Friday, April 01, 2011

Dunning The Dead - Putting The Squeeze On Grieving Family Over The Recently-Deceased's Debts

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports:
  • Todd Murray recalls the exact moment when he decided to end his brief career as a debt collections attorney. In late summer of 2008, his boss at the collections law firm of Gurstel Chargo in Golden Valley informed him that he would be going after a particularly hard-to-tap group -- the dead.
  • "I remember thinking, My God, how can anyone actually do this?" said Murray, now a consumer rights attorney. "The whole idea of calling someone still grieving from the loss of a loved one, over some credit card debt, seemed so repulsive to me. I just couldn't do it."
  • Dead men pay no bills, but their grieving families can. Collecting on those debts has become a lucrative specialty in the booming collections industry. Employing tactics developed specifically for persuading the grief-stricken to pay, including the use of sympathy cards and scripted appeals, a select group of collection firms has made this its niche.


  • Consumer advocates argue that the collection efforts rely on guilt or misinformation to get people to pay. The elderly are particularly vulnerable, they argue, often willing to write a check just to make the phone calls stop.

For more, see Death won't stop these debt collectors (A new breed of collector is targeting the still-grieving family members of people who have died without paying their bills).

In a related story, see Paying the debts of a deceased relative: What you should know.