Former Debt Collectors Tell All

CNN’s Money mag has published ten short confessionals from current and former debt collectors. A guy who’s been doing it for twenty years says that “being authoritative and abrasive was like a high,” and that it helped him provide for his two daughters. A woman who’s been in the business for ten years says she knows collectors who hold contests to see who can make the most people cry each day. Another ten-year veteran quit after a debtor he was harassing shot himself. Yeah, it’s a fun Monday morning read.

“Confessions of former debt collectors” [CNN] (Thanks to S!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    I know some people are going to react and say “I hope these people rot in hell…” but honestly it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round. Nice, honest, wholesome people wouldn’t seem so good if it weren’t for people like this.

    • Tim says:

      Yeah, the world really needs people to harass, intimidate, lie to people, blackmail them, have their neighbors put notices on their doors, threaten them with violence, etc. That definitely makes the world a better place.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        You totally missed the point. I didn’t say it made the world a better place. I said nice people wouldn’t seem so good if it weren’t for people like this. If exceptional is the norm, it’s no longer exceptional.

        • Pax says:

          “Nice” shouldn’t be the exception.

          • jrobie says:

            People like this, like those who write parking tickets, get up every day and make the world a little less pleasant to live in. They don’t make the world go around, they make it suck.

            • gorby says:

              Maybe you shouldn’t default on your debt, or park where you’re not allowed? Seems like a good solution.

              • Conformist138 says:

                Maybe that girl shouldn’t have looked so hot if she didn’t want to… no, wait, you can’t blame the victim like that. I got way over my head with debt and you know who got paid back first? The collectors who were nice and understood I wasn’t just not paying on a whim. They gave me options and I worked with them. Now, I am out of debt after paying back everything (I got a few fee and interest reductions as a reward for those I was able to pay in lump sums).

                And nice people don’t seem more nice after comparing them to bad people, or rather the perception of niceness would not be lessened if more people were equally nice (unless you count surprise that a person can be nice, which is really just saying there’s too much rudeness). It’s used as a weak excuse for Saran: goodness needs evil for balance. Faulty logic, of course, a kind gesture or comment doesn’t become rude in the absence of other rudeness. Even if no one tells me to go to hell today, I won’t look back any less kindly on those who wished me a good morning.

    • Captain Walker says:

      I’m guessing you didn’t read the whole article. Many (most?) bill collectors don’t harass, threaten, or break the law. You might not be able to tell them from other nice, honest, wholesome people.

      At least they aren’t BP Executives. Or mimes.

    • SOhp101 says:

      I think people need to differentiate between debt collectors that work for the original creditor and debt collectors that work for a debt collection agency. Two totally different jobs with totally different attitudes.

      • Gekas says:

        There’s even a third category (well, there are many more) but consider this:

        Collectors working for the original creditor

        Collectors working at collection agencies DIRECTLY representing the creditor

        and collectors working for debt buying agencies that “bought the debt for pennies on the dollar”

        See, too many people think that collectors all buy debts… A lot of the time, this isn’t the case.

  2. dreamfish says:

    A job I could never do.

  3. Beeker26 says:

    Just proves what we already know — they’re low-life, scum-sucking douchebags.

  4. chaesar says:

    it’s a growing field

  5. shepd says:

    Well, 3 out of 9 aren’t absolute jerks. I suppose it could actually be worse.

  6. Sarge says:

    Tried it once……worked for a company that collected medical debts….

    me: “I’m looking for so-and-so to discuss a business matter”
    them: “I’m sorry, he/she died last year”
    me: “Oh….well then I’m looking for the executor of his estate, he/she died owing money and I’m calling to collect it”

    SUCKED!!!!! never again…….only good thing to come out of that job was learning all about the FDCPA ;)

    • TheWillow says:

      Wow did you use the same summer temp I did? I lasted a month doing in-bound pre-collections customer service (aka people calling to scream about the mistake in their bill that 99% of the time was an actual mistake on the company’s part) before they tried to make me do outbound and I quit.

      • Sarge says:

        No…was an actual JOB job when I first got out of the service…

        ..never NEVER again, was the only job I have ever had that just made me feel “dirty”

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      As the executor of an estate I would say find the published legal notice and send the paperwork the the lawyer! I would be 95% certain that they would miss it. Granted it was a debt free estate and the only notice I have received (not through the lawyer) was for a private mailbox we didn’t know about. I called the store, she said the mailbox was empty and not to worry about the rent, it was now closed.

      I made a concerted effort to pay the medical debts before the hearing (calling the hospital and saying please send the bill promptly) before the court hearing to reduce legal costs.

      • econobiker says:

        Once someone dies, the estate is no longer responsible for paying off unsecured debts. Not sure how medical debt relates but would imagine roughly the same.

  7. gamehendge2000 says:

    So, are we just supposed to send flowers to debtors?

  8. Green Mountain Boy says:

    If a bill is under $1000.00 most creditors won’t do anything to you except call you and send you collection notices, so just ignore them.

    • tbax929 says:

      That’s great advice. We all know those small debts have no impact on your credit score whatsoever. /sarcasm

      • Green Mountain Boy says:

        Credit ratings are for credit whores who can’t live unless their score is high. I you can’t afford to pay cash for something, don’t buy it.

