A trope about that most revered and respected of all professions, the debt collector.
They have a proud reputation for being nasty, lazy thugs who think the law is a suggestion and will stoop to any low, including making Harassing Phone Calls and physical force, in order to shake some money out of their "customers." Their stereotypical nature is often the butt of many jokes. Note that for the sake of examples, tax collectors are also included. Some collectors in Real Life have even tried to get their targets arrested or imprisoned, even in areas where this is technically highly illegal. Threatening criminal charges is actually a great way to get a collection agency sued, as is threatening a lawsuit when you have no intent to file one any time soon. In fact, at least in the US (as of 1977), under the Fair Debt Collections Act, there are certain types of conduct that, while associated with this trope, are strictly prohibited. (Other countries may have similar laws and regulations.) These behaviors include:
- Calling before 8 AM or after 8 PM, according to the timezone in which the person with the debt is located.
- Using abusive, profane, obscene, or threatening language.
- Threatening to have the person arrested, or threatening them with jail or prison.
- Threatening to use (or using) physical force, especially if the collector is supposed to be from a legal agency.
- Calling them at work, if the person tells the collector that they cannot receive these types of calls at work.
- Refusing to provide the first name of the representative, the name of the collection agency, the name of the person or company to which the debt is owed, or the contact information for the collection agency.
- Refusing to cease communication upon request.
- Contacting the person by phone if they have requested that all communications going forward take place in writing.
- Contacting them for reasons unrelated to the debt.
- Contact someone who is being represented by an attorney.
- Misrepresenting themselves, whom they represent, why they are calling, or what could happen if the debt goes unpaid.
- Putting the debt on the person's credit report if they have filed a dispute.
- Threatening and/or filing legal action.
- Contacting third parties other than the debt holder's (current) spouse or attorney. They can, however, inquire to friends, relatives, exes, neighbors, and employers about your whereabouts or contact information if they are unsure of it or have been unable to reach you, but they cannot disclose information (such as how much you owe or to whom you owe it) to any of them.
- Reporting false or inaccurate information on their credit report.
- Contacting the person by postcard, email, or by personal (non-business) letter.
- Requesting more than is actually owed and skimming off the top.
- Refusing to work out payment plans or other negotiations.
- Taking an item as collateral without the debtor's consent, especially if it's done by force and long before any established date for repossession.
- Putting the person on a "bad debt" list.
- Not advising the person of their right to dispute the debt.
- Attempting to collect from the family member of a deceased person, who did not cosign the loan or credit card, and is not the executor of that person's estate.
- Publicly humiliating the debtor into paying up.
The most common alignment for this trope is Neutral Evil.
This is one of the tropes that gave birth to Dastardly Whiplash.
When a casual loan from a friend causes the lender to transform into this trope, you have Never Lend to a Friend.
Related to Loan Shark and Morally Bankrupt Banker. Older Than Feudalism. Using one of these is a good way for someone trying to Kill the Creditor to be written as sympathetic. Expect this character (especially if they are played for exaggeration) to try to get their money back through a Ridiculous Repossession.
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Kafuka Fuura's father was driven to suicide by debt collectors.
- The prime reason that Allen Walker of D.Gray-Man became so good at cheating at cards was to deal with constant harassment by debt collectors as the result of being stuck with General Cross' gambling debts.
- In Liar Game, after the end of the first round, debt collectors would come to gather the 100 million yen. And if you didn't have it, well ...
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, Miraschon's Stand is Marylin Manson, also known as "The Debt Collector". It has the power to "collect debts" by reading the opponent's mind to know where they keep any money or valuables. If nothing else is available, it will remove organs to sell on the black market. While collecting, it's invulnerable; you can only get rid of it by beating its master.
- The thuggish debt collector in Stepping on Roses (Hadashi de Bara wo Fume) is a prime example. In his attempt to collect a debt incurred by her older brother from protagonist Sumi, he initially offers to let her Work Off the Debt by paying with her body. When she refuses, he later returns and kidnaps Sumi's younger siblings, threatening to sell them off to a foreign country if he didn't have his money by the following day.
- Averted in Durarara!!. Tom works as a debt collector but is generally a very nice and laid-back guy. He hires Shizuo as his bodyguard and enforcer, but he would rather just use Shizuo's fearsome reputation to scare debtors into paying on time and only uses violence as a last resort. Unfortunately, there are still idiots who provoke Shizuo.
- In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, it is the thematic design, backstory, and motifs still present in his very mind after becoming a demon, Gyutaro learned from a young age that he was good at fighting and worked as a debt collector, getting violent with people who couldn't pay. However, back when they were human he did this not out of greed, but the need to provide for himself and his sister, as demons though, it is done through Gyutaro appearing to kill whoever "bullied" his sister, a blood thirsty demon, he collects the debts for making her cry.
