Last week, I received an invoice from American Express. When I closely examined the correspondence, it became apparent that it was an offer to settle.
Puzzled, I called the number on the invoice. A heavily accented voice that suggested India or Pakistan told me that American Express was making me "a one time offer;" accepting $483 to satisfy the alleged $1239 owed.
Craning the depths of memory, I recalled a different Jeff Willis who evidently was delinquent on an American Express card. It had been resolved then, in 2009. Yet here, nine years later, it continued to surface.
When I relayed these findings to the gentleman on the phone, he began asking the normal questions: "Birthday, last four numbers of my social, home address..."
I stopped him, realizing that I was witnessing a "phishing scam." Instead I reminded him that "no revolving debt was collectible in Kentucky after five years and no derogatory could be reported to the credit bureaus after 84 months."
His retort was that I only had to pay $483 and they would accept a 12-month payment plan. I told him to stop harassing me and hung up.
Unfortunately, there are many conscientious Americans, especially older Americans who aren't aware of debt recovery statute of limitations guidelines. And, they zealously guard their bureaus.
Also true is if one payment had been made, the clock would reset and they would be responsible for the debt. Because, in making the payment, they would acknowledge that the debt was indeed theirs.
Unbeknownst to many Americans are schemes and scams globally involving collection of old debt. Debt recovery companies can afford to pursue them because, the old debt may be purchased for "pennies" on the dollar and the offshore help used to expedite is cheap.
Worse still, by sharing Americans personal information, they expose them to identity theft, the world's fastest growing crime.
There are many who would say "that's just the way that it is." In other words, the whole system is rigged to screw everyday Americans and there is nothing that we can do about it.
Or is there?
In a previous post, I referenced a conversation with Congressional Aide, Kevin Wysoki regarding a "clean-up" of the debt recovery industry. Corrective measure included "precluding" any job that required use of an American's social security number from offshore outsourcing.
Sounds plausible. In fact, I haven't talked to a single person who didn't think that it wasn't a "brilliant" idea! Yet some oppose. Who are they? And why would they oppose?
The answers are "Fortune 500 companies" and "such action would reduce their profit margins."
A.T. & T., one of the greatest perpetrators, would explain that "rates would need to be increased" because of the high labor costs in America. In other words, "their unions" wouldn't allow it.
I pointed out to Wysoki, that A.T. & T. might "consider placing these mostly call center jobs in right-to-work states." Yet even then, we would be talking about minimum wage, which begins at $7.25 per hour which, according to A. T. & T., nobody would want anyway!
There is a low cost labor market that isn't being utilized to the greatest extent. They are older workers, age 62-66 who are currently eligible for early social security. Unfortunately, it isn't enough to live on. However, an additional $18,000 per year is allowed without compromising the entitlement.
Suddenly, a $7.25 per hour call center job looks appealing. Especially when considering that this worker could become eligible for A. T. & T.'s very good medical and dental plan!
The Fortune 500 companies would argue that their offshore help works for much less; often $200-$300 per month, with no benefits. This math would effectively "quintuple" their labor costs.
Really? Has anyone ever dealt with this "help?" I have! I can tell you first hand, conducting business takes three to four times longer; because the offshore party is speaking in a second language and has difficulty understanding, or being understood by the American!
Thus, the "labor bargain" isn't really that big of a bargain. Or, at least, not for the American who is forced to waste time to accommodate the international service provider.
Then comes the vetting; or lack thereof.
The end result is an open door to "phishermen" and scammers!
Is there any relief in sight?
It won't be easy. Politicians are reluctant to take on these big companies. Not to mention Oligarchs such as Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffet or Tom Steyer. These billionaires see such preclusion as a serious hit to their bottom lines. Congressmen don't welcome the prospect of being targeted by these interests.
People are now fully understanding what Donald Trump meant when he called our system "rigged."
Are there other remedies that could be used? Yes. It is called a "boycott."
A nation wide boycott of companies employing offshore help that "require use of all or part of a social" would gain traction immediately. In fact, the mere threat might force these companies to rethink the practice.