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What does a Collection Agent do?

A Collection Agent is a professional who recovers unpaid debts from individuals or businesses. They use negotiation skills and legal processes to ensure creditors receive the money owed to them. But how do they maintain a balance between firmness and empathy in their job? Let's explore.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

A collection agent works in a collection agency contacting debtors on behalf of its clients. Collection agency careers focus on following the legal protocol for debt collecting while creating a sense of urgency for debtors to start paying on their delinquent accounts. A collection agent spends most of his or her workday calling debtors on the phone and sending letters to debtors.

Collection agents send out form letters to debtors. These letters usually stress urgency for the debtor to pay a certain amount within a specified number of days. The letters end by asking the debtor to call the collection agent to make payment arrangements as soon as possible. When collection letters are mailed, it's common for the outer envelope to be very limited in its return address and other information. The law requires collection agencies not to mention anything about the debt on mailing envelopes addressed to debtors.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

When contacting debtors by telephone, a collection agent is required to keep the debt confidential and speak about it only to the debtor. For example, if a person other than the debtor answers the collector's call, the agent must leave his or her name and phone number to be reached at by the debtor and say only that the matter is important without specifying it's about money owed. If the agent's call is answered by the debtor's answering machine, a collection agent may leave a message such as "Hello, my name is Mary Smith and I'm calling for John Jones about a very urgent matter. Mr. Jones, please call me back at 1-800-555-5555 as soon as possible."

The phone number a collection agent gives the debtor to call must be toll free so that making the call doesn't cost debtors anything. When speaking with debtors, collection agents try everything they can within the law to get debtors to agree to a payment schedule. A collection agent is often responsible for a number of delinquent accounts that they work with each day.

It's illegal for collection agents to make any kind of threat to debtors. If a debtor consistently refuses an agent’s requests to pay, the collection agency may ask the agent to send the debtor a demand letter. A demand letter states an amount and time limit in which the debtor must pay to avoid being sued in court over the debt.

Collections jobs have a high turnover rate. A collection agent is likely to quit due to the stress of arguing with debtors each day. The pressure to get payments from debtors can be high as collection agents are usually evaluated and paid based on how well they do at generating debtor payments.

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Discussion Comments


I actually tried being a collection agent after I graduated from college. I worked for a collection agency that took over delinquent bank loans. We were trained to distance ourselves emotionally from our clients. Everybody I contacted had a very sad story to tell, but I had to remember this wasn't a social call. That person entered into a loan contract, and the other party wanted the money. If the client wanted these collection calls and letters to end, he or she needed to make repayment arrangements.

I never resorted to threats or high pressure tactics myself, but the collection agents with the highest success rates had no problem using strong language and persistent contact. I finally had to leave the job after a year because I couldn't leave work at work.


I think that being a collection agent would be one of the worst jobs ever. I hate being told "no" three times in one day, but a collection agent probably hears much worse than that dozens of times a day. If I try to collect money from one of my clients, all I can do is try another day. A collection agent is expected to get more and more aggressive as the day goes on. I don't think I'd make a very good collection agent. I'm way too sympathetic when it comes to people and debt problems.

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