How did all those shady mortgage companies get America's finances all fucked up in the first place? By using the freakish amount of publicly available data about all of our lives to target those people who were the most needy, vulnerable, and ignorant, and reel them into unsustainable debt. Now that everything is screwed up, how are financial companies going to pull us out of this mess? The exact same way! Data mining is going just as strong as ever, and all these credit card and loan companies are really trying to bring in new customers now that their last round of customers have all gone bankrupt. Even the big credit rating firms like Equifax and Experian make huge money slicing up all of the information they have on everyone, classifying us into little demographic groups, and selling it to third parties who can then send disturbingly well-targeted (or just disturbing, period) pitches. One woman got dozens of credit card offers congratulating her on recently emerging from bankruptcy. Other people get letters from random companies that show how much the balance is left on their own home mortgage. Someone should be punched for this. Possibly these people:

At Visions Marketing Services, a company in Lancaster, Pa., that conducts telemarketing campaigns for banks, mortgage trigger leads [of people who just applied for home loans] were marketing gold during the housing boom. “We called people who were astounded,” said Alan E. Geller, chief executive of the firm. “They said, ‘I can’t believe you just called me. How did you know we were just getting ready to do that?’ ” “We were just sitting back laughing,” he said.

The evolution of marketing is wonderful! [NYT]