Protect Yourself From Unfair Debt Collection Practices

debt collectionThe booming debt collection business as a consequence of the recession is resulting in many debt collectors resorting to unethical and unacceptable behavior in pursuing debt from consumers.

As it may be off-topic from making money, I feel that my readers may benefit from knowing their legal rights in dealing with debt collectors.

This all happened after a few years ago when my wife and I decided to take over mortgage payments from her sister. She told us the literal hell she was going through and asked us to help. Of course we did. But the situation made me really angry. We did eventually sure the debt collection firm.

Debt collectors have been reported to be resorting to harassment through phone calls coupled with abusive language including distasteful violence in efforts to collect money from folks who are financially struggling.

Harassment complaints against debt collectors rose from 50% to 67,550 in 2016 and are poised to rise another 13% in 2017. These figures are based on the number of FTC complaints filed in the first half of 2015.

The number one, most popular complaint was repeated calls. It is very common for debt collectors to haunt consumers through religious calling for days, weeks, months or even years. When they successfully get a hold of the person on the phone, they resort into using abusive communication. Complaints regarding debt collectors utilizing profane language reportedly surged 35% in 2016.

A fifty five year old woman from New York, who preferred to remain anonymous, claimed that a debt collector consistently called her home to personally harass her and her husband. When she chose to ignore the calls, the collector resorted to calling her estranged sister, an ex-boyfriend and even her husband’s ex-wife’s mother.

He consistently called and threatened her using unacceptable language such as ‘If you don’t talk to me, you are deadbeat’. It was very uncomfortable to the point she felt paranoid as if someone may show up at their front door.

Ken Floyd, an attorney who represents victims of debt collection harassment at Floyd Legal Firm in Atlanta, mentioned that one of his clients recorded a shocking phone conversation with a debt collection agent.

In the recording, it revealed that the debt collector threatened the victim by saying that they would come to the debtor’s house to collect the money. According to Floyd, that was indeed a red flag and represented a worrying threat to the consumer.

Other abusive or illegal tactics include calling before 8 am or after 9 pm. They often asked for more than what is owed or attempt to contact a third-party associated with the consumer and revealing embarrassing or private information about the consumer.

There are also extreme strategies adopted by unscrupulous collection agents such as threats that resemble prosecution, jail, property seizure or contacting their employer often resulting in the victim losing his or her job.

The above behavior is not only disturbing but illegal and in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act enacted in 1977.

According to Mark Shiffman, a spokesperson for the Association of Credit & Collection Professionals, there is a growing business of attorneys and savvy consumers who have learned to legally sue debt collectors and reap a lot of money for damages.

According to the FTC, consumers have the right to take debt collectors to state or federal court. If judgment is ruled in favor of the consumer, the debt collector will be liable for any damages as a result of the harassment, loss of income and including medical bills.

Even if the consumer fails to prove the monetary damages suffered but is able to successfully prove evidential signs of harassment, the debtor can be awarded up to $1,000 and will be reimbursed for court or any legal fees.

Below is an excerpt or highlights of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act furnished by the FTC.

806. Harassment of Abuse (Page 9)

A debtor may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which to harass, oppress or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

  • The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
  • The use of obscene or profane language or the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.
  • The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3) of this act.
  • The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of debt.
  • Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse or harass any person at the called number.
  • Except as provided in section 804, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.

There are a lot more juicy details not illustrated here. Know your rights. view the complete updated document of the

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act