    • SlappyFrog says:

      How about you pay your freaking debts? How’s that for a plan?

    • BBBB says:

      If a bill is under $1000.00 most creditors won’t do anything to you except call you and send you collection notices, so just ignore them.

      Some collectors will file lawsuits for small amounts and tack on lots of interest and fees.
      Many debtors ignore the notice or are too scared/confused to do anything. The default judgment is for lots of money and they have to ability to attach assets. [If you do show up, they still have a good chance of getting something out of you.]

      When the debt gets resold many times, your chances of running into one of these gets greater.

      Plus, as others mentioned, it still ends up on your credit report and the debt keeps getting resold.

  9. nbs2 says:

    I love that it’s only other people that break the law and are rude – these 10 folks are just the kindest souls you could ever want to meet.

    Also, what’s the deal with anonymous? The other 9 folks, at least they were willing to openly admit who they are and take the abuse that may or may not come with it. But hiding….

  10. RAEdwards says:

    So what do you do when you get a harassing call and you they refuse to identify themselves? I have received calls from debt collectors in the past (missed a few medical bills) and the phone number comes up as 000-1234 or something along that line. It’s obvious they are faking the caller id. Other times it comes as unknown number or something. Do you have to subpoena the phone company to get the actual ID to know who to sue?

    Actually, the same goes with the telemarketers. I get asked to donate to “firefighters” or “police support” all the time. I ask to be taken off the list and not called. I still get calls. Caller ID shows no info or bad info.

    • Alexk says:

      Go online and enter the information on a search. You’d be surprised how often someone has located the collector, the agency he or she works for, and the original debt owner.

    • gdrift says:

      Another option is to ask what their contact info is. How can you send anything if you don’t know their address? You don’t even have to lie (if it bothers you). Just say “If I were going to send a payment, what is the address? And what is your company’s name? Your name? Is there a reference number for this debt?”

      Then send them a FDCPA cease and desist letter and/or go to small claims.

      • Alexk says:

        Of course, when you do this, they’ll try to get you to do it via credit card. NEVER agree to that. Insist on a written receipt, and an address, et cetera. If they try to push at that point, say, “That’s it. If you won’t accept the legal way of paying it, you get nothing. Do you want payment or not?” Then, if they persist, hang up. When they call back, they’ll give you the info.

    • Gekas says:

      Well, try to realize that often times collectors CAN’T tell you who they are. Hear me out:

      Collectors violate the FDCPA when they disclose your debt to a 3rd party. Say “ABC Collections” comes up on your caller ID, and your house guest walks by the phone and sees the caller ID. They now know you have a collector calling you, and the collector is liable for the violation.

      As far as refusing to identify themselves: again, they have to be sure they’re talking to YOU about YOUR debt before they can say why they’re calling and — if they’re calling from “ABC Collections” — where they’re calling from.

      Imagine this problem in the shoes of a collector:

      “May I speak with (debtor)?”

      “Who’s calling?” (you give your name)

      “What’s this regarding?”

      “I’m sorry, I can only discuss that with (debtor), are they in?”

      “I can’t let you talk to them unless I know what this is about.” (click)

      It happens, and really, the collector is simply trying to obey the law.

  11. cete-of-badgers says:

    I was unable to humanize any of those jerks. Even the ones with kids who lost their jobs and missed their quotas or whatever. Oh, those poor scumbags. How will they feed their scumbag kids now? Saaaad.

    The last guy especially grated. Drugs are probably what would help someone cope with such a job, and obviously they won’t have a shiny background if they have to work for such a shitty, shitty industry.

  12. Alexk says:

    I was amused by the protests that “we’re not bad people.” Sorry, but you ARE bad people. Debt collectors not only routinely break the law; they’re also hypocrites. Most are debt evaders themselves, knowing the system well enough to work it. They’re largely losers who can’t manage a genuine profession. A sad bunch, who have found a little corner that makes them feel powerful. At root, they’re no better than muggers.

    • Karita says:

      Just wondering what makes you think that? I’ve really never heard of such a thing, and can’t imagine you’d find proof anywhere.

      • Alexk says:

        Simply put, I’ve known people in the industry, including an in-law. The stories in this article are the tip of a very big iceberg. No decent person stays in the business. It’s no better than being a mobster.

  13. bhr says:

    I actually took a DC to court over a debt that had been settled. Won a counter claim but had their case dismissed (they requested it) rather then found in my favor (lawyer and judge tag teamed me on that one). Two years later a different DC is suing over the same debt. I look forward to another counter suit.

  14. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Wait, what? These companies buy debt for pennies on the dollar, then try to collect the full amount. I find that just slightly less shady than payday lenders, rent-to-own, and their ilk.

    At some point, you had to know what was going on, you finally did the right thing (getting out), and we should commend you?

    Sorry. Yes, people get in debt and should try to make good, but this is ridiculous.

    • madanthony says:

      They try to collect the full amount, but they only get a small % to actually pay, so it’s not like they are buying it for pennies on the dollar and getting 100%.

