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Home / Articles / Views / The Highroad /  Pakistan is calling
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Thursday, October 1,2009

Pakistan is calling

By Jim Hightower

Maybe you're one of millions of Americans who're down on their luck lost their jobs, had their homes foreclosed by the bank and are facing sizeable debt.

That's rough enough, but it's often made more painful by the harassment of bill collectors constantly calling and making threats. Recently, however, an additional irritant has been thrown at these struggling families: the harassing calls are coming from Pakistan.

Yes corporations are even offshoring America's debt collectors.

The LA Times reports on a call to a hard-pressed woman in Fort Worth.

"Hello, Ma'am, how ya doin' today?" asks the caller in a down-home American accent. "My name is James Harold," he says, "and you owe us $11,000."

James' name and accent are fakes. His real name is Sharoon Hermoon, and he's sitting in a cubicle 8,000 miles away in Islamabad. He's part of a Pakistani crew of a dozen twenty-somethings working on what's called the "deadbeat beat" for Touchstone, a call center owned by a U.S. corporation.

These long-distance arm twisters don't merely have accents, they have something else, too: a wealth of personal information on the American people they're dunning. Working for U.S. finance firms, they not only have details of the person's debt, but also things like the person's income and how much they spend. And when debtors don't respond to their calls, the Islamabad center uses tracking software to contact the person's co-workers, neighbors and relatives to apply even more pressure and embarrassment.

"It suits my personality," says one 20-year-old on the deadbeat beat.

Another, who is 22, adds that, "Mother Teresa couldn't do this work."

Offshoring of American jobs is one reason so many people are in bad financial shape. What bitter irony that even the job of dunning them for debt has been offshored.

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