Bill Collectors - Task Force - Chicago Tribune

An undercover Tribune reporter training to be an employee at a bill collection company sees the horrible way they treat people who owe money.

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Newspaper

"A Bill Collector and His Victim—Applying the Screws" - Pamela Zekman and William Gaines - Chicago Tribune

1974-04-07

". . .He was out to collect $56 on an unpaid Mobil Oil Corp. credit card account. Mrs. Scott was going to pay, he had decided. Had he asked, — and he didn't — he would have learned that the Mrs. Scott on the other end of the telephone line had never had a Mobil credit card, or a car, or a driver's license. In fact, she had never learned to drive. . ."

I-"Bill Collector Terror Tactics: 'Push Them Till They Break'" - Task Force - Chicago Tribune

Agencies operate by their own rules

1974-04-07

"They are self-proclaimed enforcers of a credit economy, and they play by their own rules. No city of state agency controls them. No rules have been made to govern them. As a result, the tactics of many of Chicago's collection agencies and the people who run them are to frighten, threaten, or cajole money out of anyone they have arbitrarily labeled 'dead-beat' . . ."

"'Don't Be Easy on Her, Step On Her'" - Task Force - Robert Unger and William Crawford - Chicago Tribune

1974-04-07

". . .Donald Saville isn't just talking a good game. He delivers. Or, rather, Mark Sales delivers. That's the name that Saville's 'backbone, spunk, pride, and guts' hide behind when he takes to the telephone. He is good at his job, as much a seasoned actor as a convincing collector. Once he gets his prey on the line, his monolog is pat. . ."

II-"Bill Collector's Tactics: 'Everything We Do Here is Borderline Illegal'" - Task Force - Chicago Tribune

1974-04-08

". . .Marshal Zeidman, 39, Chicago's self-proclaimed master craftsman in the deceit and trickery of bill collecting, had won again. He knew the court order was flawless. He had written it himself. And tho Zeidman is many things, he is not an attorney and his office is not a courtroom. . ."

III-"Federal Jury to Investigate Bill Collectors" - Task Force - Chicago Tribune

1974-04-09

"A federal grand jury investigation was ordered yesterday into alleged abusive practices of debt collection agencies which were uncovered by The Tribune. A special consumer fraud task force was assigned by U.S. Atty. James R. Thompson to investigate alleged terror tactics and fraudulent practices of agencies named in citizen complaints and exposed by The Tribune Task Force. . ."

IV-"Fear: The Collectors' Trump Card" - Task Force - Chicago Tribune

Threats Rarely Materialize

1974-04-10

". . .Mrs. Curtis, like many Americans, had found herself in a financial crisis, a category that 97 percent of the collectors' prey fall into, according to collection industry sources. Only 3 percent of debtors have no intention of paying their bills, according to these sources. . ."

V-"Bill Collectors Here Show No Fear of the Law" - Task Force - Chicago Tribune

Strict Controls in 26 Other States

1974-04-11

". . .The result is a different mentality in Illinois, a mentality that tells the unscrupulous collector he can try anything and 'push 'em till they break.' 'In the state of Washington, we look to the collection agency to do what it says it will do,' said Charlie King, director of the state's collection agency board. 'If they don't, it will be considered an idle threat, and using idle threats in collections is against the law' . . ."

Follow-Up: "2 Seeking to Curb Collector Abuses" - Pamela Zekman and Robert Unger - Chicago Tribune

Proposals Drafted

1974-04-14

"Two bills aimed at eliminating abuses by Illinois bill collectors are being drafted by Atty. Gen. William Scott and an Evanston legislator. The two bills, prepared independently by Scott and State Rep. James McCourt will seek licensing of collection agencies and controls aimed at eliminating harassment and threats by some collectors. . ."

Follow-Up: "Walker is Urged to Sign Legislation Regulating Bill Collection Agencies" - Pamela Zekman and William Gaines

1974-07-07

". . .The bill sponsored by Rep. L. Michael Getty (D., Dolton), prohibits freewheeling use of abusive collection tactics like those uncovered during a six-week Tribune Task Force investigation and requires that agencies be bonded and registered with the Department of Registration and Education. . ."

Follow-Up: "Bill Collection Firm Is Sued by Carey" - William Gaines and Daniel Egler - Chicago Tribune

Trying to Close It

1974-08-14

". . .Carey's suit alleges that Zeidman's tactics are 'injurious to the public welfare.' Other abuses cited in the suit are threatening debtors with arrest, violating the Assumed Names Act by using a name designed to sound like a law firm, preparing court orders, and impersinating an attorney. . ."

Follow-Up: "Bill Collection Law Is Signed" - Pamela Zekman and William Gaines - Chicago Tribune

1974-09-09

". . .Flanked by the bill's sponsor, Rep. L. Michael Getty, Walker commended The Tribune for its 'revealing series on collection agency abuses' and said the legislation is 'long overdue' . . ."