Dave Ramsey: Don't be intimidated by debt collectors

Most debt collectors prey on a person’s emotions and lack of confidence

Editor's note: Money expert Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including "The Total Money Makeover." His radio show "The Dave Ramsey Show" is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Each week he answers a question about personal finance in his "Dave Says" column. 

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Dear Dave,

Do you have suggestions on how to interact with debt collectors? Sometimes they are reasonable and easy to work with, but others are rude and pushy. Your advice would be appreciated.

Paul

Dear Paul,

You’ll run into all sorts of collectors, no matter what kind of debt you have. Occasionally they are friendly and understanding, while others can be downright mean and nasty. Whatever their approach is, you have to keep in mind they’re all after one thing—your money.

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Most debt collectors prey on a person’s emotions and lack of confidence. If you don’t know your rights, they can scare you by using bogus threats.

Understand what I’m saying here, Paul. If you have debt, you have a legal and moral obligation to pay it.

At the same time, you need to calmly and confidently control these kinds of conversations. You might have made some financial mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you should allow someone to abuse you.

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When it comes to dealing with debt collectors, keep track of all the calls and emails. Write down the names of anyone you talk to and when they called.

Don’t get emotional and let yourself get drawn into an argument or shouting match. If they insult you, or yell or curse at you—yes, this happens sometimes—hang up immediately. 

A record of all contact is important, and it will make it easier to report them if they violate the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If the collector agrees to settle the debt, get it in writing and keep the document as proof in case they “forget” they made the offer.

Also, be completely up to speed on your accounts. Know what you owe, who you owe, and have a record of all the payments you’ve made. Knowing the facts gives you the upper hand in any situation.

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Don’t be intimidated by debt collectors, either. Calmly explain your situation, the reason you’re behind on the debt, and how you plan to pay it off.

Don’t get emotional and let yourself get drawn into an argument or shouting match. If they insult you, or yell or curse at you—yes, this happens sometimes—hang up immediately.

Financial troubles like debt can make every aspect of your life feel messed up. If you want to get back on track, start living on a written, monthly budget, and attack your debts using the debt snowball system. It’s not easy, and it takes discipline, hard work, and sacrifices, but it’s worth it!

—Dave

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored five New York Times best-selling books: "Financial Peace," "More Than Enough," "The Total Money Makeover," "EntreLeadership" and "Smart Money Smart Kids." “The Dave Ramsey Show” is heard by more than 8.5 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations. Follow Ramsey on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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