In jail for being in debt

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Deborah Poplawski still gets angry about her arrest in Minneapolis last year over an old $250 debt. During her night in jail, she worried about abandoning her 15-year-old dog, Nina, in her apartment.

You committed no crime, but an officer is knocking on your door. More Minnesotans are surprised to find themselves being locked up over debts.

By CHRIS SERRES and GLENN HOWATT , Star Tribune staff writers

As a sheriff’s deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer’s purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.

No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense — missing a court hearing over an unpaid debt. “They have no right to do this to me,” said the 57-year-old patient care advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. “Not for a stupid credit card.”

It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors’ prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.

Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.

Whether a debtor is locked up depends largely on where the person lives, because enforcement is inconsistent from state to state, and even county to county.

In Illinois and southwest Indiana, some judges jail debtors for missing court-ordered debt payments. In extreme cases, people stay in jail until they raise a minimum payment. In January, a judge sentenced a Kenney, Ill., man “to indefinite incarceration” until he came up with $300 toward a lumber yard debt.

“The law enforcement system has unwittingly become a tool of the debt collectors,” said Michael Kinkley, an attorney in Spokane, Wash., who has represented arrested debtors. “The debt collectors are abusing the system and intimidating people, and law enforcement is going along with it.”

How often are debtors arrested across the country? No one can say. No national statistics are kept, and the practice is largely unnoticed outside legal circles. “My suspicion is the debt collection industry does not want the world to know these arrests are happening, because the practice would be widely condemned,” said Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

Debt collectors defend the practice, saying phone calls, letters and legal actions aren’t always enough to get people to pay.

“Admittedly, it’s a harsh sanction,” said Steven Rosso, a partner in the Como Law Firm of St. Paul, which does collections work. “But sometimes, it’s the only sanction we have.”

Taxpayers foot the bill for arresting and jailing debtors. In many cases, Minnesota judges set bail at the amount owed.

In Minnesota, judges have issued arrest warrants for people who owe as little as $85 — less than half the cost of housing an inmate overnight. Debtors targeted for arrest owed a median of $3,512 in 2009, up from $2,201 five years ago.

Those jailed for debts may be the least able to pay.

“It’s just one more blow for people who are already struggling,” said Beverly Yang, a Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation staff attorney who has represented three Illinois debtors arrested in the past two months. “They don’t like being in court. They don’t have cars. And if they had money to pay these collectors, they would.”

The collection machine

The laws allowing for the arrest of someone for an unpaid debt are not new.

What is new is the rise of well-funded, aggressive and centralized collection firms, in many cases run by attorneys, that buy up unpaid debt and use the courts to collect.

Three debt buyers — Unifund CCR Partners, Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. and Debt Equities LLC — accounted for 15 percent of all debt-related arrest warrants issued in Minnesota since 2005, court data show. The debt buyers also file tens of thousands of other collection actions in the state, seeking court orders to make people pay.

The debts — often five or six years old — are purchased from companies like cellphone providers and credit card issuers, and cost a few cents on the dollar. Using automated dialing equipment and teams of lawyers, the debt-buyer firms try to collect the debt, plus interest and fees. A firm aims to collect at least twice what it paid for the debt to cover costs. Anything beyond that is profit.

Portfolio Recovery Associates of Norfolk, Va., a publicly traded debt buyer with the biggest profits and market capitalization, earned $44 million last year on $281 million in revenue — a 16 percent net margin. Encore Capital Group, another large debt buyer based in San Diego, had a margin last year of 10 percent. By comparison, Wal-Mart’s profit margin was 3.5 percent.

Todd Lansky, chief operating officer at Resurgence Financial LLC, a Northbrook, Ill.-based debt buyer, said firms like his operate within the law, which says people who ignore court orders can be arrested for contempt. By the time a warrant is issued, a debtor may have been contacted up to 12 times, he said.

“This is a last-ditch effort to say, ‘Look, just show up in court,'” he said.

Go to court — or jail

At 9:30 a.m. on a recent weekday morning, about a dozen people stood in line at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.

