Dealing with a bill collector is never fun and it can be particularly stressful when youâre sitting on a mountain of debt. Sometimes debt collectors fail to follow the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If thatâs the issue youâre facing, it might be a good idea to file a complaint. But if youâre personally making any of these mistakes, your debt problem could go from bad to worse.
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1. Ignoring Debt Collectors
Screening calls and avoiding bill collectors wonât help you get your debt under control. Debts generally have a statute of limitations that varies depending on the state you live in. Once it expires, the collector might not be able to sue you anymore. But you could still be responsible for paying back what you owe in addition to any interest that has accumulated.
In addition to the potential legal consequences of unpaid bills, letting old debt pile up can destroy your credit score. Unpaid debts can remain on a credit report for as many as seven years. So if your debt collector is getting on your last nerves, it might be best to stop hiding and face him head on.
2. Saying Too Much Over the Phone
If you decide to stop dodging your bill collectors, itâs important to avoid sharing certain details over the phone. You never want to say that youâll pay a specific amount of money by a deadline or give someone access to your bank accounts. Anything you say can be used against you and agreeing to make a payment can actually extend a statute of limitations that has already run out.
A debt collectorâs No. 1 goal is to collect their missing funds. They canât curse at you or make empty threats, but they can say other things to try and scare you into paying up. Staying calm, keeping the call short and keeping your comments to a minimum are the best ways to deal with persistent bill collectors.
Related Article: Dealing With Debt Collectors? Know Your Rights
3. Failing to Verify That the Debt Is Yours
When youâre talking to a bill collector, itâs also wise to avoid accepting their claims without making sure theyâre legitimate. Debt collection scams are common. So before you send over a single dime, youâll need to confirm that the debt belongs to you and not someone else.
Reviewing your credit report is a great place to start. If you havenât received any written documentation from the collection agency, itâs a good idea to request that they mail you a letter stating that you owe them a specific amount of money.
If you need to dispute an error you found on your credit report, you have 30 days from the date that you received formal documentation from the collection agency to notify them (in writing) that a mistake was made. Youâll also need to reach out to each of the credit reporting agencies to get the error removed. Theyâll expect you to mail them paperwork as proof of your claim.
4. Failing to Negotiate the Payments
No matter how big your debts, thereâs usually room for negotiation when it comes to making payments. If the payment plan your bill collector offers doesnât work for you, itâs okay to throw out a number youâre more comfortable with.
Sometimes, itâs possible to get away with paying less than what you owe. Instead of agreeing to pay back everything, you can suggest that youâre willing to pay back a percentage of the debt and see what happens. A non-profit credit counselor can help you come up with a debt management plan if you need assistance. Whatever you agree to, keep in mind that the deal needs to be put in writing.
Related Article: All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt
5. Failing to Keep Proper Documentation
Whenever you communicate with a bill collector, itâs a good idea to take notes. Jotting down details about when you spoke with a collector and what you discussed can help you if youâre forced to appear in court or report a collector who has broken the law. Collecting written notices from bill collectors and saving them in a folder can also help your case.
Dealing with bill collectors can be a real pain. By knowing how to interact with them, youâll be in the best position to get rid of your unpaid loans and credit card debt (that is, if you actually owe anything) on your own terms.
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