TAKE THREE CASES: THE SECRETS OF HOW CLEARING DEBT CAN BE NEGOTIATED; Thereaders'champion
Byline: LESLEY CAMPBELL
OVER the years I have been sent many letters from readers who have got into trouble with debt.
Some had little choice but to borrow when they lost their jobs or genuine catastrophes left them short of money to live on.
Others found that the interest rate rose after an introductory period and the new monthly charges were too high, while others found that their credit limit was raised without their approval and they slid into unmanageable debt.
Whatever the reason, they were in over their heads.
When these situations occur, the lenders show varying degrees of understanding - usually very little. But they would often accept a repayment plan, stop the interest clock ticking and move on to find the next sucker willing to pay them 25 per cent interest and the occasional hefty penalty for a missed payment.
Today, things have changed. Banks and credit card lenders are keen to sort out the mess they created and in order to do so, they want to rid themselves of all the dubious debts hanging over their heads.
For them, it can be better to get back 80p in the pound and close the books than hang on and hope to recover the entire amount. Getting rid of these bad accounts also frees up bank staff to get on with more productive work.
I looked at three cases of debt this week. One was with a credit card company, one was a debt collection agency trying to recover a bank debt, the last one was a collection agency trying to recover a credit card debt.
Pauline owes her credit card pounds 700. She's a student with a part- time job and ought never to have got so far into debt, but she did. When I called the company on her behalf, I was surprised by the approach the call centre operator took. "Make a payment now, or we'll sell the debt to a collection agency," she announced.
Then she added: "And I have to warn you that some agencies are very hard. They come to collect debt at your door. …