Collecting on America's unpaid debts is big business. In the past, we here at WalletPop have contacted some of the people who earn a living as debt collectors and gotten them to spill their secrets. Now, CNN/Money is hopping on the bandwagon with this profile of 10 former debt collectors.
Many of them 'fess up to either seeing or engaging in behavior that's unprofessional at best, illegal at worst. One says she heard a co-worker threaten to beat up a debtor with a tire iron, while another said the technically-illegal practice of contacting friends and family about a debt was a good tactic for getting people to pay up. Several admit to raising their voices or deliberately making the people on the other end of the line feel bad, but many said plenty of debtors yelled and cursed right back at them, too.
While one former debt collector admits to being fired after a bout of the flu led to his falling behind on his quota, most claim to have left voluntarily. Their reasons why are remarkably consistent: They cite the negativity of the job and the interactions with debtors as being emotionally draining, even though some said they pulled down literally thousands of dollars a month hounding people over their unpaid debts.
Karolyn Rubin, immediate past president of ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, calls the stories the actions of a "minority group of individuals who behave badly," and goes on to question the validity of the accounts in a phone interview with WalletPop.
"If in fact any of these cases are true, it's disheartening that a select handful of individuals could discredit what's a professional and ethical industry." she says. While she admits, "I'd be naive in saying these behaviors don't occur," she defends collectors who are members of her association, saying they abide by "the utmost ethical and professional standards."
Readers, what do you think? We're always open to hearing about a debt collector with a heart of gold, but this appears to be the exception rather than the rule based on the stories people post in our comments section. Did you have a good experience with a debt collector, or was your ordeal more like the kinds of situations described by former collectors in the CNN article?
'Yeah, we broke the rules,' debt collectors admit