      The way i see it, they bring down the cost of lending slightly because they are collecting otherwise uncollectable debts, and lenders are a little more willing to lend or lend slightly cheaper because at least they will get part of their uncollectables back.

  15. Karita says:

    I find this just heartbreaking. Not just for the debtors, but for the collectors who have to work in such jobs. “Go find another job” isn’t always an option, and it’s awful that employers would expect such behavior. I’m an attorney that collects debt. I don’t make phone calls – all my work is done in small claims court. When the defendants actually show, I always try to be nice and work with them, since I’ve been in their position plenty of times. I’m almost done paying my consumer debt, and it was a lot easier when I worked with the collectors that were nice. I wanted to send one of them flowers, she was so great. The ones that weren’t nice, I just let sue me. Then I paid the debt to the law firm, as the attorneys were a lot easier to deal with.

    There is a law firm in the area that’s known for being nasty and aggressive. I would rather be jobless than work in that kind of an environment. But if it came down to it, I probably would, since I have so much student debt to pay off.

  16. BigBoat2 says:

    The cognitive dissonance from those debt collectors is staggering. As if people who owe money “deserve” to be illegally harassed, threatened, etc.

  17. HogwartsProfessor says:

    It wouldn’t be so bad if they would follow the law and also verify the debts. Plenty of people are getting harassed for debts that aren’t even theirs. If the agency can’t do this basic checking, how are they going to collect? I’m certainly not paying for something that isn’t even mine. And calling NEIGHBORS? WTF? I’m not doing your job for you. You want a notice pinned on their door; do it yourself.

    • Vengefultacos says:

      In the unlikely event I ever got a debt collector calling me in order to get me to harass a neighbor for him/her, I’d gladly say “Yes! Please give me your information, and I’ll go leave them a note!” and be all chatty, asking how much these people owe, tsk tsking their horribleness, etc. And then, after I got all the info, I’d cheerily tell them that I would be leaving their contact information, *along* with a copy of the Fair Debt Collections Practices act, with the relevant portions of the act that the DC just violated, along with the contact info for a few lawyers and credit councilors.

  18. dawn408 says:

    I did collecting for 2 years. It was the worst job I ever had. All our calls were recorded…not to make sure we were following the law but to make sure we were being threatening enough to get the money. Other than cursing you were expected to do or say anything it took to collect.

  19. Sexual Elf! says:

    Hey it’s my tip! Happy Monday me :)

  20. NotLeftist says:

    This sort of activity is a federal crime.

  21. gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

    Are we supposed to be proud that they finally decided to be an effing person? I’m referring only to those ho admitted or bragged about their dirty, illegal tactics. Karma will eventually bite them in the ass.

  22. Buckus says:

    I make my own debts at home

  23. econobiker says:

    RE: the CNN debt collector story: I wish I could read the entire thing on one page.The print option doesn’t even work to gather all of the pages together.

    And, yes, I understand they do this to increase clicks and views but it still rots.

  24. smo0 says:

    You could write me a sign on bonus check for 5k, I still would never do that job. Furthermore, I’ve been reading up on consumer rights for Nevada…. I gotta say – we’re pretty well handled, but I’ve reflected on debts and past mistakes and realized… I could have sued a shit load of people (kinna like that dude who makes a living from that) from some of the phone conversations I’ve had.

  25. frenchfriedpotaters says:

    A job I happily quit. Worst job of my entire life. My coworkers were all decent people, and I like to think of myself as one as well. However, my supervisor was a disgusting, racist, and all around awful human being who treated me like shit because I didn’t treat our debtors like crap. No matter how bad the economy is, don’t take a collecting job. It’s soul killing.

  26. yankinwaoz says:

    I once had a DC threaten me with violence when I questioned his “fees” that he tacked on. He actually went apes**t on the phone. I decided then and there that (a) he would never see a dime from me, and (b), I was going to make his life a living hell. I succeed.

    Sometimes, Dear DC’s, threatening people just gets them mad, not scared.

    • Gekas says:

      In that situation, I completely feel ya. Just be sure to take each collector as they come (hopefully you don’t have to deal with any more) but don’t lump them all into the same category.

      Again, my barista at Starbucks shortchanged me this morning. Doesn’t mean all baristas are a**holes who can’t count.

  27. garnet says:

    We did the complete opposite and made the collector either cry(a girl) or remove themselves from our collection. Never underestimate how disgusting a house full of drunk single guys can be….especially if your a female collector. I have to admit, it was alot of fun, and we still talk about it. I think we drove the guy insane, and like I said, the girl would cry and ask us to stop abusing her and to please just let her speak…good times…

  28. annabelle327 says:

    I worked very, very briefly in a collection field. I worked for a major phone company and took inbound phone calls from people on why they couldn’t pay their bill and wanted to make payment arrangements. Talk about soul crushing, it got to the point after about 2 weeks of me telling people I didn’t care why they couldn’t pay, I just wanted to know when they could pay. Only job I have ever just walked out on, I couldn’t do it anymore. It takes a crazy mindset to be able to do this job and yes, most of them are monsters who really, really don’t care about you or your life. They can’t anymore.

    Doesn’t make it right… it is what it is though.