Because of the credit crisis, I've been force-fed so much information about the credit industry over the past few months. I'm starting to feel like an expert and I don't like what I'm learning.
The most recent horror story was a cover story in Business Week about companies that are reselling forgiven debts owed by consumers that have successfully declared bankruptcy. That's right, a consumer declares bankruptcy, a credit debt is erased and then a few months later that debt is sold to a debt collector who goes after the consumer for payment. Often, these consumers pay because they're just trying to get their credit back on track or the debts are held over their head as they attempt to secure new loans. This is allowed to happen because credit card companies don't report that the debt has been forgiven (not surprising, there's nothing in it for them) and there's nobody overseeing the process.
In some ways, these companies are doing what drug dealers do; they're exploiting a human weakness for their own gain. That is, they know that people want fast cash. They also know that people don't manage money well and bite off more than they can chew when it comes to easy credit. To them, this is their one and only market opportunity. They hand out easy money and when someone misses a payment or can't pay the balance they swoop in and make their millions (outrageous late fees, service fees, finance charges, etc.)
I'll never say that what they're doing is illegal but I really don't like companies that make their money because people are irresponsible. Should they be allowed to continue what they're doing? Absolutely, it's a free country. But they should also be viewed as just as bad (if not worse) then the cigarette companies in their worst days.