Q: I was talking to a collection agent about making payment on a bill and she kept saying “how much can you pay, I cannot guarantee it will stop further action.”
I felt I had to say an amount but I cannot afford it. She wants me to call her back and tell her how much I am going to pay. What do I do?
A: Thanks for reaching out to me and I’m sorry to hear about your predicament with this collection agent.
You should not be pressured into making payment arrangements with a bill collector — especially payments that are not affordable.
If the debt is valid and you truly owe the bill and want to pay, no matter how much this woman insists to the contrary, you must tell her one of two things:
1) That you are not in a position to pay anything, and can’t make payments right now; or
2) That you can’t pay what she wants, but you can pay a lesser amount. This amount would be based what you can realistically afford given your own budget and personal circumstances, not on her demands.
I would caution, you, however, against making payments on very old bills.
Sometimes, debt collectors try to get consumers to pay off old debts that have been charged off, or where the statute of limitations has already expired.
When a statute of limitations expires, it means that the bill is no longer legally enforceable — i.e. the company can’t sue you in court or get a judgment against you.
Without knowing the specifics of everything you are facing, I can only tell you that you should NOT make a payment that will put you or your family in the hole financially and you should not succumb to high-pressure tactics from someone trying to squeeze money out of you if you simply do not have it.
By the way, many, many, debt collectors will threaten further action as a way to scare consumers. They hope that the threat of legal action — or even the hint of it — will coerce you into somehow finding money.
In truth, many collectors’ bark is much worse than their bite. They often find it is simply not worth it to sue cash-strapped people who are struggling and have no assets, and sometimes no savings or maybe even no job.
Again, I don’t know the particulars of your situation. But I hope this feedback gives you some insight into how you might handle this person if and when she calls you again.
Barbara, you should also take some time to read the articles on my site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com, that give more detailed advice about dealing with debt collectors — especially zombie debt collectors who try to make you pay old debts.
Good luck to you!