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Archive for the ‘Eliot Spitzer’ Category

My war on debt collectors

Posted by Charles II on December 24, 2011

This account is slightly fictionalized for privacy reasons, but is accurate in the major details.
________________________
I hate debt.

I am what the credit card industry calls a “deadbeat.” That is to say, I pay my credit cards every month, no exceptions. If I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it. They have gotten me for late fees exactly once over many, many years.

I don’t have a mortgage, and wouldn’t get one under present conditions. In a nation where employees are disposable and the idea of a “career” is an anachronism, it’s a mistake to put oneself at the mercy of employers. Put the money you save in the bank.

I don’t have much sympathy for people who run up credit cards, imagining that they’ll be rescued by the Rapture or whatever. Yes, on the other end of the spectrum are those who get into debt over medical bills; for them I have plenty of sympathy, but don’t see the solution as taking it out on creditors. People need reliable work at decent pay, and insurance against illness. People who end up in debt as a result of unemployment or medical expenses are simply doing what they have to in order to survive. People who end up in debt for (almost) any other reason are placing the yoke around their own necks.

Given my dislike of debt and the fact I don’t have any, it might surprise you that I am on the harassment list of a very large number of debt collectors–perhaps several dozen, though they engage me singly rather than as a horde. How it came about is a bit of a mystery.

My guess is that it has to do with how debt collectors go about finding their victims. Since genuine deadbeats generally make themselves scarce, debt collectors apparently go about finding the responsible party with all the finesse that Katherine Harris used in barring ineligible voters from the 2000 Florida election, which is to say, with none at all. Utwater, Atwater, Outwater, McMillan– it doesn’t matter. Call them all! Who cares if the first name is wrong or if it’s in another state or if you call six hundred times and they never answer?

Now there are some gaps in this theory. Utwater is not a common name, nor are any of the probable variants. So why would several dozen debt collectors pour hundreds of hours of effort into annoying someone from whom they won’t get any money? Meanwhile, the delinquent Atwater or Outwater or McMillan remains at large, probably running up even more debts in expectation of the Rapture.

Some mysteries will probably only be answered after our demise.

I have tried almost every means possible of getting rid of these people. I tried to talk with them, but the first experience cured me of that. The debt collector claimed to be searching for a person with my name at an address that would be in a park if it existed. On being told the correct address he was calling (something he might easily determined by looking at the phone book) the collector sent a claim for debt. The claim had no information about where or when or by whom or for what the debt had been incurred–just the amount. The original, eh, creditor was a shady outfit that ended up dancing with Eliot Spitzer, though I think it escaped judgement thanks to his personal indiscretion. I referred the matter to the State Attorney General of the debt collector’s state at which point the debt collector lost interest.

But the saga continued. Other debt collectors called, offering as evidence four digits of a Social Security number that were not mine. I copied the response to my state attorney general and the debt collector decided that perhaps discretion was the better part of valor.

More calls poured in, for Carlos Utwater, and Cameron Outwater, and Cinnamon Utwhistle. I gradually realized that answering the phone was not helpful. I got caller blocking, which allows one to prevent a particular number from calling, which definitely helped with the woman who used robocalling.

And debt collectors got more clever. They didn’t leave recorded messages. They blocked transmission of caller ID information, so that numbers came up as “Toll Free” or “Out of Area.” They spoofed their telephone number to make it seem as if the call were local.

And I got more clever. I started keeping a phone log. I learned to look up who was calling at sites like 800notes.com. I read the law on debt collection. I started filing complaints with the FTC and writing cease communication letters.

As described by some of the references given below, we are in an era where debt collectors– with no evidence whatsoever– can go to a court and get judgment entered against you. Many times the “debt” they are trying to collect is from lists of uncollectable debt that are sold hand to hand for pennies on the hundred dollars.

Debt collectors can and do lie to claim that they called you, that they sent notice of debt owed to you, that they served process against you. They can and do call your neighbors and your employer. For some employers, notably those who require security clearance, unpaid debt can get you fired. And most important, they can do all of this even if they just invented the debt.

Yes, that’s right. You can be sent to debtor’s hell even if you don’t have any debt whatsoever.

I could probably end my little annoyance fairly easily. At some point, I may do so, since I, not the debt collectors, are in control of this. But I recognize that what is going on is not my battle, but as our battle to keep this country from further degradation. As someone with no debt whatsoever, I am the perfect person to expose the criminality of this industry. The whole business of debt collection is profitable increasingly because it uses extortion, blackmail, and fraud.

