Most people only ever have to deal with debt collectors if they fall behind on their credit card payments. Granted, there are other instances where debt collectors get involved, but the majority of cases are those related to credit card debt. And the thing with debt collectors and credit card debt is, they usually only get involved if some time has passed since you stopped paying your credit card bills. In some cases it might be as little as three to six months, in other cases it might not be till after a year has passed. The calls you get before that are from the credit card companies themselves, not debt collectors and thus should not be handled in the same way.
If you get so far behind on your credit card payments that a debt collector starts calling you, there are two paths you can take; the first is if you intend to pay the debt at some point and the second is if you don’t.
If you do intend to pay the debt, answer the phone when the debt collector calls and tell them what your plans are and see if you can’t work out a reasonable deal; but be warned, debt collectors are not generally as reasonable as you might like; they like to talk about you paying the whole debt immediately and then work from there. You on the other hand might not be able to pay anything until you find another job or you get your tax refund or whatever your plan is. Just remember, you are in the driver’s seat, and thus are the one that can dictate terms. The debt collector has no leverage other than calling you and asking you to do so. Don’t make idle threats though, such as claiming you are going to declare bankruptcy when you have no intention of doing so. And don’t invite them to sue you, or they might just take you up on it. But, also know that debt collection agencies very rarely sue unless there is a lot of money at stake, because the courts don’t generally back up their demands.
On the other hand, if you are so far in debt with your credit and have a situation where you don’t believe your income will ever rise to the point where you can pay off your debt, you have the choice of either trying to declare bankruptcy, or simply ignoring the debt collectors. Declaring bankruptcy is a big step and is worse for your credit rating than not paying a debt collector, so if you choose to not pay the debt collector, then don’t communicate with them at all; doing so will only prolong the time period that they will keep after you. Instead, disconnect your land line if you have to and use only a cell phone; or pick up the phone and hang up on them before they have a chance to talk. There is no law that says you have to talk to or communicate with debt collectors in any way, and doing so will only cause you to be upset and may wind up making the debt collectors work even harder to get some money out of you if they think you may be wavering. Your best bet is to ignore them, because unless they are willing to sue you, which they likely won’t if your debt is not that big or you truly don’t have any money to give them, there is no benefit in talking to them. So don’t. But you need to know that they will keep trying to find you for many years; some for as long as ten or more.
One final note: In any case, if a debt collector does choose to sue you, make sure you show up at the court proceedings, and come fully prepared to defend yourself, otherwise the judge will side with the debt collector and order things like the freezing of your bank account or the selling off of your assets.