By Theo Thimou, clarkhoward.com
The Girl Scouts of Utah don’t play when it comes to collecting the funds to pay for their world-famous cookies.
They hire a debt collection agency and they sue — even when it’s a criminal bouncing a $36 check and the victim’s bank account on which it is drawn has long since been closed!
A case of mistaken identity
When he was moving, Rich Snapp tossed some old checks into a dumpster and didn’t give them a second thought. Sure, his name was on them, but the account was closed and the address reflected his old residence, not the new one he was moving to.
Unbeknownst to Rich at the time, a criminal dumpster-dove to retrieve the checks!
According to Credit.com, it wouldn’t be long before the thief used one of Rich’s checks to buy $36 worth of Girl Scout cookies. But because the account the checks were tied to was closed, the check bounced.
That’s when the Girl Scouts of Utah hired a debt collector who went after Rich for the original $36 in addition to interest, attorney fees, damages and other fees permissible in the state of Utah.
The total amount he was being sued for? $455.89!
Rich had to go through months of tense phone calls with the debt collector and pay a processing fee to have a copy of the police report in the case sent via certified mail to the collector. Finally, the court action over the debt was dismissed.
But the experience left him with a bad taste in his mouth.
“I’m annoyed, mostly because, obviously, I didn’t do anything wrong to begin with,” Rich told Credit.com. “This weighed on my conscience, if I was going to have to do more or if I was going to get into trouble.”
Meanwhile, the parent organization of the local Girl Scouts — the Girl Scouts of the USA — has in the past released the following statement about how they employ debt collection:
“Overall, the individuals and companies who order Girl Scout cookies honor their purchase agreement. But while regional councils have an excellent record of handling delinquent accounts of significant size, each council makes its own decision to use outside agencies to collect on bad debts.”
This bizarre story has two big takeaways:
Be sure to shred your checks when you close an old account
If you don’t have access to a shredder in your home or office, do what one member of our team did: She shredded some old checks by hand and then tossed them in the garbage with slimy food waste.
Don’t carry your checks with you
Paper checks open you up to one of the worst forms of identity theft when people write them as if they’re you, after they’ve either stolen or somehow duplicated your checks. You could end up in jail!
How to handle this if it happens in your life
If you’re ever served a summons to show up in court for a debt you don’t owe, don’t blow it off!
The real danger is when people don’t show up to defend themselves in court. A default judgment is then entered, and that judgment is fully enforceable. It allows the debt collector to legally collect on a debt that may not be yours or may be far too old. But because you didn’t show up to prove your side of the case, they win that judgment by default.
Remember to follow this advice if you’re being wrongly hassled:
- Always record any calls from/to a collector.
- If your debt is outside the statute of limitations, you are not required to pay up. However, you should honor your obligations when you’re financially able to do so.
- You have the right to tell a collector never to contact you again. Use a drop dead letter and send it via certified mail. You can still, however, be sued against the debt even after sending this letter.
- If you legitimately owe money and wish to make a deal to pay, never give a collector your checking account number over the phone. Collectors routinely take more money than they say they’ll take.
- Never pay one cent until you have an agreement in writing stating your payment(s) will resolve the debt in full.