As most of you are probably aware the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been making lots of waves since it came into being. Yesterday I received in the mail the letter above from a Bankruptcy Attorney. Now, not having spoken with any such Attorney I was rightfully concerned. Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelop and read that over $5000 dollars worth of debt had been erased. This is going to be a long post but please bear with me. I promise it'll be worth it.
You see, when I was 18 or 19, I enlisted in the military. I wasn't ready for college but knew I had to do something with my life, and so the Army it was. They give you a lot of training in the military. They teach you how to shoot things, and how to stab things, and how to navigate around things. All really useful stuff considering the job you sign up for. What they don't teach you though, is how to save and spend all those hard earned Uncle Sam dollars. No, instead, they sign you up, ship you off to training, pay you moderately well (for and 18 or 19 year old kid) and turn you loose. So, of course lots of enlisted service members quickly fall into debt traps. I was one of them.
Right after Basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training), I was shipped to Ft Hood in Texas. Having thousands of dollars and not having had anything to spend that money on except booze for a year, I immediately went out and went spend crazy. The first thing I bought was a car. It was a beautiful machine and brand new! The payments were $480 a month. That did not include insurance. Did I care? Not really. I made enough to cover it and I didn't really pay for food or housing or clothes. Then, I decided I needed some gadgets. This my friends is where my story really begins.
Wandering through the mall one day I happened upon a stand and a salesperson who spotted me for the (new) military guy that I was. This salesperson advised me that I could own a brand new laptop and an iPod for no money down and no payments for 6 months. Well I had the money but no payments for 6 months was awesome! There was even a warranty! I immediately signed up. What that awesome rep did not inform me of is that no money down and no payments for 6 months didn't really mean no money down or no payments. I paid my first month's bill on the spot (it was $192 dollars every two weeks) and happily walked away with my new computer and iPod. We shipped to Iraq less than a month later, but it was okay, because the salesperson (she was great!) had advised me to set up direct deposit so that the payments would come out automagically. The payments started immediately. So much for that no payments for 6 months thing.
A year went by and those payments for that computer and iPod just kept coming out. Being in Iraq it didn't really matter since there was nothing to spend money on anyway and everything I earned was tax free. Well eventually the Army caught up with me and I was expelled under DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell). My army life was coming to a close but those automagic debits kept piling up. Plus there was that $480 dollar car note to consider. I'd have to find a place soon, and buy food. Basically, I was no longer on Uncle Sam's payroll and I'd have to fend for myself. I packed up my car with all of my goodies, and went home to Chicago. There, I applied for unemployment (after all the Army had fired me for being gay) and stayed with my parents for a while. Shortly after returning from war, defending this great nation and it's ideals (snark not intended!) my beautiful car was broken into. The driver's side window was smashed in and my radio face was stolen. No biggie really. Except that they also stole that iPod that I was still paying $192 dollars bi-weekly. I filed a police report (the Police never showed up. I had to go down to the station) and contacted the finance company. The device was stolen, so why should I continue to pay for it? The company Rome Finance, advised me, in no uncertain terms, that I must continue to pay for the stolen device even though I no longer had possession of it. Not only did my police report not matter, but if I failed to pay then the company would report the failure as a default on my credit report.
Well now I was incensed. How dare they make me pay for something I no longer own? I made two more payments while searching for that warranty they said I bought, and found that the "warranty" did not cover stolen property and furthermore only last 3 months. It had expired while I was in Iraq. This company was starting smell. I spoke with my parents, and they advised that I should report the company to the credit agencies and the BBB for fraudulent business practices. And so, I did. Which brings me to the point of my long-winded story.
I stopped paying for that iPod and laptop in March of 2008. In the intervening years, the company, Rome Finance, charged me interest, penalties and everything else you can imagine. My final bill ended up being around 5 grand. They still are listed on my credit report to this day. So when I got this letter in the mail I was shocked beyond belief. I did a little digging and up popped this link.
There is a lot to argue about what the President has or hasn't done. On this one issue though, he wins my approval. Thanks also go out to Sen. Warren for making this agency a reality.
Update Thank you all for the support. And Rec list! Wow! Thank you so much. Some of the comments suggested I was foolish for signing up for the contract and not wanting to pay for the stolen items. There was plenty of foolishness on my part which I readily admit. I will only say that 17,000 service members were duped by this company. Thanks again for all the support.