Gleason sounds exasperated as he reels off a list of nasty techniques used by bill collectors to pounce on people who can't pay their medical bills or are a little overextended for some reason. Bill collectors leak embarrassing information to friends, relatives, even neighbors or call people ten times a day at home or at work, anything to force people to pay the outstanding bill. "I've heard of a collection agency phoning after a woman's husband died and saying, 'he would want use to use the life insurance to pay this bill'," says Gleason. "Dirty tricks are really the bottom line here."
Everyone Deserves Fair Treatment
Once upon a time, common wisdom said it was only the "dregs", as Gleason says, who had no intention of paying their debts that ended up being harassed by collection agencies. "Now, with the current economic situation there are some people, for whatever reason, that can't pay their bills and they shouldn't be treated unfairly no matter what," he says. However, many find themselves inundated with debt collection agencies that will do anything to get the money. "It is almost like whoever is most annoying will get paid first so it is a race to see who annoy these people the most."
Gleason's firm, the Rose Law Firm (nothing to do with Hillary Clinton's former Arkansas Rose Law Firm), specializes in turning the tables on debt collection agencies and sues them for violations of Fair Debt Collections Practices Act on behalf of their beleaguered targets of harassment. "We focus completely on the harassment, we don't in any way try to settle dispute debts," he adds. "If it is money they don't owe obviously that comes into it, but our focus is on the conduct of the collectors."
In most cases, Gleason can get the harassing phone calls to stop—the court will order the bill collectors to pay all the legal costs of the suit and in some cases, it awards damages to the victims of debt collection harassment. Unfortunately, many people either don't know this is an option or are so beaten down by debt they wouldn't even consider calling a lawyer even if it doesn't cost them anything to try to sue.
"Debt collection agencies know this, they count on debtor fatigue," says Gleason. "They know they are breaking the law. The rules haven't changed since the 50s, but the penalties are so low it is more profitable for them to break the law."
"Certainly people borrowed the money. They want to pay it back and have every intention of paying it back," says Gleason. "They just want to work with people to pay it back."
Common and Illegal Practices by Bill Collectors
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Calls on your cell phone
Calls or messages in which the collector does not clearly state they are calling to collect a debt (save all messages)
Threats that you will lose your right to dispute the debt
Threats to your credit
Calls at work
Claims that you have committed a crime by not paying
Calls early or late in the day
Calls to your friends, family or coworkers
If that sounds like anything you've experienced—help is just a phone call away.
The Rose Law Firm provides free legal help to consumers that have been treated unfairly by bill collectors, collection agencies or anyone else attempting to collect money they claim is owed. The firm has offices in 12 states.