Collector - October 2017 - 48
Speaking From Experience
ACA member Mark Thompson discusses the insights he gained-and
shared-participating in the FTC's Military Workshop.
By Katy Zillmer
"It was an honor and a privilege to serve as a panelist
alongside so many distinguished professionals."
fter serving 24 years in the U.S.
Navy and 20 years as an ACA
International Certified Instructor,
Mark Thompson has come to know a thing
or two about the rights of service members
with debts in collection.
While on active duty, Thompson
recalled the strong bond he developed with
his Navy shipmates, coming to know their
personal lives and challenges. He said crew
members would receive calls or letters
about debts they owed, and everyone
would chip in to help out.
Thompson, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy
in 1976 and was trained as an operations
specialist, began working for his family's
business as a collector in 1992, after
returning from duty in Saudi Arabia. He
retired as a chief petty officer in 2000, and
today serves as owner and president of T.L.
Thompson & Associates Inc. in Dallas.
After becoming active in his ACA state
unit, Thompson served as president of the
American Collectors Association of Texas
in 2000. That year, he was also honored
as an ACA International Instructor of the
Year, having taught more than 75 training
seminars across the U.S.
Thompson's Navy background and
collection industry experience were helpful
during his participation as a panelist at
the Federal Trade Commission's "Military
Consumer Financial Workshop: Protecting
Those Who Protect Our Nation," held in San
Antonio, Texas, in July 2017.
"Anything that [ACA] or the FTC can
do to educate the public about credit and
collections issues can only benefit our
industry," Thompson said. "The fact that we
are doing so in a collaborative way is, in my
estimation, a huge step in the right direction."
Thompson, along with military consumer
advocates, consumer group representatives,
government staffers, military legal services
employees and other experts, made up a
panel charged with discussing an array
of financial issues impacting the military
community. Some topics tackled involved
student lending, debt collection, payday
loans and ways to avoid scams.
"It was an honor and a privilege to serve
as a panelist alongside so many distinguished
professionals," Thompson said.
Panelists discussed the challenges
collectors face in communicating with
service members to verify a possible debt
and to help them resolve their accounts.
Thompson believes it's important to
educate service members when they enlist
and before they begin their service-
especially if they will be overseas-about
financial planning resources, risk of scams
and what to do if they have a debt to pay.
"I heard from attendees at the workshop
that if they could get this education done on
the front end that could help a lot," he said.
Panelists also discussed how scams
targeting military consumers often involve
fraudulent companies and bad actors, and
why it's important to discern those actions
from the work of legitimate debt collectors
when working with service members.
"The main focus was how to better
educate young, first-term enlisted personnel
on how to avoid the predatory creditors,"
Going forward, Thompson believes there
needs to be regulatory change.
"The current regulations governing
written and verbal communications with
debtors are somewhat ambiguous when
it comes to emailing, texting and other
new technologies," he said. "Working with
military consumers has always been a
challenge, and will continue to be. Hopefully
this may be the first step in a larger initiative
to help improve the process."
Katy Zillmer is ACA International's