Nearly all of them had received court judgments for not paying a delinquent debt. One by one, they stepped forward to fill out a two-page financial disclosure form that gives creditors the information they need to garnish money from their paychecks or bank accounts.

This process happens several times a week in Hennepin County. Those who fail to appear can be held in contempt and an arrest warrant is issued if a collector seeks one. Arrested debtors aren’t officially charged with a crime, but their cases are heard in the same courtroom as drug users.

Greg Williams, who is unemployed and living on state benefits, said he made the trip downtown on the advice of his girlfriend who knew someone who had been arrested for missing such a hearing.

“I was surprised that the police would waste time on my petty debts,” said Williams, 45, of Minneapolis, who had a $5,773 judgment from a credit card debt. “Don’t they have real criminals to catch?”

Few debtors realize they can land in jail simply for ignoring debt-collection legal matters. Debtors also may not recognize the names of companies seeking to collect old debts. Some people are contacted by three or four firms as delinquent debts are bought and sold multiple times after the original creditor writes off the account.

“They may think it’s a mistake. They may think it’s a scam. They may not realize how important it is to respond,” said Mary Spector, a law professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas.

A year ago, Legal Aid attorneys proposed a change in state law that would have required law enforcement officials to let debtors fill out financial disclosure forms when they are apprehended rather than book them into jail. No legislator introduced the measure.

Joy Uhlmeyer, who was arrested on her way home from spending Easter with her mother, said she defaulted on a $6,200 Chase credit card after a costly divorce in 2006. The firm seeking payment was Resurgence Financial, the Illinois debt buyer. Uhlmeyer said she didn’t recognize the name and ignored the notices.

Uhlmeyer walked free after her nephew posted $2,500 bail. It took another $187 to retrieve her car from the city impound lot. Her 86-year-old mother later asked why she didn’t call home after leaving Duluth. Not wanting to tell the truth, Uhlmeyer said her car broke down and her cell phone died.

“The really maddening part of the whole experience was the complete lack of information,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘If there was a warrant out for my arrest, then why in the world wasn’t I told about it?'”

Jailed for $250

One afternoon last spring, Deborah Poplawski, 38, of Minneapolis was digging in her purse for coins to feed a downtown parking meter when she saw the flashing lights of a Minneapolis police squad car behind her. Poplawski, a restaurant cook, assumed she had parked illegally. Instead, she was headed to jail over a $250 credit card debt.

Less than a month earlier, she learned by chance from an employment counselor that she had an outstanding warrant. Debt Equities, a Golden Valley debt buyer, had sued her, but she says nobody served her with court documents. Thanks to interest and fees, Poplawski was now on the hook for $1,138.

Though she knew of the warrant and unpaid debt, “I wasn’t equating the warrant with going to jail, because there wasn’t criminal activity associated with it,” she said. “I just thought it was a civil thing.”

She spent nearly 25 hours at the Hennepin County jail.

A year later, she still gets angry recounting the experience. A male inmate groped her behind in a crowded elevator, she said. Poplawski also was ordered to change into the standard jail uniform — gray-white underwear and orange pants, shirt and socks — in a cubicle the size of a telephone booth. She slept in a room with 12 to 16 women and a toilet with no privacy. One woman offered her drugs, she said.

The next day, Poplawski appeared before a Hennepin County district judge. He told her to fill out the form listing her assets and bank account, and released her. Several weeks later, Debt Equities used this information to seize funds from her bank account. The firm didn’t return repeated calls seeking a comment.

“We hear every day about how there’s no money for public services,” Poplawski said. “But it seems like the collectors have found a way to get the police to do their work.”

Threat depends on location

A lot depends on where a debtor lives or is arrested, as Jamie Rodriguez, 41, a bartender from Brooklyn Park, discovered two years ago.

Deputies showed up at his house one evening while he was playing with his 5-year-old daughter, Nicole. They live in Hennepin County, where the Sheriff’s Office has enough staff to seek out people with warrants for civil violations.

If Rodriquez lived in neighboring Wright County, he could have simply handed the officers a check or cash for the amount owed. If he lived in Dakota County, it’s likely no deputy would have shown up because the Sheriff’s Office there says it lacks the staff to pursue civil debt cases.