- in Desert Punk, Rainspider starts out as this. When collecting debts from a poor old man and a young woman in his debut, upon finding they have no money, his solution is to SELL THE GIRL INTO SLAVERY! At the same time, Desert Punk took a job to collect debt from a loan the man made at the same time with another company with the same plan for repayment (or possibly buying the daughter himself). The rest of the episode is about Desert Punk and Rainspider fighting over whose company gets to collect, until they totally exhaust each other, then the father and daughter beat them both over the head and took the proof of the loan. Turns out both were con artists, who'd planned everything from the beginning and had done so many times before.
- The manga version of Hell Girl uses this trope twice. The 2nd went as far as to burn a debtor's house down to elicit payment. This provokes a contract with Enma Ai in a Mama Bear rage.
- Speed Grapher: Suitengu kills a man for failing to pay his 10,000,000 yen debt in full... over a discrepancy of a single 1,000 yen bill. Turns out that his kid was fiddling with the money after his father got a little too obsessive with paying the debt. This is a serious hint that Suitengu does NOT worship capitalism, as he prevented a relatively reliable debt collector from doing further business.
- In Poor Poor Lips, this is played with. Nako's uncle has saddled her with her parents' alleged debt for a car accident to pay his own debts. He claims to have loaned her the money to pay that back, but it's all The Con worked on a young girl. Ren is absolutely furious when she learns about it and calls on her mother to unleash the lawyers.
- I'm the Evil Lord of an Intergalactic Empire!:
- The story starts with Liam dying from being worked to death paying off debts his ex-wife forced on him partly from a Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe situation and having been harassed by these. In his next life, this motivates Liam's subsequent hatred of Space Pirates and Leave No Survivors policy against them because he sees the debt collectors when he looks at them.
- Rosetta is from an Impoverished Patrician noble household that has been harassed for millennia simply for backing the wrong side in a succession dispute, with said ancient organization forcing her to take on more and more debt and delighting in her suffering before Liam's allies kill them.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe examples:
- Never borrow so much as a nickel from Scrooge McDuck! You'd get off easier selling your soul to the devil;
- The usually nameless thugs after Donald Duck. Barks apparently based his portrayal of these on his own experience with debt collectors as a struggling young artist... There was also a story (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #145, where this page's image comes from) where Donald is hypnotized into believing he's one. Hilarity Ensues... For real.
- There's not one, but two Italian storiesnote where Donald becomes a debt collector—and since Donald, being in Perpetual Poverty, personally knows all the tricks used to dodge debts, he is excellent at his job. Both stories end with Donald being assigned to best the biggest debt dodger in town... namely, himself.
- Invoked in Paperinik New Adventures by Xadhoom: she has godlike powers, and, in her own words, the Evronians, having conquered and razed her homeworld and transformed her people into Coolflames while she conducted the experiment that gave her the powers, owe her her homeworld and people... So she took the name Xadhoom, meaning "Creditor" in her language, and started exterminating the Evronians. A virtual cookie if you can guess what has just happened when she finally declares "Closed accounts".
- Also from Paperinik New Adventures, there's aliens who will start wars over unpaid debts-a merchant coalition went to war against a planet because they would not pay their debts for too long (then again, they wouldn't pay the Private Military Contractors they hired to defend themselves, so the merchants may have a point), and in the second series the builders of an industrial planet replied to the commissioning mining company refusing to pay when they went overbudget not by suing them but by hiring a mercenary army to take it back.
- Batman villain the Tally Man is this trope turned full-on psychotic.
- Jaum of Chewbacca combines this with Screw the Rules, I Have Money! when he buys off an entire planet.
- The first person the four encounter on their return to C'hou in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World is the Magic Taxman (and no, George isn't responsible for him). Initially he's a small, slight, Wally Cox-like man with a briefcase who politely introduces himself and requires an entry tax from the four... that amounts to one-quarter of the magic amongst them. When they scoff and refuse, he employs Penalty Methods and turns into a giant purple monster that grabs John and tries to eat him. Driven off, he promises to return to the four in ten days with much harsher Penalty Methods if they continue to refuse to pay up. This promise is a continual worry to the four, and they never do come up with a way to get rid of him (though after five or six days several of them are so disgusted with what's been going on, and the way their freedom is being abused as a result of their magic, that they're willing to give up their magic to pay the tax).
- Zigzagged in Nepotism Adventure Series: the first tax collector was just too stupid to be evil, didn't collect a single bit, and choked to death on a marble. The second tax collector played this to the hilt, though, taking an entire town to court when they refused to pay taxes. They burn him at the stake in response. Anyway, that's why there's been no taxes collected in Equestria since. Not that that stops Rarity from suggesting Twilight do so.
- Miraculous: The Phoenix Rises gives us Hawkins, the landlord of Max's family who constantly barges in demanding his house payment.
