Sunday, November 17, 2013

Step 1 – When You're Swimming With Debt Collector Sharks: Don't Freak Out

The debt collector sharks smell blood in the water.  One of these species, a great white, filed a summons in an Iowa court claiming it has a right to collect on an old debt.  Cue the jaws music.  The situation reminds me of the first time I spotted a shark in the water while on a training swim in La Jolla with my cousin eighteen years ago.  He yelled, "don't freak out on me."

We stayed on course and got out of the water safely.  The incident prepared me to handle one more experience in San Francisco.  A ferry dropped me and 500 other swimmers off at Alcatraz Island and we swam back to shore.  I felt something bump me in the middle of the swim, most likely a seal.  I could feel my adrenaline surging through my body and I picked up my pace.  I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn't have eaten the shark dinner the night before the swim.  After one hour and fourteen minutes paddling through the 54º waters, I emerged unscathed.

The courtroom has many similarities to shark infested waters.  Debt collectors first show their fins with something called a summons.  They do this to make their presence known, hoping to scare you away so they can win something called a default judgment.  Approximately 95% of their cases are won because the defendant failed to stay in the water.  I can guarantee you I'm not in this category.  And I'm not freaking out.  Instead, I'm staying in the water, observing how the debt collector swims and eats.  Apparently, the great white chasing me enjoys preying on others by first buying old debt for about three cents on the dollar and then filing lawsuits.

Here is my plan to stay alive and escape the great white:
  1. Don't freak out.  Stay calm.  Breathe.
  2. Stay in the water.
  3. Study the feeding habits of my predator and identify all the weaknesses.
  4. File an answer to the the complaint in district court.
  5. Learn everything I can about the law concerning debt collections.
  6. Face my opponent in the courtroom and convince the judge that the blood-thirsty great white stalking me has no legal authority to devour me.
  7. Share my story.
Swimming in shark infested waters isn't for the timid.  Most people in my situation would have jumped out of the water and claimed bankruptcy.  I chose to stay in the water and face my creditors, one shark at a time.  Many accounts are marked, "settled."  Only a few great whites remain.  And I'm not freaking out.

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