There are times when you have received a check from somebody, but there is no money (or not enough money) in their account to cash it. Then you have to resort to asking someone (criminal or something) to tackle the problem and hopefully get the money (or part of it) one way or another.

Is there a word to refer to such a person (criminal)?

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    I suppose debt collector is the closest I can think of, though that most commonly refers to debt recovery by legal means. If the context makes it clear what the purpose is, you could also refer to the person as a goon (as in, “The cheque bounced, so the drug dealer hired some goon to go and collect the cash from the buyer directly”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 14 '13 at 10:02
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    Re on the previous comment: a goon just means (roughly) a tough guy, especially a hired one; it has no specific connection to debt-collecting. – PLL Oct 14 '13 at 15:58
  • thank you very much indeed . debt collector is the word I was looking for – morteza Oct 14 '13 at 17:29
  • @PLL, that’s why I specified “if the context makes it clear what the purpose is”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 14 '13 at 17:32

Simply collector. The mob and bookies had collectors that worked for them. I worked as a collector for a bookie in college. Also the term collector was referred to as bagman in the past but nobody ever called me that. A nicer term that can be used is runner, especially for those that are net positive.

A general comment on the word runner: I think often a client might say I was a runner because I didn't just collect. Although 80-90% of the clients lost money (net) I often made visits to them dispersing money. So to most I was a collector but there were a few clients that won often and it would be weird for them to refer to me as a collector if I was mainly giving them money.

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    Disagree. A runner might pick up money, but not by force. A bagman (who is sometimes left holding the bag) is something completely different. (Collector works as do many other suggestions .. I don't think this is a great question - at least not without more detail.) – hunter2 Oct 14 '13 at 15:51
  • @hunter2 - The point isn't to use force it is the fear of force. In the 3 years of working as a collector I made threats but never did more than grab someone. Also many of the clients referred to me as the bookie's runner (maybe getting a visit from a collector is demeaning to them) - my job was to collect money and take bets if they had any. And in this instance "bagman" isn't someone who is left holding the bag. It was a widely used term for "collector" in years past. I would often hear the books use the term when discussing old times. – RyeɃreḁd Oct 14 '13 at 16:37
  • Point of what? You picked up people's debts without force, generally on the first visit (or per the agreement)? OK, so runner sounds viable for you. But here, OP specifically asked "usually using force, when the indebted people refuse". Seems different to me. – hunter2 Oct 15 '13 at 16:46
  • @hunter2 - I was hired because I was boxing professionally at the time and most of the local community knew that. Most collectors were either very big or just had that "I will kill you on the spot" look." There were times that things definitely got sticky for me and other but not everything is the movies although I have some good stories to share (most of them funny now but not at the time). Now I personally think collector and runner are different but the clients didn't. Runner was more of the friendly collector. The book I worked for had a few pure runners that I "helped". – RyeɃreḁd Oct 15 '13 at 18:20
  • "Now I personally think collector and runner are different but the clients didn't. Runner was more of the friendly collector." I think we're basically saying the same thing. As I said in my last comment, I don't think OP is looking for the 'pure runner' who needed backup to intimidate, but rather for .. well, you, I guess - you on the occasions where you were called to help. Also, fair point about runner might sound better to the clients. – hunter2 Oct 16 '13 at 6:18

Consider enforcer

a violent criminal employed by a crime syndicate

The term is used for someone who engages in a range of violent behavior, including murder, but it includes the collection role.


In the UK, a bailiff is a person empowered by the court to collect debts. But that term doesn't have the connotation of being a criminal.

  • Whilst in theory a term for someone with legal powers shouldn't connote criminality, there are enough stories circulating of bailiffs overstepping their restrictions that I would hesitate to claim that the term doesn't connote criminality. – Peter Taylor Oct 14 '13 at 17:19

Hatchet man: A person employed to carry out controversial or disagreeable tasks.


If there were more than one of them, you could call them the boys, from the expression send the boys round, which means ask some people to call on your debtor with a greater or lesser degree of menace.

If there were only one, you could call him a heavy:-

Slang A mobster.


I would refer to this person, in mafia-type criminal scenarios, as

the muscle (See def. six)

As in,

Nico's bounced another check. Let's send in the muscle to get what's ours.

The idea being that a person with the ability to physically intimidate is now needed to extract payment because the typical method of paying debts or bills failed.


'The heavy mob' is what we usually call them. But there is a lot to said for Shakespeare's dictum 'Neither a lender nor a borrower be'.

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    You reminded me this line of Hamlet. Amazing, because at his death, the actor (author? I have some doubts) Shakespeare left an empty library, but several "IOU", and is known to have been a harsh lender. – ex-user2728 Oct 14 '13 at 14:27
  • @ Mark Thon Interesting! – WS2 Oct 14 '13 at 14:33
  • @MarkThorin There is reason to believe that Polonius was intended to be full of bad advice and hot air, and thus, the line was not meant to be taken as a life lesson in the first place – Yamikuronue Oct 14 '13 at 16:56

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