A fascinating look at America’s abusive debt collectors

Here’s a short bit from a fascinating article by Gary Rivlin in Newsweek about the underbelly of the debt collection industry:

David Mullins is one of the unlucky ones. For Mullins, a 57-year-old from the Baltimore area who lays cable for Comcast, the nightmare began when the financing arm of General Electric mistakenly hit him with $1,300 in charges on a carpet purchase he and his wife made in 2004. Mullins has a letter from the carpet company saying he had been wrongly charged. He has a second letter from the Maryland attorney general’s office saying the same. Yet that hasn’t made any difference to the various collectors who have harassed him for the money a spreadsheet shows he owes them. “They call our home incessantly,” he says. “They call my cell constantly, they call my wife’s cell constantly.” Mullins is hard to reach at work but no matter: “They call my wife at work all the time.

“They’re like a schoolyard bully,” Mullins says. “They try to break you down so eventually you send them something just to make them go away.”

Making matters worse for consumers: the growth of a new breed of collector called the debt buyer. These days, only a small fraction of debt collectors actually work on behalf of the original business that’s owed money. Eventually, the hospital or cellphone company you stiffed grows tired of sending letters insisting you pay your bill; a bank can hound you for only so long about delinquent credit-card charges before, by law, it must write off the debt as a loss (typically at six months). Sooner or later, the creditor will sell off its bad debt to a debt buyer for 2 cents on the dollar, or 5 cents or 10 cents, depending on the age of the debt and other factors.

Even some within the industry believe abuse is endemic. One collector says she’s seen the inside of enough operations to know that what she experienced in Sacramento was hardly an anomaly. “The kind of stuff I saw first-hand goes on everywhere all the time,” she says. “You’ve got criminals working in these places … You’ve got drug and alcohol abusers. Basically, if you have a Social Security number and can sign your name, you’ve got a job.”

If you live in the Merrimack Valley and are being preyed upon by firms like these, I can help. A bankruptcy filing will stop the nonsense once and for all — and if it doesn’t, at my firm, you have hired a lawyer who will see to it that they will stop torturing you. I’m located on Route 114 in North Andover, not far from Lawrence and Methuen, and I’ve been using the bankruptcy code to get people out of this kind of mess for more than 18 years. Just give me a call at 978-975-2608, and you can set up a free consultation with no obligation today!

(Newsweek image by Josh Cochran)


By Doug Beaton

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