There’s usually a point in any movie where the main character is faced with a choice — do the right thing or another option. Invariably, the character takes the other option, gets into trouble, gets exposed cleans up his/her mess, and then makes everything right.

Consumers are faced with that same choice every time they are called by a debt collector. Option one is to take the call, engage in a conversation, and try to find a solution. Option two is to ignore the call and pretend it never happened. In some cases, consumers may even opt to block the number or report the call as spam, in order to keep from ever having to deal with the call again.

Blocking a collector’s call is the very definition of short-term gain, long-term loss. A consumer may not have to deal with the awkwardness of a conversation with a complete stranger about an unpaid debt that he or she may not be able to afford to repay, but there are plenty of repercussions that may befall that individual by not ever talking with a collector. What could possibly happen?

  • A number of collection agencies and creditors report negative items to credit bureaus. Those negative items could have an impact on an individual’s credit score. The next time the individual applies for a loan or credit, those negative items may lead to a higher interest rate being charged or the application being denied altogether.
  • Ignoring a debt does not mean it goes away, unfortunately. The next time you try to purchase something from that creditor or schedule a visit with a healthcare provider, the debt will likely need to be settled before any other services can be provided.
  • As a matter of last resort, a number of collection agencies will file lawsuits against individuals seeking to recover unpaid debts. In many cases, those lawsuits will lead to a judgment being filed against the consumer. A judgment gives the creditor the power to seize money from bank accounts and garnish wages from paychecks.

Speaking with a collector may be a few minutes of unpleasantness, but it is a far cry from the many, larger problems that could result if a consumer chooses not to pick up the phone. Collection agencies are here to work with consumers and find a mutually beneficial solution to solving the financial problem. Like every character in a movie who makes a bad choice, but ultimately learns the error of his or her ways, consumers can skip all the heartache and financial problems by answering the phone the next time it rings.