Here are my hints and tips from my years of going head to head with debt collectors on the phone or in the court room (we have never lost a trial against a debt collector) that you should use if you go at it alone.
Remember: Bargaining with a debt collector is like being in a head on collision with a tough, professional negotiator. But there is good news when you get called or contacted by a debt collector. The debt just became negotiable even if you lack the skills to shrink it.
Tips that can help you keep ahead of these shrewd task masters. Learn your rights.
When you know your rights the debt collectors:
- Know they can’t bluff you
- Are less likely to try aggressive tactics
- Play fair
- Generally, if a debt collector has the debt, they have room to negotiate what you owe. Depending on the (1) state you are in, (2) the amount of the debt and whether the (3) debt collector owns the debt, you can sometimes negotiate the debt to 80% of what you owe. The key is also in the details of any settlement.
(1) If the debt collector is calling upon you in Michigan, Florida, Californian or Nevada right now, they have room to cut and negotiate because they know the economy in those states means there is little money. That is just an economic fact so get to finally use the bad economy for something good!
(2) The higher the debt, the money room to cut. Again, see Number 1 and also know that generally the debt collector will not get a commission (that is how they get paid) or meet their monthly quota if they don’t deal.
(3) If the debt collector owns the debt they have probably paid 5 to 10 cents on the dollar so they can sometimes negotiate the debt way down. Again, find out if the debt collector owns the debt or is really just negotiating for the creditor (visa, discover, HSBC etc).
Again, the key is where you live, how much the debt is and who owns the debt. Next, when you get a deal, make it contingent on:
- If allowed in your state, tape the call if you can Taping the conversation
- Keeps the debt collector on their best behavior
- Ensures that you have a record of the call
- Make sure there’s a record
- File all collection letters
- Keep detailed notes of collection calls
- Note the day and time of each call
- The name of the collection agency
- The first and last name of the caller
- Make a note of what was said
- Get proof of the deal you’ve made with them
Get proof of payment agreement in writing
- Send a letter to the debt collector outlining the payment agreement
- Send the letter via certified mail
- Receive a receipt once the letter is delivered
- Keep a copy for your records
- If you pay by check, write on the check that Cashing that check constitutes payment in full
Wipe your credit clean. Ask a debt collector to:
- Remove any negative information they’ve placed on your credit report
- List your account as paid in full rather than paid in settlement
- Get it in writing once they agreed
Don’t be rushed:
- Do not let a debt collector rush you to send them money immediately
- Resist all those demands and quick offers
- Don’t pay until you have confirmation of a payment agreement in writing