When communicating with a debt collector, many feel that it’s easy to be tricked, tripped up or pushed into giving up money that you may not owe or you cannot afford. 

With a debt collector, there are three routes of contact they can take to get in touch with you, each one more daunting that the last but with help they can be easily managed:

  1. By Letter
  2. By Phone Call 
  3. By Home Visit

This guide will provide you with three scripts, outlining in detail both what the debt collector will likely say and what you should respond with, arming you with the tools to confidently take action and stand your ground against debt collectors so that you cannot be forced into something you’re not comfortable with.

Debt Collectors can be clever, but with this guide, you can ensure you are a step ahead.

Let’s get started! 

Recieved a Letter – How to Respond

Upon receiving a letter from a legitimate FCA registered agency informing of and requesting payment of an outstanding debt similar to this: 

Dear (your name),

Re: (Invoice number)

We have been advised by our client that you have not responded to previous attempts to pay an outstanding amount of (£_) in respect to the above invoice and that your claim continues to remain seriously overdue. We have now been appointed to resolve this matter prior to recommending that our client takes further action which may include recommending that litigation proceedings are commenced against you.

Please arrange payment of this account today to prevent the escalation of this matter.

We have held your account for a further 7 days until this matter is resolved but if you do not contact us we may have no alternative but to continue with further action.

Yours sincerely,

(Debt Collector)

DO NOT IGNORE THIS, You have three options

Option 1: Not Your Debt

If the debt is not yours, (it may be from the person who lived in your home before you) you can inform the debt collectors by letter that this is the case using the following template: 

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: [Reference]

I refer to your letter dated (date) regarding this debt.

I moved into this address on [date] and I can confirm that [account holder] has not lived at this address since then. I am sorry but I cannot let you have a forwarding address for (account holder).

If you continue to contact me about this debt you will be committing what amounts to psychological and/or physical harassment.

Please would you update your records and confirm that you will not be contacting me again about this debt.

Yours faithfully.

(your name)

Option 2: You Dispute the Debt

If you dispute the amount you owe or the debt entirely, you can write a letter making a claim that you are disputing the debt using the following template: 

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: (Reference)

I refer to your letter dated [date] regarding this debt.

I believe that I do not owe the money that you are claiming. You will be aware that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Consumer Credit sourcebook says:

A firm should neither ignore nor disregard a customer’s claim that his debt has been settled and/or is disputed and must stop making demands for payment without providing the customer clear justification and/or evidence as to why the claim is not valid. (7.5.3)

A firm must suspend or cease the steps it or its agent takes in the recovery of a customer’s debt where the customer disputes or has settled the debt on valid grounds or what may be considered valid grounds. (7.14.1)

If a customer disputes the debt on valid grounds or on what may be considered valid grounds, the firm must re-examine the dispute and provide details of the customer’s debt to the customer in a reasonably timely manner. (7.14.3)

If there is a dispute regarding the identity of the borrower or the amount of the debt, it is for the firm (not the customer) to establish that the customer is indeed the correct person/identity in relation to the debt owed or that the amount is correct under the agreement. (7.14.4)

A collection firm must provide the customer with information regarding the outcome of its investigations about a debt that the customer disputed or has settled on valid grounds. (7.14.5)

If the customer disputes the debt and the firm who seeks to recover the debt is neither the lender nor the owner, the firm is required to:
(1) Pass the information given by the customer to the actual lender or the owner; or
(2) If the firm was given authority by the lender or the owner to investigate the dispute, firm is required to notify the lender/owner regarding the outcome investigation. (7.14.6)

If you continue chasing me without providing evidence that I am liable for this debt this is deceptive and amounts to what is essentially physical and/or psychological harassment in which I will complain to Trading Standards and the FCA.

Yours faithfully,
(your name)

Option 3: Pay the Debt

Pay the debt, either in a single lump sum or via with monthly payments as seen in the template below (only after forming an agreement with collector as seen in phone script): 

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: (Reference)

According to your file and my own records, the amount of debt owed is (£_). This letter is not to dispute this debt but to inform you that my current financial situation prevents me from paying the amount you’re asking for in full.