Knowing that his daughter and wife were watching from the window, Rodriguez politely asked the deputies to drive him around the block, out of sight of his family, before they handcuffed him. The deputies agreed.

“No little girl should have to see her daddy arrested,” said Rodriguez, who spent a night in jail.

“If you talk to 15 different counties, you’ll find 15 different approaches to handling civil warrants,” said Sgt. Robert Shingledecker of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office. “Everything is based on manpower.”

Local police also can enforce debt-related warrants, but small towns and some suburbs often don’t have enough officers.

The Star Tribune’s comparison of warrant and booking data suggests that at least 1 in 6 Minnesota debtors at risk for arrest actually lands in jail, typically for eight hours. The exact number of such arrests isn’t known because the government doesn’t consistently track what happens to debtor warrants.

“There are no standards here,” said Gail Hillebrand, a senior attorney with the Consumers Union in San Francisco. “A borrower who lives on one side of the river can be arrested while another one goes free. It breeds disrespect for the law.”

Haekyung Nielsen, 27, of Bloomington, said police showed up at her house on a civil warrant two weeks after she gave birth through Caesarean section. A debt buyer had sent her court papers for an old credit-card debt while she was in the hospital; Nielsen said she did not have time to respond.

Her baby boy, Tyler, lay in the crib as she begged the officer not to take her away.

“Thank God, the police had mercy and left me and my baby alone,” said Nielsen, who later paid the debt. “But to send someone to arrest me two weeks after a massive surgery that takes most women eight weeks to recover from was just unbelievable.”

The second surprise

Many debtors, like Robert Vee, 36, of Brooklyn Park, get a second surprise after being arrested — their bail is exactly the amount of money owed.

Hennepin County automatically sets bail at the judgment amount or $2,500, whichever is less. This policy was adopted four years ago in response to the high volume of debtor default cases, say court officials.

Some judges say the practice distorts the purpose of bail, which is to make sure people show up in court.

“It’s certainly an efficient way to collect debts, but it’s also highly distasteful,” said Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby. “The amount of bail should have nothing to do with the amount of the debt.”

Judge Robert Blaeser, chief of the county court’s civil division, said linking bail to debt streamlines the process because judges needn’t spend time setting bail.

“It’s arbitrary,” he conceded. “The bigger question is: Should you be allowed to get an order from a court for someone to be arrested because they owe money? You’ve got to remember there are people who have the money but just won’t pay a single penny.”

If friends or family post a debtor’s bail, they can expect to kiss the money goodbye, because it often ends up with creditors, who routinely ask judges for the bail payment.

Vee, a highway construction worker, was arrested one afternoon in February while driving his teenage daughter from school to their home in Brooklyn Park. As he was being cuffed, Vee said his daughter, who has severe asthma, started hyperventilating from the stress.

“All I kept thinking about was whether she was all right and if she was using her [asthma] inhaler,” he said.

From the Hennepin County jail, he made a collect call to his landlord, who promised to bring the bail. It was $1,875.06, the exact amount of a credit card debt.

Later, Vee was reunited with his distraught daughter at home. “We hugged for a long time, and she was bawling her eyes out,” he said.

He still has unpaid medical and credit card bills and owes about $40,000 on an old second mortgage. The sight of a squad car in his rearview mirror is all it takes to set off a fresh wave of anxiety.

“The question always crosses my mind: ‘Are the cops going to arrest me again?'” he said. “So long as I’ve got unpaid bills, the threat is there.” • 612-673-4308 • 612-673-7192

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm  Comments (32)  

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  1. Something just like this happen to me in Georgia. This is getting out of hand, times are hard. I feel if your going to arrest any one for debt owed start with government. If they paid their debts a many of use wouldnt be having hard times.

  2. The warrant is for failure to appear in court which is YOUR responsibility to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s a debt, a DUI, fraud etc. If you DON’T show up to court a judge can order an arrest warrant for contempt.

    These debtors who make excuses are pathetic because they take no responsibility for their own actions. The collection agency is only using LEGAL methods to get the money that is LEGALLY owed to them.

