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BBB Reports Debt Collector Harassment Complaints Up 58 Percent

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Washington, DCThe Better Business Bureau (BBB) is that venerable consumer group known for rating companies, businesses and corporations doing commerce in America, and in so doing providing a snapshot to the consumer of the company they’re dealing with. Lately, the BBB has begun to comment on the thorny issue of bill collector harassment.

The issue is especially relatable this time of year as consumers are in full shopping mode for the Yuletide season, with most putting their purchases on credit card. When those bills come in early in the New Year and consumers don’t have the ready cash available to make payment, that’s when debt collectors come into play. Sadly, debt collector harassment can be a part of that process.

Given the prevalence of bill collector harassment stemming from disreputable operators actively involved in account trades, together with a rise in debt collector lawsuits and increased public awareness, the BBB is weighing in to remind consumers that there is a right way and a wrong way to pursue a debt.

When a debt goes unpaid, the account holder has the right to attempt to collect that debt from the consumer, either directly or through a third-party agent such as a debt collection agency.

However, there are rules that need to be followed. It’s when these guidelines are ignored that harassment ensues, often resulting in a debt collector lawsuit.

In a story published in the Lebanon Daily News (Pennsylvania 12/3/13), the BBB wants consumers to know that debt collectors are not allowed, by law, to threaten you with arrest, inundate you with calls, or make attempts to contact your employer, your friends or other members of your family. They also are prevented from calling prior to 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

They are not allowed to threaten you with the possibility of having your wages garnished or threaten to bruise your reputation if you don’t pay.

What’s more, any consumer facing debt collector harassment can request in writing that collections stop. At the very least, says the BBB, the consumer has the right to ask the collector to provide written verification of the outstanding debt before collection attempts can continue.

That last point is an important one, given the horse trading that goes on between debt collection agencies. When a debt collector fails in their attempt(s) to collect a debt, the delinquent account will often be sold for pennies on the value of the debt to another agency. When this occurs, information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and other vital pieces of data can be misconstrued, and errors are passed along - and often made worse - with each transaction.

The result can be harassing calls to a consumer for debt they don’t owe, never owed, or has long since been repaid.

The BBB reports that over the last 10 years, complaints to the organization with regard to bill collector harassment have risen 58 percent. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the debt collection industry remains high on the list of industries against which consumers log regular complaints.

According to the Lebanon Daily News, a consortium of what were described as “rogue collectors” recently made various threats to consumers that included the closure of bank accounts, the garnishment of wages, the possibility of felony fraud charges and the requirement to attend court located thousands of miles from a consumer’s home. Some consumers were threatened with arrest at their place of employ.

The FTC reports that some consumers actually bowed to the pressure and paid debts they didn’t owe. What furthers the tragedy of such a situation is that many of the debt collection agencies registered with the BBB carry an “F” rating. Still others aren’t even registered collectors at all, but are in actual fact scam artists who see the opportunity to make a quick buck.

Debt collection is governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and according to the Lebanon Daily News, reforms to the Act and other debt collection laws are being explored by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in an effort to better protect consumers.

Until that happens, for a harassed consumer having been subject to bill collector harassment, the best defense is a good offense by launching a debt collector lawsuit. In so doing, you foster an action that most harassed consumers tend not to do. Unsavory debt collectors who stoop to harassment do so knowing that most consumers won’t retaliate. Those who do, simply refuse to let these purveyors of fear and greed get away with it…

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
An increasing number of people are borrowing money, but more people are getting personal loans rather than using credit cards. The Federal Reserve released data that show consumer borrowing rose by several billion dollars in January, but it was from non-revolving credit sources. Credit card use dropped at the same time. Source: http://personalmoneynetwork.com/moneyblog/2013/03/08/consumer-borrowing-hits-high/

Posted by

on
I too have three third party collection agencies charging me debts that are not mine. They also threatened to take me to a court of law.

However, attorneys are more interested in filing lawsuits against McDonalds based on the stupidity of a customer who burned his mouth with hot coffee.

I wish attorneys would stop being so materialistic. A self-respect attorney would help senior citizens like me who third party collection agencies target for their vulnerability, instead of filling stupid lawsuits in favor of people who lack the most basic common sense.

Posted by

on
I had a $190 debt dating back to 1995 that I repaid. However, stating in 2005 collection agencies kept harassing me for the money. Even when I asked them for proof that the debt still existed, they didn't stop for months. After they finally stopped, they just sold off the note to another firm and it started all over again. This went on for over 5 years.

Posted by

on
I had such a case and I went after them through every means I could and what did it get me! The Fed trade Commissioners refused to help saying I was one person even though I sent the internet files of hundreds of complaints of this company. I turned them into both my state attorney and there's which there state was looking for complaints on them. Nothing happened. Also the Fed trade Commissioners already tried and convicted them several times and they bragged they would not pay. I turned them into who hired them and threaten them on a counter suit for false charges, they just fired then. This company ruined my credit, my sisters credit, harassed my 89 year old Mother, ruined 3 of my computers, my lawyer was so lazy he told me to declare bankruptcy now I have to go after him because he made it worse like I told him it was wrong. They don't listen why should I declare bankruptcy? The FBI was no help when I figured out how they got the information and in my computer. No one cares or wants to help. I am still dealing with this guy five years later and he even said to me "yOU'D BE SURPRISED WHAT I COULD DO TO YOU!"

Posted by

on
I have two collectors that insist I owe paying back payday loans that I needed when my son passed away, laid off from my job, and am on Social Security. Both of these companies have threatened arrest for fraud if I do not pay. They were both $300 loans and they are making me pay $1500 for penalaties. I told them I have bank statements showing ACH transactions paying them, but they said I did not and they would not provide me with the name of the payday loan company for further verification. They tell me they have over 160 web sites and when I am arrested and go to court I will have disclosure of the names and I can present my bank statements then, however, I will be arrested first. They also inform me it will cost me over $5,000 for the court.
Being on a fixed income, disabled, and afraid of the threats I have tried to pay them, but not as soon as they want. I have learned a hard lesson never to borrow this way again. I have also since learned, that these are illegal in New York State and should never have been offered. They call constantly and at any time they want.

Posted by

on
The saddest part is that this sharks get after you no matter what...but you know what....if you hire a lawyer they will stop...however most people dont have the money to hire a lawyer.....easy pray..easy kill..and to add little more is that again..latino family are at risk.......

Posted by

on
Run up bills you cant/dont intend to pay then gripe when people want their money? Whaaa!
Look at it from the other side. You loan out money and the person who borrows it never pays it back... Youd be upset.

My point of view comes from doing work on behalf of clients who decided they were entitled to have work performed without the ability to pay... This is FRAUD

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