From Collector: Walking a Tightrope

Tips to help your collectors handle call-baiting situations.

12/17/2019 1:00 PM

NewsCollector Magazine
From Collector: Walking a Tightrope

Call baiting is a technique used by consumers to lure a debt collector into making a mistake and violating the law. These consumers will tee up a loaded scenario and ask targeted questions designed to elicit an answer that would be a violation of industry laws or regulations.

Someone who is trying to bait a collector may sound like they are reading from a script, they might be talking to someone else in the room (often an attorney) or they might repeat what the collector says, misstating it just a little bit: “So you’re telling me that the only way to get this off my credit report is to pay this in full?”

Greg Ruffino, director of training at Williams & Fudge Inc., shared some other common bait questions in an interview with Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May for the December issue.

  • “Are you going to garnish my wages or sue me if I don’t pay?”
  • “What do I have to do to get this off my credit?”
  • “Is this the only way?”
  • “Do I have to dispute this in writing?”

Training your collectors on how to respond to these types of questions while keeping track of their interactions can help protect your company.

For example, make sure your staff knows they don’t need to immediately answer every question, especially if that question is fraught with compliance issues. For instance, instead of answering “When is this payment due?” you could turn the question into a question:

“Well, when can you make a payment?”

“Put the ball back in their court,” Ruffino said.

Tell collectors they shouldn’t answer yes or no questions if they are unsure of the answer. Take this example:

Consumer: What date was this account placed with your office?

Collector: [checks file] Aug. 10, 2019.

Consumer: What’s the balance?

Collector: [checks file] $645.76

Consumer: Is there an interest rate?

Collector: [checks file] Yes, it’s 4.21%.

Consumer: Is paying the balance in full the only way to get this off my credit report?

Let’s pause here. This is a common bait question because there’s no definitive answer for every account, Rosso May reports.

In a situation like this, when there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer in the consumer’s file, Ruffino suggested you could train your collectors to say something like: “That’s a really good question and an important topic. I need to get you the best answer. If it’s OK with you, I’m going to put you on hold for 60 seconds to get you that answer.”

That gives the collector time to check in with a supervisor for advice on how to respond to the question.

“It’s not ideal to continuously pass calls to supervisors all day,” Ruffino noted. “But at the same time, you don’t want collectors guessing. Taking 60 seconds to verify information with their supervisor still allows the collector to handle the call.

Plus, the fact that they cared enough to go out of their way to investigate the issue will build trust with the consumer and often make the call more productive.”

Read the December article “Walking a Tightrope” for more tips on how collectors can take accurate and clear notes. Ruffino also recently discussed call baiting on an episode of ACA Cast: Call Baiting: Don’t Get Hooked.

Additional call baiting prevention resources are available in ACA SearchPoint document #3077 Call Baiting- What Collectors Should Know.

Subscriptions to the Collector magazine digital edition and email notifications for each new issue are available for ACA International members by logging in to ACA International’s website here. Members and nonmembers can also purchase a print subscription. Nonmembers can create a guest profile on ACA’s website to subscribe to available publications.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

From Collector: Walking a Tightrope

Call baiting is a technique used by consumers to lure a debt collector into making a mistake and violating the law. These consumers will tee up a loaded scenario and ask targeted questions designed to elicit an answer that would be a violation of industry laws or regulations.

Someone who is trying to bait a collector may sound like they are reading from a script, they might be talking to someone else in the room (often an attorney) or they might repeat what the collector says, misstating it just a little bit: “So you’re telling me that the only way to get this off my credit report is to pay this in full?”

Greg Ruffino, director of training at Williams & Fudge Inc., shared some other common bait questions in an interview with Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May for the December issue.

  • “Are you going to garnish my wages or sue me if I don’t pay?”
  • “What do I have to do to get this off my credit?”
  • “Is this the only way?”
  • “Do I have to dispute this in writing?”

Training your collectors on how to respond to these types of questions while keeping track of their interactions can help protect your company.

For example, make sure your staff knows they don’t need to immediately answer every question, especially if that question is fraught with compliance issues. For instance, instead of answering “When is this payment due?” you could turn the question into a question:

“Well, when can you make a payment?”

“Put the ball back in their court,” Ruffino said.

Tell collectors they shouldn’t answer yes or no questions if they are unsure of the answer. Take this example:

Consumer: What date was this account placed with your office?

Collector: [checks file] Aug. 10, 2019.

Consumer: What’s the balance?

Collector: [checks file] $645.76

Consumer: Is there an interest rate?

Collector: [checks file] Yes, it’s 4.21%.

Consumer: Is paying the balance in full the only way to get this off my credit report?

Let’s pause here. This is a common bait question because there’s no definitive answer for every account, Rosso May reports.

In a situation like this, when there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer in the consumer’s file, Ruffino suggested you could train your collectors to say something like: “That’s a really good question and an important topic. I need to get you the best answer. If it’s OK with you, I’m going to put you on hold for 60 seconds to get you that answer.”

That gives the collector time to check in with a supervisor for advice on how to respond to the question.

“It’s not ideal to continuously pass calls to supervisors all day,” Ruffino noted. “But at the same time, you don’t want collectors guessing. Taking 60 seconds to verify information with their supervisor still allows the collector to handle the call.

Plus, the fact that they cared enough to go out of their way to investigate the issue will build trust with the consumer and often make the call more productive.”

Read the December article “Walking a Tightrope” for more tips on how collectors can take accurate and clear notes. Ruffino also recently discussed call baiting on an episode of ACA Cast: Call Baiting: Don’t Get Hooked.

Additional call baiting prevention resources are available in ACA SearchPoint document #3077 Call Baiting- What Collectors Should Know.

Subscriptions to the Collector magazine digital edition and email notifications for each new issue are available for ACA International members by logging in to ACA International’s website here. Members and nonmembers can also purchase a print subscription. Nonmembers can create a guest profile on ACA’s website to subscribe to available publications.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

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