Embarrassing calls at work. Threats of jail and even violence. Improper withdrawals from bank accounts. An increasing number of consumers are complaining of abusive techniques from some companies that are part of a new breed of debt collectors.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act makes calls at work illegal if the debt collector knows or should know that an employer prohibits such calls, and makes it illegal to contact third parties other than one call to obtain contact information under strict guidelines. Threats of jail and violence are obviously illegal under the FDCPA, as is improperly withdrawing money from an alleged debtor's bank account. Most importantly, consumers can sue a debt collector for any of these violations and obtain actual damages, statutory damages, and attorney fees. Most attorneys, including myself, take cases on a contingency basis. In other words, for low cost or even no cost in some circumstances, consumer victims of debt collectors can get a lawyer and sue. Unfortunately, most consumers are unaware of the power that they have, and some debt collectors take advantage of this lack of knowledge and constantly violate the FDCPA. The article continues:
They are debt buyers, outfits that acquire unpaid bills from credit card firms and other credit providers for pennies on the dollar and then try to collect. Some of these companies go after bills so old that consumers can no longer be sued for them in court or punished for them on their credit reports.
I am seeing quite a bit of debt collector pursuit of time-barred debt, as are my colleagues. In California, for example, the statute of limitations is four years to pursue debt based on a written contract. While the debt collector can continue to pursue the time-barred debt beyond the statute of limitations, it cannot threaten to file a lawsuit (that would be threatening to take legal action it cannot legally take, a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) and certainly cannot file the lawsuit, although many do. Again, consumers victimized by this practice should contact an attorney that handles fair debt collection cases. I handle cases in California. Outside California, consumers can locate an attorney through the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Please read the rest of the Washington Post article. It contains good examples of debt collector abuse and bit of a look inside the collection industry.