Buying bad debt is growing at a rapid pace in this country. One of the main reasons for this is steady high unemployment, growing consumer debt and default rates, due to the poor economy.Debt portfolios can usually be bought for pennies on the dollar. Such deeply discounted pricing can potentially mean great profits. Pricing is based on a few factors: the freshness of the accounts, and the number of times they’ve been placed previously with a collection agency. Accounts having been placed with more than one collection agency are discounted even greater.
Companies buying debt range from private equity to hedge fund investors. It can also include debt collection law firms, collection agencies, as well as individuals.
Delinquent accounts are purchased from creditors at a greatly reduced amount less than the original face value. Debt buyers then either collect these on their own (these are called “active debt buyers”). Or, they can hire third party collection agencies to collect for them. These are called “passive debt buyers.” Sometimes, these accounts are resold and repackaged to other buyers.
Purchased debt portfolios usually consist of charged off consumer credit card accounts, telecom, pay day loans, medical, or utility debt. Banks also sell their loans that have been charged off, as well as charged off checking and ATM/debit accounts, called demand deposit accounts.
A Brief History of Buying Bad Debt
Buying bad debt started in The U.S. from the fallout of the S&L crisis of the 1980’s. At this time, savings and loans were shutting down at a phenomenal rate, and the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) took over the assets of these failing S&L’s (also called thrifts) in order to guarantee the deposits of account holders.
When the FDIC, and then in the end the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) took control of the assets they had to seek out companies, businesses along with private investors looking at purchasing debts, as well as would be prepared to purchase the assets of shut down banks along with both performing as well as non-performing (delinquent or charged-off) accounts.
The RTC conducted auctions all over the country, allowing various parties to bid on these mixed asset portfolios. Bidders weren’t permitted to make evaluations of assets before bidding on them. Most buyers didn’t know what they had purchased until after the auction.
The availability of these assets for the general public was the catalyst which started buying bad debt as an industry.