There are some bill collectors who break the rules and make a bad name for the good ones out there. If you’ve gotten a collection notice these are some helpful tips in dealing with a bill collector. I will present you with several different scenarios that could happen.
Problem: You KNOW you PAID the bill and have PROOF, but have recently received a collection letter.
Solution: Always remain calm no matter how disgusted you are because the more mature and calm you act the more likely the bill collector will listen to you and communicate effectively. Always have a pen and paper next to the phone to jot down conversation notes and important details. You should first call the original creditor and ask them why you got the collection notice when you were just in and paid it and have a receipt or check to prove that it’s paid. The creditor will likely tell you your payment crossed in the mail or something like that. The creditor should then notify the collection agency that the account is paid in full. Ask who you are speaking to and write down names and extension numbers. If they don’t have an extension number ask for that persons last name. You should then call the collection agency and verify that the creditor has notified them the debt was paid. If you speak to the collection agency and they tell you they have not been notified then tell them who you spoke to and tell them your receipt number or check number so they may verify it. Tell the bill collector that you would like them to call you back once they verify with the creditor that the debt was paid. When the collector returns your call and tells you that it is a zero balance then verify that it is not on your credit file. If the bill was paid prior to going to collections then it should not have posted and the collector will tell you. This should solve the problem. If you run into further problems such as the original creditor won’t report the payment to the collection agency then their are laws to protect you. As long as you have your documentation to back you up then you can send the collection agency photocopies if necessary. There are other avenues to pursue but if the bill is paid and you simply bring the error to the attention of the creditor, most creditors will fix their error and apologize.
Problem: You KNOW you OWE THE BILL and WANT TO PAY IT, but don’t know how you will pay it at this time whether it’s due to wages lost, no job, low income, or whatever life has dealt you and don’t want to be harrassed day in and day out with tons of calls and letters from bill collectors.
Solution: Call the bill collector and always remain calm, remember the person on the other end is a human too. Plenty of bill collectors have been in your shoes and really do understand what you are going through. Collectors have to go through extensive training and while their job is to collect the money they will comply with the law. You should explain to them what your situation is, how long you think it will take to pay the bill off and explain that while you want to keep lines of communication open you don’t want to be inundated with calls and letters. If you don’t have any idea how you will pay it, sometimes collectors can offer some advice. Usually if you are willing to be honest and talk to a bill collector they are willing to work with you to help you get your debt cleared up. (example: I owed over $5000 for student loans was not working, was recently married and had a baby. The bill collector would call and I was young and terrified I would usually just hang up. Where did I think that bill was going to go? Finally, one day I spoke to the collector I told her my situation. She suggested my husband pay it, I explained he wouldn’t. I was however making about $20 of my own money each month selling AVON to my friends and family. She suggested I pay $10 per month and gradually increase it. They also agreed to freeze the interest so the bill would not increase. I thought it would take forever to pay that bill and $5000 seemed like a million dollars at that time. I hardly noticed the gradual increase and when I was finally able to make the last payment with some income tax money it was a very happy day.)
Problem: You KNOW YOU OWE THE BILL BUT JUST DON’T WANT TO PAY IT.
Solution: Whatever your reason is for not wanting to pay the bill you should have tried to resolve it before it ended up with a collection agency. If you were not given the chance to try to resolve it before it went to collections you should first talk to the creditor and try to resolve it. If you do resolve it with the creditor get it in writing and then mail a copy to the collection agency. Make a follow up call to the collection agency to make sure they received the communication and that you have been removed from their file. If you can not come to a resolution with the orginal creditor then you can tell the collection agency you don’t intend to pay the bill and do not want any further communications. However, BEWARE, if you do this it can still show up on your credit report and you could still end up paying the bill for that reason alone, for example when you go apply for a loan. Another reason I say BEWARE, if you choose to do this then the original creditor can pursue you in court and it will be up to a judge whether you owe the bill or not. If the judge rules in favor of the creditor you will not only pay the original amount due but you could end up paying attorney fees, interest, and filing fees. Then if you refuse to pay a judgement they can just take the money out of your bank account, paycheck etc. So this is not a very good idea and you can end up paying for it dearly in the long run.
Many times these problems can be resolved without all the high blood pressure, yelling and screaming. In fact, they are usually easier to resolve when you do remain calm and level headed. Speaking to a bill collector doesn’t have to be a horrible experience.
A final tip: If you should happen to run into one of those bill collectors who is breaking the law visit the Federal Trade Commission website they have a lot of advice to offer and lists the FDCPA and FACTA information.