Updated on 09.16.14

5 Ways to Deal With Debt Collectors and Harrassment

Trent Hamm

If you’re in a situation where debt collectors are calling you three times a day demanding that your debts be repaid, you’re probably rather worried and possibly rather frightened about the situation, especially if you are having difficulty paying back the debts you owe. Even worse, many debt collectors are highly unscrupulous, calling people that are obviously frightened over and over again, hoping to get a piece of that debt in their hands.

The truth is that you have a lot of rights in this situation, rights that the debt collector probably isn’t going to inform you about. Take a long look at the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, passed by Congress on September 30, 1996. It’s quite long, but what this act does is deliver a number of protections for you as a person in debt to fend off overly aggressive actions by debt collectors.

I’m not going to tell you that you can get out of this debt without paying it and with your credit report intact – that’s basically impossible in most cases. However, here are five great actions you can take to slow down the debt collectors – or even stop them.

First, request an official notice of the debt. If you claim that you haven’t received an official notice of the debt, they can’t contact you for a period until it’s clear you have received it. This is usually done via registered letter, so if you’ve already accepted a registered letter in regards to this debt, this tactic won’t work.

Second, dispute the debt. Just inform the collector in writing that you are disputing the debt. Until the collector can verify the debt and provide this evidence to you, they can’t contact you. This again gives you some breathing room to figure things out.

Third, contact your state’s attorney general. Specifically state your interactions with the persistent debt collector and ask whether or not this is within the guidelines allowed in your state. This can usually give you a tool to fight the most aggressive behavior.

Fourth, get their address and inform them in writing to stop contacting you. Once you do this, you can only be contacted in the event that a collector is taking a specific action in regards to you and your debt. If you catch them contacting you again without such a reason, you may have grounds for a lawsuit that could result in the forgiveness of your debt.

Finally, negotiate with them. Offer to pay a strong percentage of the debt (say, 50%) immediately in exchange for a forgiveness of the debt and an elimination of it from your credit report, both given to you in writing. Most debt collectors will jump at this as they are usually paid on a commission based on getting anything at all out of you. This likely won’t scour your credit report clean, but it will improve things.

The Federal Trade Commission offers several additional tips for working with debt collectors. Good luck.

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  1. ideagirl says:

    You forgot another very important step–request that ALL communication be in writing. If you do this, by law they have to 1) provide you a written notice of the debt within 30 days, 2) stop calling you immediately. A simple, “All communiction regarding this issues must be in writing,” and terminating the call will do the trick. Just note the date and time of the call for your records, as well as the name of the caller (it will probably be fake) and any caller ID info for your records.

    Note that I live in California, the laws may very n other states, but I am pretty certain this is also spelled out in the FDCPA.

  2. jake says:

    You can also record calls. I had the unfortunate privilege of being called on a over due credit card payment (the only one ever because of miscommunication on my part), but i was just surprised at how aggressive and just out right mean they are.

    The guy kept asking when I would pay, or if I can pay right now. After I told him I’d pay as soon as I can he told me he has made a note of it on the system that i promise to pay within 3 days before I get another call. I only had about $50 on the account. The whole time I was thinking what a crappy job he had, calling people with bad news and nagging them about payments kinda reminds me of mafia people in movies.

    It didn’t hit me until i ran a credit check for my FICO score and it showed up. It hurt even more when i found out it will remain there for 7 years!! It is still a sight for sore eyes every time i run a FICO score report. Its like a F on your grade report. It stands out.

  3. icup says:

    I have this problem where debt collectors contact ME about OTHER people’s debts. It seems to happen at least once a year for some reason. One time it was over my Mom’s debts. Another time it was because some deadbeat I don’t even know put down my cell phone number somewhere on some form.

    Anyway, from my experience, it is extremely difficult to get debt collectors to give you their address so you can write to them to request they stop calling you. Hell, its difficult to even get them to answer the phone sometimes, even though they call me EVERY DAY.

    Oh, and re: negotiation, make DAMN SURE its your debt they are calling you about before you even mention you might be willing to negotiate. If you agree to pay a debt that is not yours, they can and will treat it like a verbal contract and go after you for it even if you don’t know the person who incurred the debt. And they set it up so that you have to call them and agree to them recording you before they will even talk to you, so there is their proof in court.

  4. Kevin says:

    When someone calles you on the phone asking you to pay money for a debt, do you just say ok here is my checking account number? No! There is a website http://www.adviceontime.com who has a shot narrative on credit. It makes sense. I have every single person stop calling me and validate the debt first. Why should I pay for some else who hase the same name that I have? And why do they keep calling me? They use google to search names then attack the first person with the same name. That is wrong. Do your homework first then pay who you think you owe if they can prove it.

  5. barry1234 says:

    1. Ask what the exact balance is, and then tell them
    you just got a loan and will be the sending a
    check for the balance in the next day or two.
    2. When they ask you to set up a payment over the
    phone, tell them the bank’s overnighting it.

    This will keep them from calling you for the next ten days.

    Or, you could always tell that you need a lower monthly minimum and interest rates are so high you can’t really get ahead. Important: tell them it’s going to take you at least a couple years to get caught up. Then you’re more likely to get a long-term program with low interest and low montly payments. *This only works though if your account HAS NOT gone to an outside collection agency. Don’t wait til that happens! Work on your account before it charges off!

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