There’s such a profession: to chase up debts
In modern Russian society, a negative attitude to the people of this profession has developed. In order to determine the cause of the problem, the correspondent of the CrimeRussia met with collectors and those affected by their activities.
The State Duma is working on a draft law "On protection of rights and legitimate interests of individuals in carrying out activities to repay debt." This document has already passed the first reading, now the work on the amendments to the draft is in progress. Perhaps, soon the activities of collection agencies will be strictly regulated, and many debtors will be able to breathe freely.
High levels of households’ debt loads in the country and the lack of a regulatory framework governing the activities of collection agencies led to large-scale problems that require immediate solutions. Using legal illiteracy of the main part of the Russian population, these "professionals" make the lives of many people a living hell: they defame their good names, degrade, threaten bodily harm, harm debtors’ health and property, drive them to suicide by permanently calling them on phones ...
"In order to pay back a loan, I had to" shake " the unscrupulous lendees"
We met with an employee of one of the collection agencies secretly from his superiors. Contrary to expectations, Alex turned out to be an intelligent young man, and not a gloomy bully at all, as those who work in this profession are often described in the media. He described his difficult work, asking not to be named.
- The management of my collection agency forbids us to talk to the press. It’s the professional distinctiveness. And journalists, to be honest, write a lot of bad stuff about us. As if we are criminals, - the man says.
- Is not it so? – I frankly ask my new acquaintance.
- Anything can happen, of course. I will not lie. But we always act within the law. For example, I am a lawyer by training and fully understand all the consequences of my actions. Almost all the staff has a degree in law. And the management gives us clear instructions on what to do and what to avoid doing. And in the newspapers and the television collectors are depicted as former criminals and racketeers – Alex answers.
Scary stories about poor lonely pensioners, who were driven to suicide by collectors, are nothing more than tales bad people come up and spread on the Internet.
- I, for one, during these three years of work have never heard that someone committed suicide because of us. But threats directed against us emerge every day. The work is hard and often among debtors delusional people may be found, - says Alexey.
He was forced to engage in such difficult job in order to be able to support his family. The young man served in the army, got the job at the police. Then, he got married, bought an apartment in mortgage. He understood that he needed a high-paying job. The irony is that to pay back the loan, he now had to "shake" of unscrupulous lendees.
According to Alexey, the work of the collection agency, an employee of which he is, is performed properly in relation to the debtors. The management receives orders from banks: the names of the borrowers, their addresses and phone numbers. First, the employees call people up and if this does not work, they visit the lendees personally. If all these efforts are useless, the case goes to trial. And then the debtor has to communicate with the bailiffs.
Alex believes the right approach to the debtor is the most important moment in their work.
- I need to understand what he fears more than losing his money and property. Sometimes, a simple suggestion to report his neighbors or management at work on his financial problems works better than any exhortations. It all depends on the person, we keep track of debtors’ pages in social networks, we try to learn more about them. For example, yesterday I was able to convince a businessman to pay his bank. I simply told him that I would write a letter to his mother in Armenia. The debtor was afraid that an old woman would have a stroke when she learns about her son’s financial problems, and ran to the bank. The knowledge of psychology helped me here, - revealed Alex some details of their work.
Alexey admits that in his professional career there were occasions when he had to compromise his principles for the sake of the work.
For example, a debtor did not want to pay back a tidy sum. And on his social network page there were a lot of photos of his daughter. It was clear that the six grader Sveta is the most important person in his life. Collector Alexey found out where she was studying. He came to her school and in the very classroom told everyone that her father took other people's money and does not want to pay it back.
- Svetochka’s eyes immediately changed and I felt really bad. I wish I had beaten her father up than look in the kid’s eyes. Therefore, I believe that those who work in our profession are supposed to get bonuses, benefits and free trips to a sanatorium, - says Alexey.
The teacher hustled the collector out of the classroom when she realized who he was. A debtor paid immediately, so that his daughter would not be disturbed anymore.