- Raised by Jägers: Played for Laughs. Ducky's father is the Mechanicsburg tax collector, and he only collects a fair and reasonable amount of money. But the people of Mechanicsburg have been thieves and brigands for centuries, so they don't much like taxes; as far as they're concerned, if the town is low on money then they should just pillage the countryside. They therefore treat the tax collector like a villain and refuse to give him a penny. He responded by getting really good at picking locks.
Tarvek: You're suggesting that in Mechanicsburg taxes are collected through burglary.
Ducky: Poppa always says, it's not burglary if you leave them a receipt.
- In Robin Hood (1973), the Sheriff of Nottingham plays this trope by collecting harsh, unnecessary taxes for the greedy Prince John. Despite saying he is just doing his duty, the crooked lawman crosses several lines by taking money that is hidden in the cast of a man's broken leg (even beating on it to get the last coin out), stealing a child's farthing birthday gift (which was the lowest denomination in existence in that time period), robbing a blind beggar (who is really the title hero in disguise), and even taking the only coin from the church's poor box. The last one crosses the line from cruel to outright illegal when you consider the fact that the crown didn't have the authority to tax the church at all at that point in history, being a major political hot topic for centuries. That may explain why Friar Tuck loses his cool and proceeds to give the Sheriff a thumping before he is arrested (something that Sheriffs at that point in history didn't have the legal authority to do either).
Friar Tuck: GET OUTTA MY CHURCH!
- The film 99 Homes deals with a man who gets his family house foreclosed and then starts working as one of these for the real estate broker who evicted him.
- The plot of Babe: Pig in the City begins with the farm being threatened with foreclosure:
Narrator: Before long, two men showed up. Two men in suits. Men with pale faces and soulless eyes. Such men could have come from only one place: the bank.
- The Blues Brothers attempt to put on another show in order to save the orphanage they were raised in from being closed due to back tax debt.
- The villain in Confessions of a Shopaholic is a debt collector who goes as far as to humiliate the hero on national television in order to collect (illegal).
- Any adaptation of A Christmas Carol that shows Scrooge trying to collect money owed to him invariably depicts him as one.
- Donnie Brasco: Lefty is a debt collector for the mob, and the first job he does with Donnie is reposessing the car of a strip club owner that tried to pay his debt with a fake diamond ring.
- In Grandma's Boy (2006), the lead character is threatened by debt collectors.
"If you not out in five minute, my frien' here, remove your testicles. Through you' anus."
- Dutch movie Karakter is about a debt collector battling with his illegitimate son. Although the debt collector is hated by all his 'customers' his side of the story is that he is simply following the law and making sure freeloaders get their due. He seems to legitimately love his son and want him to succeed but also believes in tough love, very tough love the debt collector commits suicide at the end of the movie, but throughout the movie, the viewer was led to believe his son had killed him.
- The South Korean movie Pieta is about a debt collector who maims and injures debtors so that they can collect insurance to pay off their loans, at the cost of living out their lives crippled or disfigured.
- Popeye: The Taxman of Sweethaven is Bluto's Dragon and charges taxes for anything he can think of, from parking boats on the pier (understandable) to asking questions and embarrassing him (petty) to whatever will allow him to net whatever money Bluto demands him to strongarm from someone else, and he will take anything that is not nailed down to get that tax (the "embarrassing the taxman tax" we mentioned? He took a sunflower as retribution).
- In the Mickey Rooney movie Quicksand, the appearance of one of these accelerates the downward spiral of the hero, since he threatens to have the young fellow jailed for fraud unless he pays all the money on an installment plan watch within 24 hours.
- The titular Repo Men of both the following films repossess your organs — which is obviously lethal — if you fail to make your payments;
- Repo Men. Even being one yourself won't make other Repo Men shy from repossessing your leased liver.
If you can't pay for your car, the bank takes it back. If you can't pay for your house, the bank takes it back. If you can't pay for your liver, well, that's where I come in.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera. Though the only one we see in action is Nathan, who is more of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, given that he's forced into the role by Rotti, and appears to be genuinely mentally ill, with a vicious split personality that takes over whenever he's in Repo Man mode.
- Repo Men. Even being one yourself won't make other Repo Men shy from repossessing your leased liver.
- Rocky Balboa's primary occupation at the very beginning of the Rocky series. The 'evil' part is averted when Rocky actually attempts to use reason and compassion in dealing with a debtor (and in keeping Paulie from going into the business).
- In the British comedy Saving Grace (2000) The bank intends to foreclose on Grace Trevethyn's historic coastal Manor House, forcing her to grow marijuana in her greenhouse with her gardener in order to pay off her debt to the bank and avoid losing her home.
