Friday, October 14, 2005

Consumers Should Understand Their Debt Collection Rights Given Alarming New FTC Statistics About Debt Collectors

Austin, TX (PRWEB) October 14, 2005 -- Every year, the FTC reports to Congress about the kinds of consumer complaints it received during the previous year. The FTC just released its report for 2004 and the report shows that complaints about debt collectors, which were already high, are on the rise.

According to the report, the number of complaints the FTC received from consumers regarding third party debt collectors increased by a whopping 70% between 2003 and 2004. Complaints about in-house debt collectors also increased during this same time period, but not by as much.

Complaints about in-house and third party debt collectors combined represented 23% of all of the complaints the FTC received in 2004. In fact, complaints against debt collectors represented the single largest category of complaints against a specific industry.

To read the full FTC report, go to http://www.ftc.gov/reports/fdcpa05/050729fdcparpt.pdf

Some of the most common debt collector abuses are cited in the FTC’s report include:• Demanding a larger payment than is permitted by law. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of the debts they are trying to collect.

• Harassing consumers. Debt collectors are not allowed to try to collect a debt by calling a consumer repeatedly, using profanity or other abusive language, or threatening a consumer with violence.

• Threatening consumers with dire consequences if they don’t pay a debt, or using false or misleading threats to scare them into paying. For example, debt collectors may threaten to sue a consumer, prosecute the consumer criminally, garnish his/her wages, seize the consumer’s property, cause the consumer to lose his/her job, throw the consumer in jail, or ruin the consumer’s credit rating. Debt collectors who make such threats are violating the FDCPA unless they have the legal authority and the intent to follow through on their threats.

• Calling consumers at work when a debt collector knows or has reason to know that a consumer’s employer does not allow such contacts. By continuing to contact a consumer at work in such a circumstance, the debt collector may put the consumer’s job in jeopardy.

• Revealing an alleged debt to third parties by contacting a consumer’s employer, relatives, children, neighbors, and friends about the money about an alleged debt in order to embarrass and/or intimidate the consumer. (The FDCPA only allows debt collectors to contact third parties in order to learn how to contact a consumer from whom they are trying to collect money.)

• Failing to send consumers a written notice about their debt. The law requires a debt collector to send a consumer a written notice that indicates, among other things, the amount of their debt, the name of the creditor to whom the money is owed, and the consumer’s right to dispute the debt in writing and to obtain written verification of the debt from the debt collector.

• Continuing to contact a consumer after a debt collector has received a notice from the consumer asking that all communication about an alleged debt cease, or a notice indicating that the consumer refuses to pay the alleged debt.According to consumer law attorney John Ventura, the FTC’s report should serve as a wake up call for consumers.

“When consumers are having trouble paying their bills, it is critical that they understand their rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). That way, they will know what to do when they are contacted by a debt collector who ignores the law. I have seen first hand how miserable consumers’ lives can become when they can’t pay their bills and a debt collector tramples all over their legal rights.”

Consumers who want to learn more about their debt collection rights and what to do when they are contacted by a debt collector should visit the Federal Trade Commission’s web site at www.ftc.gov.

They can also purchase a copy of an e-book Ventura has co-authored entitled Stop Debt Collectors Cold (available at www.stopdebtcollectorscold.com).

The book provides detailed step-by-step advice about how to deal with debt collectors. John Ventura is a nationally-known consumer law attorney who is also a board certified consumer bankruptcy attorney. He has written numerous books about consumer money problems including the best selling The Bankruptcy Kit, 3rd edition and The Credit Repair Kit, 4th edition (Dearborn Trade Publishing) as well as Law for Dummies, 2nd edition and Divorce for Dummies, 2nd edition (Wiley Publishing).

He has been quoted in such publications as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Money Magazine etc. and has been a guest on CNN, CNBC, NPR, Bloomberg

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