    If someone owed you $5000 you wouldn’t sue that person in court knowing it could help recover the money? Of course you would. Don’t be a hypocrite.

    • Consider a phenomenon referred to as zombie debt. Sometimes when the statute of limitation on a debt has passed (e.g. the debtor declared bankruptcy, the debt has been written off etc…), the debt will still be package up and resold to these vultures. If the collection agencies can get you to make any type of payment, the statute of limitation will be re-opened and you will once again be liable for the debt that had more or less been forgiven.

      I’m not saying that these debtors aren’t at fault, but these collection agencies are scum. The fact that their methods are legal does not make them ethical. Making a business by preying upon the ignorance and weakness of people is despicable. I’m so glad this crisis is really bringing people together.

      We (as a nation) need to figure out a way to 1) step up and take responsibility for ourselves then 2) help our neighbors do the same. After all, we are a nation family and should take care of each other.

      • That’s a nice pipe dream Mr. Valentine but as a long as we continue to be a GREEDY, OBNOXIOUS, SELFISH, NON PRODUCING, SELF PROCLAIMING “GOD Bless America” nation we will NEVER progress forward.

        Thanks for the idea though.

    • What ever happened to America. We just need to give our country back. Better yet, make it illegal to have a credit card and put the banks out of business.

  3. This is a simple process! You are not being jailed for monies owed but rather ignoring court orders. In Florida once a judgemnt has been entered the Defendant must fill out an Fact Form. Failure to do so is a violation of court order that can lead to a writ of bodily attachment. I understand the debt collector trying to find their monies and the debtor who refuses to pay under any condition. Next time fill out the form and walk away. If there are no monies it is all over. You have assests it is time to pony up the monies and pay for the items or services you receive.

    • Thank you John. It’s about RESPOSNIBILITY and owning up to your obligations.

      You would be surprise how many debtors claim not to have any money but as soon as you check their credit report they have a mortgage along with an expensive car payment and PLENTY of credit cards to pay the balance off with.

      Unfortunately these debtors are ignorant to the facts. People who choose not to pay their debts deserve to be sued.

  4. Being a victim of this corrupt system when I was incarcerated on contrived charges, then missing some payments and ending up getting arrested and thrown in jail for missing the court date, in which the judge issued a default judgement. I retaliated by sueing the county, sheriff deputy, judge for unlawful incarceration, the collection company, their attorney, and the original creditor, as well as the state for condoning this injustice.

    The disposition of the case ended when I received a check for an amount well over the alleged cost of the alleged amount owed.

    If the people would take a stand and go after the judicial system for condoning this injustice, as well as the collection company’s they would not have to worry about cops falsely arresting them, or collection company’s violating FDCPA 15 U.S.C. 1692.

  5. This is a waste of tax payer money. This is an abuse of the police force and court system. A company that does this should have to pay a fee to the police/court system equal that that of all the expenses used to carry out the act. Including police officer wage, admini costs, room and board etc. These scumbag collectors that randomnly sue over miniscule amounts will then think twice before abusing the judicial system.

    • This is the main reason why collectors don’t want to hear what debtors have to say because all they want to do is become defensive and give sob stories that are irrelevant to the issue which is the debt they LEGALLY owe.

      CA’s are an unfortunate, necessary evil in this world otherwise we would all pay more in the end.

      To begin with Ms. WOODS I am intelligent enough to stick to the facts and not resort to name calling like yourself.

      Let me CLEARLY state that although I agree there are some scrupulous collection agencies out there who should be shut down, the truth is the majority of collectors working the phones today are good people trying to make an honest living.

      Unlike you MS. WOODS I don’t combine every human being that is or was a collector such as myself into a “scumbag” category. Your prejudices seem to show your lack of knowledge about the business not to mention your immaturity.

      So let’s take MS. WOODS theory that everyone who collects is a “scumbag” shall we?

      IRS – If a US Citizen legally owes back taxes then the tax collector who calls you is a “scumbag”, correct?

      Don’t worry MS. WOODS we don’t need our roads fixed because they fix themselves. Oh and before I forget, schools don’t need any tax money either because all the kids today teach themselves MS. WOODS.