- Star Wars:
- The Rodian bounty hunter Greedo in A New Hope is an Evil Debt Collector in the employ of criminal kingpin/Loan Shark Jabba the Hutt. He's not above pulling a gun on a recalcitrant debtor like Han Solo, which leads to his Karmic Death when Han shoots him first. Of course, in the Special Edition, George Lucas felt the need to give Han an even more obvious moral high ground (possibly to maintain the movie's PG rating), so this scene was edited to have Greedo fire at Han first.
- Several decades later, in The Force Awakens, Han had to put up with another one in the form of a young, outer-space equivalent of a Violent Glaswegian, named Bala-Tik, an agent of a crime cabal called The Guavian Death Gang. However, the appearance of some Rathtar monsters Han was hauling put a stop to that.
- Averted with taxman Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction, who is the hero of the story.
- In Suicide Kings, it is eventually revealed that the two kidnappers are debt collectors for a Loan Shark, and that the kidnapping is simply a means to allow the debtor to get the money from their family. Who that debtor is becomes the film's central mystery.
- The trucker brothers in Think Big has to be on constant lookout for the repo man Sweeney, who tries to steal their truck, which is one payment away from being completely theirs. He succeeds near the end, but gets his karmic comeuppance by getting poisoned from the toxic waste shipment that brothers were hauling.
- A variant in Furie. The merciless debt collector Hai Phuong is the protagonist, and it's evident that her ruthless methods have made her despised around the village. That said, she's barely out of poverty herself and is most concerned with providing for her young daughter Mai, who resents her mom's career because it attracts bullies in school eager to punish Mai for her mother's deeds.
- Dean and Manny from Backstreet Dreams do this for a living, threatening and beating up anyone who can't or won't pay the crime lord Luca. Dean is torn between his loyalty toward Manny and his desire to go straight.
- The Sheriff of Nottingham is considered by most to be the Trope Codifier. He's rarely shown personally collecting the debts, though; that's what his men are for.
- More of a Crazy Debt Collector than actually Evil, but in Haruki Murakami's short story Superfrog Saves Tokyo, the titular Superfrog proves his good intentions by extracting a promise to pay from someone the main character had been struggling to collect from. The viewer is never told exactly what the frog did, but the client's lawyer is deeply traumatized.
- The villain of The Red Necklace, Count Kalliovski, lets people borrow large sums of money from him so when they fail to pay him back, he gains control over them.
- In P. G. Wodehouse's Ukridge stories, Ukridge is often obliged to dodge people who are after him for debts, which he sees as irrational, narrow-minded persecution. A more impartial observer would say that the people chasing Ukridge are just reasonable tradesmen and shopkeepers who understandably resent Ukridge's tendency to "delay" paying his bills until his latest Get-Rich-Quick Scheme pays off (which it seldom does).
- A Frozen Heart: In this Tie-In Novel to Frozen, the King of the Southern Isles frequently sends down his sons to forcibly collect taxes as if he were a Mafia extortionist, with ominous threats of violence if people don't cough up. Even Prince Hans was visibly unnerved at the tax collection he "conducted," noting that he "disposed of" those that didn't pay.
- In The Thieves Guild Diary Lord Vetinari notes that tax-collecting used to be a matter of holding people upside down and shaking them until they dropped either coins or teeth, and it's hard to see how legalised crime is different. Following on from this, the entry for protection rackets defines it as demanding money with supposed offers of protection, but actually implied threats, while not being a government.
- Similarly, in Witches Abroad Genua used to impose strict customs fees on the river traffic with harsh penalties for failing to pay. The Lemony Narrator notes that this actually looked an awful lot like piracy, but it was being done by the government, so it's not.
- In the Doctor Who serial "The Sun Makers", far-future Pluto is governed by a monstrous tax collector (literally: he turns into some kind of fungus at the end) and his greedy lackeys, who subjugate the human colonists through providing them with access to an artificial sun — for which they are taxed into poverty and starvation.
- In a rare example of the Evil Debt Collector as the protagonist, the Trailer Park Boys were forced into this role to pay off a veterinarian for treating a sick dog Julian was taking care of, along with treating one of Ricky's gunshot wounds. To pay their bill, Ricky and Julian had to steal a riding mower belonging to another one of the vet's customers who owed him a lot of money.
- Subverted in Corner Gas where the tax man (who keeps insisting that he's a tax man, not the tax man) is not evil at all but friendly, reasonable and willing to give useful tax break info. He laments that people always treat him with hostility for no reason, just because they assume all tax men must be evil. Unfortunately, he was sent after Grumpy Old Man Oscar, who is hostile to everybody by default.
- Some of the marks in Leverage are essentially Evil Debt Collectors.
