Friday, February 3, 2012

Zombie debt and other bills

I read this headline in the business section of the Deseret News today.
"Zombie debt creeps onward in Idaho courts."
I didn't recognize the term so I asked my all-knowing husband.
"It's debt that won't die!" he exclaimed, quite proud of himself for the instant answer.
I stared at him and returned to the story.
Apparently Zombie debt is pretty much that, debts that get bumped from small-time creditor to big meany-creditor and then sold to people who try to settle them for pennies on the dollar or dismiss them all together.
I realized that's what my dad has done with his bills, turned them into Zombie debt.
He has this guy — I'll call him Mr. Magic — he's hired to take care of bills that just got to be too much for him.
He signed a three-year contract and agreed to pay $600 a month so Mr. Magic would go out and negotiate with his creditors for lesser payment.
Mr. Magic got a stack of dad's bills and dad got this little device that hooks to his phone that redirects any calls from people trying to collect on a bill to Mr. Magic.
I haven't been impressed with the plan but my father thinks it's a godsend.
Whenever he got a phone call he didn't like, he just pressed a button and "Voila!," the annoyance was gone.
Dad didn't have to think about it anymore.
When circumstances brought his children, my three brothers and me, into the financial picture, we started asking questions.
"What bills has this magic man paid off? When will we see a reckoning?" and "Can we talk to these people, please?"
The answers: Mr. Magic's paid the smaller debts. We have yet to see a reckoning. and there's never a live Mr. Magic we can find to talk to.
The three years are up this October by which time, I assume we'll find the big bills are still awaiting payment.
I'm pretty sure we'll be told that despite their best efforts, dad still owes his debts and we will have to take over worrying about them for him.
Meanwhile, I'm here wondering why my elderly father is paying $600 a month to keep Zombie debt at bay.
And trying to calculate how much dad would've paid off if he'd simply used that $600 a month (or $21,600) to pay the bills on his own.
I haven't much faith in Zombies.

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