Debt Collectors Fleece Relatives of the Dead

Getting bereaved to pay up one of the healthiest parts of industry
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2009 11:26 AM CST
Debt Collectors Fleece Relatives of the Dead
A customer leaves a Bank of America office Friday, Feb. 27, 2009 in the Brooklyn borough of New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Bankruptcy and defaults are all the rage these days, but one group is being targeted to pay up: the dead. Entire debt collection agencies have cropped up that specialize in calling bereaved relatives and convincing them to pay the deceased’s debts, even though they have no legal obligation to do so, the New York Times reports. So many comply that it’s become one of the fastest-growing, healthiest parts of the industry.

Some pay the debts out of pragmatism, lest creditors come after inherited possessions. Others pay out on ethical compunctions. But plenty are simply unaware that they have no obligation to pay. If they ask “we definitely tell them,” said a partner for a collection firm. “But is it disclosed upfront—‘Mr. Smith, you definitely don’t owe the money’? It’s not that blunt.” (More debt collection stories.)

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