      Child Support – If a dead beat parent doesn’t pay then the child support enforcement collector that calls is a “scumbag” to? I guess little children around the country won’t get to eat today. Way to go MS. WOODS!

      Credit Card Companies – If a consumer fails to pay their cc bill they LEGALLY promised to pay back then the credit card company collector who calls you is a, you guessed it MS. WOODS, “scumbag”. Because in Monica’s world it’s ok to rack up debt so we ALL pay more in the end.

      Apartment Complexes – If a tenant skips out on their lease and leaves the landlord holding the bag then the collector who calls them (which the complex themselves hired the CA to begin with) is a “scumbag”. Why? Because MS. WOODS doesn’t care that debtors don’t honor their contracts which they freely signed and leave the business owners (who keep the economy going by the way) high and dry.

      Utility Company – If a consumer fails to pay their monthly bill and a collector calls to get their company’s money back, in MS. WOODS eyes they are, that’s right, a “scumbag”.

      MS. WOODS doesn’t mind that the rest of us will have to pay more in electricity or phone taxes to make up for the dead beats who won’t pay.

      Banks – If a consumer fails to pay their car payment/mortgage then the bank collector that calls you is also a WALLAH! “scumbag” because GOD forbid a collector calls to make sure a debtor is maintaining their monthly financial obligations they LEGALLY signed to do.

      I can go on and on but I am sure MS. WOODS doesn’t agree with the FACTS because in her world debtors are ALWAYS right and CA’s and the companies that LEGALLY hire them are wrong.

      Playing the victim game is a constant tool debtors use to avoid being responsible.

      For a woman who NEVER worked a day in her life at a collection agency before MS. WOODS surely has ALL the answers folks.

      Finally, I am someone who was on both sides of the fence as a debtor and a former collector. The bottom line here people is it’s about RESPONSIBILITY and the fact that we as Americans are ALWAYS making excuses by blaming others for our dumb actions.


  6. You do the best you can, and you certainly need to pay
    your obligations. But….. if a debt collector wants to
    get me arrested for $250 or so, they better plan on looking over THEIR shoulder for a long, long time. I don’t forget….. I’ll see to it their afraid to close their eyes at night.

    • Way to go Scott. Typical American debtor, make threats when you’re forced to pay. This is what I mean by lack of RESPONSIBILITY towards your obligations.

      This is EXACTLY how debtors react when being told to pay a bill by a debt collector then go running to the FTC, BBB, or attorney general to whine about their problems and waste tax payer money on frivolous complaints.

  7. This is Absolutely nuts..I cannot believe with the financial crisis that we are in as a country that we would even allow these vultures buying up all these debts to come in and use our tax dollars and our resources to hurt these people who are suffering even more. Why is this being allowed? Geez, no wonder this country is going through what it is. perhaps we may want to prioritize a little better.I have never heard of this happening in Alabama but the states that are allowing it, need to have their damn head examined. I will pray that this atrocity never happens to their families since they clearly cannot see through the greed of these collectors who have no concern other than getting rich by any means necessary. What a joke and shame on the states and areas that allow such nonsense.Maybe when they loose enough money therefore resulting in downsizing their officers even more because they’ve been paying them to do BS stuff like this, they will rethink this whole locking people up for a bogus debt collection thing. I’m sorry but ths is simply unacceptable.

    • This COUNTRY like you say is going through it’s own issues because of it’s own GREED. Not all debts are bought by the way.

      Many companies hire collection agencies to recoup their money. It’s a necessary evil that if we didn’t have it we would ALL be paying more.

      I am tired of Americans making excuses for their pathetic debts they refuse to pay. Yoyu made your choice not to pay and the courts make theirs. Be responsible and STOP acting like a victim.

      • Jim Naples,

        You are an idiot! To be jailed for a debt of 250.00 is ludicris. To be jailed period is not right. You are probably some dude who makes way too much money and was raised with a silver spoon in your ass. me and my husband have 2 girls and we have worked soo hard over the years and I have a large amount of debt. This became when we were almost homesless because we could not longer afford to pay our bills because I was laid off and my fiance was working construction. We lived in a small town where jobs were scarce. We finally moved back to the city and we both are doing ok but we still do not make enough money to pay off our debts we accumulated during that time of need. I do not think I or my fiance deserve to be jailed for something like that. People have hard times in life and the judicial system needs to understand this.
        Your pig headed ass doesn’t understand this because you probably have never struggled like a real American has.