- In Justified a bookie employed a part-time debt collector to collect from gamblers who failed to pay the money they owed. The debt collector's regular job was as a gardener so he liked to threaten to cut off people's toes with garden shears if they did not pay up. However, the bookie was a relatively nice guy so the debt collector was not supposed to actually seriously hurt people. This changes when one of the gamblers makes a business suggestion to the collector and they embark on A Simple Plan of kidnapping the bookie and stealing all of his money. We then see that the debt collector really was a tad Axe-Crazy and he decides to shoot it out in a duel with US Marshal Raylan Givens.
- Several marks in Hustle fall into this. The woman who runs the Do$h4You loan service and the thugs she sends out as her repo agents in "Old Sparks Come New" are perhaps the purest examples.
- In El Chavo del ocho, Sr. Barriga (the landlord of "La Vecindad") isn't evil necessarily, but he may as well be one as far as Don Ramón is concerned...
- A CSI: Miami episode (Season 5, Episode 4: "Bang, Bang, Your Debt") involved a web of debauchery, murder, and suicide which revolved around a spectacularly Jerkass bundle of these (whose preferred way to create "customers" was by swindling college kids into a Darker and Edgier Credit Card Plot). The Victim of the Week was a girl that was dragged into debt bad enough to be kicked out of college, had to do sexual favours to the collectors' leader to try to reduce the debt (and him deciding to not do anything after having his way with her), and who decided to commit suicide alongside a friend of hers that was on the same wagon (and when he managed to survive, he decided to kill the collector in revenge).
- Las Vegas: Subverted in an episode where Sam Marquez is teamed up with a debt collector to track down several gamblers who are evading their debts to the casino. She asks him if he's gonna hurt anyone to force them to pay up, but he points out that this would quickly land him in jail if the debtor decides to call the authorities; according to him, it's more about appearance and intimidation than actually roughing people up. This doesn't stop Sam from playing the "violent collector" part herself later on.
- In Game of Thrones the Iron Bank of Braavos essentially plays the titular game of thrones by using would-be royal claimants as these, although said claimants ''have'' to be evil... the catch is that any royal claimant that actually succeeds promptly becomes the new debtor!
- Often averted in TV reality shows about debt collectors. The loveable semi-incompetents of Lizard Lick Towing and Operation Repo are hard to take seriously, although the serious nature of their job is clearly illustrated. Meanwhile, British reality shows such as Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! which follow court bailiffs and debt collectors about their work, portray thoughtful, intelligent, men who will pursue a deliberate defaulter without mercy. People capable of payment get short shrift. But the bailiffs can often bend over backward to help somebody who is in hardship or genuinely struggling, and view actual eviction or distraint as an absolutely last resort.
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver once did an episode on debt buyers who specialized in debt past the Statute of Limitations (thus, not collectable through the courts). Part of the episode focused on the debt collectors they use, which often are virtually unregulated and use tactics such as harassment, threats, and name-calling. When they do so legally (or pseudo-legally), they use subterfuges like making silent phone calls then using the "yes" that people normally use to greet others in phone calls as an actual acceptance of consent to pay the debt, convincing people to pay just a part of the debt by telling them they forgive the rest then suing to collect it, or (actually legally) suing and expecting people not to contest (which they normally don't).
- Played for laughs in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Bar Association". When Rom organizes a strike of the workers at Quark's bar, it causes some messes on the station. Sisko presses Quark to end the strike, with Quark naturally refusing. Sisko then brings up the tiny fact that the Federation hasn't been charging Quark for being on the station for the last five years... until now.
Sisko: Let's see...five years of back rent, plus power consumption, plus repairs...do you know how much latinum that is?
Quark: A lot.
Sisko: That's right.
Quark: I'll talk to my brother.
Sisko: I'm glad we're in agreement.
- In Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade, the defendant is accused of murdering a rent collector. At the trial, it emerges that this was the sort of "rent collector" where if you don't pay him, your premises mysteriously catch fire.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In "In Praise of Pip", the gangster Moran has one of his henchmen beat up George Reynold, who owes him $300, after Max Phillips took pity on George and allowed him to keep his money.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl mentions that when the bill collectors got to be too much, he and Joy would go to their "vacation home," namely, an old, abandoned RV deep in the woods. Presumably, this happened quite frequently, as Joy didn't work, and Earl worked a few odd jobs here and there, but they never lasted long because of his problems with authority.
- One Victim of the Week in Elementary was a debt collector, specifically the kind that buys debts off of companies and then personally tracks down and harasses the debtors, leading Sherlock and Joan to speculate that one of the people who owed him money killed him. However, their investigation reveals that the debt collector had actually pulled a Heel–Face Turn; upon seeing that one of the debtors was very poor and had major medical issues, he began to reflect on his actions. After befriending the guy, he decided to forgive his debt and find a new career. Unfortunately, he died before he could put in the paperwork to do this. It turns out, one of the victim's business associates would lose a lot of money if the debts were forgiven, so the victim was killed to keep that from happening.