Fraudulent collection is often not directed against genuine debtors–they don’t have any money! Fraudulent collection is being deployed against people who do have money, and therefore don’t have any debt. Yes, they are coming for you, comfortable, secure Mr. “Government IS The Problem.” Thanks to decades of assault against consumer protection, the federal response has been weak. Most states are even worse. There have been a few crackdowns on companies that threaten to break your legs. But the industry continues to become more and more the province of outright criminals.

Citizens, to metaphorical arms.

The legal situation

1. Debt collection agencies are required under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to provide written notice of debt upon demand. Congress, of course, couldn’t just require them to send a certified, return receipt statement to begin with. The consumer has to demand it. And, unfortunately, penalties are relatively small.

2. FDCPA forbids “the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.” This has been amplified by the Truth in Caller ID Act, with a $10,000 per instance fine.

3. The most serious tool is perhaps in the hands of the state attorneys general. Many debt collectors are engaged in fraud. They buy lists of uncollectable debt for 25 cents on the hundred dollars. That uncollectable debt may very well be completely fictitious. So the incentives to try to squeeze people in the hope that someone will cave– someone elderly, someone whose English is poor, someone unfamiliar with his/her rights, someone who needs to keep their credit record clear to, say, keep a security clearance. All of these people are vulnerable to being defrauded.

4. The federal government could pursue systemic fraud through its powers to regulate interstate commerce. We have seen how vigorously they have pursued investment banks.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, even on TV. This is the result of personal research, and does not constitute legal advice.
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Some articles on debt collection

Liz Pulliam Weston, MSN Money:

Lisa Burk isn’t Lisa Sterns, but Allied Interstate refused to believe her.

The Minneapolis collection agency repeatedly called Lisa and her husband, Michael, according to a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota attorney general, and demanded that the couple pay a debt owed by one Lisa Sterns. The couple, just as repeatedly, told the collector they didn’t know any Lisa Sterns and asked the company to stop calling.

Allied ignored the couple’s requests.

Because the old liabilities cost collectors as little as 25 cents for each $100 in face value, companies can make a profit if they can get debtors to repay even a tiny fraction. Along the way, some collectors realized they also could squeeze money from people who didn’t even owe it.

Some consumers pay because their finances are so disorganized they don’t realize the debt isn’t theirs. Others are coerced into paying by illegal threats of lawsuits or ruined credit.

Patricia Sabatini, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Ms. Hillebrand said one of the most serious problems involves people not finding out they’ve been sued for repayment until the case is over.

While many consumers don’t respond to lawsuits, Consumers Union found that in many cases they did not receive the required notice from debt collectors that a lawsuit was pending.

When consumers fail to appear in court, the debt collector wins a default judgment, which “frequently requires little more than the name, address and alleged balance of the consumer,” according to the report, produced in conjunction with the East Bay Community Law Center in California.

To keep up with an explosion of lawsuits they are filing, debt buyers employ “robo-signers” who sign affidavits attesting that they have reviewed and verified debtors’ records, when in fact they may have only looked at basic account information on a computer screen, according to the report.

“An increasing number of consumers are being hounded by debt collectors for unsubstantiated debt,” Consumers Union said.

Posted in corruption, credit cards, Department of Injustice, Eliot Spitzer, The Plunderbund | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

New York Senate Shakeup: Good For Marriage Equality?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 26, 2008

Probably, per both The Albany Project and The Advocate‘s Kerry Eleveld:

New York’s senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, a 32-year institution in the state senate, announced his retirement Tuesday just as the GOP and Democrats gird for an election season that will determine the fate of the chamber and, potentially, New York’s gay marriage bill.

Democrats need to pick up two seats this November in order to gain control of the senate — something most LGBT activists wager would hasten the process of getting a same-sex marriage bill to the desk of Gov. David Paterson, who has supported marriage equality since the mid ’90s. The New York assembly is Democrat-controlled and passed a marriage bill last year.

Democratic strategists said Bruno’s exit raises questions about how effectively the GOP can raise money in his absence and whether they can hold certain constituencies together.

“One of the key pillars of Bruno’s support and support for the Republican senate majority has been the labor unions, including progressive unions that you wouldn’t think would be helping to keep a Republican majority in Albany,” said Ethan Geto, an LGBT activist and Democratic political consultant. “His stepping down doesn’t mean that on a wholesale basis all the unions who have been supporting the Republican majority will abandon them, but I think a number of them will.”

