If you’ve fallen behind on your student loan payments, you’re probably hearing from debt collectors and the further delinquent you get on your loans, the more aggressive they will likely become. Many people have horror stories about debt collectors hounding, threatening and ceaselessly harassing them over their student loan debts until they’ve become stressed and even depressed. We understand and sympathize and offer these tips on dealing with student loan debt collectors:
#1 Understand What Debt Collectors Can and Cannot Do
Although debt collectors are allowed to pursue collection of delinquent debts, there are laws that establish what they may not do. These include calling you repetitiously to annoy or harass you, use of profanity or obscene language when speaking to you, threatening you with harm or violence or declining to tell you who they are. Other things that are debt collector no-no’s include lying about how much you owe, threatening to arrest you, misrepresenting themselves as an attorney or saying they can do things that they simply cannot. What’s allowed and strictly verboten is spelled out in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
But just because there are rules doesn’t mean unethical debt collectors won’t break them and do some or all of these things.
#2 Understand How to Fight Back Against Them
If you have to make a complaint against them, you’ll need ammunition. Keep track of what time they call, what numbers they call on (work, home, cell or other) and anything they say that they shouldn’t. Ask for their name and a call back number first thing at the onset of the call and if they won’t provide a name and number, tell them they’re acting against the FDCPA and end the call. Demand this information at the onset of each call so that you can track who is calling you.
You’ll need to have specific information in order to make a complaint that sticks, so be scrupulous in tracking data on collector contact.
#3 Lay Down Some Ground Rules
Debt collectors may not call before 8 am or past 9 pm unless you give them permission to do so. Never give them permission and if they do initiate a call outside of these hours, notify them they are in violation of FDCPA and direct them not to call you outside of these hours again. You also don’t want debt collectors calling you at work – that can cost you your job and make getting caught up even worse. Make both a written and verbal request to the debt collector telling them that you are not allowed to get personal calls at work. Be sure to send written notice with return receipt confirmation so you have proof.
Be sure to note on your tracking log when they called outside of allowable hours, when you notified them not to call you at work and any violations of either request.
#4 File a Complaint If Unethical Debt Collection Behavior Persists
There are several different places to complain to about debt collection violations. You may think it’s a hassle to make a complaint (and it may well be) but unless consumers push back on collection abuses, they will proliferate! There are three primary places to complain about unethical collections efforts and we suggest you report the offending collection agency to all of them.
First, make a local complaint to your state Attorney General’s office. Check your state AG’s website and look for a link or do a search on making a complaint. If you can’t find info online, call them up and ask for the office or online form you need.
Second, make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Click here for their online complaint form.
Finally, make a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They have recently started accepting complaints on private student loan collectors as well as federal loans. Here is the link to make an online student loan collections complaint.
Be sure to follow up on your complaints with whichever agency you select for filing a complaint – but again, we recommend you file with all three resources.
#5 Get Control of Your Debt to Put an End to Debt Collections for Good!
Filing a complaint can only stop the abuse but it won’t do anything to eradicate the underlying debt. Many people with student loans that have grown out of control often take a head in the sand approach, but all that does is leave your backside sticking up for a kick! Instead, you need to get proactive with gaining control over your debt. One of the first obstacles with student loan debt is figuring out how much you owe and to whom.
Sign up for Tuition.io’s student loan management tool where you can see all of your loans – both public and private – in our easy portal. From there, dig into our blog for information on repayment strategies. Also check out new Student Loan Help Center for important information on How to Apply for Forbearance or Deferment – How to Consolidate Your Student Loans – and a host of other informative guides.