Monthly Archives: October 2012

Okay, fine I was never a debt collector. But I was a teenager. This blog will be all about my teenage years and the angst that came with it. No? Okay, perhaps then I will blog about debt collectors and the angst that comes with them. Better? Okay, lets continue…

In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission saw a record number of consumer complaints about debt collectors. 164,361 in all.  Why? Perhaps part of the reason may be that there is more debt to be collected as a result of the “Great Recession”. More debt means more debt collecting, and therefore, more to complain about.

But is this the sole reason for the rise in complaints? We have all heard the horror stories of debt collectors and their threats. I have blogged in the past about debt collectors making fake courtrooms and sending out fake subpoenas to debtors. I have heard stories of debt collectors threatening children of debtors, telling them that there parents were going to get a divorce because they can no longer afford to feed them. Yikes!

But not all debt collectors are created equal. In fact the majority of them are just doing their job and are actually polite and understanding when trying to collect. (I am trying real hard to restrain myself from laughing out loud at this point). But all collectors must follow standards and laws set forth by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This bit of legislation tells the collectors what they can and cannot do when trying to collect a debt.

Try for a moment to understand where these people are coming from. First off, debt collecting must be really miserable job. Debt collectors are usually attempting to get money from people going through a rough patch in their lives. Death threats from debtors are part of the job. Stories of bomb threats, death threats and packages with human excrement shipped to them are not uncommon. Now I understand how angry a debt collector can make you, but excrement? Really? Wow….somebody was sure having a bad day. Yuck !!!!

From what I hear, most debt collectors do not hold that particular job for very long. Between the crazy ranting of some crazed lunatic threatening to take your life, and the uncontrolled sobbing of an elderly lady begging for mercy, the stress quickly can overcome the most stoic of people. I know that I could not deal with it on a daily basis. Debt collectors that I have talked to said that it is not uncommon to see a fellow collector break down and start crying after a particularly difficult call.

Debt collectors are people too. And while there phone calls may be a nuisance, it is their job. Not all debt collectors are mean. Some even enjoy their job. They tend not to take the insults and threats personally. And they seem genuinely happy with what they do. And it shows in the calls. They are nicer to you when they call. They are more understanding with your circumstances and try to work with you on the debts.

So what do you do when a debt collector calls? Well, first off, don’t immediately fly off the handle and dive into the poor guy. Let them talk, then calmly explain your situation and see what can be done. Most creditors are fairly receptive when you are calm and seem interested in coming to a solution. But they can quickly become aggressive if you are rude and threatening to them. And after all, we all live on this planet together. Can’t we all just…….get along?

There are times however, when the collector that calls you is just plain mean! They immediately go into you and make you feel small. If that is the case, politely ask to speak to someone else. If this doesn’t work, you have rights. Tell them that you are recording the call. And try to record it if you can. Document the call, when they called, what they said, how often they keep calling you. Try to get their name if possible. If you feel like you were violated in any way, contact the Fair Trade Commission and file a complaint.

Don’t ignore the collector. If you get a message on your phone from a collector, and you do nothing, the number of calls will escalate. You may find dozens of calls from the same collector over the course of the day. Send them a letter, call them back (after hours if you don’t necessarily want to talk to someone).  A “cease and desist” letter is good as well. I had someone tell me that they got over 25 calls in one day from the creditor. They got a fax number and faxed a “cease and desist” letter to the creditor. That night when she got home, there were another 25 messages! The next day, she put the fax machine on her desk and proceeded to fax and refax the letter, almost 40 times, throughout the day. When she got home, only 10 messages. She repeated this the next day, that night, only 2 messages, and finally after the third day of blasting letters to the collector, her phone finally got some rest.

But be careful! Some collectors may be trying to collect debts that are just about to expire, due to Statutes of Limitations. Sometimes, simply talking to a creditor can restart the time limits and the debts start all over again. In a case like this, doing nothing may be a better way to go. If the debt is older, you may want to talk to an attorney, before you go and renew the debt.

