People fall behind on their bills. This is a fact of life, and it does not make someone a bad person. Wages are stagnant and good jobs are hard to find, while the cost of everything is seemingly always on the rise. Most people want to pay their debts, but if any unexpected expenses come along, it can be enough to seriously disrupt the finances of anyone who is fighting to survive paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, there are laws in place that protect these consumers from being abused by debt collectors. Unfortunately, that does not mean that abuse does not happen. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently shut down two debt collection companies right here in New York that were accused of unlawfully abusing consumers.
Feds Shut Down Debt Collectors
The FTC and New York’s Attorney General have teamed up to fight these law-breaking debt collectors. Both New York firms shut down by the FTC were in Buffalo, from where they targeted consumers across the nation. They are accused of using threats and abusive language to collect debts, which is forbidden by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They are accused of even going so far as to threaten consumers with arrest if they did not pay them. One company allegedly used fake addresses, company names, and phone numbers to harass consumers. They stand accused of lying to consumers by claiming to be attorneys, process servers, or police. The other company is accused of lying in similar ways. On at least one occasion they allegedly pretended to be FBI agents and district attorneys and they threatened consumers with criminal charges. The most shocking thing is that these threats were not just limited to people who actually owed money. These collection agencies went after supposed debtors friends and family as well.
Many Debt Collectors Use Illegal Debt Collection Tactics
CBS News recently reported on common tactics used by debt collectors that are illegal. According to the report the FTC has filed lawsuits against 180 debt collectors and banned 63 in the last five years alone. This resulted in courts entering judgments worth $220 million against the collectors. In just 2014 the agency sued 56 debt collectors. These debt collectors did things like lying about who they were, making threats, contacting third parties, and harassing debtors or calling them at inappropriate hours.
You Have Rights
When debt collectors break the law you have rights, even if you do actually owe the debt. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act allows you to file a lawsuit against debt collectors who break the law and if you prevail, you may recover (1) any money that their breaking the law actually costs you, (2) up to $1000 for each case (even if the violation did not cost you a dime), and (3) reasonable attorney fees and costs.. Therefore, when you are abused by a debt collector it is extremely important that you contact an experienced consumer protection attorney like Brian Bromberg as soon as possible.