I am reporting on behalf of my deceased mother who was an account holder of Target National Bank's Red Card. Her account was opened at a time when she owned no real property but had retirement assets. My mother was a kind, warm-hearted and generous woman, but really had no talent for credit management. She had sold her home and most of her few hard assets to pay down debt, trying to avoid bankruptcy, but, by the end of the millenium, she just couldn't do it, too many credit cards had piled on with bait and switch rates and she was forced to file Chapter 7, losing her entire retirement savings and what few hard assets (car, jewelry) she still had at that time. She was left with only a modest SSI benefit and moved in with her daughter because she didn't want to apply for subsidized housing benefits. At least the original creditors took their settlements and left her in peace -all but one that is -Target Department Stores and their Red card chose to leave her account open even after they were notified &/or received a settlement from the court. Of course, they also charged juice loan level interest -most recently 24.99%.
My mother kept the card secret from her children -made sure she got her exercise by walking to the mailbox etc, because she knew they would insist the card be closed. The addict always protects the addiction & she thought she could "handle it". She only used the card when with friends or family members from whom the Chapter 7 had been kept secret and what she used it for was mainly holiday, birthday & shower gifts -her way of "handling" it. But at double digit revolving interest with a small income and big medical insurance payments, it doesn't take much time to grow a balance-and they gave her a $10K limit -not the $250-500 that would make some sense.
We only found out about the card when Mom was in the hospital after surgery for pancreatic cancer-we were furious, but you really don't scream at your Mom when she's fighting for her life. She continued to pay what was possible on the card each month while she was undergoing chemo and we believed we would have a year or so; time to pay most of it down, but, her cancer suddenly returned in a more agressive form and she expired 3-4 months before the earliest estimates of any of her doctors. What she had left in her account was far less than the cost of her funeral and burial -we paid the rest out of pocket & none of us is in that upper 2% they talk about. The Red card was her only outstanding debt, no one else was a user or co-signer. We notified Target Bank of her death with our apologies that she was unable to pay any more of the balance as she had no assets (which of course, they knew when choosing to extend credit after bankruptcy). We heard nothing initially, but apparently, they mistake courtesy for weakness.
About a month later, a letter addressed "To the Estate of the Late _ _" was delivered to the address of the daughter she lived with. At the time, the daughter was helping another relative with child care and a neighbor was taking in her mail, so, an answering machine was picking up phone calls too. Target and their bank had turned over the balance to a company "specializing " in "deceased account care", Phillips & Cohen (Google them -many violations of FDCPA, many upset victims). What this firm does is attempt to squeeze, coerce, wheedle or steal money from the relatives of deceased persons with no scruples about the fact that the LAW states that relatives are not personally responsible for the debts incurred by another family member-they even try to get people to take out loans to pay them. During the time the daughter was away, at least 21 calls were made by P & C to her phone, with several automated messages left, despite the fact the phone was never in the name of the deceased and the answering machine does not identify the name associated with the number. They never identify themselves as a collection agency, but also do not identify their company (caller ID "unavailable")name. The letter, though it does mention that family members are usually not responsible for the debt, comes with a tear-off top, marked as "enclose with payment". Ambiguous at best.
We consulted our attorney at once. Today a letter with reiteration that the account holder died without any estate and a copy of death certificate was sent to this company via certified mail demanding they cease and desist from calling immediately and notifying them that any further contact by phone will be recorded and referred to the Illinois State's Attorney and our personal attorney for formal complaint. But why is this even necessary?
Yes, Mom incurred the debt, that was her choice, and, yes, it was a foolish one. But what about a company/bank which has EVERY reason to know (Chapter 7, credit history, income, age of account holder) that they are probably, if not assuredly, going to face a default in the not too distant future? What choice are they responsible for making? There is a law (Hamilton) making it a crime to provide drugs to a known addict-why is there not something similar for providing unsecured credit to a known credit risk? Target made their choice too -I guess that old 24.99% revolving interest was just too tempting for their obvious addiction to greed. This is a company without scruples and totally without honor. Our large extended family will be boycotting Target and any affiliated company or political candidate who receives contributions from them (ie a certain female presidential candidate from Minnesota & Iowa). The nice thing is that most of us are right in their favorite demographic -and so are our friends.
Inside of one year, we will be able to cost Target 2 to 3 times the amount outstanding on Mom's card when she left this life -and that's just the start. Why does it not occur to these parasites that we would rather have had her here for another few months and paid their juice loan than have her gone? No, they don't give a d**n -and I bet they call themselves Christians too. Funny, their choices and actions give no indication they've ever heard a word of the sermon on the mount. All they can aspire to is to be usurers, cheats and parasites who then style themselves as the "elite". We hope that anyone reading this report will join us in choosing to shop at other stores and websites- never at Target. We hope you will cut up the Red Card if you have one, and make another choice when you apply for credit. We also hope you will consider the consequence of voting for any candidate who would accept money from a company who uses dishonest means to obtain that money. These are grave robbers -please, shun them.