The Four-Letter Word Plaguing 25 Percent of Bay Staters
Most of us have it, but when we have it, we want to get rid of it. What is “it”? The answer is debt – credit, student, and medical, just to name a few. Debt limits the amount of financial, educational, and even work opportunities an individual can take to be able to provide even more for their families. Debt is such a big issue in Massachusetts that one in four residents is struggling to pay off their debt and/or have debt in collection. What’s more, residents of color are disproportionately impacted by debt: about 46 percent of residents of color have debt compared to 18 percent of white residents.
When an individual falls behind on paying their debt, lenders will usually sell the individual’s now delinquent debt to debt buyers. This is when debt goes into collection, and debt buyers aggressively seek to collect the full amount of the debt – often adding interest, penalties, and attorney’s fees. It is, unfortunately, very common for residents with debt in collection to lose their privacy, be abused, deceived, or treated unfairly by unscrupulous debt buyers during the debt collection process.
Recognizing this, Representative Paul Brodeur recently introduced a bill in the Massachusetts legislature in January that would ensure financially distressed Bay Staters have more protections and rights against debt collectors. But to ensure that our legislators continue to prioritize the bill and provide more protections to Bay Staters, we need to raise our voices and share our experiences with debt collection and debt buyers. Especially if you or your community have experienced any of the following:
1. Having debt collectors file lawsuits on or want to collect old, time-barred debt
2. Getting harassment and threats from debt collectors, including excessive phone calls
3. Receiving misleading and/or confusing disclosures and other important information on your debt
Through our stories, we provide evidence of the problems to policymakers, which could lead to substantial improvements in state reforms that protect us from predatory debt collectors. We have the ability to potentially make a difference so that other consumers do not fall victim to debt collectors’ predatory practices. Let’s make our voices count.
Click here to submit a story with the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Sharing experiences will help provide evidence to policy makers that the system needs to be improved!
By Yuqi Wang