It’s not made much news in the national media, but the New York State GOP is in the process of imploding. Even the spectacular fall from grace of Eliot Spitzer hasn’t stopped or even appreciably slowed this process. Joe Bruno’s leaving is being put down by many to two factors: 1) The lead-pipe-cinch likelihood that Democrats will retake the state Senate (which is probably why Bruno recently had the Senate Minority conference room renovated after years of neglect: He wanted his caucus’ future digs to be spruced up while he still held the purse strings), and 2) the longstanding FBI probe of Bruno, which seems to have heated up just as he made his farewells to public office. (He’d apparently hoped that quitting his Senate seat would make the FBI go away. Didn’t work.)

Posted in 2008, abuse of power, civil rights, Eliot Spitzer, gay rights, Good Things, marriage, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples | Comments Off on New York Senate Shakeup: Good For Marriage Equality?

So Just How DID The FBI Find Out About Eliot Spitzer?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 27, 2008

Looseheadprop gives us a timeline.

Posted in banking, Eliot Spitzer | Comments Off on So Just How DID The FBI Find Out About Eliot Spitzer?

“[The Spitzer] investigation increasingly looks like a political hit.” –Scott Horton

Posted by Charles II on March 24, 2008

Thanks to Avedon (via D-Day, via Scott Horton), we learn from Amy Driscoll at the Miami Herald:

Almost four months before Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a sex scandal, a lawyer for Republican political operative Roger Stone sent a letter to the FBI alleging that Spitzer ”used the services of high-priced call girls” while in Florida.


The letter, dated Nov. 19, said Miami Beach resident Stone learned the information from ”a social contact in an adult-themed club.” It offered one potentially identifying detail: The man in question hadn’t taken off his calf-length black socks “during the sex act.”


Stone, known for shutting down the 2000 presidential election recount effort in Miami-Dade County, is a longtime Spitzer nemesis whose political experience ranges from the Nixon White House to Al Sharpton’s presidential campaign. His lawyer wrote the letter containing the call-girl allegations after FBI agents had asked to speak to Stone, though he says the FBI did not specify why he was contacted.


”Mr. Stone respectfully declines to meet with you at this time,” the letter states, before going on to offer ”certain information” about Spitzer.


As D-Day points out, the FBI then proceeds to behave as Stone’s Stepinfetchit, not even interviewing him to pin down his source of information, as minimal law enforcement procedure would require.

It must take a very strong stomach to work for Bush’s FBI. And a talent for swallowing.

Posted in Busheviks, Eliot Spitzer, FBI, Republicans as cancer, rightwing moral cripples | 13 Comments »

If Most Big Economies Worldwide Are In Or Nearing Recessions…

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 18, 2008

…then why are commodity prices sky-high?

That’s the question Jeffrey Frankel posits while guest blogging at RGE Monitor:

The popular explanation since 2004 has been rapid growth in the world economy. The strongest growth has of course been coming from China and other recently minted manufacturing powerhouses in Asia, but the expansion has been unusually broad-based – including up to last year the United States and even a reinvigorated Europe. So growth has pushed up demand for farm products, energy and other industrial inputs, right?

This reigning explanation now looks suspect. Since last summer the US economy has slowed down noticeably, and is probably entering a recession. Despite talk of decoupling, it is clear that other countries are also slowing down at least to some extent. In its most recent forecast, the IMF World Economic Outlook revised downward the growth rate for virtually every region, including China. The overall global growth rate for 2008 has been marked down by 1.1% (from 5.2 % in July 2007, just before the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit, to 4.1 % as of January 29, 2008). And prospects continue to deteriorate. Yet commodity prices have found their second wind over precisely this period! (Up some 25% or more since August 2007, by a number of indices. So much for the growth explanation.

I suspect that the state of the dollar, weakened by the huge amount of debt, both public and private, our country has taken on under King George W. Bush, is the reason. The weak dollar is why OPEC’s profits, which are figured in dollars, aren’t as big as they seem — and it’s why there’s a big push to move OPEC to the euro instead. Propping up US debt is endangering other countries’ currency as well — and they’re not in a mind to prop us up any more, hence the efforts to “decouple” from our economy. Bush and his buddies were hoping the other countries would wait until after the Bush Gang left town with the spoils from their bust-out, but that’s not happening.

One thing is certain: The brief boost the market got from its archenemy Spitzer’s downfall is soon going to be a distant memory.

Posted in banking, big money, bust-outs, corruption, credit cards, economy, Eliot Spitzer, faith-based flim-flams, gravy train, greed, income inequality | 3 Comments »

From Hell’s Heart, Spitzer Stabs At Thee

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 15, 2008

If you’re a predatory lender, that is.

