you can’t call neighbors or relatives attempting to collect.
- Always identify yourself, your company, and the debt you are attempting to collect. This will allow the debtor to view you in a professional manner.
- Never misrepresent yourself. It is illegal to claim to be a police officer or lawyer in an attempt to leverage the debtor into making payments.
- Never threaten legal action that you are not prepared to take. If you do threaten to file charges, you must follow through if the debtor fails to make payment.
- Always notify the debtor that they have the right to dispute the debt. If this happens, you must stop contacting them until you prove the debt is authentic. For that reason, you should be prepared to prove this before contacting the debtor.
As you can see, this is not rocket science. All you have to do is follow the basic guidelines that have been put into place by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the debtor will likely perceive you to be a legitimate debt collector. This slight difference in perception could be the difference between collecting a debt quickly or getting strung along for months.