- The Sopranos: creating and collecting Mob Debt is half the job description for Tony Soprano.
- "Taxman", by The Beatles.
- "Repo Man Sings for You" by The Coup, with Del tha Funkee Homosapien rapping in the role of the repo man.
- "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt...
St Peter, don't you call me, for I can't go—
I owe my soul to the company store!
- The Bible:
- Jesus redeems a tax collector named Matthew, also known as Levi, who up to that point is portrayed as a very sinful and evil man. He even makes him one of His Apostles.
- Adding in for the Bible entry, it would seem that being a Debt Collector is Villain by Default version of jobs, as Jesus often uses them as the bad guys in the metaphors (and then subverts that these bad guys still pale in the faces of the haughty).
- There was at least one subversion in one of Jesus' parables, a Pharisees was harassing a collector over the fact his career choice will land him in hell, the collector, showing both wit and humility, drops to his knees and begs God for forgiveness, showing more faith that the Pharisees probably ever would and establish the (alien in that time) thought that one's career choice didn't dictate their religious or moral compass.
- This even goes back to the Old Testament. Leviticus and Deuteronomy list very specific ways in which debts are to be collected, and loans and collateral accepted.
- In the Bible example, tax collectors tended to be Jews who were collecting taxes for the Romans who conquered them. So a double whammy there.
- Especially since Jesus frequently mentions tax collectors and prostitutes in the same sentence in his parables.
- In those days, it wasn't uncommon for them to demand more than was really owed and skim off the top. John the Baptist even calls out the tax collectors for this very practice, saying they should collect no more than they are legally entitled to collect. This was officially sanctioned, as their only pay was that surplus, but there were no limits on what tax collectors could collect, and they took full advantage of that.
- When the Ten Tribes of Israel started breaking off, Rehoboam tried collecting taxes from them by sending Adoniram, who's been doing that since before Solomon. The guy never returned.
- A professional wrestling example of an evil tax collector was Irwin R. Schyster (IRS) from the WWE (early-mid 1990s, back when it was known as the WWF). He was a heel. Part of the famous tag team Money Incorporated with "The Million-Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. This team was known for its prowess as technical wrestlers.
- About the same time, in WWE there also was Repo Man.
- Inverted in 1990, when the Big Boss Man (Ray Traylor) refused to repossess Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Belt because he wouldn't take a pay-off.
- Parodied in the Animal Crossing series multiple times. While Tom Nook may occasionally make a joke about sending "the raccoon goons" if you don't pay him back for your house upgrades, you can Take Your Time paying him back. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer reveals that he knows about this trope and uses the fear of it to teach life lessons about debt.
- In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, your first job for the Maug Gang is to be one. There's a guy who owes some gold to the gang, and your job is to collect from him...and if he doesn't have enough, kill him.
- Pikmin 2: The plot involves the president of Olimar's company running from debt collectors after taking a loan from the wrong bank — the All-Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks. He sends emails about it.
I just took a call from my loan agent! He has the scariest voice I've ever heard. While you two are dawdling about, my life hangs by a thread! Get to work, slackers!
Olimar! You're my hero! You've erased half of our debt. Still, things have become a bit dangerous, so I'm going into hiding. Focus on work... and don't slack off!
I found some tasty grass today. It was the first time in a while that I could eat until I was full.
I have a regrettable message. I have been caught. If I don't pay off the company debt right away, I'm to be buried in Hocotate Swamp. It's bleak here... Hurry!
- One of the early-mid game books in Persona 4 involves a man trying to deal with psycho debt collectors.
- The Sims 2 has the Repo Man, who comes if you blow off paying the bills too long. He's the one character you can't even cheat code your way around. He shows up with a vacuum that sucks up all your stuff and his appearance is an automatic bad memory for your Sims. On The Sims 3, you can actually erase the Repo Man just fine.
- Europa Universalis features an opportunity for a player to be this. Give the AI a short-term loan. Wait until AI refuses to repay. You get a free casus belli.
- Niko in Grand Theft Auto IV is sold out to debt collectors.
- The Big Bad of Axel's story in Disgaea 2 is an evil scumbag repo man out to destroy an orphanage, and even holds Axel's little brother hostage.
- EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Yatsuro is especially known for preying on the less well-off and for his underhanded tactics, earning him the nickname of Yatsuro the Suppon. Early in the game he even has his goon Masuyama kidnap Toyama's wife and tag team wrestling partner Hamayo, just so Toyama can be disqualified from a wrestling match that will decide the fate of the village. Needless to say, not too many tears are shed when Yatsuro and Masuyama are kidnapped by Tarantula.
- Final Fantasy X-2
- This happens to O'aka after he ends up heavily in debt to some Al Bhed. Yuna and the Gullwings can help him by buying enough of his merchandise so he has the money to pay off his loans. Alternatively, you can turn him over to them.