Dandelion Salad reminds us of why the banks wanted Spitzer gone. (Funny how David Vitter and Larry Craig are still in office, isn’t it?)

Posted in abuse of power, banking, big money, BushCo malfeasance, capitalism as cancer, David Vitter, Debra Jean Palfrey, distractions, DoJ, economy, Eliot Spitzer, GOP/Media Complex, government malfeasance, gravy train, Larry Craig | 1 Comment »

Scott Says It, Part Two

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 14, 2008

Scott Horton with another home run:

… The newspaper accounts, forming the imperfect world in which all of this is analyzed, suggest that Spitzer solicited prostitution on February 13, and there is nothing to support the idea that he was entrapped. What I argued was something different: the feds had built their case against the prostitution ring and were ready to go, but they held back in the hopes that they would bag Spitzer, too. They could have gone with the announcement back in January. But they didn’t. That’s very revealing.

In this case the feds violated some basic rules—as even John Farmer, in doing his best to defend them, acknowledges:

  • They prepared pleadings which were filled with salacious detail that served no purpose other than the public humiliation of “Client 9.”
  • They then tipped the press to the fact that “Client 9” was a New York public official, and then to the fact that he was Eliot Spitzer. Over the next 48 hours, they filled the press with copious additional details surrounding Spitzer, many of them lurid.

All of this made marvelous copy for the tabloids and helped Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to one of its funniest segments in recent weeks. (Today, however, the Times profiled the working girl at the center of the storm. I was disappointed to learn that her name was not “Cinnamon.” Alas, it is just the fake news.) But it also violated basic rules of prosecutorial ethics and can only be explained by a partisan political motive: to take down a prominent political figure of the opposition party. It was entertaining, funny, and bad for our system of justice.

[…]

The real questions begin when the Department of Justice enters the picture–after the IRS refers the matter to the Public Integrity Section. What is the measure of “normal” in a case like this? I have now looked at a long list of cases in which accusations of highly irregular financial conduct were lodged against Republican elected officials. In each of these cases, the Bush Justice Department reacted by doing nothing. No review of payments and bank records. No questions. No investigators. No warrants for wiretaps. It concluded that there was an insufficient basis to launch an investigation. In two of these cases there were extremely specific, well documented allegations–not something as nebulous as a SAR. So my reaction to arguments that the Public Integrity Section reacted with something akin to “standard operating procedure” is to say: certainly not. It took the SAR as a license to launch a major fishing expedition. And in the end it landed its fish.

[…]

In the present case, the media are actually complicit in this problem. They get a good story that helps them sell copy when prosecutors and investigators violate their ethical responsibilities and start talking about things they shouldn’t be talking about. So the media have no motive to blow the whistle on their informants, or even to criticize them. When the New York Times, which has exercised an impressive ownership of this story, runs an op-ed defending the conduct of the prosecutors—without ever having run a word raising questions about the way the case was handled—we’re entitled to call “foul.”

No doubt there are plenty of lawyers, especially former prosecutors, who will disagree with me. That’s the way our system works. Our system offers no incentives for criticizing prosecutors. They are, after all, very powerful people.

Posted in abuse of power, Bush, Bush Family Evil Empire, BushCo malfeasance, Busheviks, Democrats, Eliot Spitzer, GOP/Media Complex, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples | 1 Comment »

Scott Says It. I Believe It.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 14, 2008

That settles it.

The key grafs:

In today’s New York Times, a New Jersey Republican politician and former prosecutor, John Farmer (whom the Times inexplicably fails to identify by his political badge—an issue that the Public Editor needs to address), counters concerns that the investigation that brought down Eliot Spitzer was politically motivated. In Farmer’s presentation, concerns about the way the prosecution was brought are being raised by “supporters of Spitzer” as part of a “strategy” in his “defense.”

Farmer’s analysis is feeble and unconvincing, and his premises are false.

[…]

The key questions that need to be asked go to the extraordinary allocation of resources and manpower for this operation and the application of level standards. Here again, the Bush Justice Department has one set of standards when Republican officials fall into a prostitution ring, and an entirely different set when the target is a Democrat who is threatening the Republican Party’s power base in Albany. We just need to look over the “D.C. Madam” case, which caught in its snare a high-level official of the Bush Administration and a Republican senator. But the Bush Justice Department’s attitude towards that case couldn’t be more different. It is deferential towards the customers and has shown no interest in bringing charges against any of them. It has also engaged in extraordinary somersaults to keep the names of the Republicans caught up in the case out of the media. The two cases, compared with care, point convincingly to a partisan political double standard.

