Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Almighty Buck United States

35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections' 570

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-cool-kids-are-doing-it dept.
New submitter meeotch writes: According to a new study by the Urban Institute, 35% of U.S. adults with a credit history (91% of the adult population of the U.S.) have debt "in collections" — a status generally not acquired until payments are at least 180 days past due. Debt problems seem to be worse in the South, with states hovering in the 40%+ range, while the Northeast has it better, at less than 30%. The study's authors claim their findings actually underrepresent low-income consumers, because "adults without a credit file are more likely to be financially disadvantaged."

Oddly, only 5% of adults have debt 30-180 days past due. This latter fact is partially accounted for by the fact that a broader range of debt can enter "in collections" status than "past due" status (e.g. parking tickets)... But also perhaps demonstrates that as one falls far enough along the debt spiral, escape becomes impossible. Particularly in the case of high-interest debt such as credit cards — the issuers of which cluster in states such as South Dakota, following a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that found that states' usury laws did not apply to banks headquartered in other states.

Even taking into account the folks who lost a parking ticket under their passenger seat, 35% is a pretty shocking number. Anyone have other theories why this number is so much higher than the 5% of people who are just "late"? How about some napkin math on the debt spiral?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

Comments Filter:
  • The American Dream (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:16PM (#47561711)

    is a pyramid scheme.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @01:15AM (#47563595)

      People just finally saw through the lie that the "American Dream" is: Yes, anyone can win. But not everyone. It's like the lottery.

      Plus, the "rules" of the game have changed. It used to be "have an idea, work for it, follow it and in the end, with some luck and hard work, you will be successful!". That was the dream. And that even worked. Yes, for some. Not all. Of course, for every single one that succeeded, there were hundreds that failed. But that one success story kept the dream alive.

      Today, it's over. The internet managed to keep it rolling for a bit longer than it would have originally and you have a few more of those "rags-to-riches" stories... only that the successful ones were not in rags by any stretch of the word to begin with. But outside those few stories, there is no chance for anyone to succeed. Corporations have the field divided, and there is NO chance for you to become more than a bit player. Ever. The absolute best you may possibly hope for is that you found an area where it's cheaper to simply buy you away than to entangle you in enough red tape that you willingly hand over your stuff.

      The new american dream is simply playing the lottery. Same chance of success with less effort. And it's the same game: Anyone can win. Just not everyone.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        The American Dream, the rules of the game are to turn other people's dreams into nightmares in order to feed your own. Getting richer means making other people poorer.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @07:41AM (#47564589) Homepage

        Even back when individuals could make it they would still mostly have been better off fighting to improve their current situation. A key part of the American Dream is supporting things like low taxation for the rich, because one day you too might be rich, and minimal employee rights because one day you might be the employer. People screw themselves in the hope that it will pay off later, but for 99.99% of people it never does.

  • by brokenin2 (103006) * on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:18PM (#47561721) Homepage

    One reason that I'm sure is a factor in the difference, is that companies are less inclined to bother reporting the "past due" status. It's overhead for them to do it, and there's not really any benefit, but when someone hits the collections threshold, they'll go ahead and take the time to report it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah. Collections usually get sold off to the highest bidder, and there may be reporting requirements which make that data more readily available.

      "Past due" is meaningless. Anybody who has run a business knows that nobody pays bills on time, neither yourself nor clients or customers. In fact, modern business relies upon it. Net-60 (due date + 60 days) is what everybody expects. Any "notice" that says something is 30-days past due gets summarily thrown in the garbage because I'm usually waiting on a check to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)

        If you have a million in assets, what do you need a loan for?

        We've finally arrived at the point where your only chance to getting a loan is not needing one.

      • by jopsen (885607)

        "Past due" is meaningless. Anybody who has run a business knows that nobody pays bills on time, neither yourself nor clients or customers.