- In Chapter 4, you run a mission in which you pursue Tobli, who is on the run from debt collectors, and he waylays them in a series of increasingly amusing and outrageous incidents.
- World of Warcraft has several quest lines where you are asked to go collect debts from a series of deadbeats who refuse to repay their dues to the quest giver. A few of those deadbeats are actually dead and you have to beat up their ghosts for the money. There is no escaping your credit record in Azeroth.
- A daily quest for the Tillers in Pandaria has you playing the role once again for four of the villagers, but two of them at random will always say they don't have enough, you can either threaten them to get them to pay in full or offer to cover a little bit for you. The money you make back from completing the quest more than compensates helping them out, so threatening them is something done out of malice.
- The 'plot' of The Three Stooges video game is that the Stooges have 30 days to raise enough money to save an orphanage from being closed down by I. Fleecem, whose appearences are punctuated with an Evil Laugh. If you bump into Fleecem during the game, he'll take away some of your money.
- The Federation in Gratuitous Space Battles, being a corporate conglomerate, offers loans on an intergalactic level to entire races and governments, so obviously they'd need to ramp up their debt collection department to scale. "Up to scale" in this case meaning they have a whole armada exclusively dedicated to mucking up late payers (which is just about everyone).
- A handful of side quests in Sleeping Dogs (2012) involve Wei taking on some work as a collector until he becomes thoroughly disgusted with the job after a debtor commits suicide in public, and Wei's boss just shrugs and says to move on to the dead man's wife instead.
- Two examples from the Thieves Guild questline for Skyrim:
- As your first job after being initiated, you have to collect debts owed to the Guild by various individuals around Riften, preferably in a nonlethal manner. While simple intimidation has a chance of failing, learning more about your targets and their vulnerabilities will guarantee that they'll cough up the cash when you come knocking.
- One quest has you remove a pest problem for Sabjorn, the owner of the Honningbrew Meadery. If you talk to Sabjorn about his assistant, you find he falls under this trope. Sabjorn loaned his assistant a sum of money that he knew his assistant could never pay back, then using said assistant as unpaid labor. You can help correct this situation by poisoning the mead, leading to Sabjorn being arrested by the Whiterun Guard and the assistant being put in charge.
- In the Dragonborn DLC for Skyrim, if you find a new steward for the Telvanni mage-lord Neloth, an Orc loan shark (complete with an intimidating/"intimidating" bodyguard) will use Insane Troll Logic to justify trying to collect the steward's debt from you . Your options are: pay the debt, negotiate and pay a reduced amount, intimidate him into forgiving the debt, or make him permanently unable to collect on the debt. All are viable, but violence in the presence of the guards gets you in trouble with the law. If you ignore him, he'll start following you, even if it's into the ash wastes where there's no guards to hear him scream...
- In Fallout: New Vegas, you get to step into the shoes of one in the "Debt Collector" sidequest, where you collect debts for the Garrett Twins of the Atomic Wrangler. While you're encouraged not to kill the targets since you can't recollect on a corpse, you still primarily rely on threats and intimidation. Of course, you can have two of them try to work off the debt as a gigolo as part of another sidequest or have them point you to a cave filled with loot as compensation.
- In Cuphead you become one of these to the Devil himself! In order to pay for a gambling debt where the protagonists bet their souls, they have to run around Inkwell Isle to find the Devil's runaway debtors and recover the Soul Contracts from them. Of course, they are not happy to see you and thus you have to fight them. It can be subverted at the end, however, if you chose to fight the devil and beat him, Cuphead and Mugman will proceed to burn the soul contracts, freeing the bosses from their debts and they will throw a party in your honor.
- League of Legends:
- One of the playable champions has a less "evil", more "extremely destructive" example with Nautilus, the Titan of the Depths. Sailors in Bilgewater have a tradition of paying a tithe to the local undersea Eldritch Abomination Nagakabouros. Nautilus — once a man left for dead by a greedy captain who refused to pay the tithe — now serves as a furious enforcer of this policy, appearing almost out of nowhere to violently destroy your ship and your entire crew should you fail to pay the tithe.
- This trope is referenced in one of the purchasable in-game items: a fancy Hand Cannon that instantly executes enemies under a certain health threshold called "The Collector", with its innate effect titled "Death and Taxes".
- In Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur can act as a debt collector for the gang's resident loan shark Leopold Strauss, which typically involve collecting from destitute individuals who cannot possibly pay their debts back. However, during the final collections, Arthur is given the option to absolve the debt or even give the debtors some money out of his own pocket, eventually running Strauss out of the gang in frustration over having to deal with soul-crushing dirty work as well as contracting tuberculosis via one of the earlier jobs.
