If you are contacted by a debt collector, there are several steps you can take to make the process easier.

1. Ask the collector to "verify" the debt, meaning they have 30 days to provide written proof of what you owe.

2. Try to work out a payment plan with the debt collector.

3. Ask the debt collector to accept a settlement for less than you actually owe. This generally works best if you can pay your settlement offer quickly.

4. Before you make a payment, request that the collector agree to remove the collection notice from your credit report after the debt is paid. And make sure to get them to agree in writing.

5. If you have multiple debts in collection, or are having difficulty dealing with a collection agency, contact a consumer law attorney for help.

6. If you are having trouble paying your bills but are not yet in collections, you might want to seek help from a credit counseling agency. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling for help finding a nonprofit agency in your area at (800) 388-2227, or find the agency closest to you online at DebtAdvice.org.

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