      • Yes but private companies are using tax payed servants for enforcing their cause “to fill their pockets” Jim you must be a lawyer and the sad thing is that we keep electing “Lawyers” as public officials they are seem to know what every body needs.

      • Yes Diann, your ignorance is well documented. Just like a typical debtor you resort to name calling when you REFUSE to accept RESPONSIBILITY for your own actions.

        First off for the record I am NOT well off as you say and no I was NOT born with a “silver spoon in my ass” as you elegantly put it.

        I am someone who is a debtor and a former collector but the difference is unlike YOU I don’t whine about my problems and accepts, wait for it Diann, wait for it, here it comes now, R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y for my actions.

        Next, the article in question is about debtors who thumb their nose at authority by not showing up to court (not the debt itself) which is a outright defiance of our judicial system. If you choose not to show up for a court appearance (dui, garnishment, jury duty etc) without letting them know why, then you should be sent to jail.

        Finally, we all know that jobs are scarce but in a country where we don’t produce anything are you surprised? Then we wonder why our problesm get bigger.

        The issue here is that we are a greedy country and when times are good we forget to save for a rainy day.

        REMEMBER whether it’s credit card debt, mortgage foreclosure, breaking a lease etc, nothing in that contract that you signed or agreed to says that if you lose your job or have a family emergency that you would be absolved from the debt you LEGALLY incurred.

        Calling me names doesn’t solve the issues at hand. LEARN to be a human being first and STOP whining about the choices YOU made.

      • Sir you are correct in a few of your arguements but you have to admit there are always time of exception. I live in Southwest Florida where the housing market grew huge between 2005 – 2008 and everyone was making huge amounts of money and get interest only loans. Majority of homeowners where living in homes that they couldn’t possiably afford if the conditions were different. Then it all collapsed living many having no other choice but to foreclose. But for us who bought homes that were in a pay range are still sitting fine ($150,000 in lieu of $250,000). For those people who have bitten off more than they can chew on purpose, I agree with you. But lets say someone like me who am a father of 3 and the only bread winner in the home. I have no cable bills, car payments (huge suv that waste gas and cost $600 a month in payments) or any extra expenses that I don’t HAVE to have. Say I have an emergency in which I have to use up any savings I have and I have to miss a months worth of work (without pay). Now I’m a month at least a month behind on all bills. So when next month comes around I would have to pay for 2 whole months (which is impossiable) and so when bills come in I decide that food, fuel and electricity are the most important and others can wait …… I start a slippery slope and get so far behind that there is no other choice but to default or file bankruptcy or foreclose. Now that all could happen with me having a job….what if I lost my job and could only recieve $300 a week in unemployment? So what I’m saying is Yes people need to take responsiblity for their actions….but there are circumstances in which NO ONE can avoid that will leave you no other choice. I personally have a bigger problem with the freeloaders in this country than the debtors. I can guarantee (depending on where you live) there are more people on food stamps, government asisstance (our money) and etc. than those that are skipping out on the debt in your town, county or state. But unlike the debtors they are driving nice cars with rims and jewelary…and so are there children. Those are the people that piss me off…not those who have tried but failed…they haven’t tried to survive on their own and never will!

      • Mr. Matt:

        I agree with your statement that there are certain circumstances beyond a someone’s control like losing a job, illness and so forth but my issue is when Americans in this country deliberately take out loans such as a mortgage they know they can’t pay back. I am sorry but for those people I have no sympathy for.

        The bottom line here is that we are a country which doesn’t produce ANYTHING then complain that our government isn’t producing enough jobs.

        We are all RESPONSIBLE for our own actions at the end of the day and it just seems we are raising a generation of “blame someone else not me” for the very problems we cause.

        Unfortunately like I stated before when you sign a contract for a loan, apt lease, car, credit card etc there is NOTHING in that agreement that protects you from job loss, illness, family crisis and so forth. If there was one then there wouldn’t be any need for collection agencies to be hired.