- Inverted in Yakuza 0 with Miss Tatsu, and by extension, the protagonist Kiryu, who performs debt collection duties for her as part of his Beast Style training. All the debtors Kiryu confronts are portrayed as scumbags (some of them even serial debt-dodgers who've taken out multiple loans with no intent to pay up) that Kiryu is rightly justified in literally beating the cash they owe out of. The final debtor even tries to ambush and kill Miss Tatsu while Kiryu is out looking for him.
- Warframe has an inversion of this in Ticker, a Solaris who illegally gathers the debt bonds of others struggling in Fortuna in hopes of selling them to the Tenno to keep them out of the Corpus' hands. Tenno can also decide to use the bonds to purchase from Ticker's secondhand store or turn them in for standing with Solaris United, essentially wiping the slate clean.
- Tequila & Boom Boom: Mr. E. Vyle. Melissa's family is in debt to him and will lose their farm if they don't pay. It also helps that he is the game's Big Bad obsessed with completely taking over Stinky Town, hence why he wants Melissa's farm.
- In Genshin Impact, Fatui Agents are Elite Mooks that are tasked with settling debts owed to the Fatui, a duty they carry out with lethal efficiency. This covers not only the collection of actual monetary debts but also claiming dues of a more abstract nature by exacting revenge upon those who cross the Fatui.
- The Goons in Princess Evangile are part-time debt collectors for various loan sharks. And they are willing to use force and intimidation on anyone if they don't get their way, even on Innocent Bystanders. Headmistress Misako eventually hires them, albeit for a different purpose.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Word of God reveals that it was Lord Gordain who created the original Nonary Game as a way of both getting rid of his debtors in a ridiculously brutal manner and to provide entertainment to other billionaires.
- In The Word Weary, Stan Becks is a debt collector with a fictional company. He calls Elly and tells her (wrongly) she has to pay back her recently deceased mother's credit card debt, crippling her financially. This trope is played with in that Stan himself doesn't really appear to be evil, just forced into it to save his job.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-2271-1 imposes an impossible-to-pay debt on each victim, then drives them mad with visual hallucinations of shadowy figures and a violent desire to pay off the debt by any means necessary, including emptying monetary accounts and selling off possessions, their loved ones, and their own body parts. When the debtor inevitably fails to pay up a second time, they vanish as the consequence of the outstanding debt.
- Following his Flanderization, Mr. Goodman from SuperMarioLogan extorts Mario under the guise of mortgage payments (even though Mario got the house for free) with profane language and threatens Mario with some outlandish punishment like ripping off and eating his testicles or nipples if his demands are not met. He never gets any karma for it because he always bribes the police, and the cops take said bribes like candy.
- Rocko's Modern Life:
- Played for laughs in the episode "Who Gives a Buck" after Rocko gets carried away with his new credit card. He picks up the phone and receives the standard angry collection call.
- In "Junk Junkies", Rocko ends up owing $500 to a pizza place. Their debt collection practices start off with phone calls but quickly escalate to breaking windows and dropping flaming pizza bombs from a plane. Their final method involves a visit from a massive thug named Wallace.
- Cow and Chicken uses a similar joke in an episode where Chicken gets a credit card, with the Red Guy as the debt collector being rather overzealous at making Chicken pay back a twenty-five-cent charge.
- Pete plays one in the Classic Disney Short "Moving Day" (1936), playing the bullying sheriff planning to evict Mickey and Donald and sell all their furniture.
- The Vreedle Brothers are Repo Men on Ben 10: Alien Force, sent to get Ship -although in "Pier Pressure", Ship's owner was clearly seen abandoning him.
- Even Scrooge McDuck isn't immune to this trope. "Nothing to Fear" from DuckTales (1987) had the protagonists suffering from their worst nightmares. Scrooge's worst fear is debt collectors taking away everything he owns, even to the point of trying to take away Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
- In the Wakfu special "Nox", the future villain is harassed by one of these. The debt collector actually goes out of his way to intimidate Nox's children for no reason. Indeed, much of Nox's obsession with the Eliacube ties in with his desire to make sufficient money to get rid of his debt. This ends...poorly for just about everyone involved.
- Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In a "Magnificent Muttley" segment episode, Muttley found a treasure chest and Dick Dastardly disguised himself as a tax collector to "seize" the treasure as payment for back taxes. The joke was on him as the chest contained nothing but dog biscuits.
- The Betty Boop cartoon, "She Wronged Him Right" has Betty in a play centered around her owing mortgage to a villainous debt collector by the name of Heeza Ratt.
- In the first Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon, Casper makes friends with two poor children. The mother shoos him away just in time for a banker to drop by and collect a mortgage payment. Upon realizing Casper is a ghost, the banker tears up the mortgage and runs for the hills. The mother allows Casper to stay, having saved her family from eviction.