        How can you?
        Seriously, I moved to the US last year... and I'm shocked that I can't pay my bills electronically and automatically... WTF?
        I have never used a check before coming to the US, no wonder people end up in collections because of wrong addresses, etc.


        They other day I just found out that I hadn't payed my electricity bill for 3 months, because apparent that's not what an ebill does...
        The level of institutional incompetence in the US is astonishing... Most things are so broken, inefficient and stu

        • by PhoenixFlare (319467) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @07:36AM (#47564569) Journal

          Seriously, I moved to the US last year... and I'm shocked that I can't pay my bills electronically and automatically... WTF?
          I have never used a check before coming to the US, no wonder people end up in collections because of wrong addresses, etc.

          Please tell me you're trolling and not really this ignorant.

          I've lived in the US my whole life, currently reside in a town of about 20,000 people, and I haven't paid using a check for anything besides my rent for about 15 years now. My cable, electric, water, trash, phone, Netflix, credit cards, etc. can all be paid electronically, and set up to automatically pay what's due (or any amount of my choosing) every month, on-time, via their websites. Although I prefer to keep a few things on manual for better control, all the bills can still be seen online with all the pertinent information & due dates.

          They other day I just found out that I hadn't payed my electricity bill for 3 months, because apparent that's not what an ebill does...

          So you signed up for e-billing, which if it's like my local utility, sends you an email every month with an electronic copy of the bill basically saying "Hey, you have $xxx due, log in and pay it by this date". And then...what? Just ignored it or figured you were getting free power?

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @09:32PM (#47562633)

      One reason that I'm sure is a factor in the difference, is that companies are less inclined to bother reporting the "past due" status.

      There's another reason that people seem to be ignoring: something that is "past due" will change out of that status, one way or another, after a short time. Something "in collection", not so much. One has to consider why it went into collection in the first place.

      Another factor that is rather passed over in OP is that despite a few changes that were made for the better some years ago, they were actually pretty weak changes and credit reporting is still egregiously one-sided today.

      Most companies of any size have whole departments that regularly report "past due" debt to collection agencies. But a consumer has many time-consuming and often expensive hoops to jump through to get that back off their record. In many ways it's still guilty-until-proven-innocent.

      The fact that over generations people have become used to this travesty of justice just makes it all the more insidious.

  • by thieh (3654731) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:19PM (#47561725)
    Given the trend of income inequality it would be no surprise of any sort of abrupt riots to the magnitudes of some civil rights leader got killed
  • by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:19PM (#47561727)

    This was discussed on Fatwallet today, and most of the sensationalism was debunked quickly.

    http://www.fatwallet.com/forum... [fatwallet.com]

    A few juicy tidbits:

    More details: "An alarming 35 percent of people with credit files have debt in collections reported in these file s . This percentage is nearly identical to results from a 2004 analysis of credit bureau data by the Federal Reserve, which found that 36.5 percent of people with credit report s had debt in collections reported in their file s (Avery et al. 2004). Note that consumers themselves may not realize they have debt in collections. Some consumers report becoming aware of this debt only when they review their credit report (CFPB 2013)"

    ...and...

    The actual source: http://www.urban.org/publicati... [urban.org]

    Only 5.3% are currently past due on a bill. "5.3 percent of people with a credit file have a report of past due debt, indicating they are between 30 and 180 days late on a nonmortgage payment"

    So most of the people have old debts which could be up to 7 years old.

    So there you go. A lot of us have an outstanding medical bill on our credit reports, and we should check them more often.

    • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:40PM (#47561881)

      The medical thing is important, more than once I've been told my debt is being sent to collections because the hospital and insurance were bickering over who pays what. My wife and I have adopted a policy of not paying until at least 6 months later, or after those two sort it out, since you can never get your money BACK once sent, but until they settle it out there's no way to know what is owed. There has also been a case where something was on my bill to the hospital that was not a rendered service, and having disputed it endlessly, the hospital would still not relent that my 6 yo son had required a breast pump for his treatment.

