“Pay NOW or else!”
“Or else what?”
“Or else we will have you arrested, have your kids taken away, tell your friends and family how bad you are at paying what you owe, publish your debts in the local newspaper, continue to call at all hours of the night, notify your employer that you owe us a lot of money, and whatever else it takes to get you to pay up instead of being a @#(!%……”
Sound bad? Unfortunately, this is what some people face when they can’t or won’t pay their bills on time. It is no secret that some debt collectors can get pretty nasty when pursuing payment. Unfortunately for them, every threat made above, including the cussing, is illegal according to federal law. If they do commit a violation, you can file a report and be awarded up to $1,000. It doesn’t make your debt go away, but it may send a message that these unfair and illegal practices will not be tolerated.
I will also tell you that there are debt collectors out there that are nothing like those mentioned above. While they still have the job of collecting on your debt, they may be more willing to work with you and more agreeable in going about it. As agreeable as they may be, you also need to follow a few easy tips towards holding up your end of the bargain.
Should you find yourself in the position of working with debt collectors, I want to give you some tips on how to best go about that.
- You can get them to stop calling you. Send a certified letter to them (so that you get a confirmation receipt) asking them to no longer contact you. By law, they must. If you notify them that you are working with an attorney, they also must stop contacting you and deal with your attorney. While it will stop the contact, it does not make the debt go away. Be aware that it may actually speed up the process of taking you to court since you have now left them no other option for collecting on your debt.
- Keep healthy communication open. Talk with them about payments. If you are having trouble keeping up with payments, talk to the collectors before you even actually miss a payment. In communicating, you are showing effort towards fixing the problem. By not communicating with them, you are showing you are unwilling to work with them and they will again be faster to take you to court and obtain a judgement.
- Offer to give something. I understand that you may not be able to pay the debt in full. At least send in something. While it may not please all of them, one collections agency I was recently speaking with stated that they would rather receive something rather than nothing. As soon as you disappear and stop making payments, they move on to the next stage of collections.
- Keep your promises. If you tell them you are going to do something, do it. If you say you will and then don’t and don’t communicate with them about it, you make yourself out to be untrustworthy. They are much less likely to see you as someone they can work with and will just let the courts deal with it. Instead, keep your word and prove that you have the same goal as they do – to get the debt paid.
- Get it in writing. In the course of your conversations, if you get them to agree to a payment plan or partial settlement, ask to receive a copy of that agreement in writing. Having it in writing protects both sides from any misunderstanding or assumption. By being on the same page as to the plan, you will be working together rather than against each other.
- Remember that it’s just a job. While finances can be incredibly personal, the collector on the other end of the phone is just doing their job. They have performed the same job working with other people and will continue to work with even more. Don’t take it personally. Work your best to keep your emotions in check. By doing so, you will be able to think more logically towards resolving the situation.
But, why would anyone be so nice to debt collectors? Aside from the fact that they really are humans too, you want to take care of your debt. By addressing debt, paying it down, and avoiding judgements, you keep your credit score higher. That score may be used by landlords, utilities, employers, insurance companies and more. In short, it is an important score to keep in good shape. The debt collection process, should your debt end up there, is simply one piece to deal with in keeping your score up.
Ideally, everyone would avoid debt going to collections in the first place. Should you see yourself headed that way, there are other options. An appointment with a certified credit counselor at the Center for Financial Resources can help you identify issues and develop a plan to resolve your debt. For example, a managed Debt Management Plan may get and keep your bills current to where collectors won’t be needed. To schedule an appointment with one of our counselors, simply contact the Center for Financial Resources today and get the process started.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net