According to Alexey, the debtors cannot be properly classified. Among them there are both wealthy, and unemployed people, the youth, and seniors, urbanites and villagers. Sometimes, 18-year-old students secretly from their parents buy expensive smartphones on credit, sometimes businessmen cannot pay off debts due to objective reasons, sometimes employees of enterprises fall under the layoff. Each case is individual. And each person needs to be approached in the way that suits him best.
- What reaction to your calls is the most annoying for you? - I asked the collector.
- People are often rude, they’re trying to threaten in response to a reminder of the debt. We are used to it. Most bad debtors are "the saints" – responds Alexey.
"The saints" are those who talk about sick children and feeble old men, who they take care of. They complain about their illnesses. They say they help some orphanages. Appeal to the collector’s conscience. And in addition, starts quoting the Holy Scripture. They say forgive your debtors and so on.
Failing to obtain concessions from Alexey, the "saints" begin to call him an atheist, to curse, to call heavenly punishment on his head. They swear badly, do not want to part with their money. These are people to whom the collector behave worst.
Regarding my question about the salary Alexey replied that he receives a certain percentage for each debtor, whom he persuaded to do the right thing. It is quite enough for living.
The collector told in confidence that many of his colleagues have gas guns and baseball bats. Just in case.
- People can let dogs loose on us and meet us with the shotgun. And it has happened, especially in rural areas, - says Alexey.
«You see, it’s our job»
Peter Sumenko is the Deputy Director of the Astrakhan Molot collection agency. He complained in a conversation that in this field there is now an acute shortage of staff. If earlier only former law enforcement officers, or (at least) of people with a legal background, were hired for this job, now virtually anybody who wants to work will get on board.
- It is somehow easier for the former cops here, people without work experience in the law enforcement agencies hardly get used to our specifics. Many leave after a month. Only the most persistent and not nervous ones remain. The girls, who work here, only call debtors up, only men are involved in visiting them. Because it is an unpleasant and sometimes dangerous work, - said Petr Sumenko.
- What percentage of debtors your employees manage to convince to pay? - I ask the representative of the collection agency.
- We often get lists of people with whom other companies had already worked. In addition, many debtors are significantly past due payments and ignored the banks notices for a long time. Therefore, if you can convince a quarter of these unscrupulous debtors to people to pay back their loans, it is considered a good result, - my interlocutor responds.
Peter Sumenko admits that the collectors make mistakes sometimes. Sometimes, scammers get loans using other people's documents. That is, the person did not take the money, and he’s being called up and demanded to return the debt. In such cases, experts advise people to not shy away from conversations with collectors. First thing you need to know: what agency is working with you and what bank you owe to and how much. Professional collectors will surely introduce themselves, explain everything to you, and will convey the relevant documents. If you have questions, then you need to contact the bank and find out about the debt. The misunderstanding will be resolved.
- And if you really owe money and know about it, then you definitely should not be ignore the collectors, and "run" from us. You need to communicate with us calmly. You see, it's our job. And we do not bear ill feelings towards the debtors. If you really had to deal with the illegal actions of my colleagues (I will not deny that it happens), please contact the prosecutor's office - advises Petr Sumenko.
According to him, many people got loans, and have no money to pay back. Of course, the banks and microfinance institutions are also to blame in such situations. They literally chase people offering them money. So professional "debt chasers" work only increases.
People hang themselves
Another former employee of a collection agency, Elena Gorenko, told us why she decided to leave this job.
- We had a saying there: "Found a dummy, made an easy buck". We called hundreds of people per day, without knowing anything about them. We didn’t even specify whether they have a real debt. Our management just gave us the phone numbers, and if someone from those people paid, fearing our calls, we got a small percentage, - Elena said.
She says she quit after hearing that some pensioner died of a heart attack right during the conversation with a collector. I did not want to take such a sin.
The amount of offenses committed by unscrupulous collectors in modern Russia grew into a epidemic. No one is surprised by stories of people driven to suicide by systematic threats.
The advertising manager Svetlana Potapova said her mother Nina hung herself because of a few phone calls.
