Dealing with Bill Collectors

Are the bill collectors calling you constantly? Are they harassing you incessantly or sending you letters? If so, here are some bill collector negotiation tips that may come in handy. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are certain standards and regulations bill collectors must follow when pursuing payment of debts. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal law that dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you. It stipulates that a debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while you're at work if the collector knows that your employer doesn't approve of such calls. Collectors may not harass you, lie to you, or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. Also, they must honor any written request from you to stop further contact, but you must know the rules. The FTC states: "You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Please note, however, that sending such a letter to a collector does not make the debt go away if you actually owe it. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor."

Before you are contacted by a bill collector, make a list of all your debts. Determine – based on your income and expenses – how much you can afford to pay each month. (As long as you pay a minimum of $1.00 monthly, the bill collector cannot refer your account to a collection agency. Furthermore:

  • The bill collector's only job is to collect money. They don't care what your circumstances are; so they may not be too much point in even trying to explain your circumstances.
  • Do not offer any personal information. They may be able to use it to track you down.
  • They may try to intimidate you; don't fall for it. Above all, stay calm, cool, and collected.
  • Experts advise that it may be a good idea to record the conversations (after notifying the other party) so that in the event they cross the line, you can submit the recordings to a Federal agency.
  • Write down the name of the person who called, the time, and the date. Take notes of the conversation, as well.
  • Send payments by money order, with return receipt requested. This way you'll have proof of payment.
  • If you agree on a payment settlement, send a letter along with your payment verifying the amount enclosed and stating that you have now been released from all pending charges. Also note on the bottom of the letter that you'll be sending a copy to the FTC and your lawyer, if applicable.
  • Finally, after your settlement payment, check your credit report to ensure that it denotes payment has been made.

 

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