When Push Comes to Shove: What to do When Collectors Get Nasty

In the original movie “The Godfather,” the Mob wanted a rich horse owner’s cooperation in rigging the horse races.  Being himself very wealthy, money was not enough to persuade the horse owner. So the Mob made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The rich man woke up one fine morning feeling something wet on his bed.  It was the decapitated head of his prized horse!  The Mob got what they wanted.

When Push Comes to Shove

It’s highly unlikely that the collection agencies running after you will resort to such extreme measures to extricate from you your payments to your overdue bills. Expect them to show remarkable persistence in tracking you down more effectively than a trained Lab. Accept that they’ll be working the phone like there’ll be no tomorrow. Be resigned to their endless mails that’ll be blocked as spam if done online. Don’t, however, make the mistake of refusing phone calls and throwing written communication in the trash can unopened. This is as much psychological warfare as the ones done in hot wars. What the collectors are waging against you is the cold version. You might end up with a debt consolidation loan with bad credit after the smoke clears, and will have to make that call to a non-profit debt consolidation service, but this s just one of several end-game options. In the meantime, you have rights that have to be protected.

Try Diplomacy

In fact, it might be good to try to talk to them, explain your situation, and try to work out a plan with them regarding the cordial resolution of the matter, if possible, without their having to turn over your account to collection. They’d probably refuse, but you wouldn’t know till you’ve tried, would you? Besides, that will signal to them that you haven’t lost your composure as much as they might have wished.

Here are other tips on how to deal with your creditors:

Know What Creditors Can, and Cannot, Do

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act details precisely what it is that creditors and their collectors can, and cannot, do. This federal law does not clear you of liability. What it does is protect your rights and prevent collectors from muscling in on you.

Here’s a list of what creditors cannot do:

Contact your employers or neighbors about your problem.

Collectors are barred from calling you at the office on office time, or at inappropriate places like someone else’s house, your church, or at the hospital. They may call you only at home, and they may not speak with your relatives or associates, unless you’ve inadvertently allowed them to when you wrote down names as credit references. That’s why you should be careful in filling out credit applications, especially that part where you are asked for personal references or the names of your closest relatives. Of course it’s embarrassing, but it’d be good idea to advise your relatives and associates to expect such calls.

Harass you with late evening or early morning calls.

They may call you between 8 AM and 9 PM in your time zone. Earlier or later, and you can hang up after you’ve informed them what time it is in your time zone. Expect collectors to violate these federal safeguards set up for the protection of debtors like you. Often, all it’d take is for you to remind what collectors can, and cannot, do. This is usually enough to signal to them that you’re not one to mess up with, and cause them to apologize and promptly hang up.

Phone you repeatedly.

Collectors may call you only once during the day. If you have an attorney, collectors may not even call you, only your attorney, unless you allow them to.

Threaten or abuse you with profane or obscene language.

They can describe to you the consequences, for instance, legal action, but in a language that’s free of obscenities. Moreover, the consequences they describe must be all true. They cannot, for instance, threaten to write your pastor about your debt.

But you should do your part too. Upon receipt of a written notice of debt from a collector, you’re expected to respond within five days. Do so. And don’t make the mistake of disputing the details unless you have a good reason to. Doing so will buy you time while your claim of an error is being checked, but if proven baseless, your stalling will boomerang, and you’ll find yourself in a worse situation.

Persist in harassing you after you’ve sent a cease letter.

If you want the calls to disappear, you can writer a cease letter, and the collectors will have to comply, after one more final letter supposed to confirm your request, but which may include final reminders of the possible consequences to you.

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