Tactics used by Bill Collectors

When I’m late paying a bill, and they call me at home, and we make some kind of arrangement for paying it, very often the conversation will end with them asking me if there was any reason why the payment was late. I can see why they’d be curious, but I can’t help suspecting that there is a more serious purpose behind that question. Perhaps if I answer it a certain way I might get more leniency from them, but if I answer a different way they’ll clamp down on me harder.

Anyone know what I mean?

I seem to have collected 2 bills lately :wink:

Bill collectors would rather hear that the bill got lost behind the refrigerator, or that you were on vacation, that the dog ate the check, or that some other thing not related to your finances caused the bill to be late. Companies that issue credit to you can and will close your accounts without warning if they discover that you are out of work or some other situation that means you are now a bad credit risk. This is true even if you are up to date and timely on your payments with that particular company. Credit card and other companies that issue you credit will often run a credit check on you several times a year just to make sure that you are on top of all of your bills and not experiencing financial difficulties.


It is not uncommon for a bill collector to ask what specific occurrence will precipitate the ability to pay a delinquent debt. For example, if you say, “I can send a check next Monday,” you may get asked what will be occurring between now and Monday that will enable you to pay the bill. This way, the collector can have a sense if you are blowing him off, or if you are actually going to be coming into some coin, such as a paycheck, money from the folks, welfare payment, etc…

I learned this while working in a small franchised business. The owner would have to chase down bounced checks and try to arrange payment. It was his experience that it was always best to get specifics. (“You say you will be getting paid on Friday? Excellent; then I can expect you to honor your check first thing Monday.”)

“I couldn’t pay the bill because I spent all my money on liquor. Now **** off or I’ll kill you.”

(I don’t suppose this would go over very well).

Melin is so absolutely right about other credit card companies looking into your credit. I fell behind on my Visa and both Discover and Amex cancelled my accounts even though I was not behind in those. Of course that was dumb of them to call in the debt as then I had no incentive to pay them.

Also I did collection (business) and the collectors only care about getting their money. When I had a friend who owed me money I had him write me out a check. And I knew when he got paid. So that day I called the bank every hour on the hour to see if the check cleared as soon as they said the account could cover it – bam I had my cash. Well his rent check bounced. He didn’t count on me cashing it that fast. I reckon he figured if a check’d bounce it’d be mine. And bill collectors are the same way. They all want to be first in line as they know there is little money to go around.

In the early 1980s a cousin lived with us. One of his checks, made out to a local supermarket, bounced. I got a call–shortly after coming back from driving him to work–from an agent of the store. I told him the cousin wasn’t present, but he acted as if I were the maker of the check and phrased all of his statements accordingly. Apparently I got just testy enough with him so that he backed down; if he had not, I would have taken the matter up with the phone company (where my mother was employed at the time), the store’s regional office, and the local police. Coming from a telephone-company family, I am quite intolerant of harassment by bill collectors, especially those who act as if the person answering the phone is an outright liar.