Dan Morain

By Dan Morain
Published: Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 – 12:19 am

On behalf of Cascade Capital LLC Series A, Convergent Outsourcing Inc. sent me a letter telling me I had past-due balance of $455.86.

I had never heard of Convergent, or Cascade. But the notice got my attention, and that of my wife, who asked whether there was something I should tell her. No, sweetheart, it’s a scam.

“Our client has advised us that they are willing to settle your account for 35 percent of your total balance due to settle your past balance,” Convergent’s letter said, offering me a deal. “Your settlement amount would be $159.55 to clear this account in full.”

I called the 1-800 number, and a person named Lillian answered by informing me that the call was being recorded.

“How can I assist you?” Lillian asked politely. “This is an attempt to collect a debt.” She politely requested the last four digits of my Social Security number, my home address and my phone number. I politely told she must be joking.

There must be a mistake, I said, and asked to talk to Lillian’s supervisor. Oh, and I’m taking notes in an attempt to write a newspaper column.

“Bear with me one moment,” Lillian said, placing me on hold. “The supervisor is in a meeting at this time.”

Please have her call, so we can resolve this, I said. Of course, Lillian said, and “you have a great day, sir.”

In 2011, debt collectors retrieved $55 billion in past-due debt, an amount that is rising as the economy improves and people buy more stuff. A report issued by the Urban Institute last week detailed by McClatchy’s Kevin G. Hall says a third of Americans have past-due debt.

The bulk of that is debt people owe, and presumably should pay. Then there is the netherworld I encountered of zombie debt. With massive thefts of credit card information, Social Security numbers and other personal details, we’re all at risk for identity theft and fraud. Debt, as I learned, can rise from the dead.

There is big money to be made in debt. In May, Silver Oak Services Partners, a private equity firm based in Illinois, sold its stake in Convergent and boasted that during the years when Silver Oak owned Convergent, Convergent’s business grew by 35 percent.

Conveniently, Convergent’s new owner, Account Control Technology Holdings Inc., services student loans, including debt in the name of one of my kids, meaning me. Convergent and other debt collectors business will only grow as more students struggle to repay five- and six-figure loans that collectively exceed $1 trillion.

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