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Saturday, August 16, 2014

To Global Pinoys:Beware of Debt Collection Scams(like Domingo & Molaer)!

“False representation or deceptive means to collect any debt or obtain information concerning a cardholder.” 
NOTE: Bangko Central Ng Pilipinas On Unfair Credit Card Collection Practices:  
Unfair Collection Practices. Banks, subsidiary/affiliate credit card companies, collection agencies, counsels and other agents may resort to all reasonable and legally permissible means to collect amounts due them under the credit card agreement: Provided, That in the exercise of their rights and performance of duties, they must observe good faith and reasonable conduct and refrain from engaging in unscrupulous or untoward acts.  Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this Subsection:  a)    the use or threat of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person;  b)   the use of obscenities, insults, or profane language which amount to a criminal act or offense under applicable laws;  c)   disclosure of the names of credit cardholders who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except as allowed under Subsec. X320.9 and 4301N.9;  d)   threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken;  e)   communicating or threat to communicate to any person credit information which is known to be false, including failure to communicate that a debt is being disputed;  f)    any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a cardholder; and  g)   making contact at unreasonable/inconvenient times or hours which shall be defined as contact before 6:00 A.M. or after 10:00 P.M., unless the account is past due for more than sixty (60) days or the cardholder has given express permission or said times are the only reasonable or convenient  opportunities for contact. 
Important Note To Complainants!  Complainants should send email to BSP:
BSP requires the following:
1.   The full name of the complainant  and the financial institution (FI) being complained of:
2.   The signatory to the complaint should be the transactor or his/her authorized agent.
3.  Contact information and address of the complainant .
4.   Copies of relevant documents that support the complaint.
5. The facts of the harassment case.
Inside the Dark, Lucrative World of Consumer Debt Collection
From NYT
Creditors sell off unpaid debts, those debts enter a financial netherworld where strange things can happen. A gamut of players — including debt buyers, collectors, brokers, street hustlers and criminals — all work together, and against one another, to recoup every penny on every dollar. In this often-lawless marketplace, large portfolios of debt — usually in the form of spreadsheets holding debtors’ names, contact information and balances — are bought, sold and sometimes simply stolen.

The secret to Wilson’s success was that he knew how to find “crap,” as he called it. Instead of buying “fresh” paper directly from the banks — paper that just a few of the banks’ own collectors or subcontractors had tried to collect on — he looked for older paper that had been bought and sold many times over. He often bought credit-­card debt, for example, that had been sold off by the banks 10 or even 15 years ago. Old paper was much cheaper, but the trick was figuring out which portfolios had not been collected on efficiently and thus wrung dry. If you called the debtors from these sorts of portfolios and simply reminded them what they owed, they would often send you a check. “I am a bottom feeder,” Wilson said. “I specialize in finding paper that everyone else thinks is worthless.”

For Siegel and Wilson, the Package represented money — plain and simple — but, in truth, this Microsoft Excel spreadsheet represented much more than this. The various columns and rows told the stories of several thousand Americans whose financial lives had fallen into ruin and whose futures dangled precariously in the balance. Wilson understood this. At his collection agency in Bangor, Me., where he worked some of Siegel’s paper, he was often on the phones himself. He heard the excuses, the tirades, the lies, the desperation and the heartbreaking stories of loss.

One imperative for Wilson and his collectors was conveying the calm, cool, unshakable understanding that they were, in fact, the rightful owners of these debts and that these debts needed to be paid promptly. It remained unsaid, of course, that this “paper” had often been purchased for as little as one penny on the dollar, and there was no mention of the fact that many of the debts that Wilson specialized in were too old to appear on a credit report or to be sued for in court. Most negative information disappears from credit reports after seven years and, depending on state law, debts may be unrecoverable through a lawsuit after as little as three years.

Yet Wilson’s pitch — you owe the money, and now you need to pay — was both simple and perfectly legal. In most states, you can still try to collect on a debt even after its statute of limitations has expired. As the Federal Trade Commission notes on its website: “Although the collector may not sue you to collect the debt, you still owe it. The collector can continue to contact you to try to collect.” Wilson knew the rules and used them to his advantage. As far as I could tell, that’s what Wilson loved about collections: It was a hustle, but a legitimate hustle.
In the fall of 2009, however, it appeared that Wilson and Siegel were the ones being hustled. Someone was pre-empting them, collecting the debts from the Package before they could. The first people to be affected, of course, were the debtors themselves; the danger they faced was that if they paid the wrong collectors, they would still be liable for their debts.

