Hooray for student fees!

Yes, that's right. Hooray for student fees! Without them, I wouldn't have ready access to sound legal advice.

Like many people, when I was young and stupid, I got a credit card. I made charges, and then found I couldn't pay them. Yes, this whole income - expenditure concept escaped me. Math is hard when you're 18 and a complete idiot.

It was a relatively small debt, about $1000. Peanuts when you compare it to the credit card debt of the average American household. And yet, I still couldn't pay it. I've been in school full-time since I got to college 7 long years ago, and predictably, money has always been tight. I did know about the debt, and had full intentions of paying it as soon as I was out of school and employed at a "real" job.

Recently, out of the blue, I received a call from a collection agency, Encore. They started negotiations by telling me they were suing me for the amount of the debt - and claimed to have sent me paperwork to that effect.

Now, I'm not the most detail-oriented person, but I'm DAMN sure I never received paperwork about being sued. I pay attention to that kind of thing.

And thus began a week of harrassment, degredation, and as it turns out, completely illegal collection activity.

In Texas, according to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 16.004, an agency has 4 years to collect a debt. After that, the debt is no longer good, and collectors have to leave you alone, legally.

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous companies are capitalizing on the public's general ignorance of financial law. These companies buy expired debts for pennies on the dollar (sometimes less) and press people into payment, totally illegally. By their view, if they get you to pay them $1, they've recouped their cost AND earned money. It's big business, too - one such company made $325 million in 2002!

Also, paying off an old debt can be detrimental to your credit. Sometimes it's best to just walk away.

Here's the article my legal advisor sent me: Zombie Debt

I'm not glad that I walked out of a $1000 debt. I firmly believe in taking responsibility for one's actions, and that means paying debts. However, I am glad that I didn't give that collection agency any money, and to know that I don't have to put up with their treatment. After all the belittling and harrassment, it feels good to beat them at their own game.

What do you know? Knowledge really is power.

(By the way, if you click on the $$ shirt, it will take you to instructions on how to fold it!)