        As for the “freeloaders” I TOTALLY agree that there are people on food stamps driving the nice cars and wearing expensive items when they can fully work. Those people piss me off to.

        But I do have to disagree a little bit with debtors because as a former collector I would see plenty of credit reports where debtors claim not to have any funds to pay a bill they legally owe then I would notice the expensive mortgage they pay, monthly car payment on the Lexus or Mercedes they own and of course lots of available credit at their bank. Those are the REAL annoying debtors that frustrate me.

        Even people with their own businesses and million dollar mortgages woing thousands to the company we represented.

        These people don’t understand that NOT paying their bills doesn’t help the economy in the end and unfortuately just like the food stamp defrauders we ALL pay for it out of our own pocket.

        Sadly, it’s just isn’t fair that people who are REALLY responsible are the REAL victims of these freeloaders and debtors who ride the system without being held accountable.

      • I agree with you. We do need to employ more (legal) Americans with jobs. We need to stop importanting for China, which would not only be better for our piggy banks but our health (everything is pretty much poisined [on purpose]). We need to stop depending the banks, the government and others. Once we do all of those above we will return to the great nation that we once were and am no more.

  8. Another perfect example of the decadency brought on by ‘progressive’ America. Funny how all these stories are from ‘Liberal’ states.
    We all know these piranhas-in hard times we are living in, even if you make an attempt to pay (say ~$20 / 2-weeks), the rat bastages tack on $30/month ‘administration fees’.
    It’s not about the paying off of the debt, but the profiteering that goes on to get even more money.

    • Mr. Chaos:

      From experience this is a typical response a debtor will make when they owe money. A collection agency is NOT obligated to accept $20 a month. It has NOTHING to do with liberals Mr. Chaos and all to do with the agreement you legally owe.

      Tell me this sir, if I personally borrow $5000 from you and don’t bother to pay you back or even tell you where I can be reached at for payment and suddenly you see me a year later, you mean to tell me you would accept $20 a month? Of course you wouldn’t! You would either want half or the whole money upfront, so please don’t be a hypocrite.

      You also wouldn’t hesitate to sue me in court and make sure I pay for your OWN FEES (attorney, court etc). How funny is it when the shoes on the other foot we quickly play the “victim”, woe is me game.

      Sorry my friend but if the $20 a month wouldn’t be acceptable to you then why would you expect the same in return when owing money to someone else.

      STOP crying about your debt and step up to your obligations because in a court of law a judge could care less about your personal problems.

      That’s a fact! I should know because I went through it twice and guess what? I didn’t make any excuses. I accepted the judges decision.

  9. Having a warrant issued for failure to respond to the court is understandable and in most cases this is what these debt collection agencies are banking on. But, what about the cases of debts that have been written off by the creditors? Do they still have the right to buy those debts and continue to harass a debtor?
    Besides I fail to understand why different counties unanimously form a law where petty debts can be paid off in cash/check/promissory notes to the courts instead of the debtors being thrown in cells, especially when it costs tax payers to maintain all this. Who should be a bigger priority? A criminal on the lose or a debtor who has perhaps lost a job/ had some misfortune etc. No body likes to be under debt and no body does it on purpose.
    If this continues soon people will lose all faith in justice.

  10. I can see both sides.But more stable information should be given to the Individules that owe the debt by the debt collector and courts. The dbt collectors should try and work more with the debtors earlier on instead of being rude and demanding. I had an expierence with one that, right off the bat called me a dead beat peice of s— and told me that if I didn’t pay the $121. debt right then and there he would put the debt on my roomates credit report. And he did!My roommate had nothing to do with the debt.I had offered $20.a mo. pmts at the time and he said it wasn’t good enough. Eventually with the help of an attorny it was removed form my roomates credit report, and the creditor got nothing, except an almost reversed suit. Wouldn’t it of been better to of just took the $20.a mo and gotten something than to be a jerk and get nothing?

