January 24, 2014
Fight back against nasty debt collectors
Now that the holiday spending is over, the bills are coming in.
And that might eventually mean calls from debt collectors.
Some of those calls can be nasty, including threats to your family and your dog.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused one debt collector business of calling people “deadbeats,” “white trash,” “scum bag,” and a lot of names I can’t mention.
In the FTC complaint, they say these collectors threatened to “shoot the alleged debtor’s dog and eat it”.
The collectors were even accused of telling consumers they would “desecrate the bodies of deceased children” if a debt wasn’t paid.
Kevin Davis, president of the Arizona Collector’s Association, is appalled at that behavior, calling it “a blight on the industry.”
Davis sat down with me to talk about how his debt collector members follow a code of ethics.
Similar threats would never be tolerated.
“You can’t lie to the consumer. You can’t say the sheriff is showing up and you have 30 minutes if you don’t pay on your credit card right now,” Davis said.
That actually happened to Felicia, who lived in the Valley. An out-of-state debt collector threatened her job.
“He said let me speak to human resources. We’re sending an officer out,” Felicia said.
In a panic, Felicia paid $350. She found out later, it’s a debt she never owed.
“They have the job number, maybe I did owe them, but it was happening so fast,” she told me.
Last year, the FTC brought four lawsuits against fraudulent collectors.
They allegedly took in millions for debts that didn’t exist or they didn’t have a right to collect.
In one case, the FTC alleges collectors wanted added attorney’s fees and late fees that weren’t authorized.
So, if you get a call from a debt collector, Davis says you have rights.
He says the most important thing is not to ignore the call.
Davis believes the majority of debt collectors are just doing their job and are seeking information.
Bottom line: if you do owe the debt, try to work out a payment plan and demand that it is put in writing.
If you’re not sure you owe it, the collector must send you a validation notice within five days that includes information you need.
You’ll want to know who they are, who they represent, what’s the issue, and how much is owed.
Davis says you can ask for a statement that shows the service, when it was received, and the total owed.
If you ask the collector to stop contacting you, they must stop.
Do it in writing and send it.
But if the collector sues you, they have a right to contact you and let you know.
If you go to the Federal Trade Commission website, www.ftc.gov, you can read even more debt collector protections.
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