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Creditor harassment is on the rise throughout the country including Miami. Although federal laws protect consumers against unfair debt collection practices, collection agencies still use abusive practices to try to collect money from consumers. At some debt collection agencies, workers are trained to break the law.

For example, a debt collector is not allowed to tell a third party, such as the debtor’s friends or neighbors, about the debt. Some collection agencies not only tell third parties about the debt, they try to get the debtor’s neighbors or family members to help them collect the debt. One agency tells its collectors to instruct neighbors to leave a note on the debtor’s door, asking the neighbor to call the agency. Other collectors use intimidating tactics, such as threatening to have immigrant debtors deported.

Some say it’s a sign of the times. Like so many businesses, collection agencies have been affected by a tough economy. In the last few years, the amount of money these agencies collect has dropped from 30 cents on the dollar to just 20 cents on the dollar. In 2010, approximately 50,000 consumers complained to the Federal Trade Commission that collectors had used severe harassing tactics to try to collect money. More than 4,000 consumers said they had been threatened with violence by a collector–an increase of 66 percent.

For many consumers, bankruptcy is the only way to stop the abusive behavior and the incessant telephone calls. Bankruptcy can wipe the slate clean and give consumers a chance to make a fresh start.

Source: The Daily Beast, “America’s Abusive Debt Collectors,” Gary Rivlin, Jan. 1, 2012