If a few years ago you made some mistakes and didn’t pay a couple of your bills, eventually they’re going to come back to haunt you. Your debt will be sold to a collection agency that might try to collect the debt, if they can’t do it, they’ll resell it to another collection agency and they’ll try. Not all collection agencies are dishonest and malicious, but some of them are. They’ll call you at work, yell at you on the phone, call you at inconvenient times during the day, call several times a day, and just abuse you as much as they can. They make themselves so annoying and intrusive that you just want them out of your life so you go ahead and pay them. They know that you’d never put a credit card payment above your mortgage when thinking logically, so they have to try to get you to pay on an emotional level. A lot of the practices by credit card collectors and other collection agencies are very unethical and often illegal. Know what your rights are, what they can and cannot do, what’s illegal, and what’s not
Collection agencies cannot legally do the following things. If they do any of these things, they are in violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices act, and you could most likely sue the company and win. Debt collections cannot legally harass you or use intimidating language. They cannot call you before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM in your time zone. They cannot call your work place without your consent. They cannot use false or deceptive statements such as pretending to be an attorney’s office when they are not. They cannot garnish your paycheck. They cannot threaten to send you to jail. They cannot threaten you with violence or misrepresent the money that you owe them. Even though all of these things are illegal, many of them blatantly ignore federal law and do it anyway.
If credit agencies do any of these things, let them talk to a dial tone. When they call back, tell them that if they want to have an adult conversation, you’ll be happy to do that, but if they are going to start abusing you again, they’ll be talking to a dial tone. They’ll call you every day and bug you if you let them. You really should only accept their calls once every two weeks or so. This way they won’t be invading your life.
If you can manage to find someone who is a sane human being at the collection agencies, ask for proof of the debt. They have to be able to send you a letter proving that you owe the debt before they can collect from you. If they can’t do this, don’t pay them anything.
Usually they will tell you that the amount of money you owe is three or four times what it originally was because of all the “late fees.” Chances are they bought the debt for ten cents on the dollar or less, so they don’t have a whole lot of money invested into your debt. Usually you can negotiate down to about 30 to 60 percent of the amount that you originally owe if you write them a lump sum check. When you do negotiate a settlement, make sure that the agreement is in writing, because they’ll try to get more money out of you if you don’t. They’ll say they made a mistake, and the balance was higher than they said it was.
You have to be very careful when paying them. Never give a collection agency post-dated checks or electronic access to your checking account, they’ll clean you out. The best way to pay is with a money order, that way they don’t have your checking account information. A lot of them will claim they won’t accept a personal check or a money order as a payment method, but they are lying. They just want your checking account information so they can suck all of the money out of it.
Don’t let them harass you or be abusive to you. Let them talk to a dial tone if they are. Make sure they can prove the debt is yours before even thinking about paying it. Negotiate a settlement and get it in writing. Never give them post-dated checks or electronic access to your checking account. A lot of them have very unethical and illegal practices, and you shouldn’t have to be one of their next victims.