With all of my years in the credit and collection field, I have probably spoken to thousands of debtors of every kind. Without question, it has been a tremendously valuable lesson in understanding the psychology behind the payment of money. From this life-long experience, I’d like to share with you what I believe are the four basic debtor types – Honest, Passive, Aggressive, and Deceptive.

The Honest Debtor is the kind of person who demonstrates a proactive desire to fulfill their payment obligation. Upon receiving the demand letter, they may make the first call to address it. They will let you know the score about their financial situation and realistically offer to do what they can to begin payment. They will also always come to the phone when you call them and will speak to you politely. There are many people who fall into a terrible debt situation due to reasons outside of their control. But as long as people honestly try to work it out, all we can do is to work with them as best as their situation will allow.

The Evasive Debtor is someone who avoids dealing openly and directly with the debt obligation. They will be vague as to when and how much payment will be forthcoming. Or, they will make promises to pay but easily break them without any concern. The evasive debtor will also avoid your phone calls, emails, and other forms of contact because they just can’t deal directly with the “problem.” Needless to say, it’s very challenging to deal with this kind of person since we can never seem to pin them down to make and keep promises to pay.

The Aggressive Debtor, as the name strongly implies, goes on the attack regarding the debt obligation. They may speak very quickly, use profanity and even yell on the phone. They may also say things that completely throw you off balance. They might even purposely entrap you to become angry at them so that they now have an excuse to further delay payment or even not to pay you at all. The skillful credit and collection professional always remains calm and doesn’t allow themselves to fall into this trap. If you hear comments from this debtor that make you want to lash out, take a deep breath, remain calm, and try to continue the conversation slowly and in a soft but clear voice.

The Deceptive Debtor is a person who from the start had absolutely no intentions of paying. They incorporate characteristics from both the Evasive and Aggressive debtor types. They will not only avoid phone calls or other forms of contact but when you finally get a hold of them, they will tell you some complaint for the first time that is completely untrue. All of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky you are confronted with issues that would normally be mentioned on a timely basis. All the excuses are only a strategy to maneuver out of the payment obligation. Not really much you can do with this type of person except hand the account to a third party collection professional or attorney as soon as possible.

In view of the above types, one of the things that I have observed is that depending upon how a person’s situation evolves (or devolves), they may migrate from being very honest to being very deceitful. This is especially true when a situation becomes quite dire and a person is willing to do and say anything to stay afloat.

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This article has been edited by Steven Gan.

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