A Florida debt collection agency contacted a consumer via mail regarding an alleged past due amount of $128. The consumer was unsure about the origin of the debt and requested further clarification from the agency over the phone. He was told only that it was about insurance.
Not willing to concede that he indeed owed an unnamed company money, the man asked more questions. That’s when the abuse began. According to the Utah man, the Florida debt collector began screaming at him about the debt, threatening legal action and not allowing him to question the validity of the amount or explain to whom it was owed.
Fearing he was about to be scammed because he didn’t believe a legitimate agency would hire people who acted so unprofessionally, the man hung up the phone.
But the debt was indeed legitimate. What was not legitimate was the actions of the debt collector. Federal regulators receive thousands of complaints about the aggressive tactics and abusive language from debt collectors.
Debt collection agencies have rules they must abide by as they pursue debtors. One debt collection agency general manager in the industry for 25 years advised, “You need to help. You’re not going to get anything resolved if you don’t help the consumer.”
Provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act require debt collection agency employees not to harass debtors. Laws demand that they identify themselves as bill collectors when they call. They are forbidden from using abusive, profane or obscene language when speaking to the debtor. If they don’t intend to pursue the debt legally with an attorney, they can’t threaten to do so without breaking federal law.
Consumers also have rights. At the first sign of abuse from collectors, they may hang up the phone. If they no longer wish to be contacted about the debt, they can put that in writing and send it to the agency. However, shutting down lines of communication regarding the debt may trigger legal action with far greater ramifications. Consumers may request to speak to the collector’s supervisor if they don’t like the approach the collector is using.
Consumers also have the right to dispute the validity of the debt by challenging it in writing and requesting valid documentation that the sum is indeed owed.
Source: ksl.com, “What you should know about debt collectors,” Bill Gephardt, April 30, 2014