Ring My Bell …

Endless calls from creditors can get you down. Picking up the post and recognising their envelopes is not a great start to the day, either. But when screening calls and you hear “this is such-and-such debt collection agency press #1 to take this call” you can’t help but laugh.

The debt collectors chasing me are now overwhelmed with the number of people that they’re routinely threatening with “a bad credit rating”. They seem unable to recognise that not having a penny to one’s name to repay any credit is more of a problem than an inevitable poor credit rating.

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve

The letters are copied, pasted and sent out in their hundreds too. What happened to personal service? They’re littered with modal verbs might, may, could, knowing such veiled threats would upset some. Many people fear being in debt: what will the neighbours think? They worry about a poor credit rating, believe if you owe money you should pay it no matter what.

I’m not thinking like that at all. I refuse to. When your job ends the bills don’t so, just as I have to make adjustments to the way I live because I am a victim of a recession, so should the banks recognise I have no money to pay them. I literally have no money to pay them.

If I had anything resembling “disposable income” I’d top up my gas meter and put the heating on full-blast all day, or I’d treat myself to a bottle of Marques de Caceras Rioja (preferably 2005), or I’d go to the cinema, or I’d buy some DVDs and CDs. I’d do any number of things.

The assumption seems to be that those in debt are fibbing about their poverty. I’ve said, “I acknowledge the debt, I do not dispute the debt, I do not have any money to pay the debt,” so many times it’s stuck in my head and I’m thinking of adding music: something upbeat rather than with a lot of booming bass.

I found that the Payment Protection Insurance I was mis-sold was of no value to self-employed workers and was told it was void. The debt collectors aren’t chasing those who ripped me off, but I’m now, of course, trying to get my money back. Beware, though, freelances with PPI.

The debts are sold from creditor to debt collector to debt collector with such speed it’s hard to know who is hassling you. It also shows what little intention they have of genuine legal proceedings. If they can scare you into giving the money back they will – or they will sell the debt on. Do they not realise that as children when our mums threatened slapped legs for being cheeky and it didn’t happen we learned about bluffing?

I’m warned failure to respond “may result in being refused simple credit agreements such as mobile phone contracts”. This is especially amusing as one of them is for an unpaid mobile phone bill.

The letters continue “a more serious consequence may be when applying for mortgages with acceptable interest rates, credit cards or cheap loans.”

What not to do

With the average house price in my home city at £145,257 and my income at £67.50 per week I can’t see this being an immediate concern. With the average salary in journalism being £24,500 it’s unlikely to ever be a concern.

It is hard enough to get credit these days for everyone, and I wouldn’t get a sniff of a loan, cheap or otherwise, while on Jobseekers’ Allowance.

I’m not likely to contact a loan shark or go to an awful GetALoanAndPay1000%Interest companies but I can understand how people with children might be considering this as Christmas swiftly approaches. I’ll just have to sit here, fend off the harassment and hope I get a job soon.

The polite, petit bourgeois, fear of debt leaves those without work taking the blame for their situation – and recently led the PM to gaffe when he compared his urgency to clear the national debt to us paying off our credit cards. The government often like to tap into this fear, pretending state finances are the same as household.

I’ll await my County Court summons which I might, may, could get and will attend, if needs be, knowing I’m not (as yet) likely to be sent to debtors’ prison. I’ll tell the court what I tell the debt collectors –  “I acknowledge the debt, I do not dispute the debt, I do not have any money to pay the debt”. I’m thinking I should go with a disco track.

Owe much I owe in total: About £8000 in total, which could pay for me to enjoy a cruise to volcanoes the world over. Sigh

How many calls I get a day: Too many to count and, besides, I now unplug the phone


11 thoughts on “Ring My Bell …

  1. Speaking from experience past it’s better to keep creditors informed than leave a wall of silence. I’m not of IVA’s if handled badly but there are at least provisions for writing off debts up to 16k now. The rising cost of going bankrupt is perverse and if you’re a married couple it’s obviously twice that fee.
    Better to keep the creditors informed, show them your income and make them an offer for what you can pay eg:£1 a month. Credit card companies seem to be the most accommodating with banks the least (who knew?).
    If you owe money on a credit card issued by the bank then watch it as banks can extract large payments out of you A/c without permission.
    Debt collectors are automatons but will respond to payment plans if you have few assets (frankly if you have few assets the debt collectors will try anything not to have it all go to court as they’ll be forced to accept only what you can afford plus they get to foot the court costs.The prospect of letting the courts decide is sometime a bargaining chip for the low asset debtor).
    I empathise. It ain’t fun out there for many of us.But we can get through these things.

