Like everything else, dealing with debt collectors requires some planning, and some organization. Part of the goal is for you to take control of your life.
First, get organized and keep good records. The process cannot start too early.
Before a claimed debt gets to collections, you should check what is being claimed as due for accuracy and promptly dispute it in writing. Keep these records.
Medical billings, especially, are often wrong and should be questioned.
- If you think a bill is wrong, say so, and follow up in writing or by email (always keep your own hard copy of these emails). If the bill was submitted to your insurance and only partly paid, resubmit it, and follow up with the insurance company to find out why. Ask the insurance company representative whether the doctor had agreed to an approved amount. You may find out that the doctor or hospital was required to accept what the insurance company paid and should not be billing you.
- Know or learn your insurance company’s policy. If you dispute what the company paid, demand a review, then an appeal. Keep good records of these efforts, including who you spoke to, their position and telephone number including extension, and email address.
- Keep all the papers on a disputed claim payment or bill. Even more important, keep all medical bills and EOB’s (explanation of benefits, from the insurance company, showing what they paid)
See the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse for more about your rights as a medical customer
Second, do a personal budget, with just your normal and necessary living expenses.
Here is our budget form to help on this. Without this, you cannot even begin discussing possible settlements with creditors, since you do not know what you can afford. This will also give you a good handle on whether you can work your way out of debt in a reasonable time and at reasonable cost.
If you need help with understanding your options, especially use of bankruptcy or other debt relief options, please feel free to call us at (856) 596-2828 . The initial consultation about this is free, and we can usually help most people look at all their options and choices. It is never too early to do this, and may help you avoid making bad mistakes that can narrow your options in the future or make a bad situation worse.
Third, know your rights.
There are laws with teeth that protect you from most types of collection abuse. If you make clear to collectors that you know your rights and know where to go to enforce them, you may be able to get better results and head off the worst types of abuse.
See the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse collection abuse page for an excellent discussion of debt collection laws and your rights. However, we strongly recommend consultation with a knowledgeable attorney in your state.
If you have questions, please call us at (856) 596-2828 for an initial consultation about your specific situation.
Fourth, keep good records of your contacts with debt collectors, and let them know you are doing this.
Debt collection abuse is all too common, and there are strong laws that can punish debt collectors and their companies who violate the law. The problem all too often is that the victims do not fight back. So here is what you can do:
- Keep a log of all debt collection contacts. See our sample debt collection abuse log which you can copy and print out.
- Tell them you are recording the conversation. (This may not be always true but collectors do not want to take the risk. They can record you, so you can do the same).
NOTE: DO NOT RECORD CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT GIVING NOTICE TO THE OTHER PARTY. THIS IS ILLEGAL IN SOME STATES, AND IF YOUR COLLECTOR IS IN ONE OF THOSE STATES, YOU COULD FACE LEGAL PROBLEMS.
- Be sure to keep copies of any telephone messages that are abusive. But be sure to carefully note on the copy or elsewhere the date and time of the message, and the date and time you copied it.
Fifth, get qualified legal advice about your options and choices.
Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s not possible to work out your debts. Bankruptcy is not always the best choice, but you should know how it works and when to use it, as a last resort. Too many people wait too long or go to the wrong people to “avoid bankruptcy”. Be especially wary of firms that promise, for a substantial fee, to “negotiate” your debts for you. Always check them out first.
Call us to find out about all your choices and options, and let us help you take control of your life. The initial consultation for individuals, and most small businesses is free of charge with no obligation. Call us at (856) 596-2828 .
Here is our budget form (Microsoft Excel required)
Steven R. Neuner our bankruptcy partner, has since 1983 helped hundreds of families steer their way out of debt problems. He seen these mistakes played out first-hand, as a trustee himself or as an attorney for other trustees, or in representing creditors. He has filed or presided over hundreds of bankruptcy cases and proceedings over the past 26 years. For more about him and his background click here
How we can help you take control of your life.
Feel free to call us, after you have reviewed our disclosure page. The initial telephone consultation is always free.*
Usually, we will want to see you in the office. To make the best use of that meeting, we urge you to download and fill out our client questionnaire, (click here if you have a business, or click here if otherwise). If you have Microsoft Excel, you can download and complete our personal budget spreadsheet
We will take the time to talk over with you all your options and to help you with the planning process that will help you take control of your life. When you leave our offices, you will either have a plan or be.
We are attorneys providing debt relief advice and representation. We help people obtain debt relief under the Bankruptcy Code and other laws. IF YOU WOULD LIKE OUR HELP, WE ASK YOU TO CALL US AT (856) 596-2828 FOR AN APPOINTMENT. Please first read a notice about bankruptcy required by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 by clicking here:
*Free consultation for individuals and most small businesses. A follow up meeting may be required. We reserve the right to charge for consultations involving review of existing cases, divorces or litigation.