How Does Debt Collection Work?
Debt collectors often work for debt-collection agencies, though some operate independently, and some are also attorneys. Sometimes these agencies act as middlemen, collecting customers’ delinquent debts—debts that are at least 60 days past due—and remitting them to the original creditor. The creditor pays the collector a percentage, typically 25% to 50% of the amount collected.1 Debt collection agencies collect delinquent debts of all types: credit card, medical, automobile loans, personal loans, business, student loans, and even unpaid utility and cell phone bills.
Collection agencies tend to specialize in the types of debt they collect. For example, an agency might collect only delinquent debts of at least R2 000 that are less than two years old. A reputable agency will also limit its work to collecting debts that are within the fair recovery of debts as governed by The Council for Debt Collectors.
For difficult-to-collect debts, some collection agencies also negotiate settlements with consumers for less than the amount owed. Debt collectors may also refer cases to lawyers who file lawsuits against customers who have refused to pay the collection agency.
What Debt Collectors Do
Debt collectors use letters and phone calls to contact delinquent borrowers and try to convince them to repay what they owe. When debt collectors can’t reach the debtor with the contact information provided by the original creditor, they look further, using computer software and private investigators. They can also conduct searches for a debtor’s assets, such as bank and brokerage accounts, to determine a debtor’s ability to repay. Collectors may report delinquent debts to credit bureaus to encourage consumers to pay, since delinquent debts can do serious damage to a consumer’s credit score.
The Bottom Line
Debt collection is a legitimate business. If a debt collector contacts you, it’s not necessarily the beginning of an abusive relationship. Many collectors are honest people who are just trying to do their jobs and will work with you to create a plan to help you repay your debt, whether that means a payment in full, a series of monthly payments, or even a reduced settlement.
What Is a Debt Collector?
A debt collector is a company or agency that is in the business of recovering money owed on delinquent accounts. Many debt collectors are hired by companies to which money is owed by debtors, operating for a fee or for a percentage of the total amount collected. Some debt collectors are debt buyers; these companies purchase debt at a fraction of its face value and then attempt to recover the full amount of the debt.