Dealing with Debt Collectors Debt Help

7 Reasons Not to Ignore Collection Letters

Written by Kristie McCauley

My almost 4-year-old does this thing where she puts her hands over her eyes when she does something wrong. She thinks that if she can’t see me that I can’t see her and what she is up to.

As an adult, you can quickly see how this is just not the case. Unfortunately, for her, I keep telling her to show me what she has or what’s she’s doing until she does.

It’s the “If I can’t see you then you can’t see me” theory (of a 4-year-old, anyway).

Adults have a similar action when it comes to collection letters they receive in the mail. They think that if they don’t open it, don’t read it, if they just don’t “see” it, or just ignore it that they’re home free.

Well, that’s not exactly how it works.

Why You Might Think You Should Ignore Collection Letters

Sure, there are some perceived benefits to ignoring those collection letters that are landing in your mailbox.

In reality, there is really only one benefit. If you ignore the debt collector long enough then they’ll just go away, leave you alone, and the debt just fades into the sunset.

The reality of the situation is that this is not going to happen. Keep in mind that debt collectors get paid when they collect debts. This means that if they don’t collect your debt they won’t get paid.

It’s a huge incentive to keep them coming at you rather than to just ride off into the sunset and give you a happy ending.

Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t ignore those collection attempts.

1. It Can Get Legal

If you ignore the debt collector long enough, the agency can file a lawsuit against you in order to collect the debt. If you ignore the lawsuit, then a judgment can be made against you to collect the debt so the debt collector can garnish your wages or other forms of income in order to collect the debt.

2. Attempts to Collect Isn’t Going to Stop

This is so important it’s worth repeating. There is incentive for a debt collector to continue to try to collect the debt. Remember, they only get paid if they collect money from you.

There is no incentive for them to throw up their hands and move on to the next, which probably means they are just going to continue to send you letters, call you, and do whatever they have to do to collect on the debt.

3. You’re Missing an Opportunity

If you don’t have the money to pay off the debt, it’s easy to understand why you’re trying to dodge the collection letters and phone calls. Debt collection, however, is not always an all or nothing situation—meaning it’s not you have to pay off the entire debt or don’t pay any of the debt at all.

If you actually pick up the phone and respond to a collection letter, it is possible that you can settle with the debt collection agency for a lesser amount than you actually owe. You’ll never know, though, if you don’t have a conversation with them to see what your options are.

4. You’re Killing Your Credit

A debt collection shows on your credit report, which hurts your credit score. If you continue to ignore the debt, the debt collector is going to continue to report the collection to the credit bureaus, which is going to continue to kill your credit.

5. The Debt Can Grow

That’s right. If you continue to ignore the debt, all you are really doing is accruing interest and collection fees on top of the debt you already can’t afford to pay. You’re actually making it worse, in the long run, by ignoring the debt.

6. You Get Tossed to the Next

There are times when your attempt to ignore the collection letters might just work. That particular agency might give up trying to collect the debt. They sell your debt to another agency that then attempts to collect the debt. This can happen several times until the debt is paid, so it doesn’t really make the problem disappear.

7. Increases Your Stress Level

Dealing with problems can be stressful but ignoring your debt problem can make your stress level even worse. You start to avoid getting mail out of the mailbox, your heart races when you see another collection envelope, and you want to just avoid it all.

Dealing with the issue can actually help to bring down your stress level because you’re facing the problem head on and doing something to correct it.

How to Deal with Debt Collection Letters

Now that we’ve determined ignoring debt collection letters is not the way to go, let’s talk about what you should do.

It’s actually a good thing that the debt collector is sending you information on the debt in writing. You want to have it in writing.

If the letter doesn’t already contain the information, contact the debt collector and ask them to send you the name and address of the borrower, the amount of the debt, the date the debt was established and, if possible, a copy of the original debt application or approval letter.

When you receive this information and verify that the debt is your debt, then contact the collection agency to try to work out some kind of an arrangement. Claim ownership of the debt and let them know that you want to pay your obligation.

See if you can settle for an amount that you can afford to pay off in a lump sum. See if you can make payment arrangements so you can make monthly payments you can afford until the debt is paid off in full.

Once you make an arrangement, make sure you keep up your end of the deal.

While it may seem easier to just turn a blind eye to those collection letters showing up in your mailbox, the reasons to deal with the problem head on far outweigh the one reason to ignore it.

