Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

7/28/2005

Debt collectors are assholes

I realize that it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it, and that there probably are some debt collectors who are not assholes. But by and large, these people will threaten, harrass, verbally abuse, and even steal from those they are trying to get money from.

Gilliard
links to an article from the WaPo:
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.

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.

...Particularly troubling, Smith-Valentine said, are the growing number of cases in which collectors persuade a consumer to pay just a little -- and then use the bank information from that payment to improperly withdraw more funds from the consumer's account.

That was the experience of Sheilah R. Henderson of Lanham, as detailed in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland. According to the suit, a collector threatened to sue her for a bill for a home-security system that had been incurred by Henderson's deceased mother. Although Henderson was not responsible for the debt, she agreed to have money automatically debited from her bank account on the 15th of every month. According to the complaint, the next thing she knew, the collector tried to withdraw money five times in three weeks, with Henderson incurring a returned check charge each time.

Henderson ordered a stop to the wire transfers, but then the collector started calling her at work, threatening to garnish her wages if she didn't pay. Henderson asked the collector to stop calling her at work, her right under federal law, but the collector told her he'd continue to call her there "until she lost her job," the lawsuit said ...

It's not illegal to try to collect this debt -- and collection industry officials say there are a lot of consumers who want to pay, even if they are no longer legally obligated to. However, federal rules make it illegal to sue or even threaten to sue to collect it.

...

CAMCO harassed thousands of consumers to pay old, unenforceable debts or even debts they didn't owe. CAMCO sometimes tried to find people with the same name in the same geographic area and tried to collect the debt from them, the agency alleged. Even if the consumer was not the actual debtor, CAMCO threatened jail, seizure of property or garnishment of wages unless they paid...
This is outrageous. I think a lot of people don't realize what their rights are in such situations. Someday, I'm going to do a post about rights you don't know you have.

Meanwhile, Gilliard's advice regarding debt collectors is apt:
The best thing to do is to not engage them at all. Once you do, they have you.


UPDATE: In the comments, Mindwyrm says not to follow Steve's recommendation, and offers extensive advice of his own.

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