When I first saw the headline that a man had burned down someone’s house over a $5 debt, I assumed that it was a press release from Capital One honoring its employee of the month in the collections division. Nope.
This guy appears to have acted alone. Oscar Cairo of Miami is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of his neighbor’s apartment while the victim was inside with his family because Cairo had loaned the man $5 and hadn’t been paid back.
No one was injured, but Cairo has been charged with four counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery and throwing a deadly missile.
The personal finance angle, if there is one, is this: Aside from the rogue actions of insane people, there is relatively little that credit card collectors can do if you aren’t paying them, other than to (eventually) sue you, collect a default judgment and take the money out of your bank account. That’s one of the reasons it bothers me so much when personal finance experts and lawyers advise people to file for bankruptcy over as little as, say, $25,000 in credit card debt.
Jon Acuff puts it this way: “Sometimes collectors pretend they are superheroes with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. … Be kind. Be courteous. Pay your bills, but don’t think for a second that you’re dealing with Superman on the other end of the phone. It’s more like the great and terrible Wizard of Oz — a little guy hiding behind a curtain, talking tough through a telephone, hoping no one ever sees how small he really is.”
But if Cairo moves in next door while he’s out on bail, don’t even think about asking him for a loan.