Individuals or companies who are owed money employ debt collectors as an appointed agent. Consumer debt makes up the majority of the workload. Commercial debt collection involves retrieving money owed by businesses.
Consumer debt collection nowadays makes up the majority of the workload of a debt collector. This involves collecting money from members of the public who have not paid debts such as mail order catalogue repayments or credit card bills.
In the case of personal debt, a debt collector contacts the debtor in writing or by telephone to ask for the debt to be settled. They may, at this stage, listen to the reasons for non-payment and offer appropriate advice based on the debtor’s circumstances. For example, alternative methods of payment might be suggested. Debt collectors always try to reach a settlement with the debtor that is also acceptable to the creditor.
A field debt collector visits the customer’s home if payment is not received. Only as a last resort does a debt collector start legal proceedings. At this stage a bailiff may be employed by a creditor to seize a debtor’s goods or assets.
In commercial debt collection large amounts of money can be owed. A debt collector contacts the company by letter or telephone. If there is no response they threaten legal action and if the company still does not pay, legal proceedings start.
Debt collectors can specialise in international work. Foreign debt collection companies and legal professionals may be contracted to assist with this. Other debt collectors may specialise as trace agents looking for debtors who have vanished. Debt collectors may also serve and summons High Court writs.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a debt collector you should be patient but assertive. You must be able to remain calm, tactful and understanding in relatively distressing situations. The work demands excellent negotiation skills since debt collectors must discuss with the debtor and creditor how the debt can be settled.
You would need to keep accurate records of all correspondence with debtors. These are stored on computer, so it is helpful if you have keyboard skills and some knowledge of computers. Some mathematical ability is necessary for calculating how much the debtor could pay.
There are no minimum qualifications for entry to this job. However, some entrants have academic qualifications. For example, graduates may be recruited into trainee management positions. The Irish Institute of Credit Management runs relevant courses.
Candidates are advised to check the prospectus of each individual institution for further information.