    • Oh, I agree. And I have. I’ve sent financial statements, letters they’ve asked for and letters they haven’t. I’ve kept them informed since I first signed on – sending letters before they started adding interest and fines. I asked for a moratorium and this was ignored. They set up some payments which, because of bank charges, I couldn’t meet for one month, so I sent yet more letters. Then the debts were sold, so I sent letters to debt collection agencies. The debts were sold again. I really don’t know what else I can say to them. They are trying to intimidate and hassle me into making payments I can’t make while selling the debts like a pot dog at a car boot sale. Thankfully, I have a bank account for benefits not connected to any debts. Phew!

      • In my limited experience, once it is sold to a debt collector there isn’t much of a worry. I have had some luck saying point blank, I will not pay this. The person on the other end of phone line is commission based, if he/she believes this is not collectible, they’ll move on.

  2. Amen! I’m not sure about the UK, but here in the US, most employers now require a credit check as part of the job app process. I think it may have cost me a job or two! Such a check once again unfairly penalizes the unemployed job seeker!!! We are getting a fall snowstorm here in Denver, Colorado, and it’s very chilly – both outside and in, as I try to keep the heating bill at an affordable level!!!

    • A credit check to see if you can do a job?!! That is appalling. And no doubt on the cards for the UK. That would mean that, having lost my job and plunged into debt, I can’t get a job because I am in debt? That is insane! I am gobsmacked, as we say over here. I have a halogen heater now but won’t know how much it has cost me in electricty in my bill arrives. I can, though, recommend slipper socks, a big blanket on the settee and a cat on your lap – take care and keep warm.

  3. Anything to do with debt makes my blood boil with rage. I know someone who had personal loans actively pushed on him by a company that had given him car finance. He stupidly accepted them due to personal circumstances at the time and ended up tens of thousands in debt when his income was less than £15,000 a year. He was dumb, but the company must have known he could never keep up the repayments. Their priority in the halcyon days of easy credit for all was meeting sales targets. When it all went tits up they pursued him incredibly aggressively. He seriously contemplated suicide before eventually going to Citizens Advice. They helped him set up an arrangement where he paid what he could for 3 years and the remaining debt was written off. His credit score is now complete mince, but at least he’s alive and happy. Really hope you find a job or make a success of your business and can get the profit chasing, couldn’t care less about the real people behind it all b*stards off your back soon.

  4. Dear Unemployed Hack,

    Please do not let this information worry you unduly. There’s lots of misunderstanding doing the rounds regarding credit checks performed by employers prior to a job offer.

    For a start, they are *not* credit checks but security checks (I am talking UK-based here). What the potential employer is seeking is that the information you have provided (address, date of birth) is valid and that you are registered with the council (electoral roll). Now, if you had CCJs or a caution, this would only affect your chances of being employed if you worked within financial services (by which I mean anything from banks to insurance brokers to IFAs) or legal.

    As I am assuming that you’re neither applying to accounting jobs nor will you be treading the boards at chambers any time soon, a security (again, please note, security, not credit) check should not worry you in the slightest. There is nothing to worry about. They are NOT checking that you’ve paid your Vodafone bill; they are checking that you are who you say you are. There are then basic, standard and enhanced security checks (CRBs, criminal record bureau checks) that are performed for specific full-time or even consulting roles, for example at the MoD, MoJ, or on any private owned-project that is linked to the government. A caution will not appear on basic CRB but it will on the standard and enhanced ones.

    Last but not least, a security check is not performed behind your back; the employer will have to issue you with a simple form that authorises the checking to take place. A long-winded way to tell you that your current skint predicament will not prevent you from getting a job.

    [By the way, a CCJ that is paid within a month of issue is immediately removed from your file]

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