So You Are Being Harassed by Creditors
by Diane Conlinn, November 6, 2000
Please wait for an important phone call" How many of us have answered the phone and heard that message. Then, if you are like I was, we wait and wait and wait for them to finally get to us. Mrs. B____, your account is 200 days past due, when will we receive your payment for $15,000. "Why, I'll just write you a check right now, I'm so sorry for the error."
Arghh, in our dreams. As much as we dream of it, for many of us it isn't going to happen. We are underearning, have health problems, unemployment issues, or just too little money to go around, or we bought into the credit dream, and now realize that the magical money doesn't go on forever.
The bill has now made it to the credit collection agency, or agencies. Now so many collectors are calling, we don't know what we owe any more. So, take a deep breath, get a paper sack, and start going around house collecting all those envelopes you've stashed into corners around the house.
Don't worry that the sack is full. Or even if you have two sacks, just do the first step. If you have to stop, then stop and finish the whole process the next week. You've waited this long, it can wait some more, but it is important that you do each step in its entirety. So, get those bills now.You don't have to open those envelopes, yet. Just collect them. After you have collected them all, I want you to pick out a time a week, you are going to have quiet time, and start working through this mess. First things, first. Go through all the mail, and separate it by return address.
Next, look at the post-marks and find the latest piece of mail for each of them. These are the ones you are going to open. But, you don't need to do that yet. Get a pad of paper or an excel spreadsheet. You are going to need the following columns: Name of Collector, Address, Original Creditor, Account Number, and Total Amount Owed.
Open each envelope and fill in the information under each column. Next add a column for with the top row being the date. In this column you are going to record payments made. If you have $50 for 20 creditors divide that money 20 ways and write a check or money order to each account (not creditor)(In this case $2.50).
Write each creditor a letter modeled something like the letter below.
For each creditor make a letter out stating something like the following:
ATTN: Billing Dept
Dear Sir or Madam:
I acknowledge I owe you a debt of approximately $____________. I am going through a period of financial difficulty and my total unsecured debt is approximately $_________. I apologize for the recent delay in payments. I will attempt to keep you better apprised as to my status in the future. I am asking for your help during this period. Please be assured I intend to repay you in full.
I currently cannot pay you the minimum monthly payment indicated on my statements I regret this situation. I will pay you as much as I can afford each month. I am sending a Money Order # _____ or check #______for $________.
I request that all communication be in writing. I request that you do not telephone me to discuss this matter.
If it is at all possible, I request that interest be removed from my account.
I will contact you once a month by letter informing you of any changes in
my financial situation with an accompanying payment. Thank you for your patience
and help in this matter.
This letter should stop the calls from nearly all the collection agencies.
But not from direct creditors. All you can do with them is ask them not to
call you at work. For more information about what they can do or not, The
Fair Collections Act puts certain restrictions on collection agencies and
original creditors. If you would like to read further information go to http://www.roommateads.com
Typewritten letters are the most legible. For the worst creditors, send the letters certified mail, or get a date of posting stamp from the post office, for about 50cents a letter. It won't prove it got there, but it will prove you sent it.
Keep copies of your correspondence. Buy a notebook, put a division for each creditor, and put a copy of your letter, your check, behind each collection notice as you make them. Then when if your creditors call, don't argue with them, just read your last letter to them.
They have their scripts you have yours.
Then, breathe a sigh of relief, because you are done for this month at least. And enjoy some peace and quiet for a while.
I am not a lawyer, so if you have any questions about the legality of anything I write, please check with your attorney