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What Would Happen If You Just Stopped Paying Your Bills?

It’s a cliché, but a true one at that: We all have bills to pay. Just existing in society requires you to pay a utility bill, a gas bill, an internet bill, a phone bill and if you’ve graduated college within the past decade, a student loan bill. They add up.

 

Previous editions of What Would Happen If have dealt in light-hearted improbabilities, like eating moldy bread or not wiping your butt. However, for many Americans — we’re talking here about the 63 percent who would not be able to afford a $500 emergency — not paying your bills is anything but improbable. It’s a crushing reality.

So what happens when you won’t, or most likely can’t pay your bills? We spoke to Dean Kaplan, president of collections agency The Kaplan Group, to get a better idea about what’s going on the other side of the debt collections fence.

Obviously, the first consequence of not paying your bills depends on the service it’s for. In most cases, it’ll be for a utility — in which case after a month or two of being past due whatever it is you’re not paying for will just be shut off. Other things like credit cards or student loan payments will just continue to rack up interest.

Eventually, the company will get tired of trying to get you to cough it up themselves, and they’ll enlist the help of a debt collector: A professional whose sole purpose is to, well, collect on a debt.

Although the phrase “debt collector” is certainly a loaded one, you should know that legal protections exist to help protect you from these folks: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. “That is to govern the agencies so that it’s at least illegal to do a lot of the abusive and harassing that used to be commonplace before the law,” says Kaplan. “That restricts how often you can call, what time of day you can call, what you can say to people who aren’t the actual person who owes the money.”

Assuming that the collector is a fair, law-abiding agency they’ll start sending you letters and calling you. This presents two possibilities.

 

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