GBH News: Have an old or forgotten credit card bill? You might end up carless.

Excerpt from WGBH | By: Jenifer B. McKim | June 10, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Jenifer McKim,  GBH News

Data collection and analysis for this story was provided by students from Boston University’s Justice Media Computational Journalism co-Lab, a collaboration between Boston University’s Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences’ SPARK! Program and the College of Communication. Work was led by students Yichen Jessica Tong and Sofia Andrienko.

One summer evening in August 2021, April Washington looked out the window of her Dorchester home and saw her Ford truck being towed away.

Thinking she’d been robbed, the single mother quickly headed to the police station. She was surprised to find that a Massachusetts court had approved a debt buyer’s request to take her property as a way to make her pay about $1,200 the company said she owed on a nearly 20-year-old credit card bill.

Washington was confused. She wasn’t sure the debt was hers, and she’d been talking with representatives of the company, Champion Funding Inc., to reach a resolution. Soon after, she says she spoke to Champion’s owner, Andrew Metcalf of Avon, and was told the truck would be auctioned off if she didn’t pay her alleged debt. But she didn’t hold the title to the car, an auto loan company did.

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