      I've also heard of, particularly gym memberships, being sent to collections because the company had constructed a labyrinth of obstacles to cancelling membership (e.g. Gold's Gym). So people would simply stop paying, and ultimately be sent to collections for non-payment of a service they didn't use. I suspect this form of collections will be on the rise, as the growing trend of writing mandatory recurring payments into contracts increases. I fully support anyone who cancels such things de facto (as long as they actually stop using the service), it's a horrible practice.

      • My wife and I have adopted a policy of not paying until at least 6 months later, or after those two sort it out, since you can never get your money BACK once sent, but until they settle it out there's no way to know what is owed.

        I have a similar policy, to never pay the first bill. if it is still outstanding after a few more weeks they'll bill you again.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        the hospital would still not relent that my 6 yo son had required a breast pump for his treatment.

        We had a similar love triangle going on between our pediatrician, the lab, and the insurance company. The doctor mistakenly ordered some kind of experimental genetic autism blood test for my son who was having digestive problems. The insurance company obviously refused to pay, and the lab wanted the money. The doctor ended up eating it, but had we paid the bill it would not have ended well for us! :)

        I fully support anyone who cancels such things de facto (as long as they actually stop using the service), it's a horrible practice.

        I have two blemishes on my credit report. The first is from the local newspaper (the Philly Inquirer), who ga

    • Fedex sent me to collections for a debt I didn't owe. Now I was very feisty with it and made sure to check that it didn't go on my credit history, but many people wouldn't. It was only $20. So maybe they just ignore it, it gets on the credit record. That would be "in debt collections" but wouldn't really reflect on the rest of my finances, it would just be something I decided to quit fighting.

      There's a difference between someone with a small debt in collections because they don't agree they owe it and someo

    • Also, if you dig into their footnotes, you find that the median debt in collection is $1349, far less than the average (mean) that they so prominently feature.
  • Not surprised. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gatfirls (1315141) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:22PM (#47561743)

    Once you have something go into collections it is always there until you pay it. (medical bills/school debt probably drives a lot of this)

    You're only 30-90 days lat for a short period.

    "Many consumers were burned for relatively small amounts -- about 10 percent of the debts were smaller than $125, Ratcliffe says"

    This kind of thing probably drives the numbers way up too. That late fee from blockbuster, etc.

    • Re:Not surprised. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:37PM (#47561845) Homepage

      I have a "debt" in collections right now. Comcast claims I owe $95 to them. Last winter I moved to a place where I could not only get other service, Comcast doesn't even serve (thankfully). So I told Comcast I'd be terminating my service effective Jan 15. Comcast had my credit card to auto-bill for it's "service".

      Then in March I started getting collection calls from companies Comcast hired to get this from me. Nobody will prove to me that I actually owe this money. And what's odd is the amount: $95 when my monthly bill for internet-only service was about $60 or $70. I just got another call yesterday on it.

      I could easily pay it and never even feel the hit. But fuck that! Comcast sucks beyond the ability of science to measure and I'm so sick of being taken by them, they're going to have to take me into small claims court and get a court order for this sum.

      And yeah, I get that this will harm my sterling credit rating, but what a great means of extortion. Bill people small amounts under the threat of losing their good credit rating and even when people don't actually owe the money, they'll pay up to save their rating.

      • Re:Not surprised. (Score:4, Informative)

        by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:58PM (#47561999)

        I don't know why anyone has more than a couple quick interactions with a debt collector.

        A flowchart for 'ya.

        http://creditboards.com/forums... [creditboards.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Nobody will prove to me that I actually owe this money.

