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After a career spent chasing others' debt, a former collector starts getting collection calls of her own.
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In this week's episode, you'll meet Angela, a woman who worked in the collections industry until she was banned from it for life after the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General filed a lawsuit against her. They alleged she was part of a collections scheme that relied on abusive and illegal threats to get people to make payments.  

Angela settled for $4.4 million dollars and agreed to leave the industry, but maintains she wasn't part of any scheme. She did admit to me, though, that when she was making collection calls herself, she'd sometimes skirt compliance rules. 

Our conversation reminded me that some of my favorite episodes of the show are ones in which you get to hear people articulate what went on in their head when they were making choices that they knew would hurt or harm others.

There's Lawrence Bartley, now paroled from Sing Sing prison, telling me about why he pulled the trigger in a movie theater when a fight broke out with the teenagers he was with⁠—a decision that led him to be imprisoned for murdering an innocent bystander. I also think of Ken Eurell, a former New York City cop, who told me about stealing from crime victims and taking payoffs from drug dealers, and why he still takes his New York City pension. Or a shoplifter who told me how she justifies stealing food for her family, and makeup and treats just for herself. (The follow-up where you all responded to her interview is also one of my favorites.) And our cheating episode, where some of you shared stories about when you lied and stepped out of your relationships—and others of you talked about how deeply that stung. 

I think I like these conversations because they make me sit with my mixed feelings about someone. These people are admitting to me that they've done some things that are unambiguously wrong, but they're also telling me more about their lives⁠—which complicates my read. These interviews also make me pause and consider where my rules around my values come from, and whom I'll sympathetically listen to, and whom I won't. 

Let us know what you think of this episode with Angela. As we were putting it together, we kept saying, people will have THOUGHTS about this one. 

Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team
This Week on Death, Sex & Money
When Angela first started working at a debt collection agency, she says she barely understood what her job was. "I was so completely awestruck that people didn't pay their bills," she told me. "I thought this was going to be really easy." It wasn't, but Angela eventually figured out how to get consumers to pay, and worked her way up in the industry.

Then, 15 years into her career, she and several colleagues were sued for illegal debt collection practices by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General. Angela eventually settled, and as part of the agreement was banned from the industry for life and ordered to pay $4.4 million⁠. She says she's not sure she'll ever pay that off. Today, I talk with her about her time in the industry, and the regrets she has—and doesn't have—about it now. 
Your Stories: BRCA Testing As A Trans Woman
In the midshow of last week's episode, we heard from Amy, a listener who lost her mom to ovarian cancer and struggled with the decision to have BRCA genetic testing done. Another listener named Bella followed up and wrote us about her experience with genetic testing, and the unique questions she faces as a trans woman:
"Two years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (she’s fine now). As she started going through the process, it was found that she had the BRCA-1 mutation, and it was recommended that I get tested too. I also tested positive for the BRCA-1 mutation about a year ago.
 
My situation is quite unusual, however, because I am a trans woman. I had actually only started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) a few months before receiving the diagnosis. When I went in and received the diagnosis (at age 28), I was told that the general recommendation for those diagnosed with BRCA-1 is to have a prophylactic double mastectomy–quite a thing to be told when I hadn’t even developed breasts yet. I was crushed–here I had waited my whole life to have breasts and was finally starting down that path, and someone immediately wanted to take that away from me.
 
As a kicker, I was later told that I was a unique case. They didn’t really know of any other transgender women who also had BRCA-1, and they weren’t sure what this meant for me. The mutation means a huge increase in breast cancer risk for cisgender women, but not so much for cisgender men–what would this mean for a trans woman only starting HRT at age 28? So I’m basically proceeding completely in the dark in terms of screening and treatment.
 
It's a year later, and I’m pretty much living in denial about it. The second doctor I saw said that it wouldn’t make sense having a mastectomy before my breasts had fully developed, so I could give it a few years and do screenings in the meantime. I took this as license not to think about my situation at all, but it will come back to haunt me eventually. I’d be interested to know if any other trans women have found themselves in this situation and, if so, what they’ve chosen to do about it.

 
—Bella, 29, Washington, D.C.

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Therapist Esther Perel got podcast-famous for counselling romantic partners on air. In her new show How's Work?, she's looking at a differentbut often, equally fraughtkind of relationship: those we have with our coworkers. The first episode features two men who flew jets together in the Navy and went into business together afterward in the oil industry. Now, a new business opportunity presents itself, but only one of them wants to move forward with it. After ten years as professional "life partners," they're facing a breakup of sorts, and turn to Perel for help moving through it.

What do The X-Files' Dana Scully and Mindhunter's Bill Tench have in common? Besides being fictional FBI agents, they're also among writer and self-described "bisexual lady" Nicole Cliffe's crushes. On a recent episode of Thirst Aid Kit, Nicole joins hosts Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins to talk about why no-nonsense men and women on the case excite her.

Next on Death, Sex & Money

In his work, comedian Hasan Minhaj toes a fine line between calling people out when they're wrong, and bringing people together when they may think they have nothing in common. Next week, I talk with him about how his relationships with his parents and with his wife Beena taught him the "radical honesty" he brings to his work, and how becoming a parent has reshaped his relationship to fame.
Debt can be scary and overwhelming.

If you're getting collections calls that you think may be illegal, find and contact your state consumer protection office.
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