The debt collectors call so often that Amarilis Madera knows them by name. For years, they have threatened to take her possessions and drain her bank account. In February, her $5,000 tax refund was seized.
"I needed that money to live," Ms. Madera, 49, a mother of three, said recently through a translator. "I almost lost my apartment."
Her financial burden was caused not by reckless spending, but by a decision she made more than 17 years ago and deeply regrets: enrolling at the Jon Louis School of Beauty in the Bronx.