Why The Debt Collector Works Hard to Manipulate You

So you’re a debtor and this is your first time in financial trouble. It is scary, frightening and you are completely stressed out. Some people even kill themselves over the debt.

The last thing you want to see are late notices or get calls from the debt collector. You’re just not that experienced playing the role of the debtor in trouble but be prepared, you’re going to go up against a professional that collects debts for a living.

Debt collectors have national conventions, they belong to professional associations, they even have monthly magazines with articles in them about how to extract money from you.

What convention is there for debtors? None.

A call from a debt collector is not like getting a call from your Uncle Jim. For you, you are having a conversation, but from the collector point of view, they are testing you to determine which approach and tricks will work best on you. While you’re trying to do the right thing, the collector is preparing to play you like a fiddle and may even laugh about it the whole way.

For you, your problem debt is personal. For the collector it is just another day at work. You are worried about what the collector will think about you. The collector is only concerned with how much money they can get out of you. This is not a relationship based on equal needs or goals and if you’re not smart, you will make costly mistakes that can really screw up your life.

The Squeaky Wheel

The debt collector wants to be annoying and irritating. On one hand, some will want to be your friend but experienced collectors know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If they can be annoying and abrasive enough you will subconsciously get them paid as soon as possible so they go away.

Typically mortgage lenders are less abrasive than credit card lenders. If you don’t pay your mortgage the lender can take back your house and sell it. But what is the unsecured credit card lender going to take? Nothing. They might sue you but that can be neutralized with bankruptcy and the crdit card lender certainly does not want your old DVD player back.

A recent edition of a debt collector magazine contained the following article:

BE THE SQUEAKY WHEEL: Best practice is vital in today’s climate, where it is important that you keep on top of your debtors to ensure balances are paid off.

The article made it a point to tell collectors they need to:

Become a squeaky wheel – squeaking is annoying – and that means you will always be in their mind to be paid. It will mean you will:

  • Increase profits and revenue.
  • Decrease costs.
  • Improve operational efficiency.
  • Increase collections.
  • Minimize risk.

Psychological Tricks

Friendly – The friendly collector may play up a relationship that you think is like one with a really good friend in hopes that you will trust them and want to pay them. Makes sense, but it is no less manipulative than the nasty collector. You have to see this for what it is, a way to try to get you to pay, even when you can’t afford to do that.

Guilt – Guilt is a great motivator. A collector will want you to feel bad and like a loser because you are behind on the bill. They will try to manipulate your feelings of right and wrong to guilt you into making a payment so you don’t feel like a liar or a cheat.

And guilt, like other psychological tricks, is a great tool for a debt collector to use based on the values, beliefs, and morals of a particular person. It has nothing to do with what may be right or wrong but only how you perceive it.


The reality about the debt collector is that no matter what type of trick they try to use as your friend or your enemy, they are trying to achieve the same end result. They each want to get their hands on your money before the other one does. This is a competition between collectors to see who can suck what little money you might have out of you.

The reality is that debtors, inexperienced in the occupation of owing bad debts, will make critical mistakes which place the debtor, you, further into jeopardy. For example, it is not uncommon for someone to make payments to their credit cards but let their mortgage payments fall behind. They do this because the credit card companies are squeaking the wheel and in the debtors face to get attention. You panic and pay. They win.

The reality is that when someone finds themselves in a difficult financial situation, that really isn’t the time to start allowing a debt collector to counsel or guide you. The debt collector may be friendly but they are not your friend.

If you want to confront your financial situation in the best possible way, you need to put aside your emotional beliefs and look at the reality of your situation. This is often easiest for someone like me to do since I look at the facts, and not your hot buttons.

Often the most logical moves for you to make are also painful, unless you are prepared for what is to come. It is a lot easier for you to tell a debt collector that you can’t send a payment now, and know they are either going to try to friend you or guilt you to make a payment. Being aware that it is coming can save you from making a payment or a payment promise that you can’t afford and that will only lead to the loss of your home or car.

Want to See How Easy This Can Be?

All the squeaky wheel collector has to do is call you often, call you at work, make some calls to a neighbor or two and by then you should be so worked up in a frenzy of panic that you’ll pay to make them go away.

Betty, the friendly collector establishes a rapport with you on the phone. You chat about things you both enjoy and she tells you how she wants to help solve your problem. Soon you look forward to calls from Betty and make a payment promise because you like her and don’t want to let her down.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Both collectors win their contest but what do you win when you are homeless and hungry?

Bottom Line

I’m just saying, think it through before you let the collector manipulate you. You need to work the situation backwards. Instead of starting with what you can send them and live week-to-week, let’s look at the situation based on what you need to keep a roof over your head and food on the table.

Once you total up what it costs you to live a reasonable lifestyle, don’t forget to include putting $100 a month into a savings account. Now, more than ever, you need to make sure you are protecting yourself in case of an emergency. It’s not like you are going to be able to call the collector up and ask for money back because the tire went bad.

Once you know what your basic costs are to get by each month, and save, then you’ll know how much is left over and that’s the only money you can use for debt repayment or maybe even a debt management program. If people are demanding more than that then it is seriously time to think about bankruptcy, even if your emotions are telling you not to. Do this, go and meet with a bankruptcy attorney before you make any decisions. If you want, you can even click here for a free bankruptcy consolidation.

My bottom line is that I want to to make good choices that are realistic and serve to move you forward to resolving your debt problems and leave you in a safer place.


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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.
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