        Do a little googling people... first of all, it is your legal right to have collection agencies only contact you in writing, but you have to notify them to do so. If they still call you, they're legally liable. Then, you can demand that they prove you own the debt. If they cannot and still continue to harass you, you can sue. Heck I'd sue regardless, in small court, even if the debt was legitimate, chances are they don't have the paperwork in order or they won't bother to show up.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I wonder how many of these are due to incorrect details. I've been living at my house for over 5 years now and I'm still getting letters from a debt collector for the previous tenant.
      Apparently he owes $75. Apparently the debt collection has "confirmed the address as correct" and take immediate action if it's not paid.

      I wonder with whom they confirmed the address. Certainly not with the people living there.

    • by romco (61131)

      >Once you have something go into collections it is always there until you pay it.

      It can stay on your report for up to 7 years AFTER you pay it. Sometimes with an old debt paying it will hurt your credit more than it will help. It is possible to get a medical debt off after you pay it but it requires time and effort on your part.

      • by gatfirls (1315141)

        I heard this is the new tactic by collection agencies. They try to get you to pay some tiny amount on a debt long off your credit report and as soon as you pay 1$ it becomes active again on your CR as a debt in collections.

        Not sure how true it is.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Once you have something go into collections it is always there until you pay it. ... You're only 30-90 days lat for a short period.

      You nailed it! Behold, math!

      Collections stay on your credit report for 7 years, so long-term collections will be on there for 2377 days vs 180-30 = 150 days.

      So you have 0.35/2377 < 0.05/150. Much less than. This is what you would intuitively expect.

  • by s.petry (762400) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:25PM (#47561767)

    The whole point of a "credit score" is horribly broken. In order to get approved for debt, you must have debt. If you have money in the bank and no monthly debt payments you have a reduced score. It's a SCAM! A scheme to make sure that you are constantly in debt, and yet it's perfectly legal. Living in debt constantly costs you money, and for what? So that you can have more debt? Wow!

    The fact that people don't get this, or simply don't care, is very telling.

    Personally I have almost no debt, just my car payment. I don't have a lot of debt so have a laughably low credit score. If I don't have cash I can wait to buy something. Actually since I manage my personal finances very well purchasing something I want is never an issue.

    • by alen (225700)

      get a credit card and charge $100 a month and pay it off. or charge your living expenses and pay it off
      simple

      • Just having one is sufficient. If you owe nothing on it, each month it'll be marked as "pays as agreed" on your credit report. Also it shows up as unused credit, which helps your score. Getting one and not using it works just fine. Having more than one and not using it works even better.

        • by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @08:14PM (#47562121)
          Father here.

          Just accompanied my son to a credit union to begin to build his credit with a secured card... he wants a newer vehicle, has saved well, and was able to transfer the necessary security from his account with the financial institution for his pending secured credit line.

          His loan officer told him his credit score would reflect more positively if he used only about 60% of his available credit line each month, and left 15 or 20 dollars per month in carryover balance, instead of paying off the entire balance each month.

          Truth or bullshit?

          • His loan officer told him his credit score would reflect more positively if he used only about 60% of his available credit line each month, and left 15 or 20 dollars per month in carryover balance, instead of paying off the entire balance each month.

            Truth or bullshit?

            I'm going to have to call BS on this one (speaking as someone with a credit score over 800 for quite a few years); I've never carried a balance on a credit card to get there.

            First off, 60% credit utilization is too high. I haven't looked up the numbers recently, but there are people out there who game the system and have figured out near optimal values. The stats I remember seeing were more like no more than 25% of your credit line, and no more than 50% of the credit line on a given credit card. Don't

          • Now I should note everything I'm going to say here applies to FICO credit score. Banks are certainly welcome to delve deeper and look at individual account performance and make a determination that way. So maybe, and there's no way to know this, the bank would evaluate that pattern more favourably when looking at the account and considering an upgrade to an unsecured account.

            However for credit score what matters is (in order of importance):

            --Payment history. Paying as agreed (meaning not more than 30 days l

      • by marciot (598356)

        get a credit card and charge $100 a month and pay it off. or charge your living expenses and pay it off
        simple

        And make sure it's a cash back card ;) I've made thousands back in rewards and never paid a single dime of interest. Credit cards are a scam; make it a game to see how much you can scam out of the scammers!

