There are few professions as maligned as debt collectors and a good deal of that damage is self-inflicted. Federal Trade Commission complaints and lawsuits against debt collectors are at an all time high.
Number of lawsuits by feds skyrocketing
Debt collectors don’t have an easy job, trying to get people to pay debt they incurred and either don’t want to or can’t pay for. Many debt collection firms and employees are as honest and honorable as anyone in any other profession, but the number of bad apples in the trade has been giving the industry a bad name.
The Federal Trade Commission, according to USA Today, has been increasing its efforts in holding debt collectors accountable to the laws that govern how they can do business. Though suits against collection agencies are often left to the states, FTC suits brought against collectors are reaching an all time high. During the past three years, there have been 10 suits against debt collection agencies brought by the FTC. There were only six in the three years previous to that.
In 2008, the FTC received 104,766 complaints about debt collectors. In 2010, according to ABC, there were 144,159 complaints. The only thing consumers complained to the FTC about more than debt collectors was identity theft.
According to CBS, the most common complaint is continuous calling. Debt collectors cannot call numerous times throughout the day because it constitutes harassment, and they can’t call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without permission from the person they are trying to collect from. In all, 46.5 percent of complaints in 2010 were about violating these rules.
Other common complaints included trying to collect more money than was owed, calling the indebted party at work, revealing debts to employers or relatives, making threats and not providing any written notice of a debt or attempt to collect it. There were a small number of complaints, 4,182, according to USA Today, of threats of physical violence.
People who are being contacted by debt collectors should review their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is available online at the Federal Trade Commission’s website. No one should stand for abusive collection practices. According to CBS, the FTC won’t file a suit over an individual complaint, but it may do so if there are sufficient complaints about a single company.
Consumer complaints about debt collectors should be filed jointly with the Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General’s office, as there may be a state action which can be brought.