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How to Hide From the Debt Collector

By on January 21, 2019

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.

Telephone

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.

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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!

Mail

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.

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.

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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.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

44 Comments

  1. Bill

    January 22, 2019 at 10:13 am

    True, you can’t hide forever. But, there are things you can do if you need to take a breather. 95% of the problem for me was all the constant calls. Smartphones can block individual numbers. However, collectors typically have an arsenal of numbers they can call you from. The best solution for me was to install and use a call blocking app. On an Android it was Should I Answer. IOS it was Hiya. Any unwanted calls that made it past their filters I added to their databases within the app. The other 5% of the problem was collection letters. I bought an accordion folder and filed all correspondence.

  2. Just Me

    January 21, 2019 at 10:27 am

    I live in the state of Arkansas which has a two year statue of limitation for medical. About three years ago I had to get an ambulance in the state of Minnesota. Today, a little more than three years later, I have a debt collector from the state of Wisconsin trying to contact me about an ambulance bill that insurance was supposed to pay but did not because the hospital never sent them the bill. . The statue of limitations for MN is 6 years I think. My question is, is my statue of limitation covered under the state where I officially live which is Arkansas or is it where the services was rendered which is the state of Minnesota?

  3. Clifford

    July 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Or you can just go off the grid like I did. That means no contact with family or friends. My parents don’t even know where I live anymore for the last 7 years. If you pull your own credit report use a past address. I am just starting to get back on my feet. But the most effective thing I found is just go off the grid completely. I rent a room so utilities are not in my name  so they can’t track you that way. And get a Google Voice number!
    I have a lot of other tricks. Since I used to work for a major bank and also did skip tracing I know the ins and outs. Nobody can find me. I am MIA.

    • dr dre

      October 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      im sure your social life must be amazing too

    • carey

      February 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      help! I think that’s awesome!! Great job.

  4. guest

    June 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I move state during a difficult time in my marriage. We lost our home due to my husband having lost his job, being the major bread winner in the family We recently got divorced and he wants to file bankruptcy. Will creditors come after me for collections on contracts that he & I signed, even if I have moved to another state? 

    • Steve Rhode

      June 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Yes.

      When you divorce your spouse you don’t divorce your joint creditors. Often the other souse files bankruptcy as well.

  5. Carol

    March 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Is it legal/lawful for a Post Office employee to serve legal papers to a boxholder?  My P O Box has been blocked, and I have been denied access since Feb 12, 2012.  I have had that box & its predecessors since 1971. Early in the week of Feb 6th, there was an application for PO Box in my box, wanting me to fill out address, and phone #. I typed up a list of questions as to why they wanted this, and put it back in the box.  Then the box was blocked  I believe this is because of the Discover lawyer.  The Post Office is adamant about me coming in with their form, then they would unblock the box, and give me my mail.  I think they are intending to serve me with legal papers for the debt collector lawyer.   I have been fighting Discover since January 2011 over a credit card account I discharged in Oct 2010 in full, with a Letter of Credit, which they never returned to me.  Therefore, under UCC 3-603, that means the debt was discharged.

    The lawyer never actually validated the debt, nor would he answer any of my questions about it.

    A process server showed up at my home address, and was turned away because she did not ask for me.  She stuck the papers in the door handle.  My Authorized Representative retrieved them, called the law firm the next day and told them I don’t live there now.

    All correspondence with Discover and the lawyer had been to the Post Office Box. So I feel the reason for the mess with the PO Box is because of the lawyer.  I filed a written complaint with the Postmaster, but they won’t answer any of my questions.

    Is there any action I can take against the Post Office, or the person who authorized the blocking of my box?  The box rent is paid through the end of March 2012.

    Sorry this is so long. Thanks.

    • Traveler

      October 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      usually you cannot be served via po box (actual post office not one of those ups mail centers)

      anyway i would just get a new po box somewhere else…

      • Steve Rhode

        October 6, 2012 at 9:01 pm

        Actually, you could be served via mail or via return receipt requested mail at a PO Box. If you refuse it that will be noted as well.

