April 1, 2011

Bill Collectors and the Boogie Man

One of my earliest memories is of my mom shushing me at about age 2 or 3 when there was a knock at the door.  "Sshhh!"  She said.  Knock knock knock.  My mom put her index finger to her mouth in the shush position.  I looked at her, puzzled.  (Weren't we supposed to open the door when someone knocked?  I wondered.)  We huddled there near the door for what seemed like an eternity, the person outside knocking again and again until they finally gave up.  Then I heard the tap tap tap of a man's heels grow fainter and fainter in the distance as whoever-that-was walked away.

My eyes wide, I asked my mom, "Who was THAT?"

"Bill collector," she said, with no further explanation.

Bill collector.  I didn't know what that was, but by my mom's reaction I figured it was at least as bad as the boogie man.  He was definitely someone I didn't want to see face to face.  Over the next several years, debt plagued my family until we finally lost our home in a foreclosure and had to move out in the middle of the night before the Sheriff came and locked us out.  From a kid's point of view, it became evident that in fact, the bill collector had a LOT in common with the boogie man.  He was scary and he had a lot of power.

As an adult, however, I have learned that although, yes, maybe the bill collector does have the right to ask for the money you owe him, he doesn't have the right to abuse you in trying to get paid.  He can't harass your family or friends; he can't call you in the middle of the night; he can't threaten you with jail.  There are laws in place to punish such outrageous behavior.

If you have bill collectors who are abusing you, please call me.  You may have the right to sue them for damages under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Just because you owe someone money, doesn't give him the right to act like the boogie man.