The debt collection industry is a high turnover environment that’s absolutely filled with a large percentage of inexperienced workers and managers. And, it’s precisely this lack of experience and inadequate understanding of state and federal regulations that facilitates much of the abusive behavior collection agency harassment. But, there are also those debt collectors who are indeed experienced and savvy, but choose to ‘roll the dice’ and ignore the laws, because they know the odds of getting away with the crime are in their favor, as most consumers lack the knowledge and experience to effectively deal with the abusive behavior.
Proving that a crime has been committed is not always an easy thing to do. Debt collectors will try to frighten, confuse or intimidate the consumer into responding favorably to their demands. The success of a predator is dependent upon how well it understands the reactions of the prey when confronted with fear, confusion and emotional stress. The same is true of the relationship between the debt collector and consumer. The debt collector attacks and the consumer feels defenseless and is therefore tricked into taking action that can often nullify the crime, simply by agreeing to the collection agency terms and demands. Sadly, these are the unfortunate victims that seldom seek legal assistance, simply because they can’t afford to hire an attorney or they don’t really understand that any law has been violated.
Legal loopholes also make it difficult to prosecute violators in certain situations. Surprisingly, some debt collection violators are forced to shut down their operations, as the courts may terminate their license to conduct business, but it does little to prevent them from starting up an identical business under a different name. They’re no different than the carnival operators, of years gone by, who would scam the locals, fold up their tents in the dead of night and head to another town to repeat their sinister plot on another group of unsuspecting local citizens.
The first step in resolving any potential violation is to determine whether or not the collection agency or individual debt collector has in fact committed a crime. The Attorney General’s office in your state will have information and guidelines to help in that regard. Visit the website naag.org and select the box for your state on the map of the United States. That will take you to the Attorney General website where your options will typically include “Consumer Assistance” and “Frequently Asked Questions”. A second option is to visit the Federal Trade Commission website at ftc.gov for a comprehensive review of debt collection violations and recommended actions for the consumer to take.
After you’ve determined that the debt collector has likely violated your rights, begin the process of fighting back with any or all of the following actions:
- Send a certified letter to the offending collection agency or individual. This will let them know that you, as a consumer, know your rights and have reason to believe that they have violated the laws of the state and/or federal governments.
- If the abuse takes place on the telephone, at home or at work, tell the offending collector that you don’t want to receive any further phone calls concerning this matter.
- Either call or go to the Attorney General’s website for your state and file a complaint, so that an investigation may be initiated.
- Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website and also file a complaint. If your complaint is one of a large enough number filed against this particular collection agency or individual, the FTC may indeed impose legal sanctions.
- Document the offenses and if possible, record any phone conversations you have with the harassing debt collector. Proving the illegal behavior will be crucial to any efforts on your behalf to sue for damages, regarding any state or federal consumer protection laws.