The Bush Justice Department complains it has no resources to investigate or deal with the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a woman from Houston who was gang-raped, brutalized and held hostage by American contractors in Iraq. It claims it has no resources to deal with dozens of similar cases involving rape and assault by or against U.S. citizens. It has no resources to deal with hundreds of cases involving massive contract fraud, tallying into the billions of dollars, in Iraq. Its prosecution of white-collar crime across the country has fallen through the floor. But this same Justice Department allocates millions in resources to ensnare a prominent Democratic politician in a sex tryst at the Mayflower Hotel. This evidences an extremely curious set of priorities—priorities which are suspiciously driven by a partisan politics, not a sober and responsible interest in law enforcement.

Posted in abuse of power, Bush, Bush Family Evil Empire, BushCo malfeasance, Busheviks, David Vitter, Democrat-bashing, Democrats, Eliot Spitzer, hypocrites, neocons, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples | Comments Off on Scott Says It. I Believe It.

British Tory Caught In Spitzer Trap?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 13, 2008

Sure looks like it:

According to the British tabloid News of the World, the Duke of Westminster also gets his whores from the Emperor’s Club VIP. He is Britain’s third richest man and “heads his country’s Territorial Army,” who fight the terrorists. Since these incredible things were not quite enough for his paid sex whore to have sex with him, here’s what he told her to seal the deal: “Osama bin Laden was alive and hiding in Pakistan.”The Emperor’s Club arranged the Evil Duke’s tryst with Zana Brazdek, 26, whose whore name is Shanna. Shanna “was paid £2,000 in £50 notes to have sex with the Duke on December 28 at his plush mews house in central London.” A whole ton of pounds! That’s like 5,500 billion American scrip leaves, no?

[…]

So the Duke of England fucked an Emperess — Whore Diamond(TM) rating unknown — in London’s Jurassic Park Express dino-rehab compound. What other details does the Emperess herself offer?

“He told me that British soldiers were getting tested for sexual diseases every three months because they were sleeping with women all over the world.” Later, without batting an eyelid at the irony of the situation, the Duke went on to ask Zana to have sex WITHOUT a condom.


He’s right there — raptors cannot give STDs to humans.
Duke boasts [News of the World via The Blotter]

I suspect that this is one fish the Bush Junta didn’t want to be caught in the net they set out for Spitzer. Expect this to either be all but ignored by most of the GOP/Media Complex, or to be a big fat poison pill that makes further coverage of the story unpalatable to the US corporate media.

Posted in Eliot Spitzer, family values, GOP/Media Complex, rightwing moral cripples, Tories | 1 Comment »

Hypocrisy: IOKIYAR

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 13, 2008

One of the reasons the news media is all over the Eliot Spitzer story — at least the sex part of it, as opposed to looking at the questionable means used to nab him, or the fact that his antagonists had a target before they had a crime to hang on him — is because of the “hypocrisy angle”: “He busted hookers, so he should really pay hard for paying for them!”

Which would be all well and good, but somehow the press never got around to applying that same standard to another political john, Diaper David Vitter — who was not only not hounded out of his Senate seat, but staunchly defended by the same cons now attacking Spitzer. This comparative gentleness towards Vitter is why the man who was well-known in the DC and Canal Street sex-worker industry is still in the Senate pushing legislation like this:

Who needs fiction when you’ve got politics? You really can’t make this stuff up.

As Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D-NY) political career comes to an end for his involvement with a prostitution ring, Sen. David Vitter, (R-LA) of “DC Madame” fame, plans to amend the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to reinsert the 33 percent abstinence-only earmark.

Sen. Vitter, not exactly a model for abstinence, or being faithful, has the audacity to put his hypocritical ideology ahead of evidence-based public health strategies that tell us abstinence-only should be removed from PEPFAR. He puts ideology ahead of his own reality in the ultimate paternalistic perversion of “do as I say, not as I do.”

And need I point out that the only reason the Republicans made even a half-hearted attempt to shame Larry Craig into retiring after his arrest in the airport john hit the news was because he was caught propositioning a man? If he’d stuck to women like Diaper Dave, they’d have closed ranks around him immediately like they did with Diaper Dave. Once again, It’s OK If You’re A Republican!

Posted in abuse of power, anti-truth, David Vitter, Debra Jean Palfrey, Democrat-bashing, Democrats, Eliot Spitzer, faith-based flim-flams, family values, Flying Monkey Right, Fundies, Hookergate, hypocrites, Larry Craig, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples | 2 Comments »

 
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