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What should I do when a debt collector calls?

It's easy to become a nervous wreck if every time the phone rings you're afraid to answer because the person on the other end of the line may start demanding money. Debt collectors are well aware of the anxiety caused by their prodding phone calls. Of course, their strategy is to keep calling and calling with the idea that you will eventually pay them off just to put a halt to the harassment.

And typically, the party attempting to collect a debt is not even the original creditor. Rather, the chore of convincing people to send in remittance is handled by a debt collection agency.  And these third-party services are not afraid to bring pressure to bear on those who are struggling to pay their bills.

But if you are on the receiving end of their efforts, you need to remember that you have rights and there are federal regulations prohibiting certain tactics. For instance, a debt collector cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., meaning they cannot ring up at an unreasonable hour. Nor can a debt collector threaten you or tell you that you owe more than your actual debt.

But what should you say when you talk to a debt collector? Very little, actually.  It is best to keep your conversation brief and businesslike. You should also avoid giving the caller your bank account or any other financial information. However, you can negotiate a new payment plan, but you want to get the terms in writing before you agree to anything.

Of course, it is to your benefit if you can pay off the debt or set up a payment plan that suits your circumstances. But if your debt is such that your cannot pay it off or if the collector won't give you acceptable terms, you may need to take more definitive steps to solve your problems.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney may be able to help you get your debt under control, which should stop the calls from the collectors. Among your possible options are to file for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which the attorney could help you expedite.

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