Don't ever allow tele-terrorists to bully you. The only way debt collectors that routinely break federal laws in the name of getting you to pay your bills are going to be stopped is by people like you putting your foot down.

There's nothing to be ashamed of, everyone has either experienced money problems themselves or known someone close to them who has. Whatever your situation may be, it's not going to shock your state Attorney General's office. It's not going to unnerve your regional Federal Trade Commission officials. They've seen it all and heard it all before.

They also know that consumers forced to endure these unscrupulous tactics at the hands of debt collectors are ashamed to admit to anyone, especially a stranger, that they're having financial difficulties ... and this pride keeps them from notifying the proper authorities.

They know how to scare you into doing what's best for them, not you. They know how to use the phone as a weapon. Some will insinuate, others will be much more bold. Threats of the sheriff showing up at your door. Threats of arrest at your place of employment. Threats of getting the courts to turn over custody of your children, since obviously you can't handle responsibility.

These people recover money for their clients using whatever trick in the book that works for them. I'm not making this up. I've talked to thousands of consumers who have shared their horror stories with me.

But here's the good news: They can't do anything to you. They can't do anything more than, at the very worst, get a judgment against you. If they have security (like an automobile or home loan) they can always repossess the item you financed. In most states the creditor will be able to garnish your wages. But let's face it, you can't get blood out of a turnip. If you can't pay them, you can't pay them. It's costly to go to court. It's costly to get an attorney to jump through all of the hoops to garnish your paycheck. If you're self-employed, it's going to be tough for them to get you to garnish yourself If you're in commission sales, it's just as difficult.

You should avoid letting it get to this stage at all costs. Take the debt collector out of the picture early and go back and deal with the original creditor.

Greed Drives The Collector

The debt collection industry thrives on greed. With revenues approaching $80 billion, it's no wonder that the debt collectors around the nation are so aggressive.

Since most creditors assign their overdue accounts to debt collectors on a contingency basis, all it costs the debt collector is the time to call up debtors and scare the money out of them. A contingency basis means that the collector promises to collect on a "best efforts" basis. The creditor doesn't owe anything to the collector unless the collector collects. The collector doesn't earn any commission unless they are successful in collecting the debt. Therein lies the incentive . . . the more the debt collector collects, the more money they make.)

For this example we'll assume that your account is assigned to one of Vito's top debt collectors, a person by the name of Richard Head. Mr. Head has plenty of incentive to collect the account for Rody's Department Store ... about 250 reasons. If you were to repay the $1,000 to Mr. Head at Vito's Collection Agency, this is how the money would be split:

$500 given to Rody's Department Store (mgmal creditor)

$250 kept by Vito's Collection Agency

$250 given to Richard Head, Debt Collection Agent

If consumers across America fail to speak up and voice their displeasure with the system, we are all sentenced to suffer in a segment of society that's not only broken, but being looted by a bunch of punks that hide behind the telephones and doors of the debt collection industry.

You've got no excuse for not writing if your rights as a consumer are being violated. Federal Trade Commission offices are listed in the INFOBOOK. For your convenience, it also furnishes a sample complaint letter to the FTC. Use the same letter format to complain to your state's attorney general.

More importantly, follow up when you receive the FTCs standard complaint form. Follow up, document your complaint and push them to the point of resolution Or maybe not ... give it to a friend or relative.

"I'm Sorry, The Number You Have Dialed Is No Longer In Service "

The telephone. The greatest invention ever created in the eyes of the debt collectors across the country. The tool of location. The tool of interrogation. The tool of intimidation. The tool of tele-terrorists.

Why some people continue to answer their phone when they're heading towards difficult financial times never ceases to amaze me. This inanimate device that allows the debt collector into your home at any hour of the day or night is so easy to control.

STEP ONE: Change the number. I know it's obvious, but sometimes those are the things that elude all of us. Change the number immediately. Call the phone company and tell them you've been receiving obscene or harassing phone calls and you need the number changed at once.

STEP TWO: Before you hang up on your protectors of privacy at the phone company, tell them that you need the new number to be UN-listed and NON-published. Instruct them that you want your address to be UN-listed and NON-published as well.

STEP THREE: At the same time, be sure to give them your new mailing address.

STEP FOUR: Request a "password" on your account. Anyone calling in to the phone company posing as you or your spouse must know the password or they will not get information.

Don't forget: the debt collectors will call those people on your credit applications first, usually your family and friends, and weasel your new phone number out of them. Some are successful because they're great liars ... others are assisted by friends or family members that are either not clued in to what's going on or are, shall we say, "mentally challenged" in the area of common sense. Don't give those people a chance to break through your safety shield. Give them the voice mail number.

INFO TIP: If you should return a phone call to a creditor or debt collector, saving money and calling them back on their toll-free "800 number," beware! Any company that has an "800 number" and is in the business of collecting debts may frequently utilize a little-known fact about these numbers. Every time you call in to a toll-free number the phone company providing the service can provide their subscriber with an "ANI" listing. "ANI" stands for "Automatic Number Identifier," a technical way of saying that every time you call in on an "800 number" the party on the receiving end instantly (in many cases) knows the telephone number from which you're calling. American Express used to use this service extensively, in the name of high-tech customer service. An American Express cardholder would call in from their home and the operator who answered would say: "Good evening, Mr. Dover! What can we do for you this evening?"

Don't think your friendly debt collector would ever hesitate in using the same technology to find your new "unlisted" phone number. Be smart if you want to save money and communicate with your creditors. Use a pay phone. Hotel lobbies always have quiet areas where you can make your calls safely.

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