Dealing With The Debt Collectors

By Darren Cason

Anyone can be anxious when the debt collectors are constantly ringing up and sending threatening letters of demand. But rest assured that there is protection in a number of forms and ways that you can deal with the debt collectors that hassle you.

There is an Act that lays down the guidelines as to what a debt collector can and cannot do when they are trying to collect a debt. It is called the "Fair Debt Collection Practices" Act. This Act states, amongst other aspects, that the debt collectors are not allowed to call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; they cannot garnish wages in those states where it has been made illegal and they must cease the continual phone calls if you ask them to.

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There are several things you can do.

Don't take the call. Use an answering machine to screen calls. For those people who have caller ID or call blocking, you will be able to get rid of the call entirely.

If you do decide to take the call, it is entirely reasonable for you to request that they do not contact you further. If you send the agency a "cease and desist" letter, they are then legally prevented from contacting you. Any legal action can be expensive, so it is wise to try other ways first.

If the debt is in fact yours to pay, if you are able to, you should think about paying it. After all it is your responsibility and should be paid. If you are truly finding it difficult to pay, then perhaps you can negotiate a way of making regular, lower payments until the debt is paid in full.

Make the committment and stick to it and the annoying calls should stop. These debt collectors are real people just doing their job, even if some of them are less than pleasant about it and they will usually not bother you once you have an agreement with them.

Maintain a record of calls that have been made either by you or to you in a diary, together with any arrangements that have been made. Keep a record of when you have asked them to stop calling - this is most important if they have been calling you at your workplace. If it is legal in your state, you may consider taping the phone call, but keep in mind that often means that you have to tell the other person that you are recording them.

There are not many debt collectors that are brave enough (or unwise enough) to say things that may compromise them when they are aware they are being recorded. The record or diary will be helpful if you have negotiated a change in the payment regime.

The majority of debt collectors are able to agree to a lower payment, but because they usually get a commission based on the percentage of their collection, they will push you to pay as close to the whole amount as possible. However, they do understand that if you are able to pay 50% of $500, it is preferable to receiving 100% of nothing at all.

When you make an agreement, the debt collector should also make their own commitment that they will not put any further adverse comments on your credit report or credit rating. Ask them to report any increase on your credit score as well as the payments that you do make as soon as possible so you can adjust the amount owed accordingly.

Be sure that you obtain agreements in writing before you send any substantial amounts of money. A "good faith" payment is fine as it will show that you are sincere in your efforts to clear the debt, but if you send too much at one time, they will be less inclined to adhere to their side of the bargain.

There are three things that you should always retain when you are dealing with debt collection: patience, a realistic outlook and remaining calm when discussing matters financial. If you remember these, you will reduce the stress of the situation.

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