About the author

Kristie McCauley

Kristie Lorette McCauley is an award-winning expert on personal finance, mortgages, and credit. She has published articles on major finance and credit blogs, such as Yahoo! Finance, Quizzle, Money Crashers, and BankRate. She is also the author of books, such as How to Use the Equity in Your Home or Business Today to Invest for Tomorrow and How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Personal Financial Planning Business.


  • I recieved a collection letter about five years ago. The bill was for electronic equipment totaling over $4000.00 . Not mine. When I contacted them for the address of the bill they said It was Kentucky. Never lived in Kentucky and never been to Kentucky. No intention of paying this bill.

  • Ok, some weeks ago, I watched a video on YouTube telling us to never pay a collections debt that was old and not to respond to it. Now, she’s telling us not to ignore it. Conflicting info on the same site from two different perspectives. Who should we believe? I always heard that anything over 7 years should be removed and now she is saying to try to settle with them. I think this is very bad advice.

  • This is terrible advice I agree for any debt past the SOL (statute of limitations) check your state each is different, some SOL’s are only 3-4 years and you can no longer be sued so long as you haven’t restarted the clock by making a payment during that time, that’s right the SOL can restart all over again once the collection folks get a payment of any kind out of you. Once the debt is 7 years old it should also be removed completely from your credit report. Her advice is good for fresh collections, however terrible advice that can actually hurt your credit even worse if you follow it for anything past the SOL date and especially if it approaching the removal date nearing 7 years old. Check your state laws where the debt was accumulated.

    • Let me add yet another thought to you collection above.

      In the case of folks with debt in collections and who are receiving income that is protected from garnishment, Social Security or Disability. Should these people place as much concern over potential lawsuits as others should consider? I tend to think not in some cases like grossly up charged medical bills that are nothing more than legalized theft from consumers.

      Presently my wife has 2 collections accounts due to up chargeed medical bills. I am on Social Security and the bills are not in my name. My wife will soon be on Social Security so I have told her it would be in our better interest to ignore these vultures and let them fly above as long as they desire. At some point in time we will request from them itemized invoices and proof the bill actually belongs to us. They are all part of a single hospital emergency room visit that lasted less than an hour total.

      I feel consumers should be protected from multiple collections entries in their credit reports simply because the care is being billed under different entities. THIS IS SOMETHING OUR CONGRESS NEEDS TO FIX FOR CONSUMERS.

      • I need to explain my reasoning behind why we ignore grossly up charged medical bills in collections.

        Our reason for ignoring those collection accounts are simple. No collection agency will remove anything from the credit reports until the account has been satisfied. There is no reason we should wrangle with these vultures for hours on end day after day to only get them to accept a partial payment as satisfaction on the account. We have tried this in the past only to find they will not remove the collection from our credit report files. Given this problem and the FACT WE REFUSE TO BE BILKED OUT OF UNEARNED MONEY along with knowing there is no way they can can file a suit and collect (income source is protected) we simply ride out the collecions entries on our credit report for a while until we feel safe requesting information they will very likely not be able to provide in time to continue the collections entries on our credit reports. THEY ARE SCAMMING US AND WE ARE SCAMMING BACK. (AN EYE FOR EYE APPROACH)

  • Read the bill carefully. There should be a paragraph in tiny print stating that they cannot collect, or even take you to court due to the date of service being so old. Also, if this statement is not on the bill, write to them demanding proof of and date of original service. Send by certified mail with signature receipt. Bet you never hear from them again.

  • A debt collector has notified me with a bill I know was paid 15 years ago. He insists it was not paid in full. In all these years I have never once received a letter telling me this. After all this time I have no proof I paid it. Is this a new form of fraud? What do I do.?

    • Often our dear to heart Doctors offices will have billing companies audit their records and demand payment from patients whom they have no record of having paid.

      This has happened several times with our family and in every instance the collections are for visits which are very old and that the doctors office requires co-payment in advance of being seen. Yet they still hire companies to bill us anyway for charges we have paid long ago. Many times there is no proof of payment available given the years of time lapse between services paid at time of service and later billed by the medical billing company.

      OUR MEDICAL SERVICES SYSTEM IS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CONSUMERS AS ARE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES. If the public outcry becomes loud enough Congress will be unable to ignore these problems as they have in the past up to present time.

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