  6. Tl_angel444

    February 6, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I used to work for a Canadian Company that deals with Debt collection in the U.S. It was amazing to me how easy a Debtor could escape from having to pay their debt. The first thing that you do is check something called “Choice of Law” – they are the new state provisions with regards to statutes in the United States. Take for instance, if you have a Chase account and you live in Ohio, the account is statute barred 3 years after the last payment date. The creditor or the collection CANNOT touch you after that and they have to immediately close all accounts. Also, never make a payment because if you do, that is what the statute date is calculated from. The other thing to do is never have any assets in your name because if you do, you will automatically be taken to court at some point because once we get a judgment, then we can put a lien on your property. The best thing to do, especially if you have a judgment against you is to move to another state. The collection agency will have to find you first and then order an Exemplified Judgment to transfer over to the new state and if you are going to move, move to a state that has a short statute. You can go to EarthClassMail.com and get a ficticious address in another state and then make sure you let the Credit Bureau and all your existing creditors know that you still have accounts with. They will get the mail and forward it on to you. You want to make it look like you live in another city and they will have to move your file at the lawyers firm over to the new state. This all costs money and realistically, the collection agency wont spend money on an account to sue if they are not going to recover much. Also, always tell a collection agency that you have had a brain injury and you are not able to ever work and then change you number often and move around often. They can only send to trace every 6 months. Do that until the statue runs out. 🙂

  7. John

    December 25, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Because I haven’t been paying anything for the last two years, I can’t claim the expensive in Bankruptcy. For 2011 I’m getting some health issues addressed that I had put off. Between my rent and medical bells I might be able to claim enough expensives to file bankruptcy. The system is crazy!

  8. Steve Rhode

    December 1, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Why not just file bankruptcy, end the debt, come out of hiding, and start living life again?

  9. Vcfjohn

    December 1, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Six more months has gone by. I’m over half way for the statue of limitation in blowing. The occasion phone calls I get I tell them only yes if they are talking to John Smith. Then they ask me the last four numbers of my Social Security Number or my middle name or where I am working at. My response would always be that I can’t tell them because they are too many phishing scams out there. The phone call then ends.

    Yes my consciene is bothering me. But I’m afraid if I reveal myself to only one company then dozen more would all eat me up alive. Before going into hiding I tried to come up with a payment plan with a debt company. But before it could work all of my creditors had to cooperate. That never happen and I end up over several months giving thousands of dollars for the debt company pockets. Not cent went to my creditors, It all went towards attorney fees.

  10. Jason

    October 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Hiding is never better. The only intention of hiding from your debt is to get temporary relief. The best thing to do is seek advice from a debt professional who can explore all of your options and prevent a lawsuit or wage garnishing.

  11. Joan

    August 24, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Well, I moved about 2 years ago and never forwarded my address with the post office. Before moving i had a $35,000 BMW repo plus I defaulted on 20k in credit cards.
    I am working in a steady job, but after rent etc I can’t afford to pay anyone.
    I haven’t gotten any letters from bmw or anyone so I’m sure they haven’t found me.
    My question is, what if they just sue me at my old address? Then one day out of the blue I find a wage garnishment or bank account levy? Perhaps having known about the lawsuit and being served etc, I could have fought it in court or at the veer least slowed it down?
    So the question is, is hiding better since one has no knowledge of a lawsuit?

    • Jason

      October 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      Hiding is never better. The only intention of hiding from your debt is to get temporary relief. The best thing to do is seek advice from a debt professional who can explore all of your options and prevent a lawsuit or wage garnishing.

  12. Bee

    June 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

    One trick to use is to buy some cheap calling cards from a dollar store and then make your call to the creditors. Your number will not show up. It will show another number associated with that calling card sometimes coming up as a number from another country. Very confusing for the debt collectors and very good for you if your hiding from the collectors. I’ve done this many times and the collection people kept asking me if I’m call from the UK or the Netherlands. I just went along with them all the time and confused the heck out of them.

  13. Tony

    March 24, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I had an old debt for 6,000 for which I was unable to pay years ago on hard times. Well, it went to collections and they found me. They are offering options for which I can’t afford either one. I don’t have a lump sum to put down to pay out or can make a monthly payment higher than my own car note for a year. Is there any hope for me? Will they garnish me if I don’t respond in time? (Midland Credit Mgmt)is the collector. I live in Central FL.

    • John

      May 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

      Tony,

      Every State has a statue of limitations for open end loans which credit cards are. In your search engine put your State and Statue of Limitations on collecting on credit Cards. There is a good chance if your debt is more than four years old and you have’nt made any other arrangements on this debt sense the original debt was made the Statue of limitation may had already past. Many collection agencies try to collect from bad debts that they bought from the banks and loan establishments.

