The Repo Man Cometh

By: Anne Cutler Email
By: Anne Cutler Email

One man's loss is another man's gain. While most business are struggling right now, debt collection and repossession are thriving. It's not surprising, considering the total consumer debt in the United States stands at nearly $2.5 trillion and that doesn't include home loans. If you're in this situation and cannot pay your bills, working with a lender can help.

In Reno, we see first hand, another victim of the recession. This time it's a black Honda. The economy is keeping Zane Investigations very busy. According to owner Justin Zane, volume is way up. However profitability is not, because Justin says more often these days, people are hiding. That makes Zane's job more difficult. He says, "A lot of the info to locate people isn't as good because they're not at their jobs anymore, they're not at the homes they used to live in."

Dealing with the repo man or a debt collector doesn't have to be a horrible experience. Our Facebook fan Phil lost his business, but negotiated a payment plan to avoid bankruptcy. For Facebook fan Valerie however, it wasn't that simple. "It's tough to admit you can't afford something that you could previously," says Valerie Craven. When Valerie and her husband split, he agreed to make the car payment. That didn't happen and the repo man came calling. That was back in 2005, five years ago, but Valerie still hears from collectors looking for her ex.

"At 8:00 in the morning I get a phone call" she says, "and they'll call well into the kids are in bed in the evening. So I don't even answer any more."

The Better Business Bureau's Tim Johnston says avoidance with only compound the problem. "If a debt collector calls and your immediate response is to yell and hang up. that's not going to get you anywhere." Johnston says investigation and repossession costs add up fast and those costs are eventually passed right back to the consumer.

Justin Zane agrees, "A lot of people avoid their lender and don't realize what they could be missing out on. There could be real potential to stay in the vehicle."

So your best bet: communicate with your lender. They'll work with you to find the most cost-effective option. If you do have to forfeit property, you can avoid a messy repossession by surrendering it to the bank. When dealing with debt collection or repossession, know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission has strict guidelines, determining when and where collectors can call and what they can say. Most importantly, if a situation turns threatening or violent, report it.

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