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Get It In Writing #3: Debt Settlement

Don’t throw away your money by falling victim to this old trick: A bill collector calls you on a debt. They make an offer: you pay half and they will forgive the rest. You agree and make the payment. Then thirty days later you get a bill for the remaining half. Upset, you call them and demand an explanation. They tell you they have no record of such an offer, and that none of their phone representatives have the authority to make such an offer. Result: With no written proof, you have no ground to stand on. You still owe the remaining half.

Reputable bill collectors will not hesitate to send you written confirmation of settlement offers. Don’t be afraid to ask for it in writing. Tell them you will be happy to make the payment as soon as you receive the offer in writing. If they tell you that they can’t send written confirmation — or that it is a limited-time offer and you have to accept over the phone — beware.

If you want to approach a creditor about a debt settlement, consider hiring an attorney. Creditors are more likely to negotiate fairly with a professional, and the attorney fees for negotiation of the settlement and drafting the settlement agreement are usually very reasonable. A professionally-drafted settlement agreement will often contain other safeguards to protect you (and your credit rating) that would be absent in a simple agreement between you and the creditor. Furthermore, an attorney knows how to enforce the agreement and make sure the creditor stops harassing you.