Where?s the Outrage?

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Responses to NBC Dateline’s recent appraisal of the collection industry have, in my opinion, been way off base.  Those of you who were sleeping around 10:45 on Friday night missed some deeply disturbing coverage.

NBC interviewed a woman who played a message on her answering machine that was left by a collector working for the Philadelphia-area Academy Collection Service:


“The message said, ‘Have you ever been raped?’  And then the guy laughed. My first reaction when I heard it was, ‘I can’t be hearing this.’  So I replayed it.  As a woman, that’s gotta be one of the most terrorizing things you could ever hear…  Should I grab the kids and go to my parents?  Should I grab the kids and just get away?  I don’t understand why people could do this to me, or to anybody.  This is not a good thing.  You can’t, you cannot do this to people.”

Later in the program, NBC played recordings of collection calls by  Final Claims Asset Locators, a collection agency in Buffalo, whose collectors pretended to be Maryland police officers when making calls.  As part of a collection call, they said,

“If you don’t want to pay sir, that’s fine.  I’ll just have to have you picked up.  There is going to be a detainer, sir, where you’ll be brought to Maryland to face charges here.  So what we’ll do is, we’re going to have you picked up.”

A reader on InsideARM responded by writing,

“So what’s the big deal?  The law gives debtors protection.  It is not like they can break your leg or arm.  The bill collectors are behind a phone possibly hundreds if not a thousand miles away… The rest is nonsense, they got to collect somehow.”

The rest is NOT nonsense.  It is true that the media’s descriptions of rogue collectors and rogue agencies give an incomplete picture of this industry.  It is also true that if we as an industry do not regulate ourselves, then we should fully expect more regulation as Congress revises the FDCPA.

Rozanne Andersen of ACA International said it best at the conclusion of the show.  When asked, “Is there a gap in regulation?  Is enough being done?” she responded,

“(From) what we’ve seen today, I think the answer is clear.”

I agree with Rozanne.  If we can’t regulate ourselves as an industry, we should expect to be further regulated.  And, in my opinion, we should respond to facts like the ones described on Dateline NBC not only as incomplete reporting (which it obviously is), but also with outrage.  These things do happen in our industry, and they are abhorrent.

 

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Posted in Debt Collection .

Continuing the Discussion

We welcome and encourage readers to comment and engage in substantive exchanges over topics on insideARM.com. Users must always follow our Terms of Use. Also know that your comment will be deleted if you: use profanity, engage in any kind of hate speech, post an incoherent or irrelevant thought, make a point of targeting anyone, or do anything else we find unsavory. Your comment will be posted under your current Display Name, shown below. If you'd like to change your Display Name, you must update it on the My Profile page.

  • avatar Jim Finocchiaro says:

    sick and beyond disturbing.

  • avatar Tom Hyberger says:

    The travesty here isn’t that the collectors did it but that the MANAGEMENT turned the other cheek until now. If Management didn’t know it was going on they need to be fired for not monitoring their employees and if they did they need to be fired for allowing it. Either way the Managers and Director for the office need to be terminated. Anything short of that and it doesn’t matter what happened because it is being ALLOWED. Management has an obligation to due diligence. When they fail in that capacity the industry suffers.

  • avatar Lynn Tarver says:

    What does ACA International plan to do about one of their own members (Academy Collections) that allows their collectors to scare women with the threat of rape? Souldn’t they be expelled from the ACA?

  • avatar Simon Klein says:

    How do we know if everything on the show is true? It couldn’t have been staged?

  • avatar john pratt says:

    Thanks for starting this discussion. We find that there are many great companies in our industry and great people who try to do this business in a good way. We have also seen very bad folks as we have seen on Dateline. I do not believe any of it was staged. I think anyone who has been in the collection business knows instinctually that what was shown was true. But I still know a vast majority of folks really try to work with the consumer.

