Collector - April 2021 - 28

" If they're able to make payments, credit
reporting is one of the biggest areas of
confusion. Many people don't know how
credit reporting works and how paying off
debts makes a difference. It's kind of a black
hole. "
Lack of understanding may originate
from simply never receiving basic financial
education or, unfortunately, encountering
bad information.
" A lot of the misinformation seems to
come from credit repair organizations and,
sadly, consumer law attorneys who are
interested in drumming up more business, "
Quinn said. " It's better for them if consumers
are kept ignorant. Of course, the internet is
the worst culprit of all. "
Because the internet acts as a free-flowing
information exchange, anyone can pass
along false narratives and bad advice about
managing finances and eliminating debt.
Consumers may be inclined to believe a
simple, albeit false, solution is legitimate
when, in fact, it only adds to their problems.
" People will tell us we can't report
something because it's medical debt, "
Quinn said. " Well, that's not the law.
That's misinformation. They'll say we can't
charge interest on the debt, but that's not
true either. It's important for consumers
to know the truth about these things and
what their rights are so they're less likely to
shoot themselves in the foot by making bad
decisions. "

THE METHODS
Collection agencies approach the need for
financial education in a variety of ways.
For most, it begins with ensuring collectors
know how to respond to consumer
questions and misinformation.
At Credit Bureau Services LLC, educating
consumers begins with teaching their
employees about their own personal
finances. The company holds an eightweek course twice each year called Core
Financial Wellness. The program is aimed at
teaching employees about saving, budgeting,
managing debt, insurance and investing,
along with resources that can help them in
their personal life.

28

" We teach employees financial wellness
because if they know how to take care of
their personal finances, it makes them better
prepared to talk to consumers, " said Debbie
Frank, CEO of Credit Bureau Services LLC.
The agency also makes the course
available to consumers. Through the CBS
G.R.O.W. program, which stands for Gaining
Resources, Opportunity and Wealth, they
have reached out to businesses in the
community offering insurance, employment,
banking, accounting, legal and other services
to establish a referral program.
" If we have a person on the phone who is
unemployed or may need to increase their
income, we make a referral to the employment
agency, " Frank said. " If they express interest in
debt consolidation, we make the referral to our
endorsed bank provider. "
Hanson is a proponent of a community
approach to improving consumer education
about financial matters.
" There are many community programs
and outreach services that can help
consumers, " she said. " In health care, for
example, our people are well versed in
community care programs at area hospitals
and clinics. These are all tools they want
to share with consumers who usually are
unaware of such options. "
KLS Financial Services takes another
approach to educating consumers. The
company's website features the consumerfocused Planting Seeds blog. Articles cover a
wide variety of topics, including eliminating
various types of debt, financial organization
and saving money on food. Recent blog
posts tackled the timely subjects of finding
work during the pandemic and who does
well during recessions.
The blog is a piece of the agency's
overarching brand: " Changing the Face of
Collections. " Employees, who are known
as " change agents " rather than " collectors, "
focus on educating consumers about how
their actions and choices affect their lives.
" The choices consumers make affect so
many things-their purchasing price in
the future, their ability to get a secure job,
their ability to get financial aid and their
ability to get into law school (because of

ethical issues), " said Kimberly Stone, change
consultant for KLS Financial Services.
" We do try to paint that picture when we
speak with people. We can't do so on every
call, which is why we've started our blog.
We can refer them to our website to see if
something strikes them and can help. "
KLS also participates in North
Carolina's Financial Literacy Council,
which helps students receive financial
literacy education in high school. Students
participate in debate-team-style financial
literacy groups and developing business
plans, which are reviewed by KLS staff
members to provide feedback.

ACA'S NEW CONSUMER
LITERACY WEBSITE
ACA International members are
encouraged to link to and share
the new Know My Debt website
(www.knowmydebt.com). This
soon-to-launch version of the
former Ask Dr. Debt website
includes answers to common
questions about debt-related and
other consumer finance topics.
" One of my personal dreams is to start
a panel that addresses financial literacy
at the high school level-filing taxes,
accounting, getting financial aid, what
happens when you don't pay a bill, " Stone
said. " Developing that knowledge should
start when they're young. "

THE LANDMINES
As with any interaction between collectors
and consumers, discussing financial
matters presents some risk. Agencies are
not in the business of providing legal
advice and should avoid topics likely to be
interpreted as such.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.knowmydebt.com http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

Collector - April 2021

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