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State, federal partners crack down on abusive debt collection

Operation_corrupt_collector_infographic Debt Collectors Abusive PracticesThe Federal Trade Commission and federal and state law enforcement partners have brought action in 16 states against debt collectors engaged in abusive and threatening debt collection practices.

Operation Corrupt Collector includes five cases filed by the FTC, two cases filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and three criminal cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

In two cases announced Tuesday by the FTC, the companies made robocalls to individuals, telling them that they’d been sued, or soon would be, if they didn’t pay up.

The companies claimed to be collecting on debt that they couldn’t legally collect, or that people didn’t actually owe. 

States reporting actions as part of the operation include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington.  

“For many years, we’ve been working with our law enforcement partners to crack down on illegal and abusive debt collectors,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Smith said agencies taking action against debt collectors who threaten people and try to collect debts they don’t owe is important at a time when many are under financial stress.

So far this year, the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network has received more than 85,000 consumer reports related to debt collection, nearly 45 percent of which were related to debts the consumer didn’t owe or other abusive and threatening debt collection practices.

If you receive a collection call about a debt you don’t recognize, before you pay: 

  • Find out who’s calling. Get the name of the collector, the collection company, its address, and phone number. 
  • Get “validation” information about the debt. Within five days of first contacting you, debt collectors must “validate” or tell you the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor.
  • Don’t respond to threats. When scammers threaten to arrest you, suspend your driver’s license, or call your employer if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC.
  • Do your own detective work. Check with the original creditor. Is the debt yours? Did they sell your debt or hire a company to collect it? If so, is the caller the original creditor’s collector?
  • Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe some – or all – of the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online; even if you got validation information.

If a consumer is being contacted by a live person, robocall, or in writing by a debt collector and wants the debt collector to stop, the consumer can notify the debt collector in writing that he or she wants the debt collector to stop further communication. With a few exceptions, the debt collector is required to honor the request to not communicate. 

See the FTC’s dashboard for information on reports received from consumers on debts not owed and abusive and threatening collection practices.

 

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