Writing this article is a bit of a double-edged sword. You see while I think that open communication is always the best way to deal with a debt situation, sometimes people just need to find a way to escape from the pressure just to recover their sanity.
If you are having a difficult problem handling collection calls or dealing with mail from collectors, then you can implement the following steps to get back some peace of mind and stop the din of collection attempts from driving you crazy.
Avoiding the debt collector does not change the reality of your financial situation and like time, it will march on no matter if you want it to or not.
The three major components you’ll need to change will be your telephone, mail delivery, and credit report.
Never call a debt collector on a toll-free number or a direct number if you don’t want them to know the number you are calling from.
If you call a toll-free number you will not be able to block the collector from getting your caller information even if you have caller ID block that prevents others from seeing your number. A debt collector my use a local number for you to call that points to a toll-free number and get your calling phone number that way. You would not be able to tell that it went to a toll-free number and reveled your number.
Here is how you deal with that situation:
Get two no-contract prepaid phones. Use one phone for family and friends, use the second only for calling banks, credit card companies and debt collectors.
Never call the debt collector or banks from your family and friend prepaid phone. Never. When you can’t deal with the debt collection calls, turn the second phone off to get a brain break.
Whatever you do, do not transfer your old telephone number. You need to break the connection from your old number.
Be sure to either disconnect or unplug your old landline or old cellphones that collectors may have. Now that you have gone mobile, you might consider just canceling your old landline to save money.
If you have neighbors that you are not immediate family and friends but who may have your old telephone number, be sure to update them with your new debt collector line number. Debt collectors may try to hunt you down by calling your neighbors to get your number.
A debt collector will look up the names and numbers of people living right around you by using your address. They use something called a reverse directory to do that.
Tell friends and family to never give out your new private number to anyone. Never!
Signup with a service like Earth Class Mail and use them for all your mail from this point forward. These services have street addresses you can use for your mail to be delivered to.
You can notify the post office of your new mailing address using this online form.
Debt collectors will get notification of your change of address to your new mail service. Since they will have a new street address for you it will confuse them where you are actually living.
With a virtual address, you will be able to see your mail online. When your mail arrives it will be opened and scanned so you can view it when you are ready to deal with it.
For people that are going through tough financial problems and finding themselves disorganized and not wanting to deal with the mail, using a virtual mail service will allow you to keep copies of all your correspondence online indefinitely.
This is really a critical feature if a creditor is demanding an old statement or notice from you or you get correspondence you need to forward to someone else. When you are a virtual mailing address you can forward them a copy electronically since it is already scanned and online for you.
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I can’t stress enough how great of a feature this is. Even if you are working with a debt management company, the ability for you to forward critical correspondence at the click of a mouse makes it so much easier than hunting down a photocopier and mailing off a copy of a statement or document. Rather than take days to forward information, it will take seconds.
Update Your Credit Report
Creditors and debt collectors use loads of online database information, like credit reports, to chase debtors. Once you get your new mailing address and new creditor phone to use, order this consolidated credit report (it is the one I like the best) and then using the contact information on the credit report, contact the three main credit bureaus and update your telephone and mailing address with them. This will feed your new information to the creditors and start the hiding process for you. Having a new copy of your credit report will also give you an opportunity to look for any evidence of identity theft and small old accounts that might be past due but not chasing you at the moment.
Not Foolproof, But Really Effective
These three simple steps will not keep you entirely hidden from someone that wanted to spend a lot of time to hunt you down, but it will shield you from 97% of the chatter and grief you are getting right now.
When you have dealt with your situation and are ready to move forward with your life then you can change your information back to where you are now living.
Hiding from the debt collector when you can’t take the pressure anymore is a bit like needing to escape to rehab when your life is spinning out of control.
Use this information wisely and get professional help to deal with the underlying financial problem by talking to a bankruptcy lawyer, considering a debt management program or asking me for free help and advice.
Keep in mind, hiding from a debt collector does not make the underlying problem magically go away. It just gives you a brain break to better deal with it once you feel able or can enlist competent help to deal with the debt.
First Published: October 8, 2008.