Debtor No. 3,159 from the Package, for instance, was a woman named Theresa from a small town in the Southwest. Theresa defies almost all the stereotypes of debtors. She joined the Marines in the early 1990s, at 18, and served for the next eight years. Theresa was so determined to live responsibly that throughout much of her teens, she worked more than 30 hours a week at a McDonald’s, earning $4.25 an hour.

After the Marines, Theresa married, bought a house and landed a job as the manager of a grocery store. Life was good. And that’s precisely when everything fell apart. “What happened was, I found out that my husband of 11 years had another family somewhere else,” she said matter-of-factly. Theresa filed for divorce in 2005, but this quickly created a new set of problems. “He left me with everything except the truck that he took, and that was fine, except that I now had to pay for everything,” she said. “I had the credit-­card debt. I had the mortgage. I had everything.”

Theresa’s credit-card debt included a Washington Mutual account that had a balance of $4,184 as of July 2006. In August, September and October, she continued making steady payments even though she wasn’t using the card to make any purchases. Eventually, finances became so tight that she stopped paying altogether. Things came to a head in 2009 when she began receiving phone calls from people who claimed to work at a law firm. She was told that unless she paid off the balance in full, they would take her to court.
At the time, Theresa had no way of knowing that the threat was a bluff, nor did she realize that such bluffs are increasingly common. According to annual reports filed by the F.T.C., the number of complaints about “false threats of lawsuits” from collectors more than doubled from roughly 12,000 in 2008 to more than 30,000 in 2012. And the combined number of complaints about threats of violence and “false threats of arrest or seizure of property” have jumped, more than tripling. David Torok, who oversees the F.T.C.'s complaint database, speculates that there were “more consumers truly on the edge” and that collectors were therefore simply “trying to squeeze even harder to get some money out of an extraordinarily dwindling pot.”

For Theresa, the possibility of being sued was deeply unsettling. She had recently landed a job with the Border Patrol and knew that a lawsuit could destroy her career as a federal law-enforcement officer. (As a matter of policy, the Border Patrol says that debts and “financial issues” may render candidates “unsuitable” for service.) The collectors explained that she now owed more than $6,000 with interest, but they offered her a deal in which she could settle the matter for just $2,700. Theresa said that she set up a payment plan and that over the course of the next six months the money was withdrawn directly from her checking account.

There was just one problem: The company never sent a letter confirming that she had paid the bill. Even worse, the payment never appeared on her credit report. She spent the next six months trying to understand where, exactly, her money had gone. “I didn’t want the money back,” she told me. “I just wanted somebody to say, ‘Hey, she tried to pay.’ ”

It wasn’t entirely accidental that Theresa’s debts ended up in the hands of thieves. When the original creditor, Washington Mutual, sold her debt, it stopped caring about what Theresa owed, how she was treated or what happened to her personal information. This is true for many banks; when they sell their unpaid accounts, their contracts testify to this indifference. According to American Banker, in a series of transactions in 2009 and 2010, Bank of America sold millions of dollars of charged-off debt to a company in Denver called CACH. In the sales agreement, Bank of America said it would not make “any representations, warranties, promises, covenants, agreements or guarantees of any kind or character whatsoever” about the accuracy of the account information it was selling. When Siegel bought the Package from Hudson & Keyse, the sale contract had similar wording. It stated, for example, that the seller was offering no “warranty of any kind” relating to the “validity, collectibility, accuracy or sufficiency of information” that was being sold. In other words, there might be problems with the debts, but they were being sold as is.
And there were problems, dating right back to the original creditor, Washington Mutual. Theresa’s­ bank records confirm that Washington Mutual issued her a significant credit — $702 — on the very same day it sold her debt. It’s unclear what the credit was for. An official at Chase Bank, which acquired Washington Mutual in 2008, told me that the credit might have been offered as relief — a gift, essentially. But he couldn’t be certain. On the monthly statement, the credit appeared as a payment alongside the words “Payment received — Thank you.” Whatever the explanation, one thing is certain: When Siegel bought the account in 2008, Theresa’s balance didn’t reflect this credit. Somewhere along the way, quite possibly at the bank itself, it was simply forgotten or ignored. Such sloppy record-keeping may seem surprising, but it is prevalent enough that in 2009, the F.T.C. said in a report: “When accounts are transferred to debt collectors, the accompanying information often is so deficient that the collectors seek payment from the wrong consumer or demand the wrong amount from the correct consumer.”

In truth, there was little that Theresa could do; she had paid off her debt to the wrong collectors and had fallen into the debt underworld. If anyone was going to help her, it wouldn’t be the state attorney general, or the Better Business Bureau, or the F.T.C., or even the police, but the former banker and the former armed-robber who bought her debt.