So, what have we learned here?  Excrement can actually be shipped? Rodney King is probably the most misquoted person in history? I don’t know. But whatever you may have gleaned from all of this… I hope it helps.

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I guess the first thing to know when considering this subject, is just who are the 1%? Well, it varies from year to year depending on many factors, but for the most part the 1% earn between $350,000 to $500,000 per year, just to join the club. They consist of 1.4 million households in America and pay over 37% of all taxes collected in the country. So, do the math. But, my concern for the 1%’s isn’t the hard working stiff (think small business owner, engineer or longshoreman) or celebrity that makes way too much money for very little work, my concern for the 1%’s are the politicians and CEO’s that run this country.

For some time now, we have been listening to Occupy Wall Street and their ranting about “We are the 99%!” Well, woop-dee-doo!

At first glance it may be easy to agree with them, after all, we all need someone to blame. And unless you’re a Socialist, sharing the wealth isn’t an option. And I’m not sure that these protestors even know who the 1% is. And if you slow down and think about it, aren’t you glad that the 1% is in charge? Consider for a moment how many people you meet in a month. 100? 200? What about all the people you deal with at the grocery store or all the people driving on the roadways? 1000?  3000? Now consider how many of them appeared level headed enough or intelligent enough to actually “run the show” so to speak.  10?  20?  4?  0? Okay, starting to make sense isn’t it? Do you really want the “99%” running the country? I’m not so sure I do. Hey…I know my place. I too am part of the 99%. But I wouldn’t want the job of running the economy even if it were offered to me.

Okay, you’re thinking that I must be a social misfit, bitter and unable to maintain any semblance of a relationship with any human on the planet. And while that may be true, the fact is that I like people. It is never a dull moment when it comes to people. Nothing entertains me more that sitting in front of Costco enjoying a hotdog and watching the vast array of strange and exotic people coming and going. The same is true with friends and family.  I have lots of friends and close family. But I wouldn’t want any of them running the country either.

The simple fact is that we can’t all be in charge. “Too many chefs in the kitchen”, so to speak. And 1% seems to be what it takes to effectively run an economy. Could we do any better? Suppose for a moment that somehow we were able to rotate the 1% every couple of years. Eventually it would be your turn to be a part of the elite. Could you do any better? Would you want to share your wealth with the other 99%? Would I?

The 1% (in most cases) are highly educated and have a lot of experience in economics and politics. And unless you’re my uncle Bob, (who seems to know everything there is to know about how to run an economy without moving farther up the educational ladder than a semester at the local community college) the fact is that we, the 99%, really don’t know what it takes to effectively run an economy. Armchair Quarterbacking is very simple, but actually going onto the field and running the plays, is an entirely different experience.

Another aspect of the 1%, is that we put them too high on a pedestal. They are not all powerful, all knowing gods. They are simply people, just like you and me. They make mistakes and bad judgment calls just like the rest of us. But at least they are making judgment calls (in most cases anyway). I would rather a bad call be made than no call at all. Okay…. okay…I know what you are thinking…”but they are making calls that benefit themselves and not me”.  Yeah…yeah…. yeah…. I’ve heard that one before. And you may be right, but consider this; would you do it any differently? That fact is, we are all a bit self-centered. When you think about it, most of what we do is to benefit ourselves. How many of us, the 99%, are out there trying to make a real difference for America? Are you volunteering at soup kitchens? Do you donate money to needful charities? Are you volunteering as a Big Brother or Sister? Or for that matter, are your rearing your own children to be good and beneficial members of society?

Maybe if we stopped looking at the yards of the 1% and pay attention to our own yards. Perhaps then society can get back on track and 100% of us can move forward.

And for those of you protesting at Wall Street…..”Get a haircut ya’ hippies!””Get a job, or at least look for a job, and start being a benefit to my country!” Go back to school. Do some volunteer work.  Stop whining and pointing fingers and do something!

