Do you know what to do if a debt collector contacts you?

What should you do if a debt collector writes, phones or visits you?

You may think it's something that can't - or won't - happen to you. But if you have one or more unsecured debts that you haven't repaid for several months, and you haven't come to a repayment agreement with your lenders, it may only be a matter of time before a debt collector gets in touch.

For a detailed look at what you should do if a debt collector contacts you, take a look at Gregory Pennington's debt collector factsheet.

In the meantime, here we'll take a quick look at what a debt collector can and can't do - and what your rights and responsibilities are as a borrower.

Why would a debt collector get in touch?

Debt collectors can be hired by lenders to help them get back any outstanding money they're owed from borrowers. So if you have debts such as credit cards, personal loans, overdrafts and catalogues and you haven't made payments for several months, then a debt collector could get in touch.

Lenders sometimes have their own debt collection team, or they may hire debt collectors from an external debt recovery company - or even sell them a debt outright. However, debt collectors have the same rights as lenders: they're not bailiffs.

What can a debt collector do?

The important thing to keep in mind is that a debt collector can only talk to you about making affordable repayments towards your debts.

Some people confuse debt collectors with bailiffs, but they're very different. Bailiffs are hired by the court and therefore have 'special powers', e.g. in some cases they can force entry into your home and take away some of your personal items.

Debt collectors, however, can't do any of this. If they decide to visit you in person, they must let you know when they're planning to visit, and they can't enter your home unless you want them to. It's also against the rules for debt collectors to contact you too often or at unreasonable hours (e.g. late at night).

What should I do if a debt collector calls?

If a debt collector contacts you, you should ask for:

  • • Proof of who they are
  • • Proof of the debt you owe.

If the debt is yours and you can't afford to make the payments you originally agreed to, you should try and agree an affordable repayment plan with the debt collector - and get it in writing.

You should tell the debt collector about your circumstances - and they should provide you with information about what action can be taken against you if the debt remains unpaid. They can't tell you they'll do something if they're legally not allowed to.

You don't have to deal with debt collectors on your own. We could give you some expert advice.

Daniel Culpan

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