Debt Collector Crusader Craig Cunningham in Dallas Observer

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When I wanted to run a series on fighting debt collectors, I knew I wanted an expert. I was fortunate to have little in the way of debt (just a mortgage and student loans) so I had no personal experience with combating with debt collectors, but I knew someone on Fatwallet, Codename47, was a debt collector ninja. I had seen all his posts, how he helped people deal with unscrupulous debt collectors, and I knew he was our guy.

I, and hopefully you, weren’t disappointed. I called him the real deal before he wrote a single post, that’s how confident I was, and after the series was complete, I think we can all agree.

Recently, Craig was in an article by Kimberly Thorpe for the Dallas Observer. In it, we get a better understanding of why Craig has so much insight (bad bets and a lot of research!) and how people like him are fighting back against the system.

As you read his story, there are two things I hope you to notice – he never plays the victim and he never blames anyone for his debt. He took some bets that turned out badly and now is simply playing the game by the rules, catching debt collectors with their pants down.

I, for one, am glad to see a “little” guy giving the big bad debt collectors a run for their money. Serves them and their predatory practices right.

{ 21 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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21 Responses to “Debt Collector Crusader Craig Cunningham in Dallas Observer”

  1. Shirley says:

    Craig’s story is very interesting and serious food for thought. I particularly had to laugh at his closing paragraph.

  2. zapeta says:

    Great story! I’m glad he’s making the collectors play by the rules.

    • Russ says:

      Collectors SHOULD play by the rules (the law), but somehow, when someone knowing, and willingly runs up big debts, the public perception is often that they are “victims” (one of a huge number of pandered to “victim” groups), who somehow were hoodwinked into buying that shiny new car, or the big gold chain with the huge medallion on it.

  3. jsbrendog says:

    i saw this on consumerist yesterday. cool. more power to him.

  4. FinEngr says:

    This resonates so strongly with one of the fundamental financial flaws we make – not EDUCATING ourselves.

    Very interesting piece. Especially liked his younger years (investing his loan money).

  5. tom says:

    You’re kidding right?

    This is a joke?

    This guy is part of the problem. He is completely irresponsible. He racks up $100K in idiotic debt, then turns to loopholes to bail himself out? Sure debt collectors are a shady bunch, but when you’re dealing with equally shady, broke, irresponsible fools you have to resort to less than moral and even illegal threats. I don’t condone the practices that the debt collector use, but to turn around and sue them because you owe money is BS and immoral.

    Don’t get me started on this Steven Katz guy. He says there is no moral obligation to repay debt. He justifies it by saying you should be feeding your family first. Seriously? That’s an arguement? How about this… don’t borrow money you can’t afford to pay back!!!

    I’m sorry, Jim, but I am disheartened that you are supportive of these scammers.

    • Jim says:

      The rules of the game are simple and it’s a business. If it’s acceptable to “resort to less than moral and even illegal threats” then I think it’s acceptable to set out some rope for these debt collectors to hang themselves. Was Craig irresponsible? Yes, and while he doesn’t outright say it, it’s clear that he understands he made some bad decisions. One thing I’ve learned about personal finance is that a lot of people start off on the wrong foot, but it’s how you respond that makes the difference.

      I bet Craig could’ve declared bankruptcy, but instead he chose this route. I think this one is “better” than bankruptcy from almost every angle you can think of. You can’t undo the past but this is probably the “best” way out.

      Your arguments aren’t valid because you’re trying to turn the situation into something else. They’ve already borrowed the money, that ship has sailed. You still have to DO something… what will it be?

      • tom says:

        Like I said, I don’t condone the debt collection tactics, but the way Craig is responding is equally as immoral.

        Instead of paying off his debts, he is fishing for debt collectors with the intention of suing them. He states at the end of the article that he won’t pay off his debt stating that he’s a victim of the goverment sending his taxpayer money to banks as bailouts.

