Debt Collectors As Dishonest and Shady As You’d Think (and NY Judges Are Fighting Back)

05/07/2010 2:41 PM |

debt collection
  • “You don’t think you have to pay your bills?”

This Times piece on New York judges fighting back against shady debt collection companies inspires in me the same gusts of terror and anger that the now-classic Times series on corrupt upstate judges did. Basically, lives (yours and mine) can easily be destroyed by petty bureaucrats.

Take the unfortunate woman in this piece, Patricia Bohnet, a single mom making $39,000:

She did not know she had ever been sued. She started to cry, she said, worried that with a chunk of money missing every month, she might lose the modest apartment she needed to share custody of her teenage daughter.

The thing is, she hadn’t actually been sued, and the debt company, a cabal of lawyers called Eltman, Eltman & Cooper, was proceeding against her anyway, as if she had, on the assumption that a bunch of lawyers would win out in the end against a terrified “debtor.”

I understand that this kind of juggernaut approach makes sense in what is obviously a high-volume business (wherein companies with lots of lawyers buy debt and then go after the debtors)—but just because a business model “makes sense” doesn’t make it right. Thankfully, more and more judges seem to agree with me. Said one judge, about a debt company that was trying to collect 28 percent interest:

Like the Land of Oz, run by a Wizard who no one has ever seen, the Land of Credit Cards permits consumers to be bound by agreements they never sign, agreements they may never have received, subject to change without notice and the laws of a state other than those existing where they reside.

Unfortunately, not every judge will see it like this, so please, dear readers, always be vigilant about the fine print (which I know is tough when you weren’t actually sent the fine print in the first place), and know your rights. These companies (both credit card and debt collection) spend all day, every day figuring out how to squeeze you for extra money, so don’t be cowed. FIGHT THE POWER.