Beware of Junk Debt Collectors

By Tony Guadagnino
© 2015 Diversity Rules Magazine. All Rights Reserved

Tony_G_thumb[2]Tony Guadagnino is a marketing consultant.  Located in New Jersey, his clients are based across the country, focusing on social media to build their presence on the internet.  He studied creative writing in college and is currently working his first novel on the subject of bullying.  He lives with his partner Mark.

I am a person who truly tries to live drama-free; don’t share your drama with me, and I won’t share mine as well.  Gay people have such drama the can drain your entire body of energy.  As I get older, I realize that it’s not healthy to be surrounded by drama, so I try to avoid it, even ended friendships with people whose glass is always half-empty.  Recently, I had to suspend my “No Drama” rule and be supportive to a close friend of mine (to protect her privacy, I’m going to call her Clare).  What happened to her made my own stomach turn. 

Clare and I have been friends for well over a decade.  She had been building a very lucrative career as a Managing Editor for a national magazine.  Sadly, she was laid off on December 21, 2012 (Merry Christmas), and has not been able to find another rewarding job.
During her time of looking for work, Clare ended up defaulting on a credit card, and the account was sent to a collection agency.  Upon their failure to collect, the account was written off by the bank, and the account was sold to a Junk Debt Collector (JDC).  A Junk Debt Collector, generally owned by private law firms, will pay pennies on the dollar (usually 5 cents) for every account they buy, then turn around and sue the person for the full amount of the account.  (Example: one firm will pay $50 for a $1,000 debt, then sue for the full $1,000, plus fees and interest.)  Clare had to go before to court, and the judge awarded the JCP the full requested amount, which included their interest charges and expenses (the judge approved gas/mileage costs to the courthouse).

Clare accepted the outcome, and she was informed that the JDC would be in touch with her for bank information to begin the collection process.  Unfortunately (and this is the devastating part), the judge awarded the JDC to levy her bank account, without informing Clare that they were going back to court the following week.  Clare’s bank account was cleaned out in its entirety, plus, she was charged over $100 as a “processing fee.”  Paperwork from the bank reached Clare two days later, but she was not informed ahead of time. 

While I recognize the reality that Clare should have worked out a payment plan with the credit card company to avoid this mess, and I am not condoning her fearful avoidance to call them, I am also dumbfounded that a JDC gets a court order to levy a person’s bank account.  These cases aren’t criminal; they are a civil matter.  Using her SSN, the JDC did an internal investigation to find her account and serve the bank with papers to levy.  (And we think Big Brother is watching?)   The amount was not very significant, and they weren’t even the original creditors, yet, they made 1900% profit for spending just five cents/dollar.

When she called me in tears after discovering her bank account, I wanted to confront one of these lawyers and ask, “Is this why you went to law school? To sue people who are down on their luck and drain the little money they have?”  Lawyers have a bad reputation, labelled vultures or ambulance chasers.  I am friends with some lawyers who are good people, but these attorneys who exploit situations on people who are trying to survive do not deserve any respect.  I wonder how they sleep every night, knowing they may be ruining a person’s chance of survival. Or, maybe they dream of the incredible amount of profit they just made the company (and the commission that will hit their bank account).  If a JDC were affiliated with a branch of the federal government, I could understand the levy.  But they aren’t. 

Everyone … beware of Junk Debt Collectors.  They will bleed you dry. They are the true vultures!


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