All That Treasure! It’s All Mine! So Long As These Greedy A**holes Don’t Find Out About It!

cartman-money

Thankfully, in my lifetime I’ve had very few experiences with the dreaded “debt collector”.   The one time I did, however, was frustrating enough to make that two-word combination a dirty word in my household.   The “debt” I supposedly owed amounted to $100 —  it turned out it was for the remainder of a medical bill from seven years earlier that had already been paid by my insurance company.  Yet that didn’t stop the blood-sucking parasite debt collector from harassing me on a weekly basis with phone calls threatening me with dire consequences if I didn’t take care of the “problem”.  Along the way, I was hung up on, insulted, threatened, and called both a deadbeat and irresponsible.  The fact that this “problem” was non-existent didn’t keep them from causing me innumerable headaches, and it was only my threat of bringing a lawyer into the equation that finally got a resolution to the situation.

Unfortunately, some people aren’t that lucky.  The tactic of the debt collector is to use intimidation and threats to force people to cough up money — even if those people don’t actually owe for those debts at all.  Sound far-fetched?  It’s not — in fact it’s happening to people just like you and I everyday.  A high-profile example of this is what’s happening to a large a number of people in the state of New Jersey who’ve had a mountain of headaches of their own dumped into their laps in a way that would be pretty unbelievable if it weren’t all true. The accused offender in these cases is the law firm of Pressler & Pressler, which allegedly specializes in the sort of underhanded collection tactics that should make any of us cringe upon hearing them.

Apparently, in April of 2005  a crime ring in the Garden State enticed bank employees to steal their customers’ personal information — such as addresses and account details, as well as information about old or charged off debts those customers may have had — and pass it on to them.  This crime ring in turn then sold that purloined information to a number of law firms and collection agencies, one of which implicated in receiving such stolen information was alleged to be the aforementioned P&P.

Isn’t the purchasing of stolen personal information illegal, you might ask?  You would think it would be, but apparently it’s not such a big deal in New Jersey, where this ill-gotten information has since been put to use in a shady shakedown operation that has left thousands of state residents at the mercy of this ruthless firm and its sister company New Century Financial (which is technically the actual debt collector, with Pressler & Pressler only handling the legal end of the proceedings — though according to the state records, both are owned and operated by the same family and operated out of the same offices, making them one and the same for all intents).

Like nearly every other debt collector around the country, this firm goes after the people most likely to not know their rights and after those that will be the easiest to coerce into paying — whether the debt is legitimate or not (and more often than you would think, it’s not).  In many cases, the debt collector won’t even have the necessary paperwork or documentation to prove the legitimacy of any claimed debt, but this doesn’t stop them from trying to collect anyway.  The key to their tactics is to get a judgement against their target in court — a surprisingly easy task to accomplish when the “debtor” doesn’t know how to legally challenge the debt.  In those cases, the collector’s battle is already essentially won.  The debtor is then left at the mercy of the collector, even if the debt itself is no more real than the Easter Bunny.

Real.

More real than what my debt collector said I owed them.

And the results have been that people have found their salaries garnished and their bank accounts raided and emptied by these debt collectors — in many cases, this happening without their knowledge of it.  It’s a shameful display that should have no protection in our legal system, but does — making it another sad example of how so many of our institutions in this country, which are supposed to work for the people, are instead being used as weapons against the people.

As I’ve said, my brief dealings with debt collectors were as unpleasant as they were unwarranted, and I have no problem with giving this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo Award to all of them as a collective group.  Perhaps someone from P&P can accept it on the group’s behalf — if they can find the time to drag themselves out of court long enough to do so, that is.

A special thanks to sprentiss47 for tipping me off to what’s going with this and for providing the links to information on it.  The lesson to be learned here is that, the more we know about what’s going on around us — the better chance we have of fighting back when someone’s trying to pull a fast one.

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