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Forum Post: Motivated strictly by cash, collectors manipulate, shame and threaten people into paying.

Posted 4 years ago on Sept. 26, 2013, 5:31 p.m. EST by gmxusa (274)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

"Ethel, you did this!" Joe barks into the phone, his voice booming through the divider between our desks. Joe is trying to collect a credit-card bill, but Ethel is unaware of the card's existence -- or claims to be. "Stop making excuses!" Joe tells her.

It's my first week on the job as a debt collector, and already I'm learning a lot. Or rather, unlearning a lot. Everything I know about consumer finance is wrong here.

In this upside-down world, unpaid bills are a boon, not a curse. The bigger, the better. If we collect, the agency gets a bounty of 10% to 50% from the creditor, and it gives us a cut. Top collectors are handed bonuses of $10,000 or more at a monthly assembly, while envious co-workers clap and cheer.

In this world, identity theft isn't an epidemic. It's an excuse used by weaseling debtors -- like job loss, illness or even the death of a spouse. In the notes we make after each call, these excuses are summed up with the code HLS -- hard-luck story. Joe tells Ethel that he's looking at her credit report and it doesn't support her innocence. "This card was paid every month for two years," he says. "Identity thieves don't do that!" Maybe he's right and she's trying to skip a legitimate bill. Or maybe he's making it up.

The collection industry gets the most complaints of any industry regulated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission -- more than 300,000 in the past five years. The trade association, ACA International, blames the griping on consumers' increasing debt burden.

But inside the large, well-established agency where I work, that's not the whole story. Motivated strictly by cash, collectors manipulate, shame and threaten people into paying, without caring whether the bill is legitimate.

"Get the money!" our team leader exhorts us in a brief morning huddle. Then we hit the phones, making 150 to 200 calls a day. Most are answered by machines or by people who say we've got a wrong number. Debtors are cagey about picking up, so we're taught to mask the purpose of the call as long as possible. We ask for them casually by first name, like an acquaintance. Outright deception is forbidden, but sometimes my co-workers pose as paralegals or even as "fraud investigators," to imply that criminal charges are looming.

Once a debtor is on the line, we demand that they pay the overdue balance immediately. But the balance is like the sticker price on a car -- a starting point for negotiation. On some accounts, I may offer a settlement that wipes out half the bill. This helps to placate debtors. They're usually sputtering mad because their actual purchases are a pittance compared with the interest, late fees and over-limit fees they now owe.

If a debtor opts to settle, I am trained to take their application. In a bored voice I ask for their cell-phone number, their spouse's work phone and so on, as if I'm filling out a form. There's no application; we get the phone numbers to hound them if their payment falls through.

To help debtors raise money, we are trained to give them financial advice that would make their accountant blanch, if they had one. We suggest that they take money out of their IRA, drain their home equity with a second mortgage, load up a different credit card or even skip a mortgage payment.

If a debtor still won't pay, we play a version of good cop/bad cop. Two collectors will team up on one call, with one posing as a hard-hearted manager. The other listens patiently and pretends to be sympathetic. The idea is to make the debtor want to please the sympathetic collector, who closes the deal.

Even people like Ethel, who claim to be fraud victims, can be squeezed for cash. We say it was probably their child or someone else in their household who abused the card, and if they don't call the police, we will. But Joe loses his battle of wills with Ethel for today when she simply hangs up. Calling her back immediately would violate rules against harassment. I go around the divider to commiserate, and to see whether Ethel's credit report really implicated her. But Joe has already deleted it from his screen and pulled up another account, preparing to make his next call.

Our group manager has also been listening. "You blew it," he tells Joe loudly, so the rest of the group can hear. "You should've got her to pay."




Read the Rules
[-] 5 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

''Our money system is ill-equipped to help us solve the pervasive socio-economic and ecological challenges we face. Transformation of our money system is critical because monetary diversity is just as important to human survival as biodiversity is to the fate of the earth.

