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Collectors have one thing in mind when they are on the phone with you—how to get your money. And some don’t have a problem playing dirty.
If you are dealing with collectors, first maintain the Four Walls by taking care of your food, shelter, utilities, clothing and transportation. Watch a short explanation on the importance and strategy of taking care of the four walls. Then pay what you owe from what you have left, but don’t tolerate abuse. Fight back by learning the collector’s game and standing up for yourself. It’s important to know how to counter a collector’s threats. Here are five threats you might hear, and how to respond:
1. They threaten to garnish your wages
A collector may tell you that they will clean out your next paycheck before you even get it. This gets you to panic about buying groceries and gas, and you then pay out of fear. But guess what? The collector can’t garnish anything unless they first sue you (which can take months and months) and then win the judgment. They can’t just call a bank and reroute your check.
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Your Response: If a collector says they’ll get your check, say these two words: “Go ahead.” You’ll hear some typing noises in the background, and they’ll tell you that you had your chance—but nothing will happen because you called their bluff.
2. They threaten to have you arrested
This one can get people scared because they might compare debt to theft. If you steal, you can go to jail. If you have not paid your bill, isn’t that like stealing? Some collectors will say yes, and they’ll threaten to have you arrested if you don’t pay.
Your Response: Tell the collector that you’ve done your research and you know that people don’t go to prison for falling behind on a payment. No matter how much they insist that you will, you won’t.
3. They say you still owe money on a debt you paid off
It’s frustrating when you pay off a debt and a collector says you didn’t. It’s even more upsetting when you don’t have a receipt. Collectors can scare you into paying it off again. When you pay off a debt, keep the receipt or proof that it’s paid off for the rest of your life.
Your Response: If they call to yell, just counter with “I’ve got the receipt right here. It says paid off.” If you paid the debt but didn’t keep the receipt, go to your bank and get a copy of the check you used to pay it.
4. They try to bluff you with a nonexistent debt
Maybe your identity was stolen or the collection agency gets your name mixed up with someone else. Whatever the case, a collector may try to bluff you with a debt that isn’t even yours. They will make all the same threats and try to scare you, even though you haven’t spent a penny.
Your Response: Tell them to produce proof of the debt. “I don’t need to produce proof” is not an answer. Calmly tell them to send it to you. If they refuse or start to threaten you, calmly ask them again. If they keep at it, hang up.
5. They threaten to tell others about your debt
This tactic is meant solely to embarrass you. A collector will say that they’ll call all your neighbors and tell them that you are a bum. There is good and bad news here. The good news is that the collector can’t reveal any information about the account. They can just ask your neighbor to have them call (collector’s name) at (collector’s number). The bad news is that your neighbors will find it odd that a complete stranger called them with a message for you.
Your Response: “So what?” Tell them to explain why it should frighten you when they can’t reveal any information to the other person.
What to Do If They Cross the Line
The best way to get the collectors out of your life forever is to make a budget and start paying off your debts. In the meantime, when you know the game that collectors play, you can spoil their fun—and maybe even have a little of your own.
Related: 5 Myths About What Debt Collectors Can Do
If a collector is harassing you and crossing the line, contact CollectionBully.com. Collection Bully will evaluate your situation, and if the collector is in violation, they will fight for you.
What other ways have debt collectors threatened or harrassed you? Tell us in the comments below.