Don’t take the bait. That’s exactly what a debt collector wants you to do.
What bait are we talking about? Most debt collectors will offer to cut you some kind of deal—but if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Their goal is to trick you into giving them what they want: your money. But once you fall into their trap, don’t be surprised when the deal doesn’t work out the way they say it would.
That’s exactly why the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection came up with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act—to protect you in situations just like this. In 2020, there were 82,700 complaints about debt collection!1 That’s a lot of complaints. But get this: 10% of those complaints were about collectors using false statements or representation. Even worse, most of those complaints were about debt collectors trying to get people to pay the wrong amount.2 Not cool, debt collectors. Not cool.
When a collector offers you a “deal,” be careful not to get duped into accepting something that puts you in a bind.
4 Dirty Ways Debt Collectors Try to Get Your Money
A debt collector’s sole purpose is to try and get you to pay bills that are past due (even if those bills aren’t yours!). And they’re not above bullying you, twisting their words, tricking you, or crossing the line to get your money.
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Watch out for these four dirty ways debt collectors try to get you to pay:
1. Requesting Bank Account Information
The collector tries to make this sound like a convenient way for you to pay your debt and get back to your normal life. After all, isn’t that what you both want—a simple solution to fix things? They tell you that all you have to do is give them your checking account or debit card information so you can pay your past-due bill, and they’ll take it from there. The problem is, they’ll do a little too much taking. Don’t be fooled if they say they’ll only take out a certain amount. In reality, they will clean out your account to pay your balance—leaving no money for you to pay for food, housing and other necessities.
2. Refusing to Send a Written Settlement Offer
Remember the saying, “If it isn’t in writing, then it never happened”? That’s definitely true when a collector makes a debt settlement offer. Don’t send them a single penny without getting the agreement in a letter (or email). If you don’t have written proof, they’ll take your partial payment and then continue on their merry way of harassing you. Instead, ask for a written offer first. If they refuse to send it, that means they were never serious about settling in the first place.
If you do get a settlement letter, keep it for the rest of your life, along with a copy of your canceled check. Settled debts sometimes find their way to debt buyers who purchase the debt and then harass you to pay it—all over again.
And get this: 19% of complaints to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau were from people who said debt collectors tried to get them to pay on a bill that had already been paid.3 This is why keeping good records is your best defense against this nasty tactic.
3. Demanding Payment on Their Debt Above All Others
Collectors want their specific debts to be paid first. In other words, someone from American Express is more concerned that you pay your bill with them before you get to Sallie Mae. They may even suggest that you let other bills slide and use the extra cash to get caught up with them first.
This doesn’t benefit you because you’re just swapping one debt for another. And in some cases, it can make a bad situation even worse. For example, if you fall behind on a student loan payment to get caught up on the credit card, you’re inviting trouble from the government instead. Yikes.
4. Asking for Postdated Checks
If a collector asks you to send multiple postdated checks, that’s a big red flag. They promise to cash the check on certain dates, corresponding to the date on each check. But watch out—they’ll cash every check as soon as they get them. At that point, there’s nothing you can do because you owe and paid the money, even if they lied to you to get it. (Psst, they don’t really care if they take all your money and leave you high and dry.)
It’s important to maintain control of the situation when dealing with collectors. Allowing them to dictate the terms of the debt collection takes the power away from you. And there’s nothing worse than dealing with debt collectors when you don’t have the money to give them.
Say Goodbye to Debt (and Debt Collectors)
Having trouble imagining a life without the daily harassment from your favorite debt collector? That’s rough. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And while we can’t erase your debt for you, we can help you find freedom from the relentless hounding of those debt bullies.
A financial coach has seen it all when it comes to the sneaky ways of debt collectors. And they’ll make it their mission to help you outsmart those collectors by helping you come up with a plan to keep food in the fridge and pay off your debt. Talking to a trained financial coach will show you how to deal with debt collectors—the right way—so you can come out on top. Book a free coaching call today to get started on your plan toward living a debt-free life.
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