''Money is an agreement between people about how to structure exchanges. It can be used to connect unmet needs with unused resources, however a community decides to define those terms. And money can be designed to shape behavior in ways that are positive for individuals and for society, that encourage cooperation, trust, protecting the environment and sharing prosperity.

''People are yearning for real democracy, and part of that means remaking and democratizing the monetary system. People can build community and break from the Wall Street finance system. Finance can be re-made as a tool to solve problems, create meaningful work for everyone and transform to a new economy. We can create "sustainable abundance" in ways that are restorative and cooperative.'' Excerpted from :

I append the above with a view to a li'l optimism as the article was just infuriating ! Great forum-post tho' and a necessary insight into the shock troops of The Parasitic Rentier and Extraction Class, who trade in debt and its derivatives !! Parasites, vultures, leeches & greedy scum - all will get there just deserts !!!

ipsa scientia potestas est ...

[-] 1 points by OccupyChinatown (2) 4 years ago

1) I yearn for 'democracy' like I yearn for the black plague; only, the advantage of death is that I'm not expected to vote.

2) A money 'system' is whatever people will accept in exchange for goods, services and debts; it isn't supposed to 'solve problems' it's supposed to serve as a medium of exchange. If people want to solve problems that is up to their own ability.

This article is rubbish. All airy-fairy and gumdrop feelings and Enlightenment secularized theology, but not a bit of substance.

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

So, no faith in 'democracy' and not only no critique of debt based, fiat money - but a seemingly happy acceptance of it as it is. For what it's worth, I recommend Matt Taibbi's article (link below) as well as :

Give them a read / view, it could be quite engrossing and enlightening & tho' the first link could wind you up given your 'anti-democratic' proclivities - the second link from 'Occupy London' is very eye opening ~*

fiat lux ...

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

This Is Why The Hell We Occupy ! OWS !! Alas this is also WhyTF We're Occupied - BY Wall Street !!!

From which, I excerpt : ''All across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers. In the final months of 2011, almost two years before the city of Detroit would shock America by declaring bankruptcy in the face of what it claimed were insurmountable pension costs, the state of Rhode Island took bold action to avert what it called its own looming pension crisis. Led by its newly elected treasurer, Gina Raimondo – an ostentatiously ambitious 42-year-old Rhodes scholar and former venture capitalist – the state declared war on public pensions, ramming through an ingenious new law slashing benefits of state employees with a speed and ferocity seldom before seen by any local government.'' -

Y'all really need to read this incisive article from The Next Issue of 'Rolling Stone' Magazine - because 'This Is Is Why We're OWS' right ?! Here are just the subheadings (NB : each of these is also an embedded link to further back up info) & I can't recommend Taibbi's article highly enough :

  • Detroit's Debt Crisis : Everything Must Go

  • Secrets and Lies of the Bailout

  • How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform

  • The Great American Bubble Machine

  • The People vs. Goldman Sachs

  • Looting Main Street : How the Nation's Biggest Banks Are Ripping Us Off

  • Invasion of the Home Snatchers

  • Bank of America : Too Crooked to Fail

  • How Wall Street Is Using the Bailout to Stage a Revolution

  • Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes ?

IF exasperated indignation and apoplexy allow, also please further consider the following short article :

radix omnium malorum est cupiditas ....

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

''Why No One’s Investigating Wall Street'', by David Sirota :

''Municipal governments, for instance, say they have no resources to maintain homeless shelters, yet they seem to have plenty of resources to enforce municipal ordinances making homelessness illegal, and to bust the Occupy protests. Police forces say they don’t have the resources necessary to adequately fight violent crime, but they’ve got plenty of money to arrest pot smokers. The list is endless. No doubt, it’s disturbing to acknowledge these truths, because they make us see that our political leaders aren’t being forced to do odious things, as they sententiously claim. On the contrary, they are most often using their unilateral discretion and purposely deciding to do those things.'' + (^See^Above^)

multum in parvo ...

