If you've ever gone AWOL on a doctor's bill or bar tab, be thankful you don't live in Barcelona. Dining out with pals, vegging out at home, or even goofing off at the office, you could be approached by a Spaniard sporting a kilt and carrying a briefcase emblazoned with the words "Slow Payer" in Spanish. He's there to collect, and he doesn't care what kind of ruckus he has to make to get you to pay up.

Strangely enough, the debt collection tactic used by Miguel Garcia Jiminez isn't all that unusual in Spain. Apparently, public shame works. But in that country, where news travels fast among neighbors and colleagues, flamboyant tactics are particularly effective.

Many debt collectors don a traditional top hat and tails and pursue their clients -- waiting for them outside their offices or sitting by them on a bus -- until they collect their due for up to 10% of the take. In recent years, they've gotten creative and dressed as bullfighters and even the Pink Panther (go figure). Jiminez gets points for originality from Scotland's Daily Record for dressing up in full Highland gear, which he found at a second-hand shop. His getup has earned him the title "El Cobrador Escoses" -- the Scottish debt collector.

Tactics by debt collectors in the U.S. smack more of bounty hunting than a drag queen contest. Still, the premise is the same: You will be hounded until you pay up. Of course, the goal is to avoid collectors, no matter where you reside. But if you do find yourself being pursued by a Spaniard in a kilt, here are a few tips:

  • Try your darndest to pay on time. Even before an account is sent to collection, late payments of 30, 60, and 90 days can weigh heavily on your credit record. Payment punctuality counts for 35% of your FICO score.
  • If you are going to be late, call your lender. You'd be surprised how willing they are to waive a late fee or forego the penalty rate. But only if you haven't been a chronic abuser.
  • If an account does go to collection, understand your legal rights. Here's a fast-track link to the lesson on Debt Triage for our free Get Out of Debt online seminar.

  • For hand's-on help on improving your credit score and dealing effectively with creditors and collectors, check out our FICO 850: Achieving Perfect Credit online seminar.