AUGUSTA — My name is Roger Mackbach, and I am a junior at the University of Maine at Augusta. I’m also the founder of www.HelpForOthers.org, an organization dedicated to connecting Mainers with the resources to help them meet their basic needs.

In my work through Help for Others, and as a nontraditional student who is active in students’ lives, I see how Mainers at the financial margins are being harassed and abused by out-of-state debt buyers and their collectors. That’s why I decided to share my own stories to support L.D. 1092, a bill that would help curb the worst of these practices and ensure that Mainers are getting a fair shake in court.

This isn’t my first time attending college – in 1993, I started school in Michigan, where I also bought my first car. After a car accident, I thought that the full-coverage insurance I had purchased and on which I had paid diligently would cover the loan. It did – all but $100. Little did I know that that $100 would eventually become a $10,000 claim against me.

In 2008, 15 years after the car accident, I received a call from a debt collector claiming that I owed $10,000 for my first vehicle.

Although the legally allowable time to collect the debt had passed nearly a decade before, this debt collector was threatening to sue me for the car loan balance from just before the accident, neglecting to research that the insurance check had paid off all but $100 of the original loan! They said I owed $1,100 – plus $8,900 in interest and fees.

Luckily, I had the time and capability to fight these out-of-state collectors, who were working on behalf of a major debt-buying agency. I called the state Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, which told me that not only was the debt too old for the debt collectors to sue on, but that the company pursuing me wasn’t even legally operating in the state of Maine.

Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, and her co-sponsors have introduced L.D. 1092, a proposal to stop these practices and make sure that all Mainers are protected from debt collectors that sue after the legally allowable time limit; that try to collect debts they can’t prove a Mainer owes; or that attach interest and fees that far exceed what a consumer in the state should have to pay.

This bill isn’t about helping Mainers avoid their debts. Instead, it’s about making sure that Mainers will not be pursued for debts they do not owe.

A few years after my experience with the $100 debt that became a $10,000 debt, another debt collector contacted me – this time, for a medical bill I did not recognize. And the collector, which was trying to collect on behalf of a debt buying company, refused to give me the information I needed to try to identify the debt.

They wouldn’t tell me who the original doctor was, or what the service was for. They wouldn’t even give me a phone number for the original owner of the debt so I could try to figure it out.

That’s how debt buyers operate. According to the Federal Trade Commission, debt buyers purchase reams of “bad debt” – debt that creditors have been unable to collect – for pennies on the dollar. Often, these purchased debts come with very little to help identify the borrower, how much they originally owed or even how old the debt is. In fact, only about 6 percent of debts are sold with any documentation at all, according to the federal agency.

Across the country, states are working to stop these debt buyers from bullying consumers into paying for debts they don’t owe. Recently, Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York state, brought suit against some of the largest debt buyers, and his findings have been shocking.

For example, Encore Capital Group, an out-of-state debt buyer that is lobbying to block the protections we need here in Maine, was found falsifying statements that they used to obtain judgments against New York borrowers. According to their own testimony, Encore currently owns the debt of 91,000 Mainers.

The provisions in L.D. 1092 need to be placed into law to protect Maine’s borrowers from practices like those seen in New York and here. We can’t wait. The financial security of Mainers is too important to put off any longer.