“Debt-Collector Bullying”

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MSN Money has posted an article about the continuing problem of debt collector harassment. This has always been a problem but in recent years the debt-buying market has become quite lucrative. Debts can be purchased for just pennies on the dollar from the original creditor. Collecting on those purchased debts can be tricky, as sometimes key information is wrong or is missing. This leads debt collectors to relentlessly harass the wrong person over a very small debt. Collectors are even taking people to court over tiny debts and they have very little evidence to back up their claims. Their only goal is to make as much of a profit as they can on something that cost them nearly nothing.

These debt buyers and their debt collectors are using the courts for their own personal gain…as well as law enforcement. Some “hyper-aggressive collection agencies” have been local police to bring debtors in to court, even if there is little to no evidence that they are responsible for the debt in the first place.

Reforms have been proposed by the FTC and others, but one change would make a huge difference immediately: mandating that collection attempts must stop on all debt that lacks proper documentation. That documentation would include:

The name of the original creditor.

The amount owed, broken down into principal, interest and fees.

The date the account first became delinquent (to determine the statute of limitations and credit bureau reporting periods).

Sufficient information to positively identify the debtor, including full name and Social Security number.

All the reforms require is for debt collectors to have basic information before collecting…which they should have had anyway. If they can’t provide an alleged debtor’s information right off, then they have no business pursuing the debt.

Liz Pulliam Weston, writer of the article, gives some helpful tips on how to deal with a persistent debt collector:

-Don’t ignore their calls. Even if you know they have the wrong person, don’t just assume they’ll go away if you ignore them long enough. If you don’t owe the money you can send a “cease and desist” letter and the collector will have to stop contacting you.

-Monitor your credit reports. Debt collectors sometimes stick debts on the wrong credit reports and then try to get you to pay the debt (even if it’s not yours) so they’ll remove it. Noticing a wrongful addition to your credit report may be the only indication you get before a lawsuit is filed against you.

-Defend yourself. If you find out you’re being sued, take action to defend yourself. If the debt is yours you can talk to a bankruptcy attorney to discuss options. If the debt isn’t yours you should, at minimum, do the work to be able to prove it isn’t your debt when you’re in court.

-Contact your Congressional representatives and say that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is designed to protect consumers and our legal system, needs updating to protect against “debt collector bullying.”

If you have had problems with debt collectors, or have been harassed by one, and have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us through our website or by calling 205-879-2447.

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