        That validates my argument. If he were to take responsiblity for his debt, and come out and say “I caused this, I can’t repay with my salary, so I found a creative way to pay and send a message” then my arguement would be invalid. Although, you’re right, it’s better than bankruptcy.

  6. tom says:

    Not sure why my comment came in anon., I’m definitely not trying to hide.

  7. freeby50 says:

    Illegal behavior by debt collectors is NEVER warranted and whenever it happens they should be held accountable for it. We have laws for a reason and debt collectors don’t get a free pass to act illegally with impunity just cause borrowers may have been financially irresponsible.

    I’ve seen WAY too many stores if debt collectors flagrant violation of the laws to ever think that industry are innocent victims here.

    Debt collectors really need to learn the law and then obey it.

  8. tom says:

    the Consumerist posted the article and it seems like the commenters are mixed on who they side with… interesting.

  9. Russel says:

    Bully for Mr. Cunningham! I used to work for a bank that dealt primarily in subprime credit cards and household loans. Their collections department was very well managed, but with the incentives they offered collectors and the tendency to look away when illegal collection practices were used, the idea of “do what you need to, not what the manual says” easily becomes implemented in practice.

    The laws protecting consumers from debt collectors and credit reporting agencies are there for a reason, whether they are “technical” or not. BTW, I love how people only call a law a “technicality” when they violate it. Talk about moralizing and justifying illegal behavior!

  10. pmulroy says:

    I don’t feel sorry for anyone involved in this situation. The banks were idiots for loaning him that much money. Craig was an idiot for “investing” all that money in very risky dividend stocks. The debt collectors are idiots for not knowing the laws that govern their own business.

    The biggest problem Craig has is his attitude. He always believes he is right and refuses to listen to anyone who has a different opinion. Just take a look at previous threads on Fatwallet. That being said, he did own up when he was proven to be wrong. For someone who claimed to have the path to wealth all figured out, its eye opening to see the current house/situation he is in.

    What he needs to do is ditch the attitude and try to take advantage of his experience and skills and try to get a book published on fighting debt collectors.

  11. Josh says:

    How can anyone “respect” Craig for this garbage?

    “I don’t feel like I owe that money because the Government took money from me for the bailout”.

    Dude, you don’t have a job. You are paying next to nothing in taxes. You are feeding off of others. The government didn’t take a damn thing from you for the bailout. Pay off your debts from your incredibly stupid investments you bum.

    I can respect the second guy in the article who sues the collection agencies, but still pays off the original debt to the original debtor.

    Craig is garbage.

  12. Jake says:

    Craig is the only one that has the balls to stand up to a corrupt industry! You can’t have a credit score without debt. In other words, the banks won’t consider you for a loan unless you owe someone else money.

    Does that sound stupid? DUH!! If you are debt free, it is harder to get a loan than if you owe money to someone. A credit score is therefore a debt score. And most people that have debt are spending more money than they earn.

    The “Debt Collection” industry is filled with major bottom feeders and has a turnover rate that is 100X higher than most businesses. They are dishonest and rarely do as they are required by law.

    Craig isn’t perfect, but his insistence that collectors follow the law is something that I applaud. The law says nobody is required to talk to them and certainly not required to deal with their abuse.

    Fact is fact.

  13. John says:

    Craig is a HERO!

    Big banks get bailout and the rich get richer all while breaking the law.

  14. mark says:

    and now this guy is running a walmart in nashville tn. and treating people like crap.

  15. Annette says:

    I am very close to someone that works at the Wal Mart Mark speaks of. Maybe the hiring team had never heard the term “lead by example”. Maybe what he does is not illegal, but seems shady to me.He is right about him treating the people like crap.Just like when someone steals from the store, someone has to pay for that. In one way or the other, someone pays for others bad debts. It`s hard to respect people that are always looking for the EASY way out!

  16. Roger C. Fountain says:

    I am also a very active, very successful, Pro se litigant and I very much support going after violators of law. However, I do not support running up debt to then sue the debtors that provided the credit in the first place.

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