It’s a sad day when victims of lead paint exposure are targeted for sales.  No matter the justification for giving these victims money, especially when most are cognitively impaired, a person really has to suspend good judgment to think, “Sure, Joe can’t read or write well, and doesn’t have a driver’s license… but hey, he wants a car and he has a structured settlement… who am I to say no?  Big money!”

The average annuitant has a hard enough time making ends meet when faced with the arduous task of dealing with the constant barrage of sales solicitations.  The flagrant violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), meant to prevent this sort of thing from happening, add insult to eventual injury when an annuitant finally breaks down and signs on the dotted line.  That is to say, they’ve signed a bad deal that’s probably ill advised to begin with.  Why?  To pad the line of an aggressive factoring company.

Factoring a structured settlement has a time and place.  For some, it’s a genuinely good option, especially if the structured payment stream isn’t the sole income of a person or family.  For others, however, cashing out a structured settlement is not just ill advised – but disastrous.  The Washington Post article exemplifies the latter, and we’re sick to our stomachs having read it.  Nothing like that should ever happen in this industry.

How can business go on when actors like this are effectively defecating on our industry?  Take the reason for why Access Funding allegedly targets lead paint victims, in particular: because they’re easy to find.  Court scraping 101 at its worst: a few easy keystrokes in a court search and you’ve got yourself a potential treasure trove of money.  The best part?  The annuitants are living hard lives, aren’t usually well educated, and are susceptible to a con job.  This shameful strategy for ‘easy’ money should not exist, but with the ease of court scraping software at hand – what is there to do?  At this point it’s worth noting that the perusal of court records for sales purposes is almost universally prohibited – but it happens all the time anyway.  This is the ethical dilemma facing our industry.

There are two solutions, and only one with much chance of success at this point in time:

1.)    Software/databases used for court sleuthing purposes need to locate, track, and punish violators of terms of use (no sleuthing for sales).

2.)    Legally imposed censorship of personal identification information in court documents to prevent sales sleuthing to begin with.

The purpose of being able to search through court records is explicitly for non-commercial research and personal reference.  Under no circumstances are court records permitted to be used for profit-bearing purposes.  Needless to say, few actually follow this rule; there’s just far too much profit in ignoring this rule.

It’s time to face facts: no one cares to follow rules that inconvenience profit making.  The industry clearly has no interest in self-policing; there is only one option left: government intervention and regulation.  It’s a dirty suggestion and no one likes the idea… but if it saves the industry from itself, and annuitants along with it… then it’s worth it.