Sunday, December 03, 2006

COLLECTION SHARKS

As I read in the Bible of the death of the patriarchs and others, I can not help but compare the respect once shown to the dead (even the Egyptians mourned Jacob for seventy days) to the gathering of the aggressively hungry collection sharks that circle and threaten the grieving family today.

Only a few days after my mother died, I called a company to ask what to do about a bill received that day but not due for another two weeks. I was transferred to Austin of the “escalation department.” In plain English, and despite the company’s protests, that is just a fancy title for their collection department.

Austin straightaway attacked. A few minutes of wrangling later and I summed up his demand. Let me be sure I understand this. You sent Mother a bill that is not due for two weeks for a service she would not be using for several months, but I must immediately send you my own personal check to cover this bill – or else. And perhaps you might eventually “refund” my money in a check to the dead woman. I don’t think so!

The company’s main office confirmed this is their policy, so I reported this to the proper agency, and the company very quickly changed their tune and their policy.

Someone who has recently lost a loved one is emotionally vulnerable and often not thinking clearly all the time. How could this kind of attack affect a man or woman who just lost a mate, or a parent who just lost a child? Evidently it is an effective method to coerce money out of a family member or it would not have been a policy with this company – and with many others, I imagine.

As Mother aged and lost her mobility and eyesight, her ability to maintain orderly records diminished and disappeared. She was an extremely private person, and did not share any personal details, so she left a mess for me to sort to find what assets she might have. Two and a half months later I do not know much more about her affairs than I did when she died, and her creditors are circling.

She lived simply so it isn’t that she ran up a host of bills, but her last few weeks did generate some medical bills, and then there is the credit card debt. Somehow, as it does with so many, the interest mounted and the bills grew, and even though she paid a chunk of her retirement income each month, the interest continued to grow and the original debt was barely touched. Despite this, even after I notified the bank of her death, she continued to receive checks to spur her to borrow money on her cards and a letter stating her credit is so good her credit limit was raised. Now the bank has turned her debt over to a collection agency and they are coming after me as if it is my debt.

The other day I had a frustrating conversation with a collection agent who pretended to be my best friend. For that one day only she would chop four thousand dollars off the total if I would pay the balance in full. It was the end of the month and they just wanted to settle up and balance their books. Oh, and by the way, she was sorry for my loss.

Ma’am, I have an infected knee and I can’t afford to go to the doctor. But even if I had the money, I would not give it to you. It is not my bill. No, Ma’am, I would not put her debt on my credit card if I had one. I will not assume her debt and take on her interest payments. It is not my debt. I don’t care if you say some people like to do that because the debt is paid and they will get paid back. Paid back by whom? If there are assets, probate can take a year or more. No, Ma’am, I do not know whether there will be probate. I’m still going through her papers.

We went through the same conversation three, four, possibly even five times before she put me on hold for about three seconds. A man joined the conversation. “I am J., a supervisor here. I have been reviewing your case,” he lied. “Now, why,” he demanded in an authoritative, almost commanding voice, “don’t you just put this on your credit card?” I lost it then and bellowed right into his ear, Are you CRAZY? He threatened to search the probate files and rudely hung up on me.

These people are specially trained to harass, confuse and intimidate people into making foolish statements or decisions just to get rid of them. There is nothing wrong with collecting a debt. It is their tactics that are abhorrent. They remind me of Satan’s tactics. He is the father of lies. Hammering at emotionally, physically or spiritually vulnerable people is his specialty. He has no equal in deceit and cunning practices. If he can drive you to responding in anger, it puffs his pride.

We stand up to and overcome his assaults with the armor of God. (Ephesians 6)

Unfortunately, some time ago I downloaded some sermons (with permission) but neglected to note the website or the speaker. I came across them recently, and since my stress level has been heading through the roof, I listened to one yesterday in hopes it would encourage me. I would love to name the person giving the sermon, but I have no idea who he is. I hope he will forgive me for quoting him without giving him credit.

Early in the sermon, he talks about an antidepressant for dogs – for excessive barking, destructive behavior, etc. Then he says the dogs probably need them because their owners are so stressed. (Dogs do pick up on our stress - note my dogs!) He cites Romans 8:28 and says, “Accepting God's sovereignty assures our sanity.”

I needed that reminder to trust God implicitly, even when collection sharks are circling in the water and there is no land in sight. Perhaps you are in a situation where you need that reminder too.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

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