A couple of times a year for as long as I’ve been in the collection business (that’s two decades, partner), an exposé is done by ABC News or Dateline NBC or some other media outlet detailing the nasty, back-alley techniques used by bill collectors to extract the funds from poor saps who are just trying to muddle their way through life a day late and a dollar short.
It has always kind of ticked me off to know that my entire profession (yes, profession) is judged (erroneously) by the actions of the dirty, fly-by-night sociopaths who populate these programs. Just because some lawyers or car salesmen or siding solicitors are unethical and soulless, doesn’t mean all are – the dirtbags are a small minority, which I will prove as we move along here.
But back to the main subject first: the latest entry into the “collection agents are scum” sweepstakes (as e-mailed to me by ex-collector extraordinaire David Swindle), is this item about Facebook being used to hector and humiliate consumers who have fallen behind on their obligations:
A Tampa woman who fell behind on her car payments after having to take sick leave from work was surprised to hear about it from friends and family. Turns out the credit agency, which was also calling her up to 20 times a day, hunted down her Facebook profile and started contacting her Facebook friends to inform them that she was in debt.
The phrases in bold and italicized type are my way of showing what a Red-Herring this Facebook business really is. Let’s assume for a moment that this “Tampa woman” is being honest and this really happened. Was the use of Facebook unethical or was it the fact these call center criminals absolutely violated Federal Statute in such a mind-numbing and insanely arrogant manner?
You can’t call any debtor 2o times a day. Sorry. And it’s a brazen violation of the aforementioned law (The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as every state law I know of) to talk to any third party about the customer’s “personal business” without the express consent of the person who actually owes the money.
Now there are individuals who have no scruples about doing wrong, but most collection agencies would be out of business in a heartbeat if they regularly condoned such practices. In fact I can tell you that almost every bank I do business with is scared to death of what happens to their brand and reputation when something as repugnant as this Facebook scenario is proven to be true. (Check out the ABC News link at the top of this post if you think any financial institution, especially in the heavily-regulated age of Barack Obama and Al Franken, wants this kind of negative publicity.)