  14. Fran

    March 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I need to know if I have any rights when it comes to harrassing credit collectors. I filed for bankruptcy about 6 years ago, through circumstances beyond my control, (an accident/fall) was unable to work & got behind, then was unable to ever catch up on my bills. After bankruptcy, I got back on my feet & started trying to rebuild my credit, which was going quite well,until about 1&1/2 years ago.At which time I fell into this credit card trap of low interest for “x” amt of time, encountered 2 job losses, & a severely ill child requiring much medical care, & am still unemployed. Now I’m back where I started. Unable to pay my bills, although I want to. The continued calls, the rudeness are so hard to deal with. They treat me as if I’m trash or lying to them. I finally quit talking to them, they tell me they’re going to look at what they can take(assets)if I don’t/can’t pay. I don’t have anything that they can take! What else can they do??? Please help!

    • Steve Rhode

      March 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      Fran,

      How about a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

      Steve

  15. sinking

    February 12, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I finally admitted to myself that my previous attempts to get out of debt were getting me further in I have now cut myself off from all forms of credit got some sensible advice and am trying to self negotiate with my creditors. The problem is they are not answering my letters (with budget sheet enclosed) asking them to negotiate a plan. I get computer generated BS letters. what can I do I want to sort this out before it gets any worse. Total debt £16,000 and rising with interest and charges. thanks

  16. angelrocks

    February 2, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    You can also try Magicjack as a way of getting another phone number just to give out creditors and to the credit agencies. You can also make unlimited long distance phone calls to anywhere in the US and Canada. I think it’s going to be much cheaper than getting two cell phones.

    • Vcleme

      July 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      you can also get a google number. calls are directed to your present cell phone all via your new number from google.  all free.

  17. Linda

    December 7, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Even though I know my credit cards are a debt I owe, Im getting bogged down. I was doing fine, then American Express and Master Card lower my credit card limits and raised the interest rate. My credit was very good and I was showing less that the 33%, now it all gone to ………….
    Visa has not changed anything, which is amazing, but great.

    I’m age 67. Can I file bankrupsty and not file the morgage? My morgage is in Ohio, but I now live in Fl.

    • Steve Rhode

      December 7, 2009 at 7:45 pm

      Linda,

      You have to list all your assets and liabilities. Go talk to a local bankruptcy attorney and they’ll answer all your questions.

      Steve

  18. Joe

    November 18, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    These tips are great but I have a question concerning the new credit laws. I am reaping the problems of a creditor taking action two years ago that is now deemed illegal. If they caused me to go to collections then and this came to trial, would it be considered illegal practices? If so then I might stop trying to run from them and just take it to court. About 8 creditors all defaulted my accounts when one went late (by their own fault!) and defaulted me as a result. No one was willing to negotiate or talk things out…just a lot of irate demands for money! Grrrr!!! Any help is appreciated!

  19. richard

    November 15, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    ok you said i could get earth class mail. what if your mailed social security check can i cash a scanned check?

    • Steve Rhode

      November 15, 2009 at 11:11 pm

      Richard,

      I don’t know, you’d have to contact them and ask about current capabilities of check deposits. Why not just ask Social Security to direct deposit your check?

      Steve

      • Valarie

        July 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

        Won’t cease and desist letters help if these are from Debt collection agencies? I understand not from the original creditor you can’t but for collection agencies I thought you could send them a cease and decist letter to stop the harrassment. Thanks Valarie

        • Steve Rhode

          July 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

          A cease and desist letter these days is an invitation to sue you since that’s the only route the collector has after their last contact after receiving the letter.

          Steve

  20. John

    July 28, 2009 at 1:27 am

    All right here are some things I did. I knew I had to move. Before I move I got a PO Box in a different nearby city to the place where I’m moving to. I Used my current address that I was currently living. The post office requires an address where you are living when you open up a PO Box. After I had established my PO box at the post office, I moved to my new place. The forwarding address that I used is my PO Box. Now places like the DMV and banks that require my new physical address, I DID NOT GIVE out my PO Box to. This is the reason why have my PO Box is in a different city is to confuse your creditors who maybe looking for me.

    This is not full proof, but its been working will with me. I will never again request credit again. My credit is ruins. Even if I did it will give away my where a bouts. If someone wanted to pay a whole lot of money they could find me. However, I owe to a whole a lot of creditors, I don’t owe over a few thousand to a single one. So it won’t be worth for a single creditor to pay a private company to find me.

    • John

      February 3, 2010 at 1:05 am

      This is the same person who wrote this back in July. So far so good. I even had something file against me that was dismissed for reasons I don’t know why. I found the court paper in my PO Box. My PO Box is coming due but I won’t renew it because I don’t want to give away my current address. All my important stuff like DMV, Bank Records I had changed to my current address without connecting my PO box to. I have a common name and my debt is all credit card debt, no over due taxes. My social security number is not connected to any of my debts. It will come up as a second person with my name if the credit cards companies would do a search on me. They can’t reveal that they are looking for me to the second ID because of disclosure laws.

