Steve Harms

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Collecting Money: Avoiding Stall Tactics

Debtors (people or companies which owe money to creditors) love to stall payment, anyway they can!  The more they stall, the longer they can hold on to their money, or, the longer they can use YOUR money to pay for other things.

One strategy to avoid the stall tactic is to try to find out what portion of the debt is allegedly disputed (the stall tactic).  Then, get the debtor to pay the undisputed portion of the claim. Your logic to the debtor is simple: “show your good faith to our client by paying the undisputed portion of this account, that way our client will take your claims/objections more seriously and we can actually resolve them”.

Keep in mind that the debtor wants to make the matter as complicated as possible. This is an excellent stall tactic used to confuse many debt collectors. If the debtor can convince the collector that this is a complicated, fuzzy, hugely disputed matter, the creditor is more likely to let the debtor get away with a stall. The collector might even let the debtor go an additional 30 or 45 days after the last communication, not wanting to deal with these stalling tactics!

Again, make the file as clear as possible by defining the undisputed portion, and then focusing in on the actual issues as to the disputed portion of the claim including information such as the invoice numbers, or the description of the goods which are disputed.

Once you know exactly what is in dispute, obtain the necessary documents to "prove" your case (invoices and the like).

Documents will include invoices and delivery receipts but also call notes made by in-house credit people, scraps of paper written in handwriting, e-mails, faxes, etc. Obviously, if you can find a piece of paper where the debtor admitted that they were going to pay all or even a portion of the account, you have struck gold! The best clients for collection attorneys like me are those clients who keep things in writing, particularly when an account is disputed.

A good credit manager, even on a disputed account, would write something to the debtor like “per our conversation today, we agreed to work on invoice #123 for $1,000.00 but you agreed, in the meanwhile, to pay off the remaining balance of $1,500.00 on the other invoices which are not disputed”. Obviously, a document like that is a piece of gold to you and to your attorney if the case actually goes on to be sued. Any written admission of the debt is a very, very substantial piece of evidence in your favor!!

If the case does go on to suit, please note that all documents should be sent onto the attorney particularly “key” documents such as personal guarantees, contracts, credit applications, invoices, delivery receipts and related documents. Yes, even a credit application is extremely important. It can tell you and the attorney where the debtor banks and other very helpful information. Sometimes there is a question that you might not even anticipate such as what the legal composition of the debtor is. The credit application should clear that up.

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