How to handle debt collectors who unlawfully claim debt from you

A Serious guide to handling of Debt collectors’ phone calls and subsequent actions, by John Brandow

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Print this guide out and keep it handy. It can save you a lot of grieve.
No one says that you do not have to pay legal debt. We are not debating that point here.
This guide has the purpose of YOU taking control of the situation and taking the control away from anyone calling you. It also has the benefit of you determining whether the debt is legally yours and has not prescribed.
YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR ROLE FROM VICTIM TO AGGRESSOR – YOU MUST TAKE CONTROL
Follow these instructions diligently and without wavering from the steps in any way.
Always keep paper and pen handy. It is advisable that you keep a little notebook handy for this purpose.
THE FOLLOWING IS CRITICAL :
MAKE SURE YOU ASK THE QUESTIONS IN THE ORDER IT IS GIVEN HERE ! THE REASON FOR THIS IS THAT SHOULD THE CALLER BECOME AWARE OF YOUR INTENTION TO TRAP THEM THEY MIGHT PUT THE PHONE DOWN. IF YOU ASK YOUR QUESTIONS IN THIS ORDER YOU WILL BY THEN HAVE THEIR NAME AND COMPANY DETAILS FOR FURTHER ACTION. ( SEE BOTTOM FOR ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE*) Once you get to the email status you will start to find backtracking – they don’t want to go there and might just put the phone down.
Note down the date and exact time………..this comes in handy when you lodge complaints.

THE CALL
1. You answer the call.
2. Caller asks you to identify yourself. NEVER DO THIS. Your answer “ You called me, first identify yourself by giving me the following information. : ( Write all this down diligently) If during this initial discussion the party on the other side wants to say or ask anything insist on them giving you the details – if this fails JUST PUT THE PHONE DOWN ! – They will soon get the message. )
a. Give me your full name – spell it for me.
b. Give me your telephone number. Repeat to make sure you have it correct
c. Give me the full name and location of your firm – spell it for me.
d. Give me your email address – spell it for me.
e. Thank them and say : I will send you an email ( I will give you the full details of how you go about this afterwards)
f. At this point kill the conversation and put the phone down. Any future calls you handle it as per point “d”
g. Do not waver from this in any way – no matter how insistent they are. You now have their details and you can now lodge a complaint with the council for debt collectors if applicable.(A guide to how to do this a bit later)
THE FOLLOW UP EMAIL
Draft and send the debt collector an email – Again keep diligently to these guidelines. Do not volunteer any information. – NEVER. Do not imply that you know of any debt quoted and do not admit liability – NEVER ! ( I use this template in all instances- Debt collectors’ systems are call centre driven and it is going to take time for them to answer this properly. By sending them an email you are creating proof of interaction and you will have a paper trail.
1. Subject : “Your telephone call to me today refers” – NOTHING ELSE
2. Do not quote account numbers or ID numbers – The person who phoned you should have all those details. Do not acknowledge the correctness of ID numbers or account numbers.
3. Make sure your email contain the following words in the first instance : “Without prejudice and all rights reserved”
4. “You phoned me regarding something and I would like you to give me full details as follows :
a. Your company’s registration number with the council for debt collectors
b. Your personal registration number with the council for debt collectors.
(You can now verify this live on the website of the council)
c. Details of the alleged debt.
d. A copy of the latest statement regarding this from the company claiming ownership of the alleged debt.
e. As far as I am concerned this alleged debt has prescribed. If you claim otherwise please supply proof of this. ( If it is the bank phoning you about your recent p ayment of your car and you know you are in arrears this will not be applicable) If it is anything that MIGHT have prescribed use these words. – Remember you should not yet know what it is if you followed the instruction about the call above – but you might suspect what it is)

You can now send this off or you can ask for the following – or you can do this in a follow up email –( Remember the “Without prejudice and all rights reserved clause in ALL emails)
f. If you did not already asked them ask them for their Council for debt collectors registration number. ( you should be able to look this up on the website here:
g. Ask the addressee of the email for his/her personal debt collectors registration number. At the same link. Chances are 99.9% that the writer is not registered and you can point this out to him/her stating that they have no right to engage with you and request that all future communication be done by someone WHO is registered.
h. Ask them for a copy of their mandate to collect on the alleged debt _ this is where you will find out whether they or anyone else has bought the debt.
i. Ask them for a copy of the original signed instrument of debt of the alleged debt. Not a copy of such an instrument – a copy of the actual one you allegedly signed,

Chances are that this is the last you will hear from them – Their systems are 99% not geared to handle this type of query. And just stick to the rules about telephone calls. DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS OR RESPOND TO ANYTHING ON THE PHONE . DO NOT BE DRAWN INTO ANY TYPE OF DISCUSSION ON THE PHONE – You do not have access to the recording and they will try and use it against you.
Complaints against debt collectors:
There is a comprehensive guide on this on the website of the Council for debt collectors here :
http://www.debtcol-council.co.za/

Steps to be taken afterwards:
If you followed the steps handling a call from a debt collector diligently you should have at least the name and contact details of the caller and the company. If you need more details you can just look them up on the internet.
Now go onto the website and check if the company is registered and if the caller is registered.
Chances are that the company will be registered but not the person. – As a rule of thumb these companies only register the directors and one or two managers.
You now have the upper hand – They have committed a crime by allowing an unregistered employee engage with you. You can (if you feel that way inclined) lay such a charge with the police. I would just send them an email and tell them you intend doing that and request them to stay away from them
As I Said before: Change your role from victim to aggressor !