And one more thing to consider, in America, we might be the 99%, but to the rest of the world, we are the 1% !

So I say “Hats off to the 1%!”  Keep up the good work!

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Yep. That’s right. If you are notified that your Grandmother just passed away and that she left a substantial sum in her bank accounts, don’t cash that check right now. Don’t run off and purchase that new 60” Plasma just yet.  It may be that those bank accounts belong to the bank.

Some roller coaster huh?  Grandmas gone (sad face), but she left a lot of money in her bank accounts and life insurances (Yay!) But the money belongs to Chase Bank (RATS!)

If her estate owes more than it’s worth, in most cases the credit card companies will be forced to eat the balance. (Boo Hoo). But in some instances you may be liable for any balance on Grandmas credit cards after the estate has been liquidated. What instances? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Cosigned credit cards.  It goes without saying. I have written past blogs about the dangers of consigning for debts, but hey…it’s Grandma! While Grandma might not be as flaky as cousin Ralph, you may still find that you are left holding the bag after Grandmas demise. Many times the credit card is so old that you forgot that it even existed. But like sharks, credit card companies will swarm when they smell blood. If Grandma asks if you could cosign on her credit card (perhaps to help her with purchases), a better way to go may be to get a card where you are listed as an authorized user only. That way you are not liable for the debt in case the unthinkable happens.

Using the card after her death. Okay. Grandma just passed and you are on one of her credit cards as an authorized user. The funeral expenses are fairly high, so you use the card to pay for it. Makes sense. Or does it? The credit card company will eventually put two and two together and realize that Grandma could not have approved the credit card purchase (unless you have a toy telephone from the Twilight Zone)

The credit card company will immediately pursue the user for the purchase. This can be construed as Fraud. Yikes…big, scary word, but Fraud it is. This “fraud” allegation could even be used for purchases while Grandma was still alive. If Grandma is on deaths door and you use the card, knowing that Grandma would not be alive long enough the pay the debt, the creditor may scream “fraud” and pursue you for the balance. Fraud is a Criminal matter and can be pursued as such. It is tantamount to finding a credit card on the street and running to the store and using it. So rethink using that card.

 Divorce.  Your spouse was ordered to pay the credit card debts in the final divorce order. You think that’s the end of it, then soon after your ex-spouse dies in a fiery car crash. (Too morbid?) Okay, your ex-spouse passes away quietly while they slept. Anyway….you think the credit cards went with them. Credit cards company do not care who was ordered to pay them in the divorce, they consider that both of you are liable, and now that the other card holder has slipped quietly away into their eternal rest they are now coming after you!  RATS!

Community Property? Your spouse has just passed and now the credit cards companies are asking you to pay his credit card debts. You were not a cosigner on the account, and in fact you were not aware the debt even existed! How can you be liable? Many states, California included, are considered “Community Property” States. Most people think of Community Property as actual property such as houses, cars and the like. However, most people do not know that debt is also property, and in community property states, the surviving spouse may be liable for these debts. Community Property laws vary from state to state and can be very convoluted and confusing. If you find yourself in this situation, contact an attorney. Don’t just blindly send a payment to a credit card company just because a collector calls you and threatens you. You have rights! Talk to an attorney that specializes in community property law or estate law.

You are the beneficiary of the estateAs a beneficiary or trustee of an estate, you will be the last to receive any benefits from the estate. The debts come first, and not until they are taken care of, will you see any money. So as I stated before, don’t run off and spend the money until you know what it left. As they say, “Don’t count your chickens until their hatched”. Good advice.  There are specific time frames for creditors to file claims against the estate.

Know your rights! Always-good advice. And just because a creditor is calling does not mean he necessarily has the right to try to collect from you. Don’t fall for collector’s shenanigans. Before you do anything, consult an attorney! 

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