Economic Downtimes: Vulture Season
One of the realities of life appears to be that economic bad times bring out the vultures, AKA, Debt Collectors. Now, the debt collectors are around, even in good times, but they multiply in bad.
Unfortunately, it appears that one of our previous Congresses decided to help things get that much worse. To no one’s surprise, it was a Republican controlled Congress, the 109th, that decided state level district attorney’s offices could out-source collections of bad checks. And with the extra fillip in some states (like Florida) that the collection firm can require the bad check writer to attend and pay for mandatory "money-management" classes.
As bad as that is, however, it pales in comparison to a collections trick the NY Times reports on for today, March 4:
Dead people are the newest frontier in debt collecting, and one of the healthiest parts of the industry. Those who dun the living say that people are so scared and so broke it is difficult to get them to cough up even token payments.
Collecting from the dead, however, is expanding. Improved database technology is making it easier to discover when estates are opened in the country’s 3,000 probate courts, giving collectors an opportunity to file timely claims. But if there is no formal estate and thus nothing to file against, the human touch comes into play.
Now think about this for a minute. Your loved one; parent, brother sister, child has died with outstanding debts and this company is calling you to assume the debt.
For some relatives, paying is pragmatic. The law varies from state to state, but generally survivors are not required to pay a dead relative’s bills from their own assets. In theory, however, collection agencies could go after any property inherited from the deceased.
Over the years, I have had some dealings with collections agencies. When it was my debt, I made arrangements and paid the debt as soon as I could. I’ve also had to deal with collectors when I had the same name as the person they were trying to collect from (that was fun as I had all the proof on my side and the firm that was actually owed the money knew I was not the person the lawyer/collector was after). Firms need to be able to collect monies owed to them.
But going after folks for bouncing checks and forcing them to pay more for "money-management" classes when things are already bad for them?
Going after survivors of the recently deceased because it is easier to prey on their feelings than it is to collect from the living?
Truly, if there is a Hell, then these vultures will have their own special levels.
Update: And please check out Christy’s post this morning on the former executives from Countrywide and their vulture tricks as well.