When The Collector Comes Knocking…

Sitting at his desk at Northstar, Mike Nowak says: "This is Mike at Northstar. Can you take a number and have her give me a call?"

Nowak's never had it so good … because America's credit card debt has never been so bad, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

While interviewing him, Miller saw a TK on his desk.

"What does it mean to have this displayed on your desk?" she asked.

"It means I'm the man!" he said.

The number-one debt collector at his company, he earned all that bling by bringing in more than $.5 million in 2007 - and expects to round up nearly double that this year.

"Right now, we're at the highest debt I've seen in my 20 years," Nowak said.

Nowak works for Northstar outside Buffalo, N.Y., where debt collection has become a top industry. Agents here start the chase when credit-card holders fall six months or more behind in their payments.

"We've brought in many new clients just in the last month or so," said Joe Castle, who's the boss at Northstar.

He says his business will get even stronger this summer, when he expects the bottom to fall out of the auto leasing market.

"That's why we have some empty seats here that we put up to accommodate that - and we're ready for it when it comes in," Castle said.

Which also means lots of opportunity for Mike Nowak, who's good at what he does in part because he's been on the other end of the line.

Twenty years ago he was newly divorced, broke and behind on his bills, but managed to work his way out of trouble. His advice if you get a call: don't hang up - own up. Pay what you can.


Read more about the life of a debt collector at Couric & Co.
"What does it take to be good?" Miller asked.

"Listening," Nowak said. "A lot of listening. And they'll tell you what they can do and what they can't do."

By the time an account reaches Nowak's desk, some banks are willing to settle for half of what they're owed.

"Once you establish a plan or get into a repayment structure, it's like the weight of the world is off ya," Nowak said. "It's just getting started."

A tough step...but for those in debt...the first step to relief.