Take It To Your Grave

, , , , , , , | Legal | June 18, 2021

I had a client come into my office to deal with her brother’s estate. Her brother, unmarried and childless, had known he was terminal for almost a year before he died. He chose to spend that year applying for as many credit cards as he could and maxing them all out. Amazingly, he got credit cards for four major banks and managed to rack up more than $50,000.00 in debt before he died. He had maybe $10,000.00 in savings that he had kept as a cushion to make sure the debt collectors didn’t come after him until it was too late.

The first thing I did was assure the sister that no one was responsible for her brother’s debts except his estate. After that, I gave her the options.

Option A was the technically correct way to handle the estate: contact all the banks, get them to agree to take a ratable percentage of the remaining assets, and pay them out. This could take months and would cost a lot of money.

Option B was not technically the correct way to handle it but it was easier: contact the banks, tell them that the sister had resigned as estate trustee and no one was replacing her, and ask them not to contact her.

She obviously went with Option B. With no one in charge of the estate, the banks couldn’t even attempt to collect on the debt, and there was no way to go through legal channels to collect the money that would not cost ten times the money owed.

Do I have sympathy for the banks? Nope.

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College Debt Will Haunt You Forever

, , , | Legal | March 1, 2021

I recently had my college debt forgiven because of my degenerative disability and my inability to work enough to pay my debt. Nearly two weeks after everything is processed, I receive a call from a number I don’t know.

Me: “Hello?”

Caller: “Yes, [My Name]?”

Me: “Who’s calling?”

Caller: “I’m looking for [My Name].”

Me: “Yes, and I’m asking who you are.”

Caller: *Annoyed* “[My Name], I’m not playing.”

Me: “Neither am I.”

Caller: “[My Name], you owe [amount].”

Me: “Who is this?”

Caller: “It’s [Debt Collection Agency].”

Me: “Oh. I actually had everything taken care of.”

Caller: “It doesn’t matter. You owe us.”

Me: “No, I actually don’t.”

Caller: “You do!”

Me: “I don’t.”

Caller: “What is your social security number?”

Me: *Laughing* “Nah, man, that’s not happening.”

Caller: “I’ll call the cops!”

Me: “Okay, you do that.”

Caller: “I will!”

Me: “Yeah, f*** you, bro.”

The caller hung up and I called the company. They denied having someone call me but couldn’t explain why some random scammer would know the exact amount I owed. I’m sure it was actually the debt collector still trying to get money from me, but when I researched the number, I couldn’t find anything.

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The Last Payment Is A Tax On Those Who Do Not Listen

, , , , , | Right | February 9, 2021

I work at a debt collection agency. As part of the process, we send letters, including when an account is paid in full.

Debtor: “Yeah, I received a letter from you but this account is already paid!”

Me: “Okay, let’s take a look.”

Debtor: “This is utterly ridiculous; this account is paid!”

Me: “Okay, I do show the account is paid, as well, and we did send a letter to notify you of that on [day]. What’s the date on that letter?” 

Debtor: “[Same day].”

Me: “All right, so that’s the letter we sent for your records so you know the account has been marked paid. You’re all set with us!”

Debtor: “But the account is paid! Why did I get another letter?!”

Me: *Facepalm*

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Thank Goodness For A Happy Ending

, , , , | Legal | February 4, 2021

I rent a condo. When renting, it’s not uncommon to receive mail for a previous resident who hasn’t updated their contact information. Since I’ve lived in the condo for about four years, the mail for other people has tapered off except for the occasional bit of junk mail.

Then, I suddenly start receiving a flood of mail for a woman whose name I don’t recognize. At first, I do nothing but mark the envelopes as “return to sender” and put them in the outgoing mail slot. Once I’ve gotten well over twenty pieces of mail, I ask my landlord if she recognizes the name as a previous resident.

My landlord is a retired woman who owns just the unit she lives in and mine, which she rents out for some income. She doesn’t recognize the name of the person whose mail I’m receiving, and she’s only rented out to two people before me. Since she keeps to herself, for the most part, she doesn’t know if there’s anyone in the condo complex by that name.

Over time, the mail looks more and more urgent, even from the outside. I start getting a lot of envelopes marked “past due” and “final notice.” One day, someone knocks on my door.

