- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on February 25, 2016
It can be a very intimidating and worrisome experience to be the subject of debt collectors’ aggressive tactics. It is common to experience nervousness, fear, worry, fluttering of the heart with a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, and if the debt collector treats you with indignity you may also feel emotions of anger, embarrassment, shame, and fear. It is common in the debt collection industry for debt collectors to deliberately force their victims into paying the debt by invoking these feelings. The reasoning is that you are more likely to pay the debt if you feel uncomfortable by the interaction, thinking that if you pay them then they will go away. But you do have rights! As is clear from other blog articles on our website, you have the right to be protected from abuse, harassment, oppression, lies, and misrepresentations! Don’t take this lightly, your rights are powerful and you can use them as a shield to deflect the abuse.
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has recently put out some very helpful blog articles with videos to explain your rights. In one article, the FTC empowers people to stand up against scam artists. These FTC articles can be found here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/stand-fake-debt-collectors and https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0258-fake-debt-collectors.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of criminals out there that are more than happy to lie about who they are when they pretend to be a legit debt collector, but in reality they are simply trying to take your money through extortion. The most common trick by these con artists is to lie about suing you when there really is no lawsuit pending, and also to lie about police looking for you for committing fraud when in reality failing to pay a debt is a civil breach of contract matter and not a criminal violation. Many times, these con artists also get your employers’ information from public records and credit report inquiries, and they call your place of employment to spread these lies to your boss and co-workers in order to put pressure on you.
The FTC empowers consumers by giving the following advice:
- Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller you won’t discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” If the caller refuses, don’t pay.
- Put your request in writing. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires any debt collector to stop calling if you ask in writing. Of course, if the debt is real, sending such a letter does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact.
- Don’t give or confirm any personal, financial, or other sensitive information.
- Contact your creditor. If a debt is legitimate – but you think the collector isn’t — contact the company to which you owe the money.
- Report the call. File a complaint with the FTC and your state Attorney General’s office with information about suspicious callers
If you are the subject of debt collection efforts by a legit debt collector, then you still have rights! We find the most common examples of debt collection abuse by legit debt collectors are when they misrepresent the amount you owe, try to collect interest and fees that they are not entitled to, threaten lawsuits when the debt is already barred by statute of limitations, calling at inconvenient times and/or calling with such frequency that the calls are harassing, and inaccurate credit reporting. If you are the subject of debt collection efforts, then you should still take steps to protect yourself by asking for details of who they are, where they are calling from, how did they acquire the debt, when did they acquire the debt, and from whom did they acquire the debt. The FTC has also put out an article giving similar advice, which can be found here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection.
In addition to the above, you should also not hesitate to contact a consumer protection attorney, such as us at Semnar & Hartman, LLP, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights and to see if a lawsuit can be filed on your behalf.