      • John

        May 25, 2010 at 11:48 pm

        This is John again. Just recently I’ve been getting some phone calls from collections. It goes like this. Collections will ask is this John Smith. I will say yes. Is the last numbers of your Social Security number 5555? Or they will ask had you ever lived at this address? My reply will be this. Sir or mam I know you are probally legit but I know there is lots of phishing scams out there. Could you please request this information though the mail. I would feel more comfortable if you did. These people really don’t know if they are talking to the right person and the conversation ends after I ask them to mail me. However they don’t know my address or know they are taling to the right person. Because of confidentiality laws that will not ingage with me any further.

        • Vcfjohn

          December 1, 2010 at 6:03 am

          Six more months has gone by. I’m over half way for the statue of limitation in blowing. The occasion phone calls I get I tell them only yes if they are talking to John Smith. Then they ask me the last four numbers of my Social Security Number or my middle name or where I am working at. My response would always be that I can’t tell them because they are too many phishing scams out there. The phone call then ends.

          Yes my consciene is bothering me. But I’m afraid if I reveal myself to only one company then dozen more would all eat me up alive. Before going into hiding I tried to come up with a payment plan with a debt company. But before it could work all of my creditors had to cooperate. That never happen and I end up over several months giving thousands of dollars for the debt company pockets. Not cent went to my creditors, It all went towards attorney fees.

          • Steve Rhode

            December 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm

            Why not just file bankruptcy, end the debt, come out of hiding, and start living life again?

          • John

            December 25, 2010 at 5:46 am

            Because I haven’t been paying anything for the last two years, I can’t claim the expensive in Bankruptcy. For 2011 I’m getting some health issues addressed that I had put off. Between my rent and medical bells I might be able to claim enough expensives to file bankruptcy. The system is crazy!

          • carey

            February 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm

            do not feel guilty! Just think of yourself as BOA or the Federal Deficit! lol

  21. Jaime

    July 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I fell on my feet a couple of years ago and decided to ignore my debt. I am about $30,000 in total debt ranging from credit lines and credit cards. I am a dual citizen of America and another country. My credit accounts were opened with my US social security number. I have one checking account under my different foreign social security number. I have also recently legally changed my name. Is this good enough to escape creditors? Can they seize my current checking account?

    • Tl_angel444

      February 7, 2011 at 4:20 am

      I used to work for a Canadian Company that deals with Debt collection in the U.S. It was amazing to me how easy a Debtor could escape from having to pay their debt. The first thing that you do is check something called “Choice of Law” – they are the new state provisions with regards to statutes in the United States. Take for instance, if you have a Chase account and you live in Ohio, the account is statute barred 3 years after the last payment date. The creditor or the collection CANNOT touch you after that and they have to immediately close all accounts. Also, never make a payment because if you do, that is what the statute date is calculated from. The other thing to do is never have any assets in your name because if you do, you will automatically be taken to court at some point because once we get a judgment, then we can put a lien on your property. The best thing to do, especially if you have a judgment against you is to move to another state. The collection agency will have to find you first and then order an Exemplified Judgment to transfer over to the new state and if you are going to move, move to a state that has a short statute. You can go to EarthClassMail.com and get a ficticious address in another state and then make sure you let the Credit Bureau and all your existing creditors know that you still have accounts with. They will get the mail and forward it on to you. You want to make it look like you live in another city and they will have to move your file at the lawyers firm over to the new state. This all costs money and realistically, the collection agency wont spend money on an account to sue if they are not going to recover much. Also, always tell a collection agency that you have had a brain injury and you are not able to ever work and then change you number often and move around often. They can only send to trace every 6 months. Do that until the statue runs out. 🙂

    • Ajskalla

      November 23, 2011 at 12:54 am

      I have been a debt collector  for a 3rd party collection company for about a year. We only collect credit card debt.  I would talk to the collections company, right off bat they can cut that in half 50% leaving you $15,000.00 in debt, but if you are unemployed, diasabled or stuggling to put kids in college having medical problems they can get u qualified for a hardship settlement which only takes a day or even 5 minutes, this can bring it down 20% $3000.00 and if you can’t come up with the $3000.00 all at once negotiate them into splitting it up into 2 to 3 payments your debt will be solved. the most frustrating thing is when I cannot get consumers on the phone when I can really help them out of debt what ever this article says is bs real experience. What ever you do stay away from credit counseling its bs they are only ripping you off for things you can negotiate or qualify you for on your own.

      • Ajskalla

        November 23, 2011 at 1:00 am

        my bad 20% of 30,000.00 is $6000 but still an awesome deal

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