[-] 6 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

“Being poor is not a crime in this country,” said Rachel Goodman, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “Incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay fines is both unconstitutional and cruel—it takes a tremendous toll on precisely those families already struggling the most.” - from your rather alarming link. Thanx & in compliment :

e tenebris, lux ...

[-] 3 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

penalizes someone for not having enough money for insurance

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

"Democracy for Dollars", by Bill Moyers : http://vimeo.com/59723498 [4:43] appended again fyi as it goes to your point re. money and its role in The U$A or United States of Amnesia' as Gore Vidal said !

multum in parvo ...

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 4 years ago

The system is ramping up for 'hard time' for debt. Debt, which the system engineered.

[-] 6 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

''Slave Dollars : State Guarantee Private Prisons 96% Occupancy'', by Daniel G.J.


State and local governments have signed contracts that obligate them to keep a certain number of people in jail (with numbers around 96% occupancy) to bolster the profits of privately run prisons, a survey indicates.

Many governments have signed contracts with corporations that contain “prison-bed occupancy guarantee” clauses, a group called In the Public Interest reported. These lockup clauses obligate the governments to keep between 80% and 100% of prison beds full even if the crime rate is falling. Once again, we see a complete disregard of constitutional rights.

If the governments don’t maintain the specified number of people behind bars, they have to pay penalties to the companies that operate private prisons. The state of Colorado paid $2 million to companies because the rate of crime and the number of convicts in the state fell by a third in the last 10 years.

People in Prison Just to Bolster Profits :

The profit driven prisons put pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors to try to charge and convict individuals of more serious crimes just to fill prison beds. It also encourages authorities to send prisoners to private penitentiaries rather than state facilities even if they are cheaper. This is the reason that the number of prisoners in private verses public prisons has increased by 1,664% over the last 19 years.

Another potential problem is that it encourages authorities to send nonviolent criminals to prison instead of looking into less costly alternatives such as parole, fines, restitution, community service, or probation.

This could also put the public in danger; In the Public Interest found that the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Ohio, a private prison, was overcrowded and ineffective. The prison actually lacked secure doors, which allowed convicts to leave the facility and prey on the local community.

The study also found that private prisons are more costly than state run prisons. The Tucson Citizen newspaper found that costs at private prisons in Arizona rise by around 13.9% a year. The prison operators sell states on their “services” by claiming they can lower costs when they cannot.

Private prison operators such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) try to lock states into long-term contracts that guarantee 90% or even 100% occupancy. These contracts are binding even if the crime rate and the number of prisoners are falling.

Basically, this report proves that the prison system has become little more than a cash cow for a few politically protected corporations. Instead of protecting the public from criminals, prisons now exist to make money for corporations and little else.


Item copied verbatim (though with my emphasis on the final paragraph) under 'Fair Use', from :

SH!T is getting out of hand 'Nev1' & thanx for raising this & going at this tangent. The Prison-Industrial Complex is a monstrous Corporate threat to Americans and has its own lobbyists and proselytisers !!

caveat ...

[-] 7 points by beautifulworld (22885) 4 years ago

"The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him . . . They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market . . . It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live . . . It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him . . . what effective gain has the suppression of slavery brought him? He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune . . . These men . . . have the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need. . . . They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free? Simon Linguet

Anyone, today, who does not earn a living wage, and that is a lot of Americans, is a wage slave earner.

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

In search of a living wage and an economy that works for The 99%, people worldwide only really have themselves, each other and also their overwhelming (alas, if only!) numbers against the parasitic 0.01% Totalitarian Crapitalist Oligarchs and their Corporate-Military-Banking-MSM Complex and 1% lackeys.

In the US, UK & elsewhere regular mass marches will coalesce a movement and articulate the power of mass non-violent action against the clear and present 'terrorism' of 'Empire abroad' & 'Austerity at home.

