I don’t think one can ever be too suspicious when dealing with debt collectors.
Collectors are a lot like salespeople – they go from one lead/contact to another. Time is literally money and they are not going to spend a lot of time on you, if there wasn’t the possibility of a return on the investment.
When I was in the industry, there were of course, quite a few ‘direct’ collectors – the ones who would say things like ‘what kind of example are you setting for your children?’ and far worse. They didn’t last long, nor bring in the ‘big bucks’. The ‘Good Cop’ collectors, on the other hand, had the nicest cars in the parking lot. They got the plum accounts and mentored the green collectors (like yours truly).
If I thought there was an attachable asset (through either intuition or ‘creative research’), I would call up the debtor and be the nicest guy in the world. I would say something to the effect of: “Hey, I need to clean up my collection list and I feel like you would pay if you could, but you just don’t have the ability to. If you could help me clear your name off my list here, that would be great. I just need to let my client know you just aren’t able to pay.” With that, I would have the debtor verify their employer (and most of the time, a salary), disclose assets, sources of income, etc.
This method was successful over 90% of the time. I still cannot believe how successful the ‘Good Cop’ method was – and how much information debtors were willing to give me. Of course they were immediately either referred to suit, or there was a second call (not so nice). There was a huge disconnect between the amount debtors think they can pay and what they can be forced to pay – especially when they are not fully aware of their rights. Most often, all it took was the threat of a suit or garnishment, for payment to come in.
Note that I would be VERY careful not to say that I would stop calling them. I might say something like ‘not call you as much’, instead. Of course, if the collector truly wants a reason not to call you, there are some very good letters on this board that will help him out with that.
Also – I treat my (real) signature, like I do my Social Security Number. If it’s not 100% required by law, it’s not going on the document. Period.