Every so often, a client comes to us with a situation that is so shameful that we take the cases on a pro bono basis – our attempt to right some wrongs in the world. There is a moral lesson in a case we are involved with right now, and we want you to know about it so that you can protect yourself. Names and some details have been changed out of respect for the individual involved and our duty of confidentiality.
First, what you need to know to protect yourself, if you are a senior, a boomer or Generation Y:
State and federal agencies hire collection companies to collect outstanding debts. They purchase the outstanding debts for pennies on the dollar and keep what they collect.
If the statute of limitations on a debt has elapsed, the person owing the debt is no longer legally obligated to pay. BUT – if the person pays just a little bit towards the debt, even after the time to collect has passed, the statute of limitations clock starts from the very beginning and the full amount of the debt is due.
Collection companies take advantage of this. With seniors in particular, they will play on the seniors sense of responsibility and their vulnerability, and talk them into paying “just a little bit to show us that you tried, and then we’ll leave you alone.”
Don’t get us wrong – we believe that individuals should be responsible for their actions, and should pay their bills. Our client was ensnared in such situation and there are several reasons why her case merits consideration. A few facts:
• The institution that she owed money to had forgiven her debt many years ago. We’ve got the receipt.
• The debt occurred when she borrowed money to get away from an abusive marriage.
• One of her children was killed in 9/11, and she was asked and willingly led a program to counsel others who had lost loved ones. She’s a lovely person.
• She defaulted on the debt after her child was killed.
She wanted to do the right thing, and paid “just a little bit.” The collection agency seized a portion of her Social Security check. That’s when she came to our office and asked for our help. We’re fighting this for her because we think she deserves far better.