  • avatar Michael Ginsberg says:

    Like all of us, I watched in disgust as Dateline featured segment after segment of appalling and despicable collection tactics. Let?s all wake up and smell the coffee, please.

    NBC?s goal was obvious, apparent and very typical of consumer media outlets; use sensationalism to attract viewership. They know their audience includes the parent that just put their kids to sleep and flicked on the TV before calling it a night themselves. They know that many of their typical viewers are behind on their payments and possibly on the receiving end of calls from bill collectors. NBC?s goal was not to present a balanced overview of collection industry. Their sole purpose was to focus on what will attract the most viewers and by highlighting the tactics of a handful of deplorable collectors they accomplished their goal.

    Roseanne Anderson from ACA did nothing wrong and she should be commended for stepping into the fire on behalf of the entire industry. I have not spoken with her but I can assure you that she knew what she was getting into when she agreed to participate. She did an admirable job getting her points across and I am certain she said a lot more about the benefits of collection agencies than what was aired last Friday night. I have been there myself with reporters numerous times and know for a fact that most of what I say hits the editor?s floor and never makes it to prime time.

    The issue is not the media outlets portraying the ugly side of a few bad apples. The issue is not the spokeswoman for the industry not saying enough of the good stuff to defend the industry against such attacks. The issue is mismanagement, plain and simple. Collection agencies employ people. Lots and lots of people. All types of people in every city and town across America. Some collection agencies operate out of one small office and the supervisor is the owner that turns the light on and off each and every day. The culture of their agency is directly attributed to the actions of one individual, the owner-operator.

    But what happens when the agency grows and opens additional offices or builds a sizeable call center under one roof? The staff grows, managers are hired or brought up from the collection floors, and goals are established. Some agency owners realize that managers are not born but trained, retrained and held individually accountability. Other owners do not make management training and accountability a top priority and that is when they run into problems. Collectors and new hires are not the only ones that need to be trained. Management training and accountability is essential for any size collection operation. This is plain and simple to explain yet challenging, costly and time consuming to implement.

  • avatar Michael Janakes says:

    While I don’t believe any agency is “clean” 100% of the time, I think 99% of them are not “dirty” and truly attempt to police their ranks. The days of a wink and a nod as it relates to compliance have been gone for years; decades even. Any agency that has long term aspirations knows that and actively weeds out bad apples that cannot conform.

    Like Paybill above, I have to believe the extreme violations shown on Dateline are rare. Maybe I live in a bubble, but in 24 years in the ARM industry I have never allowed a subordinate (or peer, for that matter) to say or do things like that. I wouldn’t associate myself with an agency that turned a blind eye to that kind of behavior, let alone one that condoned it. I have to believe 99.9% of those in the ARM industry agree.

    Although his comments above are self-serving (I know Omnium, and nobody is “perect”), Wilwerding’s comment about “name names” makes sense to me. Although there would surely be beauracracy involved, an industry review of an individual’s poor behavior/tactics that is published would solve many of these issues. Too many “banned” collectors from the same agency or location would also help to red flag bad management. I imagine a lot of issues with it, but I think in the end we’d be better able to ID and eliminate the bad apples. That idea also surely beats a government entity getting involved and further mucking up the process.

  • avatar Casey Middleman says:

    This industry was headed towards self regulation and then subsequently derailed by the explosion of debt buying industry and their cowboy ways. But back to the question “where is the outrage?” The outrage is muffled by the agency owner who employs a series of compliance safeguards, Trains and retrains, Monitors and verifies and still gets sued over technical issues or outright lies. The outrage dies or just joins the inner numb feeling when you hear about the growth in the medical debt purchasing sector as you buckle up and get ready for yet another misguided public relations slam.

  • avatar Joseph Sennish says:

    I agree that strict enforcement is Managements responsibility. There are no gray areas in that regard.
    Yet, I can honestly say I’ve never fired a collector. Admittedly, I helped quite a few to realize they had just fired themselves.

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