As discussed in our last interaction on (date) by (phone/letter/in-person discussion), we agreed upon a payment of (£_) to this account every (date of month).

Enclosed is my first payment in the amount of (£_). I will consider your cashing or depositing my payment as confirmation that you accept the terms we have discussed and I will require a receipt upon doing so for my own records.

Yours faithfully,

(your name)

Phone Call – What to Say

You answer the phone and it’s a debt collector who will saying something along the lines of:

DC: “Hello, it’s (debt collector name) here, can I speak to (your name) please?”

At this point you should reply:

You: “Hi, I don’t have time to talk right now please could you confirm your company name, address and telephone number for me please and call back at (time)?”

Once you have hung up, you now have time to research the agency to see whether it’s legitimate as registered with the Financial Code Authority (FCA).

When they call back at the agreed time, have a pen and paper ready to make notes on the date and time of the call, along with any information regarding the debt.

So again when they call saying:

DC: “Hello, it’s (debt collector name) here, can I speak to (your name) please?”

You: “This is (your name).”

DC: “I’m calling to let you know that you have an invoice/debt/outstanding balance of (££) which we will need to receive payment for”.

You: “Can you tell me more about the debt?” (Invoice number/original amount/creditor?
“I’m not sure this is my debt, please send me more information in writing.”

DC: “Invoice number….creditor…amount.”etc

You: “Can you confirm the date the loan was taken out please?”
(If more than 6 years old) –
“I think this debt is time-barred. Please send me proof that this is not the case)”

DC: “the date of this debt was (date within 6 years)”

If you are happy with the evidence/debt and can afford payment, you can offer an affordable lump sum payment, perhaps lower than you owe but what you can afford.

You: “I can’t pay all £500 because (redundant, disability, accident etc), I can however offer you £300 to settle the debt, is this acceptable?”

If yes:

You: “Please send me a letter confirming when payment is due, confirming that the debt will be closed once you receive payment, and confirming the account details/address of payment”

Upon receiving these, if you’re happy, send money asking for receipt and keep a transaction record.

If no:

DC: “That payment is too low/unacceptable, we will need at least…

You: “I can’t afford this amount, could we agree to a monthly repayment of (what you can afford)”.

If agreed:

You: “Please send me a letter confirming when payment is due, confirming that the debt will be reduced each time you receive payment, and confirming the account details/address of payment”

Upon receiving these, if you’re happy, send money asking for receipt and keep a transaction record.

Home Visit – What to Do

Debt collector home visits aren’t as common as people think. They usually rely on letters and phone calls to contact you. However, if a debt collector comes to your door, you should do the following: 

  • If you are uncomfortable, you can ask them to leave. State “I will only agree to be contacted by my creditor, via phone or letter”. 
  • If you are happy to deal with them, record the interaction on your phone, do not open your door as they cannot force entry unless collecting criminal fines or government taxes. Say “I only agree to speak to you through the door/letterbox, and you are not allowed to enter”. 
  • Ask for their credentials such as their ID card, enforcement agent certificate, company details, phone/email or notice of enforcement (you must have received 7 days before visit) which they can show you through a letterbox or nearby window. 
  • If you feel confident and want to negotiate a settlement plan, you can pay the amount in full if you agree with the evidence of the amount, but you must get a receipt. Or you can negotiate an installment plan, which they may not accept in which you can reply “I would like to discuss a repayment plan option with (the creditor) and ask them to leave.
  • Debt collectors have no powers so you do not have to fear any further action right there and then but it is better to communicate with and come to an agreement.
  • Tell them you know the law and you do not HAVE to pay anything there and then but you are willing to cooperate through other means.

Remember

  • A debt collector cannot force entry into your house.
  • A debt collector has no powers.
  • They cannot contact you at your place of work, on social media or outside the hours of 8am-9pm or you can claim harassment. 
  • It’s always better to communicate beforehand or at least during the interaction in order to prevent the situation from escalating.

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