I Have Witnessed Many Things as a Debt Collector

debt collectorFor those of you who don’t know, I used to be a debt collector.  Oh, the irony!  A former debt collector who himself was in debt.  While I wasn’t in debt when I was a debt collector, that didn’t stop me from getting into credit card debt afterward.  Now to be fair, I was a mortgage debt collector, not credit cards.  Either way, I get the irony and you are most likely making a face at me.  Oh well!

Another fun fact is my debt collecting tenure was right as the housing market was reaching its peak.  I got to witness the insanity involved between the banks and the borrowers.  It taught me a lot about mortgages, but not much about carrying around too much debt.  I still look back to that job as an awesome way to learn about the housing market.  I took those lessons and applied them to our first house.  We bought well under what we could afford and that helped us though the entire downturn.  Still, though there were a few good things from being a debt collector, I witnessed many things I was not proud of.

Having a Hard Time Paying?

Well, since I was a debt collector, I mostly dealt with delinquent borrowers. Not all were late on their bills, but most.  Either way, I ran across a few people that really did have an uphill battle.  I felt sorry for them, but my job was not to try and help them. Actually, if I did try, I would get reprimanded.  Since I am naturally a helper, this was tough for me.  I had answers for a few of my worst clientele, but I wasn’t allowed to help them.  Why so?  The company I worked for wanted their money and would try to extract it in any way possible.  Our mitigation department would make it so hard for borrowers really far behind that it would make them just give up.  You could call in any time you wanted to try and work out a plan, but they had no interest in doing so.  If you  had a hard time, the company didn’t give a crap.

If We Don’t Reach You, We Will Call Again and Again and…

Again!  We were allowed to call any number we had for the borrower once per hour every day.  Yes, that is every day, seven days a week.  We only had to follow a simple rule of keeping the calls from 8AM to 9PM local time for the borrower.  Oh what fun it was to call someone at 8AM on a Saturday or even Sunday for that matter.  You are instantly on their bad side and you mostly likely just got hung up on or cursed at.  I really didn’t like my Saturday work schedule, but they paid the most in my college town.

There were many times when I could really see the borrower was struggling.  I had been a collector for three years.  After some time, you can really see when someone is trying to make ends meet, but just can’t.  We can see all of their financials and the like.  Either way, when my dialer would call up their number, I would have to “make” contact with the borrower.  We had to talk with them.  Once we actually confirmed it was them, we would go through the call.  For those people really bad off, I would tell them I could hold off the collection calls for three days.  While it is not much, imaging getting calls every hour, every day.  It can be exhausting.

While I would get into serious trouble for doing this, I never really liked how the company handled collections.  It was ruthless and they didn’t follow their own guidelines most of the time.  I would tell some borrowers to just answer the phone, verify their identity, then hang up.  Since we actually verified it was them, we had to put it in as such into the system. When that was the case, the automated dialing system would have to wait three days to redial that borrower.  We could have been fired for doing this, but I didn’t care.  Some people just needed help.

Do you want to know more truths about my debt collection days and what I witnessed?  Head over to DailyFinance and check it out!

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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23 comments
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says August 18

Ugh, that’s a rough job to have. I can’t imagine what it was like having to hound people for money you know they didn’t have to give.

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Holly@ClubThrifty says August 18

That sounds awful! I’m sorry you had to work in a job like that. It probably felt like kicking people when they were down =(

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Natalie @ Financegirl says August 18

Wow, Grayson! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s such a unique story and something that I’ve never heard firsthand. It’s nice to know how it works from the inside.

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John @ Wise Dollar says August 18

Man, that just sucks you’d get into trouble for trying to help those out that really needed the help. As someone who got those calls when I was in debt I was one of those people doing the cursing. 🙂

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Aldo Rancier says August 18

It sucks that you couldn’t help people, I don’t know if I would have liked that job. I had accounts on collections but the agents were always able to work with me… whenever I decided to pick up the phone.

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    Grayson Bell says August 18

    I had some good days, but mostly bad. It paid really well and helped me earn money when I was in college. I stuck it out as long as I could, but the company policies were too strict. It doesn’t matter now, they go in a lot of trouble during the financial crisis and the company was sold in pieces.

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Brad @ How to Save Money says August 18

Yes! I want to know ore about the life of a debt collector. I had so many calling me at one point that I lived in ear of the phone ringing. It would be great now to know more about the business.

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Kim says August 18

That sounds like the mother of all crap jobs! I’m not surprised that a debt collector would be in debt. I bet many are. Just like financial advisors who don’t have any investments.

