The debt collection process can be tricky. Collection agencies must follow regulations strictly–or you’ll find your business in jeopardy. In this environment, it’s important to follow the latest news resources. But having a network of professionals to educate and assist you can be invaluable.
That’s the role the California Association of Collectors (CAC) has sought out. Through a series of three courses scheduled throughout this year, they’ve worked to bring debt collection best practices front and center. The first webinar in the series, centered on call recording laws, began the year’s industry education.
The most recent webinar shifted to the ever-present issue of call baiting. Why is call baiting done and what can debt collectors do to prevent the practice? Here’s what the panelists David Kaminski, Kelly Parsons-O’Brien and Mike Cheek had to say.
First, What is Call Baiting?
The term call baiting may seem self-explanatory–baiting a debt recovery professional during a phone call. But what are they baiting the agent to do?
Simply put, call baiting is when the debtor attempts to trick you into breaking a law. This can be a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violation, or violation of other laws or regulations which pertain to debt collectors.
Why Do People Call Bait?
In general, call baiting is done for one basic reason. “They [call baiters] want to engender some kind of litigation or legal claim,” says Kaminski, Partner at Carlson & Messer, LLP and Chair of the Financial Services and Class Action Group.
But more specifically, there are a few different reasons a debtor may engage in call baiting.
Many individuals bait collection agencies in order to file lawsuits later. The goal is to trip up the debt recovery professional through questions and scripts.
Some people call bait intending to seek to change their credit report. Some baiters hope suing an agency can lead to a settlement. The aim of such a settlement would be to cause the agency to agree to remove items from the debtor’s credit report.
To Buy Time Or Avoid Bankruptcy
Some baiters are just trying to stall between attempts to collect their debt. For example, they may ask confusing questions, then suggest the agent call back in 30 days. They often do this to buy time and avoid bankruptcy.
Prior Bad Experience
Some callers are scared. A bad experience with a previous collector may cause a debtor to worry. Their questions sound like call baiting, but not on purpose.
Some debtors have never spoken to a collector before. They only know what they’ve seen on TV or in movies–a negative view of debt collectors. Their suspicions put them on the defensive and cause them to ask many questions. The questions and defensive manner may cause these consumers to be mistaken for baiters.
How Is Baiting Possible?
Baiting is possible because one slip can lead to a lawsuit (and ultimately money). There are a number of laws and regulations call baiters look to when baiting for violations.
- Call recording laws
There are a few ways a payday can come from a violation. A few examples are actual damages, statutory damages and fines for willful violation. If you lose a lawsuit, you may also have to pay the debtor’s attorney’s fees.
The best way to protect your collection practice from baiting is through prevention. This can be done with an in-depth, up-to-date Compliance Management System. The components your CMS should include:
- Categorizing - List all of your compliance obligations with statutes such as the FDCPA. Get a good understanding of the laws and regulations you must follow. Be thorough.
- Risk Assessment - Take a look at what areas of your business are prone to risk. In this case, how can a baiter cause your agents to violate the rules?
- Implementing Controls - Put in place the controls and corrective actions that can prevent a call baiting situation from happening within your agency.
- Education - Educate your employees.
- Audit - Audit the policies, procedures and work instructions you have in place. Fix any areas you find that are currently causing non-compliance. If an issue has already arisen, conduct a root cause analysis to remedy the problem.
Parsons-O’Brien, President of Pacific Credit Services, also notes that speech analytics can aid you in recognizing call baiting questions. For example, her company uses this technology to identify questions about credit reports.
If this is something you use in your collection agency, Kaminski recommends that you test your speech analytics system to ensure it is working the way it is supposed to. As with any technology, it can fail to work properly if it isn’t maintained.
A CMS is useful, but only if your debt collectors know what’s in it. Train them about the laws and regulations they need to follow. Then make sure they know how baiters may try to trick them into a violation.
“It’s really important that you engage all your staff in your training,” says Cheek, Vice President of Collections and Compliance at California Business Bureau, Inc. “Especially your reception people and admin staff who take care of inbound calls. It’s important they recognize some of these signs.”
A few essentials to have in your training program are:
- Detection - Teach your agents how to identify baiting situations.
- Scripts - Provide a baiting script or process your debt collectors can follow.
- Reminders/Updates - Keep up to date on new baiting tactics. Anytime a new bait comes along, alert your staff.
These are just some of the debt collection practices you can use to prevent call baiting. Don’t miss our next article in the series. There, we’ll focus on baiting tells and scenarios, and discuss how to protect yourself. To receive an email when future articles are published, subscribe to our blog: