Overseas Debt Collections & Your Privacy: A Recipe for Disaster
Debt collection consumer advocates say that we have an epidemic in this country of collection agency owners going overseas. They worry that the opening of call centers in places like India, the Philippines and Jamaica are a recipe for disaster.
Why is it such a bad practice?
Bud Hibbs, a debt collection consumer advocate and consultant for over 25 years who has written several books, is approved to teach CLE courses through the State Bar of Texas and has appeared in numerous radio and television programs including the Oprah Winfrey Show, explained why he thinks the practice of going overseas is so bad:
What they’re doing in India, in particular, is hiring educated people. I know someone associated with that industry and he made some comments that the call centers in India boasted that they had 100 percent college graduates working for them and he said that the guy or the girl walking behind these collectors that are supervising them usually have an MBA. Now that scares me because here you’ve got people that are very adept to learning American culture. If you’ve ever been to places like India, many of them want to become Americanized. They have the UHF channels, similar to what we had here 20 years ago, and they’ll play the old Leave It To Beaver, Happy Days, type shows – situation comedies – so that the Indian consumer can more or less become adept in American language, slang, etc. My fear, and this is not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen, is that you and I do not have any say so about our records being shipped to places like India.
So, let’s say my son is married and has two young children and he has a pretty good health insurance. Now, come the fourth quarter of the year, the kids get sick and the doctor decides to run some type of special tests that aren’t covered by insurance. Well, it’s not unfathomable to figure out that that could go to collections, to a place like NCO, who operates several offshore debt collection places and the people in India have access, not only to his, but to his spouse’s credit reports. They know where you bank, they know where you work, they know what you make, they know what you drive and they can look at your full credit report.
You’ve got these people with MBAs walking up behind them looking at the same information. Now bear in mind, he also told me that the clerk calling to collect is making about $3.00 an hour and the beauty of it to the American owner is that he doesn’t have to pay taxes or benefits; just $3.00 an hour and he said that maybe on a good day, a supervisor is making up to $8.00 an hour U. S. – which is pretty cheap by our standards.
The debt collection slippery slope
Hibbs thinks that the practice of taking the American debt collection industry overseas is a slippery slope. He told us, “Mark my words, it’s just a matter of time until places like the Russian mob and other areas penetrate these call centers and we have a massive problem with theft of identity – with yours and my identity being run all over Asia and Europe. To compound the problem, the owner of these agencies is going to say that his liability ended at the U. S. shoreline. And, unfortunately, there are no laws in place right now to protect us. In my opinion, I think we should have a law in place where you and I have the ability to opt out of our information being shipped overseas.”
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