    • by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:37PM (#47561849)

      In order to get approved for debt, you must have debt.

      No, to get approved for debt you need one of two things:

      1. A credit history. That's not necessarily debt, it is a history of handling small debts that you've paid off.

      2. Belong to a demographic that the credit companies are chasing.

      When I was in college, the stores were deluging me with offers of credit cards because of my age/college while the credit union followed rule 1 and repeatedly denied me a credit card. In recent years, the largest flood of credit card offers were when I had no debt at all, but had a paid-off car loan.

      It's a SCAM! A scheme to make sure that you are constantly in debt,

      Nobody can force you to go into debt.

    • Personally I have almost no debt, just my car payment.

      We opted out the debt economy years ago. We froze our credit reports and paid cash for our last house, car and motorcycle. We could have some dinky medical bill or something that slipped through the cracks in collections and not even know it. We might not even find out about it until we update our address when the credit freezes expire and we need to renew them.

      You don't need credit cards, car loans, or mortgages. We're living proof. We fly, st

    • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @08:24PM (#47562201) Journal

      The whole point of a "credit score" is horribly broken.

      The idea isn't bad. The implementation is okay, though it can be gamed to some degree. The biggest issue most people actually have with it comes down to a serious lack of financial education. It isn't the easiest or most intuitive system; it's the one that's worked well for a long time thanks to a lot of trial and error.

      In order to get approved for debt, you must have debt.

      Now that's just untrue. If it were true, you'd have a chicken and egg problem with debt. The reality is that certain types of credit/debt (e.g. student loans) don't care whether you have other credit/debts or not. Some types of credit/debt (e.g. credit cards) are rate-sensitive to whether you've demonstrated - through your behavior with previous credit/debts - the likelihood that you'll stick to the terms of the new credit vehicle. Some types of credit/debt (e.g. a mortgage) are much more difficult to get at all without a demonstrated ability to manage credit/debt responsibly. That's due to the fact that different types of credit have different risk profiles. A credit card company can set a ceiling on how much the issuer can lose if you're a high or unknown risk. When it comes to a mortgage, you're talking about tying yourself to the borrower for a very long time with an asset that could tank in value anywhere during that time. Since student loans survive everything up to and including the end of the world, they're easy to get.

      If you have money in the bank and no monthly debt payments you have a reduced score.

      The first part is another myth. The amount of money you have in the bank means absolutely zero to a FICO score. It means something to a mortgage company, but that's it. FICO scores are completely unaffected by money in the bank. The second is somewhat true, depending on circumstances. Cracking 800 is going to be very tough without some sort of installment loan (vehicle or mortgage). That said, you can hit top-tier rate scores (740+, even 760+) without either of those. You can have credit cards you pay off every single month and hit the scores you need to secure the best available rates. No debt required. It's just tougher.

      It's a SCAM! A scheme to make sure that you are constantly in debt, and yet it's perfectly legal.

      Wait, what? People with the highest FICO scores typically have little to no debt, aside from perhaps a mortgage, maybe a car loan. It's rare that they'll have any serious credit card debt or other revolving accounts with any substantial balances. In fact, having substantial balances on your revolving credit accounts hurts your score. The point isn't to keep anyone in debt, it's to provide a score that tells potential lenders how likely it is that an individual they've never met before will stick to the terms of their agreement if they're granted credit.

      I don't have a lot of debt so have a laughably low credit score.

