For decades, debt collection companies have relied on two primary tools in their efforts to collect on past due accounts: the letter and the phone. In fact, this largely proved to be the case even as technology advanced by leaps and bounds from the proliferation of WiFi and smartphones to the rise of social media.
While this inability to change with the times was perhaps a source of comfort to consumers, recent developments show that debt collectors are now becoming more tech savvy -- sometimes using tools that many advocates are calling questionable.
While many people might not like to admit it, chances are good they've spent some time trying to create the perfect avatar, meaning a sort of electronic representation, almost cartoonish in nature, to represent them in certain virtual spaces.
Unfortunately, debt collectors appear to be getting in on the fun, sending consumers emails with photos of an avatar and a link. Once clicked, the link will open to a site where the avatar -- actually a virtual collections agent -- speaks to them in friendly tones and instructs them on how to make payments.
Debt collectors claim avatars spare consumers the embarrassment of having to deal with real people and, according to one industry study, are three times more likely to secure payment than a traditional site.
Most people have experienced the phenomenon of seeing that they have a voicemail message, but swearing that they never heard the phone ring. Unfortunately, new technology being used by debt collectors makes it likely that they didn't hear their phone, but not because it was on vibrate or left in a different room.
More debt collectors are using a new type of software that actually enables them to insert messages directly into consumers' voicemail boxes without making a single ring, a tactic they claim consumers appreciate as it eliminates the feeling of an ambush.
From a legal perspective, they also claim the tactic doesn't run afoul of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, as no calls are actually made. Legal experts understandably find these arguments to be highly suspect.
We'll continue this discussion next time, exploring more of the high-tech tactics being increasingly utilized by debt collectors.
In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions if you've endured sustained harassment from debt collectors and would like to learn more about your options.