Debt Collector: “Hello. I’m looking for [Person whose mail I keep getting] regarding some debts that have been sent to collections.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but there’s no one here by that name. Her mail has been coming to my address for months, but I don’t know why.”

Debt Collector: “Oh. Well, do you know her current address or a phone number?”

Me: “No. I’ve never heard of her before receiving her mail. My landlord has owned this unit since it was built and doesn’t know her, either. No one by that name has ever lived here.”

Debt Collector: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yes! If you do find her, please tell her to stop having her mail sent to me.”

The debt collector leaves and the mail doesn’t stop. Several other debt collectors come looking for the woman over the next week, resulting in pretty much the same conversation each time. I’m getting very frustrated with the situation. A week later, there’s another knock on my door, but this time it’s the police.

Police Officer: “Good afternoon, ma’am. Are you [Person whose mail I keep getting]?”

Me: “No, I’m not. Her mail has been coming to my address for months now, but no one of that name has ever lived here. I don’t know who she is or where you can find her. If I knew how to contact her, I would tell her to stop sending me her overdue bills.”

Police Officer: “Do you know anyone who might know her location?”

Me: “You can try asking my landlord, but she didn’t recognize the name, either.”

I gave the police officer my landlord’s phone number and hoped it would help in clearing up the situation. The mail did start to slow down after about a week. The next time I talked to my landlord, she told me what had happened.

At an HOA meeting not long after the police officer contacted my landlord, she asked the other homeowners if they recognized the woman’s name. One of them did. She turned out to be an elderly woman with undiagnosed dementia, living alone. After moving into Unit 33 several months before, she had mixed up the address and thought she was in Unit 3, my unit. She used my address for all her contact information. Due to her mental state, she didn’t find it unusual that she simply stopped receiving bills upon moving in.

The police officer was looking for her, not to collect a debt, but to do a wellness check; an elderly person who stops paying bills for several months raises some red flags, after all. Once he found her and saw that she was clearly unable to live alone, he got in contact with her family. They found a safer living arrangement for her.

I’m glad the woman got the help she needed, but I started feeling pretty guilty once I learned the full story. I’d spent months feeling annoyed at this woman and suspecting her of fraud. All the while, she was in a vulnerable situation and might have gotten help sooner if I hadn’t just ignored her mail. Nothing like this has ever happened to me again, but if it does, I’ll bring it to someone’s attention far sooner.

This story is part of our Best Of February 2021 roundup!

Read the next Best Of February 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of February 2021 roundup!

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Paying Your Debts Doesn’t Pay

, , , , , | Working | November 21, 2020

Back in 2005, just after both my parents died in the same year, I fell behind on repayments for a digital camera I had purchased the year before. It was entirely my own fault; I freely admit that. I came to an arrangement with the collection agency that bought up the debt.

Every month, I paid the required amount. After three years it was getting somewhat irksome, £7 a month. I then had the fortune to come into a small win on the National Lottery — £105 I seem to recall. So, I called up the collection agency to verify how much the outstanding debt was currently, and then I told them to pay it off entirely. The clerk on the phone thanked me profusely.

I thought no more about it until about three months later. I got a phone call to my voicemail, asking me to call them up urgently. I called them, and straightaway I got an agent immediately telling me that they had added £60 in penalty fees, cancelled the arrangement, and required immediate and full payment, because I had gone delinquent on the arrangement.

I asked how I could go delinquent on an arrangement that had been paid off in full already. He “ummed” and “ahhed” and then finally:

Agent: “It seems our system made an error. Leave it with me; you don’t owe anything.”

A month after that, it happened again, only this time the penalty fee was £120: £60 for the first one, and a second £60 for not paying that. Again, the conversation proceeded in much the same way as before.

Finally, a month after that, a manager called me up and demanded immediate payment of £180 — three penalty fees. I told him to contact my lawyer instead, and that continuing to contact me would constitute harassment, as the debt had been paid off in full. He tried to counter that by saying that in paying it off in full, I had broken the terms of the agreement, therefore the penalty fees were payable.

I got a very nice apology from them a few months later, after my lawyer had finished with them.

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