      If your credit score is "laughably low", it isn't because you don't have enough debt. In reality, what drives your score is 5 simple things. The largest component is payment history. Don't pay back debts? Bad history, bad score. A perfect score here is no delinquencies or bankruptcies. Any accounts listed should be "paid as agreed" or something to that effect. If you have no debts, pay your utilities and medical bills (things that report delinquencies to the credit reporting companies), and pay that car loan on time, you should have a perfect score here. The second is the balance of all your revolving accounts. No balances on credit cards? Low balances relative to total available credit? Perfect or near perfect score. That's 65% of the total score right there. More info here: http://www.myfico.com/credited... [myfico.com] (bank balance isn't listed because it doesn't apply).

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      It's a SCAM!

      It's not a scam, but you do have to look at who the score is for. It is not for you, it is for lenders. They want to know how good of a risk you are, and to establish that you need a track record. It is trivial to maintain a good track record - simply use a credit card and pay it off. It will cost you nothing, or even make you money if you game the system like those Fatwallet acolytes.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:28PM (#47561785) Homepage Journal

    The Middle Class didn't.

    The Poor got taken to the cleaners.

    Thank god my investments in Guillotine and Pitchfork franchises are proving to be fruitful.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Hell, I heard the other day that in the last ten years the US median household income has fallen from ~$80k to ~$50k. That's insane! Yet despite decades of evidence that deregulation and tax breaks for the rich just concentrates wealth even faster we still have a huge mass of people who keep voting the rich bastard's lapdogs back into office.

      • by russotto (537200)

        Hell, I heard the other day that in the last ten years the US median household income has fallen from ~$80k to ~$50k. That's insane!

        And false. US median income in 2012 was $51,017. US median income in 2002 was $42,409 ($54,127 in 2012 dollars). Peak median income since 1975 was 1999, ar $40,696 ($56,080 in 2012 dollars).

  • by Snotnose (212196) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:32PM (#47561811)
    2-3 months ago I got a notice from the State (CA) collection agency stating I owed them $200 from 2007, along with warnings they could garnish my salary, garnish an incomtax refund, take my firstborn, etc. First I've heard of it. They have a number to call to ask questions. Half the time the phone isn't answered, the other half I leave voicemail that is never returned. So I'm prolly in collections, along with the credit ding, for a 7 year debt I knew nothing about and can't get any information on.

    I'm about to spend the money for a registered letter to ask WTF, but I'll bet they don't respond to it.

    Farking asshats.
    • by taustin (171655)

      How certain are you that it actually from the state collection agency? It fits the pattern of a common form of fraud.

    • by labnet (457441)

      I had a debt collection agency come after our business for $100 unpaid cell phone bill.
      It was from a lone disused cell phone where we had either never received the invoice or admin had misplaced it.
      I said no problems, just give me a copy of the invoice and we'll pay up.
      They said. Can't do that.
      To cut a long story short, the phone company sells anything past due date to a collection agency BUT doesn't bother to give them the supporting documentation.
      How retarded is that!

  • Twice I've had problems with phone companies making a billing mistake, working it out with me over the phone, waiving it from my bill and THEN selling it to a collections agency.

    They're double-dipping it as a write-off AND making back 10% or whatever they sell it for.

    I have excellent credit and pay my bills on time, but nothing can convince a collection agency that they were sold bad debt. Why would they ever listen to or trust the person they're hassling? Not like they care anyways, say they know I'm rig

  • by zakkudo (2638939) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:47PM (#47561931)

    The simple fact of the matter is, if you are in collections, most companies get the ability to rape you. They will be as harsh as possible when talking to you so that you don't want to negotiate. This equals more money in interest.

    Student loans threatened me into work I couldn't physically do, and was relying on medicaid to keep my fake leg working. The threats forced my work over what I could do and pushed me into homelessness for a time.

    I tried calling the collectors with the last of my money and all they could do is tell me to pay $14,000 in student loans in 3 monthes. Despite their threats causing me $100k in medical bills, multiple suicide attempts, and lost work time.

    Since I have stabalized financially and I have been talking to them more, you soon realize the system was made to rape you from the beginning. It's a lot easier to face when you realize you aren't necessarily the evil one.