- She was a sensitive old person. She was told that the house would be taken away, and she’d be kicked out. Mom got scared. She decided that if she dies, her children won’t lose the property. And for us, my brother and I, she got herself into the loop. And then it turned out that it was a mistake. She did not have any debts - told Svetlana bitterly.
According to the young woman, Nina Ivanovna tried to explain to collectors that she did not take any credits, but they insisted, demanded the money, and threatened to embarrass her in front of the neighbors. It was unbearable tothe impressionableelderlywoman.
The activities of unscrupulous collectors have long attracted the attention of law enforcement. For example, the prosecution of the Tyumen Region conducted an audit of the Cerber LLC. Employees of the agency paralyzed the work of the local Center for Prevention and Control of AIDS. On April 12th, 2016 every two minutes the phones of the medical institution were getting calls with the demands to return the debt of one of its workers.
And in the Ulyanovsk Region in relation to the collector, who tried to set fire to the house, a criminal case was initiated. According to the Regional Directorate of the Investigative Committee, on the night of January 27, 2016 the suspect, threw a bottle of flammable liquid into the window of the private home, which was located onthe 2nd Sergei Lazo lane of Ulyanovsk. As a result, a two year old child was injured; his health has suffered serious harm.
Only a small part of the crimes committed by the collectors become known to the general public. Many people are silent about the inconveniences caused to them or committed crimes against them, hiding their financial problems. Nationally, the level of the problem is huge, especially when you consider how often Russians acquire those or other goods on credit.
One of the reasons for such lawlessness observed in contemporary Russia is that the relevant activity is not regulated at the legislative level. So, holding the unscrupulous "professionals" responsible is very difficult.
Currently, there are two types of debt collectors. Some of them are employed by banks, which create special departments for debt collection activities, and others are working on an outsourcing scheme for a certain percentage of the amount requested. There is also the option of selling the bank debt to the collection agency.
The main document on the basis of which this type of activity is carried out is the Federal Law of December 21, 2013 N 353-FZ "On consumer credit (loan)". It says that banks can transfer debts on consumer loans to third parties. Article 15 of the Law states that an organization with whom the creditor concluded an agency agreement, aimed at the return of the debt, has the right to interact with borrowers.
So collectors may call debtors or send them SMS-messages from 8:00 to 22:00 pm on weekdays and from 9:00 am to 20:00 pm on weekends and holidays. But no sanctions for violation of these timeframes are stipulated by the law. Therefore, the collection agencies feel free to initiate a "telephone terror" in respect of the debtors.
However, the law does not compel the borrower to talk with these "professionals", a person has the right to change the number to avoid being bothered by calls.
In addition, the collectors can come to the borrower to personally remind about the debt. At the same time, they are required to introduce themselves and speak politely. Threatening the debtor with causing harm to his life or health, deprivation of parental rights, inventory of his property, being rude, hanging leaflets discrediting the person’s honor and dignity is not what collectors have a right to do. Although, it is almost impossible to hold them responsible for such actions.
In accordance with p. 3 of Art. 308 of the Russian Civil Code, the obligation does not create duty for the person who does not take part in it as a party. Since the borrower is not directly related to the contract concluded between the bank and a collection agency, then he has the right to ignore these "professionals". The debtor has a right not to open the door when the collectors come.
The authors of the draft law "On protection of rights and legitimate interests of individuals in the implementation of activities for Debt Recovery" which is now being discussed in the State Duma are the Chairman of the Council of Federation Valentina Matvienko and the Speaker of the lower house of the Russian Parliament Sergey Naryshkin.
The draft was approved by the deputies in the first reading on April 12th, 2016. The document suggests a serious limitation to the process of communication between debtors and collectors. According to the authors of the draft law, the debt chasing experts will have to be content with two phone calls and a personal meeting with the debtor in one week.
It has been discussed for years on the need to regulate this type of activity at the legislative level, and the fact that the protection of the citizens of our country from tyranny is initiated by the deputies of the State Duma only now, speaks for itself. We can only hope that the good undertaking will not be destroyed by the numerous amendments that meet only the interests of collection agencies.
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