Phantom Debts, Real Anguish
July 2, 2010 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Debt buyers have become a multi-billion dollar industry. They buy old debts and then litigate in an effort to collect with little or no evidence.

They use all sorts of chicanery, from false affidavits to the president of one of these companies showing up at a debtor's house, claiming to be a sherriff.
posted by reenum (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I will take this opportunity to recommend (to Americans) AnnualCreditReport and Credit Karma
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:43 PM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

God bless America.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:01 PM on July 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Proof is needed only if a debtor disputes a debt claim in writing, which happens in less than 10 percent of cases.

Which is why it's better to put in the effort and time to dispute than to let things go.

People disputing those claims often face an expensive legal fight in which the burden of proof falls on them to prove a database is wrong.

Which makes it sound like it's a waste of time to dispute or put up a fight, which is inaccurate. That is, unless you live in Minnesota, evidently.
posted by blucevalo at 4:05 PM on July 2, 2010

Say a debt buyer makes an assertion that a debt is owed, that is subsequently proven to be incorrect. If in the course of proving it, it becomes obvious that the debt buyer could not in good faith have believed the debt existed at all, or if having seen the proof that the debt does not exist, the debt buyer continues to make the assertion that it does, this would appear to be a clear case of fraud: false representation causing damage. The debt buyers are attempting to (and apparently succeeding in) committing crimes against the public. Are these crimes being reported? I suspect not, but if they are, are they not being prosecuted?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:33 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

claiming to be a sherriff

Ummm, perhaps this varies by state, but doesn't impersonating an officer count as a felony? Never mind mere harassment and fraud, that goes straight into "you goin' to PMITA, boy!" territory.

We really need the death penalty for certain classes of crimes that don't necessarily count as "violent", but prove far more conclusively than any violent attack ever could, the perpetrator's complete and utter lack of humanity. At least you know where you stand with someone who just wants to kill you and fry up your liver for dinner.
posted by pla at 5:13 PM on July 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

The future is already here; just unequally distributed
posted by digitalprimate at 5:18 PM on July 2, 2010

this is insanity
posted by liza at 5:37 PM on July 2, 2010

doesn't impersonating an officer count as a felony? Sure, but who has the money to lawyer up to that? I'm pretty sure you'd have to file a suit against them.

I had a phone message a while back that said, "Do not listen to this message unless you are SNS. Listening to this message acknowledges that you are SNS and have received this message."

posted by snsranch at 5:42 PM on July 2, 2010

doesn't impersonating an officer count as a felony?

Sure, but who has the money to lawyer up to that? I'm pretty sure you'd have to file a suit against them.

Actually, wouldn't you just need to report the crime? You don't have to sue muggers.

Now whether the "sherriff" was slick enough to dodge it/local cops cared enough is another matter. Cops do generally seem to care about impersonators though.

My strategy in that situation would be obviously to get hold of real cops and simultaneously to call news stations and reporters--that's pretty standard news-hour fodder.
posted by emjaybee at 5:58 PM on July 2, 2010

the term "bottom feeders" comes to mind
posted by the noob at 5:59 PM on July 2, 2010

Bud: Fucking trash! I wonder how much they owe?
Bud: Most of them are on the run, not even using their social security numbers.
Bud: If there was only a way to make them pay...
Otto: Jesus, Bud, they're winos! They don't have money. Would they be bums if they did?
Bud: Do you want out?
posted by clarknova at 6:34 PM on July 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by Brocktoon at 7:15 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, I hear you, emjaybee, and I'm really glad that you're contesting that. This is precisely why these kinds of scare tactics work so well.

So you call the cops. If anyone actually listens to your "impersonating an officer" complaint, they'll probably direct you to a detective who will then tell you that this a sort of "mail fraud" and that they can't help you. Or, they might give you the number to some other FED agency that might be able to help. At this point you've found yourself in bureaucratic hell.

Ultimately, it's lawyer up or pay up.

(I sometimes feel like I need to be an attorney just to get by.)
posted by snsranch at 7:39 PM on July 2, 2010

I've experienced these bottom feeders (check my AskMeFi question history for BRILLIANT advice on how to overcome being falsely accused of debts.. my only debt is to the wonderful, knowledgeable people of MetaFilter who coached me through how to respond to the assholes accusing me of owing someone else's debts) personally. So far, it's been about year since I've last heard from the creditors.. but I figure they'll rear their ugly head again. Just keep contesting any false accusations. Don't let them get away with it.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:59 PM on July 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Here I was going to link to a shocking news story that just ran in my local paper, and it's the actual link. I can't believe this stuff happens.
posted by sanka at 9:04 PM on July 2, 2010

We are subject to this regularly. We went bankrupt several years ago (car accident - subsequent health problems - all insurance failed to pay up) and we are still pursued for debts that were cleared by the bankruptcy order. In one case the Royal Bank of Scotland had a debt cancelled and another part of that same bank came after us for it. Just a few months ago we were chased for a debt where the figure was correct (we checked old bills) but the address was one we were not in at that time and the money was for another utility and it was for before the bankruptcy even though the address was after that. They actually then after much argument asked us to list where we lived and when presumably in a bid to join the dots for themselves. We said we'd meet them in court when they took action and they've gone quiet.
This is a vicious business and in the UK use Trading Standards. Do nothing by phone unless you can record it, And of course keep all financial documents forever.
posted by markx2 at 2:28 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering how the lady at the end thinks a loaded gun is going to help her. Just makes it much more likely she'll end up doing time, surely?
posted by imperium at 2:56 AM on July 3, 2010

I'm wondering how the lady at the end thinks a loaded gun is going to help her. Just makes it much more likely she'll end up doing time, surely?

I thought the same thing.
posted by gjc at 6:49 AM on July 3, 2010

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