    You can ask specific questions, but the department of education will refuse to give any specifics. The best I had gotten was a letter that read, "We have investigated your claims [what was investigated specifically was not stated], and we have found no issues. We have no departments that can handle this matter and if you would like to pursuie this it will have to be through litigation."

    This is the US of A. I'll hang myself at a college before
    I'm threatened into [work I can't do] -> [homelessness]. I'll do my best, but when the interest is $700 a month, you know the company you were working with had no serious intension of helping to pay back any dept, but only to cause you new ones.

  • I am of the opinion that if the typical person is hit by lightening and we add up the liabilities and assets that we will find most people are worth less than zero. Outstanding mortgages, car loans and other loans are only part of the issue. the cost of dying and the costs of burials as well as the cost of settling estates add to the issue but then there are a pile of other issues. The support of your kids, their education, your widow's needs all are considerations. So when you sell off the hous
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @07:58PM (#47561995) Homepage

    Anyone have other theories why this number is so much higher than the 5% of people who are just "late"?

    The first window lasts from 0.08 years to 0.5 years, while the second window lasts from 0.5 years to 7.0 years. The relative window width is (7.0 - 0.5) / (0.5 - 0.08) = 6.5 / 0.42 = 15.47. So if each person only had zero or one debts, and no debt was ever paid off, you'd expect there to be 15.47 times as many debt holders in the second window as in the first. 15.47 * 5% = 77%. So the fact that it is at 35% means that there is some combination of people being in both categories and people paying off their debt while it is "In Collections." If it was 5%, or 77%, you'd be able to make a pretty solid guess that something was hinky, but 35% is in the "could be perfectly reasonable" range.

    I'll also echo the sentiment that some creditors do a horrible job of billing. I had a large outstanding debt for years before finding it on my credit report. The company had a typo in my address from the original signup, but had been getting copies of my credit report which had my correct address. They sent all the bills to the incorrect address they had on file, never once contacted me at the address on file with the credit reporting company they had been contacting.

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @08:12PM (#47562093)

    The Michigan teachers union sics bill collector on former members after they legally opted out of the union:
    http://poorrichardsnews.com/po... [poorrichardsnews.com]

  • by asmkm22 (1902712) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @08:17PM (#47562151)
    I ran into this a few years ago. Basically, I got a random call saying I owed about $1k. After asking for the debt verification letter to be sent, I was able to figure out that the debt in question was for some daycare provider in 2009, 3 years before receiving my first collections call. Problem was, we had moved out of that area when this supposed debt occurred, meaning it shouldn't have been charged in the first place. The daycare provider couldn't produce any documentation to support their claim, saying that it happened 3 years ago and they can't find anything. I then called the debt collection agency back and asked for the debt to be discharged as a result, but they said the daycare center claims the debt is valid and won't reverse it. I then opened a ticket with TransUnion (where the collections was listed) and explained the situation. 30 days later I got a letter saying the looked into the debt and determined that it is valid, despite having no documentation to back the debt up, and my documentation showing I wasn't even living in that area. Best part is, I followed up with TansUnion to find out how they validated the debt, and was told they called the daycare center and simply asked them if it was valid; no proof or documentation or anything provided. The whole system is a racket, and there's basically no way to get collections reversed unless the debt involves identity theft. The original creditor has no interest in the truth because they already sold the debt. The collection agency has no interest in the truth because they have already bought the debt. The credit industry has no interest in the truth because it's their core business. The only reason this whole thing hasn't bothered me too much is because since I basically went 4 years before realizing the debt existed, I can just wait for it to fall off my report.
    • by Livius (318358)

      You're forgetting...

      The people who (claim) you owe money to are their customers. You are not. They're in the business of getting your money - there is nothing else they care about.

