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If you are being abused by a debt collector, you should know that you are not alone. There are thousands of consumers who have filed debt collection complaints in the past 6 months alone. These debt collection agencies make profit when they successfully get a consumer to pay off what they owe. The more they receive, the more profit or commission they will get. With that type of business model, you can assume that they will do everything they can to get debt payments. That includes implementing abusive and harassing practices.
According to a news report published on the CourtHouseNews.com this March 4, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is going after 15 abusive debt collectors. The debt collection complaints revealed that they used word like “US,” “American,” “Federal,” or “State.” They have mostly misrepresented the data they have provided consumers by implying that they are connected with the government. Consumers who they call upon will naturally be intimidated to pay the debt. This is in direct violation of the law. They have forced consumers to pay for debts even when the latter have challenged the debt.
It seems that intimidation, fear and harassment are common tactics of these debt collection companies to force consumers into making debt payments. To make things worse, there are several incidents when they do not even have to pay it back in the first place.
What are the 10 most common complaints against debt collectors
There are many debt collection complaints filed by consumers and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group conducted a research that identified the top 10. They dug into the data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to see the most popular complaints filed by consumers. The report was released on February of this year by the US PIRG Education Fund to make important suggestions to the CFPB so they can enhance the regulations that will keep the debt collection industry in check.
Based on the data published on the USPIRGEdFund.org, these are the 10 most common debt collection complaints reported by consumers.
1. Debt is not mine - 25%, 2,711
The leading complaint is about debts that are not even owned by the consumer. This can either be caused by wrong information or the debt collector really intended to dupe the consumer into paying something that they really did not owe.
2. Frequent or repeated calls - 13%, 1,470
The law prohibits consumers from being harassed by debt collection calls. However, this is one of their tactics to make the life of the consumer miserable enough to force them to pay. They call repeatedly and during hours that inconvenience the consumers.
3. Not given enough information to verify debt - 13%, 1,385
Close in third place is the collection agency’s failure to provide enough information about the debt. One of the requirements for debt collectors is to provide consumers with the data that will verify the debt that is being collected. This is usually to confirm that the consumer is really liable to pay the debt.
4. Debt was paid - 11%, 1,247
The fourth of the debt collection complaints is about incidents wherein the consumer is pestered for a debt they already paid off. This can also be caused by wrong information or the company really wants to trick the consumers into paying again. This is why after completely paying off your debt, you need to ask for a document from your creditor that will prove you already paid off what you owe.
5. Attempted to collect wrong amount - 6%, 667
It is probably okay if they are collecting a lower amount but what if they are trying to collect more than what is really owed? You have to be careful about these things because they could say it was accumulated interest but in truth, they slipped in some fees and charges into your debt bill.
6. Right to dispute notice not received - 4%, 440
All consumers have the right to dispute a debt collection claim and if it is not received, that is something that they can also report. Make sure that if you send in a dispute letter, you have to issue a return receipt.
7. Talked to a third party about my debt - 4%, 414
If the debt collector talked about your debt to anyone other than you, a spouse or an authorized attorney, that is another reason to file a complaint against them. They are only allowed to call someone else to ask about your contact details - but never about the reason for it.
8. Threaten to take legal action - 4%, 378
The eighth of the debt collection complaints involve the false threat to take legal action. While they can sue you in court, you have to understand that they should not use it to bluff. If they always threaten you but you are sure they will not push through with it, you can report them to the CFPB.
9. Debt resulted from identity theft - 2%, 263
If the debt is something that was caused by an identity theft incident, you have to tell that to the debt collector while you get help from the authorities to solve the crime. If they continue to pester you about it, you can file a complaint too.
10. Contacted me after I asked them not to - 2%, 244
The last is about continuous communication by the debt collector even if the consumer said that they do not want to be called about it anymore. According to the law, the debt collection agency should comply and make only one last communication. That last attempt will be to say that they wills top calling but they will take legal action against the consumer.
Most of these debt collection complaints are already stated in the law that the FTC is implementing - which is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. But although this is already in effect, a lot of debt collection agencies are violating them. The report was based on information taken from July 2013 to January 2014. That means the CFPB have to make new rules or give a more grave sanction to violators of the law.
How to protect yourself from rule breaking debt collection agencies
If you have debt and you have no means to pay it off, you should expect that debt collectors will start calling you very soon. To protect yourself from being abused, here are some tips that we have for you.
Do not panic. We might feel threatened, intimidated and harassed but you should not feel panic. As long as you know that you are in a real financial crisis, there is really nothing much that the debt collector can do to you.
Know the laws protecting you. There are many debt collection laws that you should know so you can identify the bad practices of debt collection agencies. If you know your rights, you will not be rattled by any threats or bluffs given to you.
Organize your debts. You should also keep your debts in order so you will know which are paid off. This will also help you identify if the debt being collected from you is bogus or a result of an identity theft.
File a complaint. In case you can identify with some of these debt collection complaints, you have to speak up. If the debt collector violated your rights, you can go to the ConsumerFinance.gov to file a complaint against them. If not to help you case, it will save someone in the future from being tricked by these malicious debt collection companies.
It also pays to know the different tactics of debt collectors to help you prepare for them. Here is a video created by National Debt Relief to discuss some of the tricks that debt collection agencies commit to get consumers to make debt payments.