There are many misperceptions about what a collector can and cannot do to collect a debt. The following quiz can be a challenging - and fun - way to way to make sure you are doing your collection work effectively, as well as legally.
(No peeking at the answers before completing the quiz.)
1. True or False? - As long as a debtor pays you something on an account, you must continue to accept that amount until the bill is paid off.
2. True of False? - If a debtor sends you a check for less than the full amount and writes "Paid in full" on the front of the check (usually on the bottom left-hand side), if you cash that check you cannot seek further payment on that account.
3. True or False? - You may not call someone at home at 2:30 A.M. about an unpaid bill.
4. True or False? - In collecting from a divorced couple, you are bound by the court order as to who is responsible for paying your bill.
5. True or False? - Asking for or accepting post-dated checks is illegal.
6. True or False? - If a debtor you are attempting collection from tells you that you are harassing them, the best thing to do is to apologize, conclude the conversation, and write off the account as uncollectible.
7. True or False? - You may not turn an account over to a collection agency unless you have first advised the debtor that you are going to do it.
8. True or False? - If a doctor's office has a policy of charging for a broken appointment, you must impose the penalty on all patients who break their appointment, unless they give you the stated 24 hours notice.
Answers 1. False - The account is due in full, unless you agree to make other arrangements. If you receive a ridiculously small partial payment, send it back and demand the balance in full; it's a good negotiating technique for debtors playing games with you. Further, if you accept two small payments in a row, you may be stuck with that arrangement, so stop that with the first payment.
2. False - Call your debtor to dis-abuse him or her of their fantasy, and proceed to demand the balance of payment. However, if your debtor writes, on the back of the check, words to this effect, "Endorsement of this check constitutes payment in full", and you then endorse and deposit it, you have accepted the amount as payment in full.
3. False - Trick question. Sorry. Normally, this is true. But, if you know that the debtor works on a job schedule that normally has them awake at 2:30 A.M., then you may call at that time about your unpaid bill. Normal calling hours are between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M. and not on Sundays.
4. False - The court order is between the husband, the wife, and the judge. Both husband and wife are equally responsible, as long as the debt was incurred prior to a divorce, if there was one.
5. False - As long as you don't deposit the check prior to the date on the check, you are OK.
6. False - The federal rules of harassment apply to third party collection sources, not to you. However, some states have their own rules about harassment, so you need to be careful. For example, don't call several times a day, call someone at work if you've been asked not to, send a followup statement with the words "Past Due" on the outside of the envelope, use obscene language, shout, make empty threats, and the like. You do have the right to attempt to collect any legitimate debt. If you are falsely accused of harassment, deny it and remind the debtor that it is they who are harassing you by not paying and causing you unnecessary time and expense to clear up a legitimate debt. That might help them calm down and deal with their obligation.
7. False - You don't have to give notice, but it makes a lot of sense to do it. Try giving a week's notice to pay in full before turning the account into collection. The warning will improve the odds of getting paid, and you won't have to pay a fee to the collection agency. If they don't pay within the week, do what you said you would do.
8. False - You can implement your policy on broken appointments as you wish. You may, for example, the first time there is a no show, say, "We won't charge you this time, but in the future, we will have to". That gives you some flexibility, particularly with good patients. And, just having a policy on this point will definitely reduce the frequency of broken appointments, because now, there are consequences.
Disclaimer: All legal-sounding comments should be checked with your attorney. I am not an attorney, and, even if I were, I am not your attorney. Further, rules sometimes vary by state.