      • by eWarz (610883)
        If this is true, you have both a lawsuit against the original creditor (fraud or negligence), the collection agency (violation of the FDCPA), as well as TransUnion (FCRA violation). Most lawyers will take this pro bono if you can prove with any level of intelligence that you don't owe the original debt. Take advantage of this! I've known people who've easily collected 50k between the supposed original creditor, collection agency, and moronic credit reporting agencies like TransUnion...and that's after at
  • by speedlaw (878924) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @12:08AM (#47563363) Homepage
    Early in my legal career, I got a job with a law firm that did collections. There are a few good liar stories, like the contractor with "no money" but a Rolex and top shelf car...his wife owned a nail salon..cash business...and she owned everything. I also learned a lot of folks WILL buy stuff with no intent to pay for it. I also learned what "Judgement Proof" meant. (no assets, so they don't care) Reverse directories and skip tracing, prior to google-stalking, were an art form, one I learned well-that part helped me later in my career many times. Most seriously broke people have medical bills, not a desire for widescreen TV sets. Most of them worked, saved, and were basically normal before they got snowed with six figure invoices. Unlike the scammers, they had stories that rang true. The staff HATED when the boss would buy old credit card debit, because it was always bitch collection and always stale. He'd pay 10 cents on the dollar, so if we got a third of it, he still made out. We just got extra abuse, and he was extra interested to make sure we worked the "old cards". One day, my wife said "we can pay the rent on my income...you'll find another job-just quit-you are miserable" . I can negotiate. I can face down tough adversaries, Judges, and run a business. I just wasn't cut out for debt collection.
  • by dr.Flake (601029) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @05:17AM (#47564169)

    The debt discussion quickly moved to a health insurance discussion, as that is clearly one of the major contributors of this issue.

    Slashdot has always been a mostly US centric site, but also has a significant world wide group.

    As a European reading this discussion, but i recon it is so for Canadians and some larger parts of Asia as well: I'm laughing my ass off!

    Oh man, you guys have seriously fu****ed up your system.
    All this spastic anti-socialism, american dream, Obamacare and your corporate controlled democracy have made you end up with this monster.

    Believe me, our systems are also far from perfect, but no where near the level of idiocy described here.

    for me, 500 $ max own risk, rest 100% insured. no limit. 98% of the population is insured. regardless of income, age or job. I worry over other stuff. Not my health bill.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @07:02AM (#47564481)

    Example:

    I had a bone-marrow transplant in late 2012.

    Over the next year, the Hospital and Insurance companies went round and round, churning out bills and checks.

    In one case, the insurance company needed some information from the hospital to process the claim. SNAFU at the hospital left the insurance company without the info for about six months.

    Soooo, the hospital sent the bill to a collection agency, which started sending me letters demanding payment. I was, therefore, among the 35%.

    The next month, the hospital sent the info to the insurance company, the insurance company cut a check, and the collections agency sent me a "never mind" letter.

    So, I never really had any overdue debt, but I would have counted under the methodology of this article as part of the 35%.

    Which leads me to wonder what fraction of the 35% might have had debts referred mistakenly to collection agencies....

  • Why the 35%? (Score:4, Informative)

    by gorzek (647352) <gorzek@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @01:18PM (#47567643) Homepage Journal

    I skimmed a lot of comments and didn't see one directly addressing the question posed in the summary.

    Basically, 35% of Americans have debts in collection status because it's easy to have an account go to collections and then linger there forever. You can imagine people's "debt responsiveness" as being exponentially bound to the time since the last payment. A debt that recently had a payment made is almost certain to have its next payment made. A debt that's a few months late has a decent chance of getting a payment made soon. A debt that is 6 months (or more) late has a very low chance of ever being paid again. This is why debt collectors buy/pursue old debts. The original creditor will likely accept pennies on the dollar just to get something out of it, while the collector wants to obtain the whole amount. If they can even get half, they come out way ahead. It's a profitable business.

    I used to work in this industry (wrote software) so I could tell you some things about it.

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

Working...