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December 2009 --- For some, a bill collector may conjure up images of a nasty, threatening character. Some who might even visualize as the "Grinch" during the holiday season, but Dallas S. Bunton, Sr., CEO and Chairman of North American Credit Services and Medical Services of Chattanooga, is tired of being lumped in with the Grinches.

"The stories of abusive debt collectors you see on TV, those outrageous tapes you hear, that isn't us," says Bunton, the CEO and Chairman for NACS and Medical Services of Chattanooga.

"In fact, I'd argue that an overwhelming majority of collection agencies all over this country feel the same way. That's not how we do business. And we're tired of having to fight negative stereotypes and assumptions people have planted in their heads about us before we even pick-up the phone."

Additionally, during the holiday season, NACS modifies traditional business operating hours including not placing outbound collection calls during the week of Christmas.  

Bunton makes sure each of his collectors understands and signs the "Collector's Pledge," a short, simple document that demands every consumer be treated with dignity and respect. ACA International, the leading trade association for credit and debt collection professionals, created the Pledge and estimates that more than 100,000 individual debt collectors across the United States will sign by 2010.

"The vast majority of people working in this industry are everyday, regular folks," says Kalin LeBrun, a spokesperson for ACA International, which represents more than 5,000 debt collection agencies across the United States. "They're soccer moms and dads - they go to PTA meetings just like you and me. And they're tired of being lumped in with the small group of bad actors that have always been there in one form or another. I think if you look at any industry you'll always find a fringe group of unscrupulous people. There are unethical teachers. There are unethical doctors. And no matter how hard we try and no matter how many of us do it the right way, there are always going to be some people in our industry who for whatever reason don't play by the rules."

"The media tends to play up the negative, sensational behavior that happens within our industry," he says. "That's what makes news. It doesn't make news that 99.9 percent of us do our very best every day to treat consumers the right way. What about the thousands of consumers we help every year? What about their credit ratings we help save and the positive advice we offer? What about the more than $40 billion we annually pump back into the U.S. economy every year? Or, what about the fact that debt collectors are the last line of defense against inflation? Where are those stories and headlines? We're hoping the Collector's Pledge will help begin to change the public's perception. For folks to know that we are here to help in these current difficult times."

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