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Travis @Debtchronicles says August 19

Thanks for the insight in your previous life, Grayson. Sounds like a tough job for someone with a conscious. 🙂

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Liz says August 19

This sounds like such a stressful job! I know that some people are simply bad at managing their money and make bad choices but I can’t imagine how hard it must have been having to work with people who were simply just having a hard time but doing their best.

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Compliance Manager says August 19

It sounds like the company policies were unethical and possibly illegal. My guess would be that their troubles ran deeper than just “the financial crisis”. Yes the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows calls between 8am-9pm, but repeated calls is considered harassment. Additionally, there are “hardship programs” where we can request approval for a discount on the balance or small monthly payment plans until the consumer’s financial situation changes. Granted that may not be possible in the mortgage world, but the industry has changed dramatically recently, so I am not sure how long it has been since you were a collector, but you should research the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before perpetuating the negative stereotype. Not all collection agencies practice unfair, deceptive, abusive acts or practices. Those are called UDAAPs and are prohibited by the fairly new regulatory agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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    Grayson Bell says August 19

    As I stated in my article on DailyFinance, I was in debt collections before the mortgage crisis blew up. This means the CFPB did not exist. The company I worked for was probably one of the reasons there were changes. We serviced a majority of the mortgage loans in the United States. While you can request these things, it doesn’t mean the company has to approve it or even do it quickly. That was one of the problems I have seen. I speak from experience from one company, but also have spoken with many other collectors in different companies. While there are some good companies out there, many of them practice some poor judgement in how they collect. Again, I am not perpetuating the negative stereotype, I actually lived it and still see it to this day. I have helped and talked with many who are in collections and they are showing me the problem still exist.

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DC @ Young Adult Money says August 19

Had no idea you were a debt collector back in the day. I wonder how technology has changed things. I have to imagine it’s much easier to block a phone number from reaching your cell phone. I also don’t answer numbers I don’t recognize, so I would just let it go to voice mail.

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    Grayson Bell says August 19

    It wasn’t that long ago DC ;). People blocked our calls, but our system would dial them every hour for the whole day. It was within the law and that is what it did. We didn’t spoof numbers, but I have heard some companies used to do that. I think after a while people would just answer because they were tired of the calls.

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Anne @ Money Propeller says August 19

You got in trouble for trying to help people? Wow, that really sucks.
I couldn’t hack being a debt collector, what. so. ever.
It saddens me that that has to exist. A friend of mine did it for awhile… but she is, um, extremely blonde, so things didn’t really bother her at all, nor did the repetitive nature of the work.

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Romeo Jeremiah says August 19

Hmm…

Irony indeed. Glad you kicked the debt habit though.

Isn’t it true that you had to stop calling folks if they had asked you to stop?

I wonder how hard it is for debt collectors these days. Lots of folks simply ignore the calls.

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    Grayson Bell says August 19

    Thanks Romeo. It is a little ironic for sure. I was never called by a collector though.

    It is not true. You can tell a collector to stop calling you all you want, but until you send an actual letter to the collection agency requesting to stop the calls, they will continue. You have to provide a letter through the mail to their corporate office. That is the only way.

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Kayla @ Red Debted Stepchild says August 19

Wow and I thought I hated my job! That sounds like a horrible situation to be in. I come across to new people as a hard-ass or a bitch but underneath that I really am a softie and it would be hard to be a debt collector as I too like to help people.

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Josh says August 20

I always enjoy hearing about “the other side”. As debt negotiators our team speaks with credit card debt collectors almost daily and, like you, most of them really just want to help… and make their paycheck.

It seems to me that the most successful operations have realized that they can catch more flies with honey, hopefully more will follow suit. Too bad you didn’t work for one that had that philosophy!

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Laurie says August 21

That is one job I would NOT do well at. I’m too wimpy. I’d probably end up sending those with good sob stories money. 🙂

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    Grayson Bell says August 21

    Haha, I hear you there. I worked with quite a few people who had those same feelings. They didn’t last. It just wasn’t their cup of tea. No issues where. You need to have thick skin to collect debt.

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me says June 8

Only a piece of sh*t would be a debt collector and only a piece of sh*t would make this stupid website.

Shame on you completely… you better start doing nice things for mankind….

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    Grayson Bell says June 8

    Haha, you make me laugh. Thanks for that. Needed a good laugh today. Now, it seems my stupid website got you to find the article, read it, simmer, get irritated, and then comment. Looks like it succeeded in getting you here and to take an action. Much appreciated. I’ll enjoy the ad revenue you just provided me 🙂

    Reply
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