Debt collection agencies have been working their public relations agencies overtime, trying to convince us that they’re sympathetic to people who have fallen onto hard times in this awful recession.
They’ve also promised that they’re following all the laws that regulate what they can and cannot do to get debtors to pay up.
Are pigs flying?
A recent report by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says debt collectors threaten to throw people in jail, take away their homes, pose as lawyers serving lawsuits, tell neighbors and employers about unpaid bills, and call at all hours — all of which is illegal.
Take a look at a portion of “The Debt Trap,” an excellent Dateline NBC investigation by Chris Hansen, shows how workers at a collection agency in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, routinely coerce debtors by claiming to be police officers and threatening to have them “picked up.”
In late May, Cuomo obtained a court order shutting down two debt collection companies, Emanee Development, Inc. and Dial Tech LLC that had used fraudulent tactics like that to get people to pay debts they didn’t even owe.
In early June, Cuomo announced that three companies based in western New York, but that try to collect debts across the country, had agreed to pay $245,000 in fines for breaking state and federal debt collection laws.
Creditors Interchange Receivable Management, LLC, Capital Management Services, LP and Tri-Financial, LLC, also agreed to make it easier for consumers to file complaints against individual employees by placing a direct link on their Web sites to consumer complaint forms.
Cuomo said his office is investigating possible violations at more that 30 other collection agencies.
If debt collectors are calling you, here’s what the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not allow them to do:
- Call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Talk to anyone else about your debt, including family and employers.
- Bluff legal action.
- Bluff garnishing wages or taking your home.
- Tell you you’ve committed a crime.
- Threaten that you’ll be arrested.
- Threaten you with violence or harm.
- Curse or use racially charged language.
- Pretend to be law enforcement officer or lawyer.
- Call your place of work if you have told them they are not allowed to call there.