Scavengers

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When I was much younger, I had some serious financial problems. I fell behind on a lot of credit card payments, and I was dogged by bill collectors for several years. My credit report was in the toilet. Over time I settled most of those debts, and I was delighted a few years back to realize that I'd kept my nose clean long enough that my credit reports were pristine again. Now I keep only one credit card, and I'm paranoid about carrying a balance on it for even one month.

So I was quite distressed recently when we started getting automated calls from a bill collector. Finally I called the outfit back yesterday. They claimed to have two credit card accounts of mine in default that had been charged off to them. The account numbers seemed vaguely familiar, but the whole situation struck me as fishy. I said I would call the bank and verify those accounts before continuing any discussion.

The bank in question happened to be my current bank, and the issuer of my current credit card. The bank could find no record of those two accounts, which they said meant one of two things: either those accounts had been charged off to bill collectors so long ago that they no longer had active records of them, or they had never existed at all. They advised me to fax an inquiry to their security department for further investigation, and to get copies of my credit reports to make sure there's nothing wrong on them. They also told me that from my records I looked like an excellent customer.

I grabbed copies of my annual free credit reports from the three big agencies. All clean.

So I did a little digging online and discovered that the collection agency in question is a scavenger debt collector, which is a company that purchases old, old debt for pennies on the dollar and then attempts to collect on it, usually by underhanded means. In many cases, the statute of limitations for those collections has long since run out.

Armed with a little more information, I called the collector back. I had a direct line for the woman I had spoken with earlier. Here's how it went:

Me:  We spoke earlier about reference number [blah blah digits]?
Them:  Yes, let me bring that up. Okay.
Me:  The statute of limitations has run out on that debt.
Them:  What? Are you going to pay this?
Me:  The statute of limitations has run out on that debt.
Them:  Are you going to pay this?
Me:  When was this debt charged off by [Blah Blah Bank]?
Them:  Let me see. September 1995.
Me:  That's over 12 years ago! The statute of limitations has run out on that debt.
Them:  Are you going to pay this?
Me:  No.
Them:  We're going to take action.
[dead air]
It took me a moment to realize that the line had gone dead. They'd hung up on me! They had hung up on me! There wasn't even a pause after the word "action"! Punching the disconnect button was part of their script! I was furious.

It will be, er, interesting to see what happens next.

[ original post:  http://shunn.livejournal.com/441000.html ]

4 Comments

I've actually had similar experiences with old debts (I wasn't very fiscally responsible in early college). My defaulted credit cards from the mid-90s have also fallen off of my credit report, so when I'm contacted by a collection agency, I know they're full of it.

Luckily, no one seems to have my current (or correct) phone number, so they only send letters, which are easily ignorable.

Interesting that the hang-up is part of the script! That's... I'm not quite sure what to think of that. Manipulative? Aggressive? Typical for collections?

I'm curious to know how this is going to turn out for you...

I know this thread is a gazillion years old, but I found it while looking up "Expired debt", I reported a similar caller to FTC and http://whycall.me , but what I don't understand is if it's an actual legal loophole or what they're doing is illegal?

Are they allowed by law to collect debt which is expired? What is the penalty for something like that?

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on February 9, 2008 6:29 AM.

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