Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Legitimate Kneebreakers

If you have ever had to change your phone number in the last decade or so (which I did several months ago) you have no doubt had to put up with phone call after phone call from collection agencies looking for someone who is not you. In my personal case, the person whose calls I keep receiving apparently owes every single collection agency in the Pacific Northwest. At least, that's the impression I get when they swear that no one from their company has ever called before when I tell them again that I don't know anyone by that name and want my number removed from their list. The fact that someone is lying is painfully obvious, but getting these thugs to play by anything resembling rules is more than a little difficult.
Yes, that's right. I said "thugs". That's what they are. Don't get me wrong. Someone who is owed money does have a right to get paid and, when their is a legitimate debt, they have a right to bring in outside help in their attempt to get paid. The help that gets used these days, however, is only half a step removed from the extortionists in those old gangster movies who would employ washed up boxers to break a few kneecaps when someone was slow with a payment. They are rude, brutal, and inconsiderate and they don't even care whether or not you are the person they are actually trying to reach.
How do I know they don't care? Because finding the right person in this electronic age is so easy a child could do it. Most people who owe a debt aren't hiding out under assumed names in dingy basements. Sure, those people exist, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most people who owe a debt are regular people living in regular places and working regular jobs. They leave a paper and electronic trail three miles wide to everything they do and most of that trail is a part of the public record. There's this magic thing called Google. Give it a shot.
My point is, these collection agencies are legally empowered to go after people who owe someone money and they have the information they need to find that person. In most cases, the collection agency has a social security number, a date of birth, last known phone number, last known address, and last know place of employment. With half of that information, I could find almost anyone in the country in roughly ten minutes, and I don't have a paid staff. Why can't they do this instead of routinely harassing people who have nothing to do with the debt they are looking to collect?
There is a lot of talk these days about protecting people from predatory lenders and credit card companies and blah blah blah, but what about these extortionists who don't even limit their bad behavior to people actually connected with their "service"?

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