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It’s one of the most dreaded calls you can get – the debt collector. Make sure you don’t give up your rights or pay more than you have to by following these tips:

1. Get Verification of the Debt

The law requires the debt collector to send you a letter with the amount you owe, the creditor, and what to do if you don’t believe you owe the debt within five days after getting in touch with you. However, the debt collector will still try to get information and convince you to pay on that first contact. Before you say anything, ask for that letter.

2. Dispute the Debt If It’s Not Accurate

You can dispute a debt by sending a letter to the collection agency telling them that you don’t owe what is claimed. You must do this within 30 days of them providing written notice about the debt. Once you do this, the debt collector must provide proof of the debt before contacting you again.

3. Send Everything Via Certified Mail

If you mail a collection agency a letter, you’ll have no proof they received it. Cover yourself by paying a little extra to send your letter through certified mail.

4. Don’t Pay Anything If You’re Unsure About the Debt

Until you know that the debt is yours and is still valid, don’t make any sort of payment or even agree to a payment. Here’s why: the debt could be past the statute of limitations, in which case you’re no longer obligated to pay it. If you make any sort of payment, the statute of limitations resets and you’ll need to pay.

5. Keep Conversations Short and to the Point

Every time a debt collector talks to you on the phone, they’re trying to get as much information as possible about you. They want to find out if you have the capacity to pay and, if so, what is the best way to get you to pay up. Remember that the debt collector is not your friend and that you don’t need to provide them with any information. Answer the questions you want to answer, but keep those answers concise.

6. Negotiate a Better Deal

Obviously, the debt collector is going to attempt to collect the entire amount of the debt from you. It’s important to realize that collection agencies buy these debts for pennies on the dollar, and debts often go through multiple collection agencies. Use that knowledge to your advantage. Offer a very small amount of what you owe, such as 10 percent. The debt collector may not accept, but they will likely lower the amount they’re willing to accept. Haggle enough and you should be able to settle the entire debt for about 30 or 40 percent.

7. Get Everything in Writing

Never take a debt collector at their word. If you come to a state approved debt settlement agreement, get it in writing. You don’t want to agree to a settlement, only to have the debt collector later claim that the settlement was only your first payment on the debt.

8. Pay with a Money Order

One thing you don’t want a debt collector to have is your banking information, and they will if you send a personal check with your account number and routing number on the bottom. Instead, opt for a money order, which gives you proof of payment without having any of your information on it.

9. Know Your Rights

The law puts many restrictions on debt collectors and how they interact with consumers, but they may still cross the line. They can’t berate you with abusive language, they can’t call you at work if you tell them not to, and they can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. if you don’t agree to it. They also can’t make any false claims or talk to anyone about your debt except you (and your lawyer, if you hire one).

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to dealing with debt collectors. Educate yourself on how to handle debt collection calls so you can get the best results.