Imagine a scenario with me. You’re sitting at lunch and your phone rings. You don’t recognize the number immediately, but maybe it’s an old friend calling. So, you answer it. BAM! It’s a debt collector.
You thought you’d paid that debt so you’re unsure why they’re calling. You politely explain the situation to them—that you’ve paid the debt—yet they don’t listen. They just keep harassing you. The conversation gets worse, so bad in fact, that you’re a little afraid. Can they really do this to you? What rights do you have as a consumer?
This exact scenario played out in real life. United Check Processing, Inc., a debt collector serving the Buffalo, NY area, had representatives calling saying awful (and false) things to people. They would say that they can have you arrested if you don’t pay the debt immediately. They would say that they can prosecute you for check fraud. They even started to throw around words like “federal” and “U.S.” when talking about their company, leading you to believe they are a government agency.
All of these things are illegal under FTC rules and some defendants have brought a lawsuit against UCP for it. The FTC lays out very clear do’s and don’ts when it comes to collecting debt. Next time you get that annoying call, understanding what they are will help you feel more in control.
- Identify yourself as a debt collector.
- Follow up within five days with a written notice setting out the amount of the debt, the creditor’s name, and details about how consumers can proceed if they dispute it.
- Imply a government affiliation
- Accuse people of a crime or threaten them with arrest
- Don’t tell them that the Sheriff will show up at their home or place of business.
For more on the story, check out the FTC’s blog here: http://www.business.ftc.gov/blog/2014/03/needle-and-threats