Dealing with debt collectors

17 May Dealing with debt collectors

gears and headDebt collector threats are largely just that: threats.

The credit card collector calling you on the phone has only three tools to make you give him money that he can’t otherwise get without spending lots of time and money in a lawsuit.

What are those tools?

They are all in YOUR head: fear, shame, and annoyance.

FEAR

The typical debt collector wants you to think that unless you act immediately to make him happy, he can inflict some horrid consequence on you: put a lien on your property; seize your house or car; levy on your bank account.

Not so: each of those threatened consequences are remedies available only to a creditor who has obtained a court judgment against you.

Due process ( remember that from civics?) requires that you get notice and an opportunity to defend yourself from a lawsuit. Thus judgments don’t happen overnight or without warning to you.

Lately, clients are reporting a recurring lie told by collectors: that credit card debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, or even that judgments can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Neither is true. Don’t assume that debt collectors tell the truth.

SHAME

Another tool the collector relies on is making you feel bad about yourself . One tack is to threaten to “expose” you as a “deadbeat.”

Most people who are behind on their bills are there for reasons unrelated to whether they want to meet their obligations. They find themselves simply without enough money to cover all of their expenses.

If you are in this situation, you must simply determine that you will not let a third party debt collector define the kind of person you are. Refuse to let him inside your head, much less into your wallet.

ANNOYANCE

Many debt collectors announce that they will call you every day, or multiple times a day, until you pay. They hope to create sufficient stress that you will pay them to go away.

When you look at debt collection from a distance, you see that, far from being all powerful, a debt collector is really relatively powerless to take money from you in the short term.

Granted, a creditor may have a right to sue you and get a judgment entitling them to judicial remedies. But that takes time and money.

It’s so much easier to get you to write them a check or, worse, set up an automatic debit from your bank account.

Understand their game, and don’t play.

Image: © vladgrin – Fotolia.com

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Cathy Moran, Esq.

I'm a certified specialist in bankruptcy law (California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization) practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 30 years. In addition to practicing bankruptcy law, I train new practitioners at Bankruptcy Mastery.
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