Two years later, Consumers Union is back with a renewed call to not only protect consumers from bill collector harassment, but to further restrict the capacity for companies to buy up debt for pennies on the dollar, only to stoop to mean-spirited tactics in order to collect on a debt that, in reality, may not even exist any longer.
Beyond employing unsavory measures in an effort to harass consumers, many debt collectors are filing an increasing number of lawsuits in an effort to collect - clogging up the courts and providing a basis for further harassment over debts that may, in reality, be invalid. Such a debt collector lawsuit, filed against an unsuspecting and well-meaning consumer, will often be rooted in a vacuum of information and hard data. In other words, a nuisance lawsuit meant to push a consumer even further into despair.
To that end, attempting to fight a debt collector and/or a bill collector lawsuit requires expert legal help given the number of times an original debt is bought and sold - or “flipped” - often clouding what the original debt was in the first place, and with whom, and often hiding the fact that the debt in question may have been paid long ago.
CNNMoney.com (2/4/13) recently provided examples of debt collector harassment, and they aren’t pretty. Among the debt collector horror stories…
Threats to take away children, unless the debt is repaid. Collection agents working on behalf of Texas-based debt collector Goldman Schwartz, which CNN reports was shut down earlier this year by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), allegedly threatened to have consumers jailed unless a debt was paid. Upon being jailed, consumers were told that government authorities would come in and take their minor children into custody. The collectors had no legal authority, or basis, to make such outlandish threats.
Other examples of bill collector harassment: exhuming deceased children. Collectors working on behalf of Rumson, Bolling & Associates allegedly threatened one debtor with digging up the debtor’s deceased children and hanging the bodies from a tree, or dropping them at their front door, if the debtor failed to pay outstanding funeral bills. CNN reported the firm was fined $700,000 in January by the FTC, and the incident remains as one of the worst archived in the FTC’s debt collection database.
Other examples of debt collector harassment include threats to harm pets. There have also been incidents where debt collectors posed as law firms, which is proving to be a popular ruse, according to the report. One debt collector, Unicredit, is alleged to have decorated an office to look like a courtroom for holding mock court proceedings. For that one, the Pennsylvania Attorney General has filed a bill collector lawsuit with regard to the alleged tactic.
In renewing its call for new reforms, Consumers Union notes a recent FTC report showing that debt collectors fail to verify alleged debts in half of the cases studied.
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Failing that, if you’re a well-meaning consumer with plans in place to pay - or having already paid - an outstanding debt, continued debt collector harassment can serve as the foundation for a bill collector lawsuit to fight such harassment, to seek justice, and perhaps give them a taste of their own medicine.