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MINNEAPOLIS — The banks need another bailout and countless homeowners cannot handle their mortgage payments, but one group is paying its bills: the dead.
Dozens of specially trained agents work on the third floor of DCM Services here, calling up the dear departed’s next of kin and kindly asking if they want to settle the balance on a credit card or bank loan, or perhaps make that final utility bill or cellphone payment.
The people on the other end of the line often have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a spouse, sibling or parent. But they take responsibility for it anyway.
“I am out of work now, to be honest with you, and money is very tight for us,” one man declared on a recent phone call after he was apprised of his late mother-in-law’s $280 credit card bill. He promised to pay $15 a month.
Dead people are the newest frontier in debt collecting, and one of the healthiest parts of the industry. Those who dun the living say that people are so scared and so broke it is difficult to get them to cough up even token payments.
Collecting from the dead, however, is expanding. Improved database technology is making it easier to discover when estates are opened in the country’s 3,000 probate courts, giving collectors an opportunity to file timely claims. But if there is no formal estate and thus nothing to file against, the human touch comes into play.
New hires at DCM train for three weeks in what the company calls “empathic active listening,” which mixes the comforting air of a funeral director with the nonjudgmental tones of a friend. The new employees learn to use such anger-deflecting phrases as “If I hear you correctly, you’d like...”
“You get to be the person who cares,” the training manager, Autumn Boomgaarden, told a class of four new hires.
For some relatives, paying is pragmatic. The law varies from state to state, but generally survivors are not required to pay a dead relative’s bills from their own assets. In theory, however, collection agencies could go after any property inherited from the deceased.
But sentiment also plays a large role, the agencies say. Some relatives are loyal to the credit card or bank in question. Some feel a strong sense of morality, that all debts should be paid. Most of all, people feel they are honoring the wishes of their loved ones.
Originally posted by burdman30ott6
reply to post by stevegmu
Read the article, please. They're largely talking about people who don't leave any estate to file a lein against. Those with an estate, as I mentioned in an earlier post, are glossed over by the article almost purposefully, indicating these collectors almost would prefer their relatives not settle the debt so they can recoup as much as possible all at once and all upfront.
Ill tell you this, when my parents pass away, the only respect I'll show any creditors who call will be in the form of two middle fingers, shown to the phone and described verbally to them in glorious detail. We do not live in a society where the debts or sins of the father are passed onto the son, and I refuse to pretend that we do. Hell, knowing how hard my dad has worked his entire life, it would be a disrespect to him to pay these moneychangers one cent after he passes, not an honor to his memory as this article wants to paint it as.
Originally posted by stevegmu
I don't understand the outrage here. A loan was made, and a company is trying to collect it. It is far easier to pay the debt, than to have to deal with a lien against property.