How should you handle a call from a debt collector?

When you’ve got more bills than money, those persistent calls from debt collectors can weigh on your mind. You don’t know whether to send them straight to voicemail or answer them. Both seem equally distressing.

How should you handle these calls? You don’t want to make a mistake that will lead to bigger problems.

Some dos and don’ts

Technically, you have every right to simply tell the debt collector to stop calling you. That’s not always the best option, however. If you do that, the debt collector may turn to alternative means of collection — like a lawsuit. Here are some things to say — and not say:

  • Ask the debt collector to send you written verification of the debt. This will help you understand if the debt is even both really yours and not past the statute of limitations.
  • Don’t admit that you owe the debt. Never acknowledge the debt over the phone.
  • Do not confirm or reveal any information about your employment, your sources of income or your other debts. A debt collector can use that kind of information to find new ways to harass you or collect.
  • Do not indicate a willingness to pay. If pressed, repeat the fact that you aren’t even sure this is your debt until you see more information — in writing.

This tactic puts the debt collector on the defensive. They have to prove the debt is valid before they can go any further with their collection efforts.

At some point, it may be wise to consider whether you have any realistic ability to catch up your bills and pay what you owe. If you don’t, it’s time to think about filing for bankruptcy protection. Talk to an attorney today about your situation to learn more.

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