Collector – May 2019 - 12

BESTPRACTICES

Phone Support
It doesn't happen often, but when consumers threaten to harm themselves
or one of your employees, a rehearsed plan of action is invaluable.
By Anne Rosso May

T

he business of helping consumers
resolve their outstanding
debts is complex and delicate.
Often burdened with financial worries,
job instability and other extenuating
circumstances, consumers can be stressed,
sad, exasperated and angry all in the course
of a five-minute call. Occasionally, these
calls can take an even darker turn.
When consumers threaten to hurt
themselves or the collector, how should your
agent respond and what next steps should
your company take? Here are a few ideas to
help guide you through these rare-but very
serious-situations.

TAKE THE BURDEN OFF THE
COLLECTOR
Sometimes consumers will make threats in
order to get the agent to do what they want,
like forgive the debt completely or accept a
nominal payment sum. When any allusion
to violence pops up during a collection call,
it can be extremely frightening.
In these situations the caller may not be
serious about hurting anyone, but don't
rely on your collectors to discern between
a credible threat and someone who is "just
blowing off steam." Any threat of violence
should be treated seriously, and employees
should know your company's policy on
how to respond.
At Account Recovery Specialists Inc.,
collectors aren't allowed to editorialize about
a threat in the account notes. "They can't
speculate about it or say, 'I don't think he was
serious,'" said Irene Hoheusle, vice president
of collections and education.
When an ARSI collector hears a threat
of any kind on the phone-either to the
consumer or the agency representative-
company policy dictates that the agent is to
immediately forward the account to senior

12

management. If the manager doesn't respond
within 10 minutes, the agent must call the
manager directly.

ESCALATE THE CALL AS NEEDED
Once a call is flagged, a manager or human
resources representative should listen to
the recording to determine the next step
your agency should take. If the consumer
threatens your agent, call the police and
make a report immediately.
"If it sounds like there is imminent danger to
the consumer or to us, we'll call the authorities
and let them know what's going on," Hoheusle
said. "If the consumer is threatening to hurt
themselves, we'll ask the authorities to do a
welfare check. If it's a threat to us, we'll tell
them we've received it and who the consumer
is, and they'll usually go and check it out."
Hoheusle advises calling the authorities
in the consumer's location (with threats of
self-harm) or in your office's location (with
threats of violence against your agency).
Last year, a collector at Credit Consulting
Services Inc. took a call from a consumer
who drifted in and out of the conversation,
talked to herself and eventually threatened
to hurt herself. The collector was concerned
and immediately reported the incident to
management. CEO Rodney Meeks listened to

a recording of the call, and contacted local law
enforcement to loop them into the situation
so they could check in on the consumer.
By calling 911 to help endangered
consumers, are you opening yourself up to
a third-party disclosure claim under the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? While
there doesn't appear to be case law on this,
it stands to reason that you'd only expose
yourself to liability if you reference the debt.
"[When I talk to the police] I can't
confirm the consumer owes a debt or I
can't say we called them about a hospital
bill," Hoheusle said. "I just say we had a
communication and this person threatened
themselves; we're worried about their safety.
The police will ask for our name, and the
consumer's name and addresses. They also
ask us to describe the threat. I'll tell them the
words the consumer used, and nothing else.
The police usually don't ask much more."
Should you tell your clients about the
threat? Hoheusle said yes; in fact, it's
typically the next call her company makes
after contacting the police.
"We let the client know what's going on
and how we handled it," she said. "We do
this especially if the consumer is threatening
us because we don't know if the threat will
transfer over to the client too."

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
It might be helpful to give your staff some places to refer consumers who
are threatening self-harm. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is
1-800-273-8255. Consumers can also text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at
741741 if they'd prefer not to speak to someone on the phone.
For information on how to support victims of violent crimes,
this Collector magazine article has helpful tips: https://bit.ly/2Xqwg26.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


https://www.bit.ly/2Xqwg26 http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

Collector – May 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector – May 2019

Upfront
Industry News
Best Practices
FYI
Collection Tips
The Robot Revolution
ACA International’s 2019 Convention & Expo
Number Crunching
Calendar
Honor Roll
Education Spotlight
Regulators Should Be In The Business Of Helping The Regulated Comply
ACA SearchPoint
Ad Index
Membership
Last Word
Collector – May 2019 - Cover1
Collector – May 2019 - Cover2
Collector – May 2019 - 1
Collector – May 2019 - 2
Collector – May 2019 - 3
Collector – May 2019 - Upfront
Collector – May 2019 - 5
Collector – May 2019 - Industry News
Collector – May 2019 - 7
Collector – May 2019 - 8
Collector – May 2019 - 9
Collector – May 2019 - 10
Collector – May 2019 - 11
Collector – May 2019 - Best Practices
Collector – May 2019 - 13
Collector – May 2019 - FYI
Collector – May 2019 - 15
Collector – May 2019 - Collection Tips
Collector – May 2019 - 17
Collector – May 2019 - The Robot Revolution
Collector – May 2019 - 19
Collector – May 2019 - 20
Collector – May 2019 - 21
Collector – May 2019 - ACA International’s 2019 Convention & Expo
Collector – May 2019 - 23
Collector – May 2019 - 24
Collector – May 2019 - 25
Collector – May 2019 - 26
Collector – May 2019 - 27
Collector – May 2019 - 28
Collector – May 2019 - 29
Collector – May 2019 - 30
Collector – May 2019 - 31
Collector – May 2019 - 32
Collector – May 2019 - Number Crunching
Collector – May 2019 - 34
Collector – May 2019 - 35
Collector – May 2019 - Calendar
Collector – May 2019 - Honor Roll
Collector – May 2019 - Education Spotlight
Collector – May 2019 - 39
Collector – May 2019 - 40
Collector – May 2019 - 41
Collector – May 2019 - 42
Collector – May 2019 - 43
Collector – May 2019 - 44
Collector – May 2019 - 45
Collector – May 2019 - 46
Collector – May 2019 - 47
Collector – May 2019 - 48
Collector – May 2019 - Regulators Should Be In The Business Of Helping The Regulated Comply
Collector – May 2019 - 50
Collector – May 2019 - 51
Collector – May 2019 - ACA SearchPoint
Collector – May 2019 - Ad Index
Collector – May 2019 - Membership
Collector – May 2019 - 55
Collector – May 2019 - Last Word
Collector – May 2019 - Cover3
Collector – May 2019 - Cover4
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