Collector - January 2018 - 16
Help consumers feel comfortable discussing their personal information over the phone.
By Anne Rosso May
efore you can get started helping
consumers resolve their past-due
accounts, you need to confirm the
identity of the person on the other end
of the line. But due to recent high-profile
data breaches, as well as increasingly
common telephone scams from fraudsters,
consumers may be naturally hesitant to
provide or even confirm any personal
information about themselves. In these
situations, what should you do?
First, it's important to understand
that you need to verify the consumer's
identity-even if that person called
you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act prohibits debt collectors from
disclosing private financial information
or the existence of a debt to someone else
accidentally, even if the person is a friend
or relative. So you need to make sure you
are talking to the correct person before
you can share any information about why
you are calling.
Your agency probably has a specific
process for how to verify the right party.
This typically involves getting the last four
digits of the consumer's Social Security
number, address and/or date of birth.
Of course, in light of all the identity theft
scams perpetuated today, some consumers
may be reluctant to give out personal
information over the phone. The federal
government has issued several notices to
help consumers avoid "imposter scams,"
in which they advise consumers not to
cooperate with people who call and ask to
verify their name or who request the last
four digits of their Social Security number.
This can make it exceedingly difficult for
people calling consumers with a legitimate
business purpose-like you-who need to
get that information before disclosing the
purpose of the call. However, there are things
you can do to help make the consumer feel
Focus on building good rapport with
the consumer. Expressing empathy for
the person's feelings and noting that you
understand their hesitations can help you
connect with the consumer.
If consumers don't want to volunteer
the information you need to confirm
their identify, you could try asking, "Well,
my file indicates that your street address
is 3345. Can you confirm your street
name for me?" or "I see in my file that
your birth year is 1976. For verification
purposes, can you confirm the day and
month you were born?"
If the consumer still doesn't want to give
you the information, don't get into a tug of
war about it. Refer to your company's policy
on right-party verification and, if necessary,
politely terminate the call.
As much as you want to talk about
their debt to help jog the consumer's
memory about what the call is for, doing
so could be a potential third-party
disclosure violation of the FDCPA if you
are speaking to a wrong party, and carries
significant risks for your company. The
better path is to accept that consumers
are on high-alert for phone scams and
potential fraud, and that you have the
tools to help them feel comfortable.
Anne Rosso May is editor of Collector