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A script for negotiating with debt collectors

A script for negotiating with debt collectors
Image source: Getty Images

Negotiating with debt collectors can feel stressful and overwhelming. Here’s a customisable debt negotiation script to help you stay on track.

The role of debt collectors

Debt collectors chase overdue debts. In other words, if you stop paying debts like credit cards, utility bills or loans, there’s a chance you’ll hear from a debt collector.

  • Some creditors have in-house debt collection departments.
  • Other creditors instruct outside companies to chase debts for them.
  • Sometimes, creditors actually sell old debts on to collection agencies. You won’t deal your old creditor again, because they don’t own the debt anymore. Instead, you’ll owe the collection agency.

But how do you talk to a debt collector? Let’s take a look.

Talking to debt collectors

Before we draw up a debt negotiation script, you need to understand what powers debt collectors actually have. 

Essentially, debt collectors can:

  • Contact you about outstanding payments
  • Add interest and other charges to overdue balances
  • Seek a county court judgment (CCJ) against you if you don’t pay what you owe 

Debt collectors can’t:

  • Threaten you with legal powers they don’t have
  • Harass you with excessive phone calls
  • Charge you higher rates of interest than you originally agreed with your creditor 

If you feel threatened or harassed in any way, ask Citizens Advice what to do next.

Your debt negotiation script

You answer your phone and it’s a debt collector. What do you say?  

  • A common mistake people make when dealing with debt collectors is feeling pressured into admitting the debt and paying right away. Simply say, “I don’t have time to talk right now, but you can call back at [x].” This is a good move because it gives you time to prepare. Otherwise, you may feel pressured into paying something you can’t afford. 

Have a pen and paper ready to note down the date and time the collector calls back. Below are some phrases you can copy and use in your debt negotiation script. 

  1. Ask for the advisor’s name and confirm the company name, telephone number, and address. Legitimate agencies are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), so check if you’re not sure. 
    • “Can you confirm your company name and address, please?”
    • “I’m not sure I recognise this company. Please send me your request in writing instead.”
  2. Confirm the debt details.  
    • “Tell me more about the debt.”
    • “I don’t believe this is my debt. Please send me more information in writing.”
  3. Check when you took out the loan. If the debt is more than six years old, you may not need to pay. 
    • “Can you confirm the date the loan was taken out, please?”
    • “I think this debt is time barred. Please send me proof that this is not the case.”
  4. If you’re happy you owe the debt, you could offer an affordable lump sum. This may be enough to convince the collectors to simply close the debt (for example, you could offer £300 to settle a £500 loan). 
    • “I can’t pay all £500 because [e.g. made redundant]. I can, however, pay £300 to settle the debt, if this is acceptable.”
  5. Check when you need to make this lump sum payment. Ask them to send out a letter confirming your agreement. 
    • “Please send me a letter confirming when payment is due, and confirming that the debt will be closed once you receive payment.”
  6. If they think the lump sum is too low, you could ask for a monthly payment plan. Again, you’ll need a letter confirming all of this. 
    • “I can’t afford any more than this amount. Could we agree to [x] per month instead?”

Don’t pay anything until you have a written agreement from the collection agency. Otherwise, there’s no proof that you reached an agreement with them, and they could still demand more money from you.

What if I miss my repayments?

If you can’t pay the sum you agreed with the collector, contact them immediately. Offer to pay whatever you can afford. 

Unfortunately, the collection agency might reject your offer and decide to take court action. If this happens, don’t panic. Instead, contact Citizens Advice for guidance on what to do next. It’s still possible to negotiate a new payment plan without going to court. 

Finally, it’s important to remember that missing repayments can damage your credit score. A low credit score can make it harder for you to get credit in the future.

Beyond the debt negotiation script

Talking to debt collectors is an important step towards clearing your debts. While a debt negotiation script doesn’t cover every scenario, it’s a great way to help you get started.

But if you’re struggling to manage your finances, remember – the sooner you get help, the better. For free debt advice and support, contact Citizens Advice. You can also check out the Money Advice Service for more information on debt management.

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By transferring the balance of any existing card (or cards) to a new 0% card, you could be debt-free more quickly – since your repayments will go entirely towards clearing the balance of the debt you owe, and not on interest charges.

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