Over the past 25 years, the way individuals communicate with each other has changed dramatically. From telephone calls and faxes to emails and text messages, advancements in technology have made it much easier for individuals to get in touch with one another. Today, individuals communicate through text messages and emails more than they do through telephone calls. Businesses have also adapted to new communication preferences and developed strategies that allow consumers to be contacted through their preferred choice. However, when it comes to debt collection, debt collectors still operate under a set of laws from 1978 that haven’t caught up with the technological advancements of the last couple decades, making communicating with consumers through email not nearly as easy as it should be.
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The reality of today is that consumers who have an account in collections want two things: to communicate with debt collectors through the method of their choosing, and to communicate with debt collectors at a time that is convenient for them. Because of the laws debt collectors are regulated under, some debt collectors will not communicate with consumers via email while some will. At the end of the day, whether or not a debt collector communicates with consumers via email is determined by their business and the risk decision the organization makes. There is no clear right or wrong answer in regards to debt collectors communicating with consumers through email, but there are certain aspects of the process that a consumer should consider when doing so.
1. You Should Make First Contact
Most debt collectors will not initiate the first contact with consumers through email. Therefore, if you want to communicate with a debt collector through email it is important for you to send the first email to start the chain.
There are times when the first contact may be by telephone and during that conversation the consumer may express their desire to be contacted by email. Nowadays, most debt collectors record all phone calls so they retain that authorization through recordings, but it is also not uncommon for the debt collector to request the consumer send that initial email anyway so they know for certain who they are replying to. This process also ensures the debt collector has taken proper procedures to communicate with only the consumer of record.
2. You Must Identify Yourself
It is important that consumers clearly identify themselves in the email by providing the debt collector with their full name, address, and either date of birth of last four digits of the Social Security number. The reason why these identification measures should be taken is because before the debt collector engages with a consumer, they are required to take appropriate steps to ensure they are speaking with the right person. Until they confirm they are speaking with the right person, it is highly unlikely the debt collector will engage in resolution of the debt by email or phone. Keep in mind that sending sensitive personal information via email carries its own security risks, which you should seriously consider before sending information digitally.
3. You Shouldn’t Expect Many Details
While some debt collectors have become more comfortable over the years communicating with consumers through email, all debt collectors still have reservations about doing so because there is no clear cut rule or law governing electronic communications in an attempt to collect a debt. Therefore, some debt collectors will utilize email to respond to and provide direct and clear requests, but don’t expect them to engage in any back and forth conversation like they would in a phone call.
If the exchanges become more complex or if there are more than a couple of emails back and forth, it is not uncommon for debt collectors to let consumers know they will cease emails and request to be called at the office to complete the resolution of the account.
4. You Should Avoid Emailing From a Work Account
Most companies have safeguards and policies in place requiring work email accounts to be used for work-related purposes only, and that they may be monitored and reviewed by the company at any time. So be careful if you decide to contact a debt collector through your work email because your personal business matters may get uncovered during routine work email account audits. Furthermore, some debt collectors will not communicate with consumers through the consumer’s work email account in order to protect the consumer’s privacy.
In the end, the number one goal for debt collectors is to help consumers resolve their account. So it is important to debt collectors that they communicate with consumers in the method that the consumer chooses and at a time that is most convenient for them as well. However, because of dated regulations, debt collectors are generally still leery about fully embracing email to handle the entire debt collection process — and those who do may ultimately be conservative in their approach.
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Nick Jarman is President & Chief Operating Officer at Delta Outsource Group, Inc. located in the metropolitan St. Louis, Mo., area. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for ACA International and also serves as the 2014-2015 Missouri Collectors Association President. He is adamant that the collection process is done the right way and that collectors always remain professional, respectful and compliant. He also uses analytics to develop proprietary scorecards that evaluate collector, client and overall company performance. He believes in management through open communication, creating a positive work culture and establishing clear expectations with accountability. More by Nick Jarman