Curse of the debt collectors!

By admin
17 October 2013

How to deal with bad credit and parties involved without losing control.

I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach or that instant, pounding headache that starts up when that number appears on your cellphone – and you realise it’s another debt collector seeking money you still don’t have! Or the anxiety that overwhelms you every time you look out of your window – and you’re just waiting for the sheriff of the court to appear. My personal best though is when you pick up the phone and pretend to not be you! “Uhm . . . Mrs X isn’t here right now; she’s visiting her sick mother in hospital. I’ll tell her you called.”

As humorous as this might seem the sad reality of the situation is that too many people can relate to this. Gone are the days when debt collectors were nice and friendly and gently asked you for their money. These days it seems like they all ticked the box marked “vicious, bull terrier-like personality” on the job application form.

Even sadder is the fact that every time they call you get charged for it, so by avoiding a debt collector, your amount owing just increases.

Once again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay your debt. We’re a nation heavily in debt and consumers currently owe credit providers around R1, 43 trillion rand. Yes, TRILLION is actually a real word and figure!

So what to do when you just want to sit in a dark corner when the phone rings:

  • First – acknowledge the debt collector. Pick up the phone.
  • If you can’t speak to them then ask them to call back later.
  • Never tell a debt collector calling from a call centre you’ll call them back. Trying to get in touch with a particular call-centre agent is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. All you’ll be doing is spending money – which you can’t spare ? on airtime. Get them to call you back.
  • When you eventually do speak to them, be realistic.
  • Don’t make payment arrangements which you can’t afford because if you default on your new payment arrangement they will come after you. They then have every right to.
  • If they’re insisting on an amount you simply can’t afford suggest to them you send them a copy of your budget, detailing your income and expenses, and showing them exactly how much you can afford.
  • Always bear in mind debt collectors are often outside parties, tasked by creditors to recoup their monies. Many times these collectors work on incentives so they’re obviously going to bargain hard to try to get the most from you.

If however, you’ve just had enough and you simply can’t handle the stress of being hounded about debt any longer it might be a good idea to see a debt counsellor. A debt counsellor can negotiate with creditors on your behalf. They’ll make arrangements with your creditors for lower monthly instalments – and once a debt counsellor places you under debt review you no longer have to deal with your creditors. You can simply refer them to your debt counsellor when they call.

That being said, it might take a while for the message to filter down from your creditor to their debt collectors that you’re under debt review. So, you might still receive calls from debt collectors even after you’ve seen a debt counsellor.

A good, registered debt counsellor will have informed your creditors of your debt review status by providing them with a form 17.1. And this should be a clear indication to them you’re serious about your debt rehabilitation and management.

For more info about debt counselling and a list of debt counsellors, go to www.ncr.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=88

Next time, we’ll fully explore the process of debt review and we’ll look at its positives and negatives.

In the meantime . . . just BREATHE! You are not alone. There’s help at hand and things will get better.

-Moeshfieka Botha Moeshfieka Botha is the communications manager for national debt counselling firm Credit Matters. For more information go to creditmatters.co.za or call 086-111-6197. Share your thoughts:

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