Unemployed and harassed by debt 'kollektors'

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Louisa Inozemtseva is being harassed by her creditors. She has lost her job and can no longer pay her debts.

She still trembles as she tells of the threats made at the last meeting she had with a young man sent by her bank.

"I am going to come to your house in the middle of the night," said the man. "I'm going to shout in the stairway that you are a crook so your neighbours all hear. I am going to visit your children at work. I'll call everyone and you won’t have a choice."

"My God," said Inozemtseva. "I told them to do whatever they wanted."

Today Inozemtseva is scared they will come to her house to get back the 14,000 euros she borrowed. She is afraid of "kollektors", the private companies hired to recoup debts.

They are often young men and, in the provinces, they carry weapons.

Intimidating home visits

In Moscow, debt collectors say they don't intimidate or threaten violence.

“They depict us as men with shaved heads armed with baseball hats, steam irons and soldering guns, but all that was in the Russia of the 90s,” said Alexei Bogatov, director general of Rus Debt.

Rus Debt says it uses psychological pressure on bad debtors and their families.

"You know that your brother has debts," said one employee on the telephone.

To heighten pressure on debtors, the business publish unpaid debts in the newspapers.

"No one's making any threats here," said Rus Debt’s director. "We're just warning them, really."

And if the people still don't pay their debts, special collectors make house visits — without cameras, a practice criticised by some lawyers.

“They come to your house to scare you,” said Irina Katchura, a lawyer. They say they have come to make an inventory of your possessions, but actually they have no right to do this, they could even be convicted for going to people's homes.”

Illegal harassment

The lawyers in Katchura's office say they are "anti-debt collectors". Katchura threatens charging collection agencies with illegal harassment. She says that letters from debt collectors are just an attempt at intimidation.

Louisa Inozemtseva is now being threatened with reprisals because she called on the lawyers for help.

"You should think twice before you attack the bank," a bank employee told her. "Now you're going to suffer the consequences."