There are many ways to obtain debt relief including from collectors.This site is organized around types of debt and different debt situations. To sum up the main ideas:
Fighting them off. If you are being chased for an old debt (several years) or a debt that has been paid or a debt you think you do not owe, you can simply send a "CEASE AND DESIST" letter (there are examples on this site you can use) and that should be the end of it. Federal law prevents collection agencies from contacting you once they have received such a letter unless they are sending you notice of court hearings. They will not take you to court unless they can produce reasonable evidence of the debt (which often they cannot do) and the amount is enough to justify the legal fees.
If they do not take you to court the only thing they can do is return the debt to the original creditor, who can contact you. But they usually have already written off the debt and as a practical matter, the CEASE AND DESIST letter is usually the end of it. But until you send the letter you will probably get bugged, often in very annoying -- and sometimes illegal -- ways.
Debt negotiation. If you want to pay a debt, and you think you can afford to pay a reasonable amount, if not all, then you can negotiate with the lender. Mortgage interest rates can be reduced, payments can be stretched out (although none of this is simple). Unsecured debt (like credit card debt) can usually be negotiated down to some fraction of the total amount owed.
Debt Management Plans. If you have multiple debts, trying to negotiate them yourself is almost impossible. There are many organizations eager to do this for you. But you should be very careful in selecting one of these organizations. The only one I know and trust is mentioned many times on the site. If you work with them they will usually remove interest and late payments and arrange a payment plan you can live with. You send them a check once a month and they spread it out to your creditors. They usually cannot negotiate secured loans like mortgages.
Bankruptcy. This is a powerful tool that more people should use in my opinion. People always say they do not want to ruin their credit with bankruptcy and I tell them that their credit is probably already ruined and maybe bankruptcy will actually improve their credit rating by removing a lot of debt from their record.
With bankruptcy you can usually wipe out or significantly reduce (to 10 to 15 cents on the dollar) your unsecured credit card debt. Your unpaid back mortgage bills can be packaged into a separate loan that you can pay off over time with no interest. In short, you can get a fresh start with a debt burden you can manage. There is more detailed information on bankruptcy here.
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