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The Payoff: How to get rid of debt collectors

As many as 30 million Americans came out of the 2008 financial crisis with one or more debts in collection per person, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It can be a nightmare to be hounded by debt collectors. I’ll tell you how to get them off your back on The Payoff.

Find out if the debt really belongs to you. Debts are bought and sold all the time and it’s not impossible that they could be mistaking you for someone else. This is exactly what got JP Morgan Chase in hot water with regulators last year. The company was ordered to refund $50 million to over half a million customers after it sold delinquent credit card accounts to debt buyers that included all kinds of inaccurate information.  

If you don’t recognize the debt a collections agency is calling you about, send them a letter asking them to explain where the debt is coming from, the account number, and the name of the original lender.

Luckily, organizations like the CFPB have made it dead simple to download template letters that can help ward off debt collectors.

Tell them to stop calling you. You have the right to stop debt collectors from contacting you. It’s called a Cease and Desist letter and you can find a template on the CFPB's website. This won’t eliminate your debt.  Debt collectors can still sue you for an unpaid debt even if you tell them to stop contacting you. But it will give you some peace and quiet while you figure out how to handle it.

Offer a cash settlement. Some collectors may be willing to settle your debt for a lump sum cash payment, especially if you’ve been delinquent for a long time. They probably bought your debt for pennies on the dollar so even if you don’t pay the full amount, they’re still turning a profit.

Just be prepared to hear "no" a few times before they buckle. When they finally accept your offer, you’ll have to have that cash on hand immediately to seal the deal.

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