Break up with bill collectors

debt collection mail

The phone calls seem to start as soon as your evening commute ends and the all-too frequent letters requesting payment are piling up on your table. Rather than ignore bill collectors’ phone calls and letters, take control of your messy relationship status. Use these strategies to help you plan for a healthier long-term relationship with money, after you’ve called off the engagement.

Agree on terms of separation

Talk to bill collectors at least once to try to resolve the issue — even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think the collector is contacting you by mistake. If after talking to them and you establish a relationship, be prepared to negotiate a repayment plan based on what you can afford. Or, depending on the amount of the bill, offer to pay one lump sum; the creditor might be willing to accept a reduced amount.

Learn how you’re protected

If the phone calls and letters become a nuisance, know that you have rights. Debt collectors may not:

  • Harass you, use profanity or threaten you with violence.
  • Contact you by postcard.
  • Threaten to have you arrested if you don’t pay your debt.
  • Pretend to be attorneys or government representatives.
  • Tell your employer or other people about your debt.
  • Ask you to deposit a post-dated check early.
  • Give false information about you to a credit reporting company.
  • Pretend they are contacting you for reasons other than debt collection.
  • Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without your permission.

If you think you are being harassed, contact the NC Attorney General’s Office for help.

Break the engagement sooner rather than later

Now that you’ve agreed upon a repayment plan, don’t just add another bill to your life. Take steps to reduce your spending and boost your savings to pay back the debt faster. After all, you want to get out of this relationship as soon as possible.

To reduce your debt quickly, look for ways to pay more than the minimum monthly amount required. You might be able to boost your account balance and lower your debt by selling unwanted items at a weekend flea market, at a consignment store or online using free ads. Take your savings and add it to the next month’s payment.

Build a healthier relationship with money

Overwhelmed by debt? Take an in-depth look at your finances and create a budget that works for you. Once that’s in place and cash flow is identified, you can explore the best options available to pay down your debt faster — and likely with less interest paid.

Getting hit with a forgotten debt can throw a wrench into your budget. When that happens, step back and reevaluate your financial relationship status; it may be time to end things with your pursuer.

If you need more help managing your debt, call your local branch to make an appointment to receive financial counseling.

The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Contact a financial advisor for additional guidance.

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