Don't fall prey to aggressive debt collection tactics
Debt collectors must follow rules set by law
By Todd Ossenfort
The Credit Guy
The Credit Guy, Todd Ossenfort, is a credit expert and answers readers' questions about credit, counseling and debt issues.
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Dear Credit Guy,
have a credit card debt that has gone to the first stages of collection. I
recently talked with the collector about my debt and was offered a settlement
of half the balance. I was told that it could be paid in one lump sum or in
three payments of about $1,300 each.
told him that I would love to take that settlement, but I do not have the money
to do that and asked for some time to try to come up with it. Of course, I was
told that this was a 24-hour deal. He tried to tell me I didn't have any other
options other than paying the full balance in 12 months at over $600 a month!
Again, I let him know that I didn't have that kind of money being out of work
for the past six months and just starting a new job.
tried to come up with that would be something I could afford and not put me out
of my apartment he said no to and would not give me any decisionmaking time.
It all had to be right now and his way or nothing! Now he is harassing me with
phone calls where he won't listen to anything I have to say. He is unwilling to make any deal with me that
I am comfortable with. I want to pay this debt, but it has to be on easier
terms. Can you help? -- Robert
on knowing what you can afford to pay on your debt and sticking to your guns
while communicating with the collector. It sounds as if this is your first
experience with collectors, and you do not have the experience with unpaid debt that
the collector does. The collector does this for a living and has scripts on
what to say to consumers in debt to get them to pay what they owe. You did very
well by not caving in and agreeing to something that you know you cannot
state that you know this is your debt and that you would like to pay what you
owe. You have several choices in how to move forward with the collector. First,
if the collector will not listen to you and you feel you are being harassed,
stop answering the phone. Instead, send a written offer to pay what you can
afford each month to the collector along with the payment to show your offer is
serious. Send the correspondence certified mail with a return receipt request. You
can then wait to see if you receive anything from the collector in writing regarding
your offer. If the collector suggests a larger monthly payment, once again,
stick to only the amount you can afford. The danger here is the collector could
decide to sue you in court, file a judgment (if the collector wins in court) and
garnish your wages if a payment plan is not reached.
you could consider hiring an attorney with experience in handling consumer debt
issues. Once you hire an attorney, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
stipulates that you can demand that all communication concerning the debt go through your attorney.
You will spend a little more satisfying your debt, but you will have an
advocate on your side to assure you receive a fair and affordable debt
you might consider contacting a nonprofit credit counseling agency (accredited with either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies) to assist
you in negotiating with the collector. After reviewing your financial
situation with a certified counselor, you can decide if repaying the debt
through a debt management plan (DMP) would make sense for you. The cost would most
likely be less than hiring an attorney, but you would have a small monthly fee
($50 or less, based on state laws) for repaying the debt with a DMP.
you decide to move forward, continue to insist that you will only pay what you
can afford monthly.
care of your credit!
See related: How wage garnishment works -- and how to avoid it, Take these steps to avoid wage garnishment, Know your rights: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 11 tips for dealing with debt collection, collectors, Debt collection sample letters
Todd Ossenfort is the chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling in Rapid City, S.D. Pioneer Credit Counseling has been a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies since 1997.
The Credit Guy answers a question about a debt or credit issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week.
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Published: May 31, 2010