Dealing With Debt

With the economy souring, many Americans are having money problems and debt collectors are on a prowl — even if you are just one payment behind.

Credit adviser Gerri Detweiler, author of "Stop Debt Collectors: How to Protect Your Rights and Resolve Your Debts," shares her dos and don'ts for dealing with debt collectors:

Don't hide — be in contact even if you cannot pay

Know who you're talking to — get company's name and number

Keep quiet — don't volunteer more information than necessary

Do take good notes — chronicle every conversation

Don't be pressured — only agree to pay after you've researched debt and have something in writing

Don't pay "dormant bill" — check if statute of limitation expired

Don't give collector access to your bank account

Consult consumer law attorney — check if collector may be breaking law

Beware of scams — not all collectors are legitimate


Federal law bars debt collectors from calling repeatedly "with intent to annoy, harass or intimidate"

Most debt collectors are third-party and receive a percent of money they recover

A growing percentage of collectors are "debt buyers," who purchase old debt for pennies on dollar

Collecting debt is more difficult in recession because people have less money to pay past-due bills

According to IbisWorld, revenue from debt collection is expected to rise to almost $17.8 billion in 2014, from nearly $14.3 billion this year