If you are carrying significant credit card debt, you have a lot of company. Recent studies show that the average U.S. consumer has four credit cards and the average household carries $6,500 worth of debt. Nearly five percent of credit card holders are at least two months late on a payment.
Missing credit card payments can be stressful enough, but the credit card companies often turn up the heat with incessant phone calls from debt collectors.
“The later you are with your payment, the more calls you’re going to get,” says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV. “Anyone who’s ever dealt with a debt collector knows it’s not fun.”
Debt collectors often use sneaky tactics to get in touch with you. These tactics, which can be annoying but are perfectly legal, include:
• Calling you from an “unknown number”
• Calling several times a day (as long as they call between 8 am and 9 pm)
• Calling a relative or your boss to obtain contact information (can only be done once and the collector cannot reveal the nature of his interest)
• Obtaining information about you from social networking sites like Facebook
Fortunately, there are ways to fight the debt collectors. Your first move should be to consult with an attorney who specializes in debt defense.
“We can help in several ways,” explains San Diego, California consumer debt relief lawyer George Panagiotou of the Costa Law Firm. “Credit card companies don’t always have the proof it takes to win in court, and they’re not prepared for you to have a lawyer. If you fight back, you can get back on your financial feet.”
Even if you don’t win in court, a debt defense lawyer might be able to negotiate a settlement that gives you much better terms than you have now.
Of course, the best way to avoid the debt collectors is to avoid credit card debt all together. Here are some ways you can do that:
• Work out a budget and follow it exactly. You might want to charge that state-of-the-art laptop to your credit card, but if it’s not in your budget, don’t do it.
• Don’t carry a credit card balance for more than six months. After that point, the compounding of interest makes it difficult to pay off.
• Get credit cards with low rates. Many credit cards offer zero percent rates on balance transfers, but make sure you know exactly how long that “zero percent” period lasts.
• Don’t get caught up with reward credit cards. It’s always nice to get a reward, but don’t spend too much to get it.
If you fail to follow those tips, don’t feel as if it’s a lost cause. You always have options in your fight against debt collectors.“Most people with significant credit card debt simply don’t realize there are things they can do to help,” adds Sweet.