'Slave Wage Earners' of the world unite - you've nothing to lose but your indentured pain !!! Together We Are Stronger !! 'Resistance Is Fertile' & Solidarity ! Thanx for the excellent quote re. ''Is that to be free?''

fiat justitia ruat caelum ...

[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (22885) 4 years ago

All the liberty in the world matters not if you are in economic shackles.

Solidarity with workers everywhere! Fight for your true freedom!

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

For insight into ''economic shackles'', please see :

Without workers, earners and purchasers - there is no real economy. In future these aberrant times of avaricious, larcenous, 'Hoover Up NOT Trickle Down', Parasitic Extraction Economics ; will be seen for what they are, a gross distortion of all real societal norms, facilitated by the utter corporate capture and control of 'democracy'.Without 'solidarity' we are nowhere & for every ''freedom to'', there's another 'from'.

spero meliora ...

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (22885) 4 years ago

"The truth is, most people are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. They can’t make ends meet on their crappy wages and they’re too broke to quit. There’s no way out."

From the ICH piece. Truth. Sad sigh.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

''Ordinary Americans lose out. No one in Washington represents them. America is now a democracy in name only.'' (ie. it's a 2 Corporate Controlled Factions, 1-Party - demoCRAZY deMOCKERYcy !!) from :

Careful there bw - once the 'sad sighing' starts, there may be li'l to stop it ! Trick is to then turn it into a sharp intake of breath !! Then - a 99% Roar !!!

vox populi vox dei ...

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (22885) 4 years ago

"48 Ways a Government Shutdown Will Screw You Over: Who is affected when the government doesn't show up for work? Poor people, people with immune systems…basically everyone."


[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

''Who is affected when the government doesn't show up for work ? Poor people, people with immune systems…basically everyone." & from you excellent link, what really caught my eye in particular was :

  • ''The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will furlough 652 of its 680 employees and maintain only a "bare minimum level of oversight and surveillance" to stop fraudulent practices.''

Hmmm, quelle surprise n'est ce pas ? In compliment of your 'motherjones' link, I'll simply append :

multum on parvo ...


[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (22885) 4 years ago

Truth. The balance of power between the individual worker and the employer is so imbalanced that it is immoral to leave the worker on his own. He must have the right to assemble and not only have that right, but implement that right!

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 4 years ago

I'd have to add that at this point in time, there's confusion between what we actually need, and what we are convinced that we need through saturation advertising.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (22885) 4 years ago

I would agree that a good bit of the profit is also made by creating debt through advertisement and consumerism. To overcome this involves education because most humans want to "fit in" to their society be it a sick one or not. They need to learn that "fitting in" isn't necessary and to think about what it is they are exactly "fitting in" to.

[-] 3 points by Builder (4202) 4 years ago

There's an "us" and "them" theme for sure.

[-] 3 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

health care not health insurance

[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 4 years ago

Yes, prevention by the ounce beats a pound of cure.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Slave Dollars indeed!

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

13th Amendment

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

Your ''13th Amendment'' reference is a critical point & thanx Leo for bringing it up :-) It bears repeating :

pax ...

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

The profit driven prisons put pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors to try to charge and convict individuals of more serious crimes just to fill prison beds. It also encourages authorities to send prisoners to private penitentiaries rather than state facilities even if they are cheaper. This is the reason that the number of prisoners in private verses public prisons has increased by 1,664% over the last 19 years.

logic does not follow to conclusion

“prison-bed occupancy guarantee” is the reason that the number of prisoners in private verses public prisons has increased by 1,664% over the last 19 years.?

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 years ago

Follow your ''logic'' but track back too and join the dots into the future, Matt. Further to previous links, I also recommend :

respice, adspice, prospice ...

[-] 1 points by OccupyChinatown (2) 4 years ago

A debt collector should be motivated 'strictly by cash'. That is literally the purpose of a debt collector: to collect debts - cash debts. If you don't understand that you're an idiot.

I don't really care what someone does for a living, but moralizing against the practical function of your chosen profession is imbecilic.