A damning report by Christians Against Poverty claims debt collectors have been wearing secret-service style earpieces and flak jackets in order to look like police officers.
The report from the budgeting agency, known as CAP, also reveals threatening behaviour and oppressive tactics from collectors, such as telling people they could have all of their household goods taken or their photographs published in local newspapers.
It is the second report on debt collection practices released in recent months, following the late September publication of the Fincap national budgeting network.
Fincap and CAP are now calling on the government to urgently pass laws to reform debt collection to protect vulnerable families on low incomes.
Tauranga CAP money course coordinator Carlene Murray says a new course, starting on November 4 at Lifezone Church in Judea, is free for everyone and anyone who needs help.
“We haven’t had people dressing up here in Tauranga,” says Carlene, “but we’ve heard of people getting harassed by phone calls, texts and mail.
“When you see people’s letterboxes overflowing with mail you may think it’s because they’re away on holiday, but sometimes it’s because they just don’t want to empty the letterbox because they know there’s going to be letters from debt collectors. It’s too stressful, so they let it pile up.”
For those struggling with challenges like putting food on the table, paying debts, saving for school fees or paying bills on time, help and advice is available.
“By the time people call us they’re distraught, living in constant fear and experiencing poor emotional and mental health,” says CAP social policy adviser Michael Ward.
“Aggressive debt collection practices are designed to intimidate and exhaust people into unsustainable payment arrangements.
“Family relationships are often strained or broken, and they’ve almost always been pushed into further financial hardship.”
The three, 90-minute weekly sessions that make up the course teach people how to budget, spend and save so they can reach their goals faster.
“There are people in extreme situations right through to regular families,” says Carlene. “Maybe mum and dad are working, but they’re just managing to get by week to week.
“They may not have much debt, but it’s a lot about educating people on how to shop smarter and organise their finances in a streamlined way that’s not stressful.
“It’s about organising your bank accounts and working with service providers so that you are paying in a way that suits you, and not necessarily always suiting the provider.
“It’s about taking the stress out of life.”
For free help, or to register for the course, visit: www.capnz.org, call: 0508 227 111 or email: email@example.com
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