  11. I can’t help but wonder why these debtors never tried to work anything out with the creditors beforehand? When I was in college I was very irresponsible and ran up a lot of credit card debt. I had to work very hard to rectify the situtaion and after months of ignoring the calls, I finally sucked it up and returned them. They were reasonable and helped me work out a payment plan, sometimes agreeing to a monthly payment as little as $10 a month. I even enlisted the help of a debt consolidator who did much of the haggling with the credit card companys for me. I spent the next 4 years paying off the $5,000 worth of debts on a $22,000 a year salary. I am now 32 and have a credit score of over 800. I will admit, I did not have a family to provide for and although my paycheck was meager, I WAS employed. I know it is harder for the unemployed raising families, but from my experience, the credit card companies will work with you if you just try to.

    • Yes Opinion, everything worked out for you because you didn’t call them with an attitude, wasted their time offering $20 a month or disputing a valid debt.

      You also didn’t complain about the payment arrangements that were given to you and basically did your part. I applaud you for that and very glad to hear everything panned out for you.

      The bottom line here is that you took RESPONSIBILITY which is more than I could say for these other debtors on here who act like so called “victims” which they’re not.

      I don’t condone anyone much less a bill collector being abusive on the phone. At least you’re proof that when a debtor approaches their obligations the right way good things can be accomplished.

      I have always said CA’s are an unfortunate, necessary evil in this world otherwise we would all pay more in the end as consumers.

  12. I think what is being done is fair under certain curcumstances. So long as the dept collectors are giving payment options and fair notice, for smaller depts most people can afford $20 every two weeks. You should not borrow money if you can’t afford to pay it back but if you find yourself in a bind after borrowing the money call the company you owe the money to and work out a payment plan, most companies are understanding and will make allowences. Always keep in mind the money you are borrowing is not yours. I wouldn’t like to spend time in jail but I would try to work out a solution and at least pay as much as I could every month so the money doesn’t have to go to collections in the first place. If the dept Deborah Poplawski had was an old one, why didn’t she keep up with it and pay what she could when she could, than this would never have happened,she can’t blame anyone but herself. I know of a lot of people that had past dept, their way of thinking was “oh well it will be wiped clean in 6 years” what about the company you owe money to, they are now out of pocket and most companies can’t afford unless they are very large companies and even than they have high expences.

  13. Corrupt system? How about being RESPONSIBLE for your actions. Do you run a yearly credit report to see who and what is owed on your credit record? Do you really expect me to feel sympathy for these individuals who owe others money? I DON’T!!! You see my son was killed by out in California by a 26 year-old man who didn’t give a damn and still doesn’t give a damn three years later whether he owes me or not. He stood defiantly in court telling the judge that he had no intention of working because I would take all of his money. Damn right, I’m going to take every red cent that this SOB owes me. And the worst part of all of this is if the Probation Dept did their job out there in November and January, MY SON WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY. But the system failed ME!!

  14. When does one take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. Corrupt system, yes, it is very corrupt. Thank Congress. But to blame the court system for another’s actions because they ran up the debt is wrong. File bankruptcy, it only stays on your credit report for ten years, and the debts all go away. Stop crying about being a victim, you’re the one who is not being responsible. There is an individual who stood defiantly before the court in California, telling the judge that he would never find work because I would take all of his money. This 26 year old smoker lives with mom and dad, has a daughter, and continues to drive WITHOUT a valid driver’s license and NO INSURANCE. In November, 2006 and January 2007, he was caught TWICE for the same violation. May 24, 2007, he KILLED MY SON. And you now want me to feel sorry for the individuals who fail to pay their debts to society. I have no sympathy for you!

  15. This is exactly why when you receive a Collection Letter, YOU must respond within 30 days. If you do not, then the collection agency will assume the debt is valid and try to sue you to get a judgment. My advice, If a collection agency sues you, show up in court. YOU have alot of rights, check out the FDCPA, FCRA and your state Statute of Limitations.

  16. The cops are all corrupt, they get under the table money from the insurance companies and operate without any regard for the law.

  17. In NJ a large collection agency often sent court docs to the debtors old address. The result was the paperwork did not make it to the new address. The collection company was able to get a default judgement. The system worked very well. Several young people in my office ended up having their accounts garnished for small fees.

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