Score one for the good guys.
The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for making sure that debt collection agencies obey the rule of law and not threaten or harass borrowers. Illegal and unfair activity by these firms contribute to the emotional toll of debt. But every so often the government makes the shady crooks pay.
The FTC just announced a $2.5 million judgement against the debt collection firm Asset Acceptance, for their wrongdoings during the course of their collection activities.
Some of the dirty deeds that the feds are accusing Asset Acceptance of include:
- Collecting on debts that are too old to be legally enforceable
- Failing to provide verification of the debt in dispute
- Harassing third parties who do not owe on the debt and
- Reporting information to credit bureaus that could not be substantiated
If you’ve been the target of bill collectors, you might be surprised to learn that there are very stringent guidelines that they have to follow. This action by the government is intended to send a message to these companies that it will enforce those rules.
You can learn more about improper credit collection practices (and how to fight back if you believe you’ve been treated unfairly) at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.
Oftentimes, simply making a caller aware that you are going to refer them to the FTC is enough to stop harassing debt collectors in their tracks. Make sure that you write down the caller’s information (Caller ID number, name of rep, time of day, amount they claim you owe, etc.) This is all helpful in filing a formal claim with the FTC.
You should also demand that they put anything they have in writing and mail it to you. Don’t provide them with your e-mail address, it makes it too easy for them to spam you or reach out to your friends and colleagues through social media websites. Not that they should, but they do.
You can also sue debt collectors who break these rules in small claims court, making it easier for you to pay off your bills with their money.
Don’t let bill collectors intimidate and harass you. Being in debt is bad enough, demand to be treated with respect.