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Occupy group seeks to raise awareness of personal debt

A group of people identified as an offshoot of the Occupy movement recently held a gathering on the East Coast to raise money to eliminate personal debts of unsuspecting beneficiaries. The soiree included name tags for attendees, who were asked to identify themselves on the tags by their outstanding personal debt balance.

Ticket holders to the event reportedly donated sums of money to attend, with the proceeds earmarked to raise funds for the group to buy out chunks of debt. The group, known as "Strike Debt" calls its idea the "Rolling Jubilee."

The group says that it intends to take the money raised to purchase debt on the secondary market, and instead of seeking to collect the outstanding balances the group seeks to simply cancel the debt altogether. In a test run (prior to the recent event) group members collected five grand and used the proceeds to buy roughly $100,000 in distressed medical debt.

Organizers of the event say that they collected sufficient funds to buy out roughly $7 million in outstanding medical debt. They intend to cancel the debts for the unsuspecting debtors who have been plagued by the defaulted debt. Organizers acknowledge that the amount may sound large, but in reality is less than a drop in the bucket when it comes to outstanding personal debts owed by Americans. The group also says that it cannot buy out specific debts, but only blocks of debt that the creditors are willing to sell for pennies ion the dollar and write off.

The idea has garnered some national attention. The group says that it wants to raise awareness of the predatory nature of the secondary debt markets. The concept is not expected to be pursued over time to make a real dent in the debt markets, but is intended to raise awareness,.

Many Ohio residents struggle with high debt balances. Individual debtors generally are not allowed to purchase their own debts for pennies on the dollar. Some may be able to reach a settlement with an individual creditor through negotiation when the debtor cannot afford to pay the entire sum. It is important for debtors to seek legal advice on potential tax consequences when seeking to relieve debt.

Some households turn to the Bankruptcy Code as a viable option for a fresh start. Bankruptcy can provide a legal method to reduce or eliminate debt. Cincinnati area residents troubled with unsecured debts may speak to a bankruptcy lawyer to learn how bankruptcy can help to eliminate many forms of personal debt.

Source: The New Yorker, "Occupy Returns, With a New Idea," Anna Altman, Nov. 21, 2012

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