Collection agencies rank right up there with lawyers and politicians on the public’s list of most unpopular and unsavoury characters, and rightly so. When the phone rings, the last person you want to be calling is a collection agency.
It’s been quite a controversial issue recently as to whether the U.S. government should be using private collection agencies to collect debts. In certain cases, and with certain types of debts, the practice is against regulations and they aren’t used. But in others the government has used them in an effort to collect some of the enormous amount of money they are owed.
However, there are usually rules or guidelines on what the collection agency can and cannot do. For instance, they cannot berate the debtor, use obscene or profane language, or make empty threats in an attempt to get you to pay.
Veterans affairs debt collections going to private agencies is something that has gotten a lot of people riled up, and understandably so.
One case that made headline news in particular shows just how nasty collection agencies can get. A 100% disabled army veteran of the Iraqi war was unable to work due to suffering permanent spine and head injuries in the war. He and his wife were receiving disability payments from the federal Social Security Administration, which are exempt from seizure by debt collectors.
But in an attempt to collect on a defaulted student loan, the collection agency seized the money from his wife’s savings account, which was frozen by the credit union. The couple took it to court and won – the frozen funds were exempt from such garnishment.
But the collection agency didn’t stop there. It actually got worse. Over the phone, an employee of the collection agency told the vet he “should have died” in the war instead of “taking advantage of” other Americans!
According to the vet, the caller said, “If you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off Social Security while the rest of us honest Americans work our asses off. Too bad, you should have died.”
After the court ruled in the vet’s favor, the collection agency’s lawyers continued to harass him over the phone, allegedly telling him once, “F–k you! Pay us your money! You can’t afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces you.”
Such outrageous behavior has angered a lot of people. One reason these characters resort to such tactics is that they are often paid a commission on every dollar they’re able to collect, and verbal harassment is an oft-used tactic.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) considers it abusive for a debt collector to make empty threats, misrepresent the legal status of a debt,or use obscene or profane language, and the couple sought compensation for violations of this act and damages inflicted. The sued was later dropped, and the attorney’s office claimed no one at their office made such comments to the vet.
Regardless of what actually happened in this one particular case, the Federal Trade Commission did receive 50,000 complaints about severe harassment from debt collectors in 2010, and 18,000 of these used obscene language. And many believe this number is low.
This whole issue is rooted in our society’s fanatical worship of the Almighty Dollar. We Americans are the most materialistic and money-worshipping society that has ever existed, and an enormous amount of pressure is put on people to get more and more money. Almost everyone is completely stressed out over this endless chase after something that is ultimately not that important.
I once asked a European friend who had lived in the U.S. for years what the biggest difference between Americans and Europeans is. Without hesitation, he said that the biggest difference is that Americans consider money, your job, your career, as the ONLY important thing in life. Nothing else even comes close on their list of priorities. The sad thing is, he said, while Americans have plenty of money, they are missing out on life. The deeper, and far more meaningful things in life are almost completely ignored by many Americans. The result is that they have lots of money, but are not happy, and are often completely stressed out. They have misunderstood what life is all about.
One of the first things an American realizes when he moves to Thailand is that Thai people, who have far less money and material things than Americans, seem to be much happier people. It’s undeniable. Is it possible that our materialistic society has been built on an illusion, and that we’ve been completely duped? Image/shapiroberezins.com