Fiction Meets Fact: An Example of How You Can Stop Collection Calls
Note: The following story is based on something that happens to hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis.
On a Wednesday evening, Rachel and Mark eat penne pasta and sip red wine, as candles flicker and scent the room raspberry. The smooth Jazz of Sade plays in the background. As they joke and reflect on their first few dates as 20-somethings, Mark’s iPhone buzzes and interrupts the conversation. Rachel gives him a stare that implies “don’t answer it”, but he picks it up regardless. On the screen, it says it is a private number. Mark picks up.
Rachel watches Mark as his face turns cold. The voice on the other end of the line is loud and aggressive, and she tries to make out the words the person is saying. She puts her fork and glass down, and leans in as Mark covers his face with his hand.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to call you back.” Mark hangs up.
Mark drops the phone on the table. He looks out of the dining room, starring.
“Was it them?” Rachel asks.
On the End of the Line
Mark and Rachel, who are struggling to pay off years worth of debt, have been receiving calls from collection agencies over the last few weeks. The people who call them obviously need a “101” on phone etiquette. They raise their voices, swear and threaten to take legal action against the couple. Mark, who prides himself on confronting his problems, makes unrealistic “promises” to these collectors. Rachel strongly believes they can stop these collection calls, insisting that Mark stop giving into their threats. Normally, they usually spend their evenings reading bank statements, arguing over who has the right idea on how to fix their debt troubles.
How the Drama Began
Their money woes began two years ago, after travelling abroad to Europe. Poor timing and Mark’s job layoff triggered the financial landslide, and they’ve struggled to cope ever since. The layoff is one of the reasons Mark feels guilty about ignoring the collection calls.
One night, Mark finds himself restlessly shifting in bed. He wipes drops of sweat off of his forehead, taking shallow breaths. Worried, he gets out of bed, reassuring Rachel that he just needs some fresh air. But he knows something is wrong. He visits his doctor a few days later, where he learns some troubling news about his health.
“Your blood pressure is way too high,” his doctor warns. “You’ll either have to take medication or find a way to reduce your stress. You’ll be in trouble if you don’t.”
Days after their disrupted dinner date and his health scare, Rachel and Mark decide to reconvene, where they’ll discuss ideas on how they can pay off their debt.
“Where do we start?” Mark asks. “We’re barely able to make the car and mortgage payments. Besides, I’m sick of all the calls.”
They review all of their options, and there just doesn’t seem to be a way out.
“This isn’t what you want to hear, but we have to get them off our backs,” Rachel chimes in. “We’re making bad choices because we’re letting them stress us out.”
“What are you suggesting?” He asks.
“We need to speak to Dave, the debt counsellor.”
Mark gets tense and squirms in his chair but nods gently, accepting their need for assistance.
Finding the Achilles Heel
Dave, welcomes Mark and Rachel into his office with a warm smile and handshakes. After a little small talk, the couple starts detailing their financial problems, and the harassment they face from debt collectors. They even get personal. Mark tells Dave he feels guilty about their situation, and how his health is now suffering because of the calls and resulting stress. Rachel, who’s trying to hold back tears, expresses her belief that putting a stop to the calls would take a load off their back. Even if the debt is still there, they could at least tackle it with a clearer mind.
“I completely agree with you,” Dave says. “What they’re doing is illegal. But the good news, is that you can get them off of your back.”
Rachel’s eyes brighten up, and before she can say a thing…
“How?” Mark asks.
“First, write a letter to them, requesting them to stop calling you. It’s not permanent, but it’s something they have to follow for some time. ” Dave says.
“Then what?” Rachel asks.
“You’ll probably get a few more calls before your request goes through. In the meantime, ask for the debt collector to send you information about your debt in writing. Keep records of the phone calls too. Sometimes they exaggerate or falsify information, so having all of this on record will back you up if they break the rules.”
“And what do we do about the threats?”
“Get a lawyer involved.” Dave gives them a stern look. “Swearing and verbally abusing people over the phone is against the law.”
“Is there anything else we should know?” Rachel asks.
“Yes, if you think there’s some debt you don’t owe, dispute it. Like I said before, they can make false claims, or simply mix things up.”
A Fight for Dignity
Later that night, Mark and Rachel sit down and consider all of Dave’s advice. They write a letter in which they request the collection agencies to stop contacting them. Additionally, they review all of their bank statements and accounts to spot potential mistakes in the debt they owe. Nothing jumps out so far. However, they have noticed a few spending habits they could drop to make their debt payments easier. Mark also has written on a sticky note to keep track of phone calls if they come in again, noting their time, the person responsible for the call, and the claims and attitude the individual displays. For the first time in their ordeal, Mark and Rachel feel confident about handling their debt collectors.
Room to Breathe
Three weeks go by. Mark arrives home, tired and hungry after a long day at work. He greets Rachel with hug and kiss, and they agree to take a look at their budget. Admittedly, they’d rather do anything but chat about finance. However, getting rid of their debt and improving their situation means they’ll have to shift their focus away from their interests at times. As they sit down to discuss their finances, Mark’s phone vibrates in his pocket. He takes it out and answers enthusiastically.
The person on the other end of the line is a long-time friend. Mark promises to call him back since he’s busy discussing matters with Rachel. Weeks ago, a call at this time during the evening would have been from a collections agency. But that has ended now since he sent the request to stop the collection calls. Since he followed Dave’s advice, he no longer feels powerless against them. The debts are still there and it will take time and effort to pay them off. But what matters most, is that Mark and Rachel no longer feel bullied or harassed because of their situation.