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The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act is a law that, among other things, puts restrictions on how debt collectors can operate.
They’re not allowed to threaten you or your family. They can’t curse at you, or harass you with endless calls. They can’t suggest they’re attorneys or able to arrest you, or take your pay or property away, unless a court actually says they can.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also been working to curb abuses.
But sometimes that doesn’t stop them.
CNN recently rounded up some horrifying debt collection stories, and that does seem like the appropriate word. One collector (now shut down by the government) supposedly threatened they could do this “the hard way,” called repeatedly saying they’d take the consumer to jail, and warned their kids would be placed in government custody.
The company, called Goldman Schwartz (not to be confused with Goldman Sachs) apparently had collectors who pretended to be lawyers one day and cops the next. They called a consumer at work and embarrassed her over a debt she said she’d already paid.
Another firm called Rumson, Bolling & Associates was just hit with a $700,000 fine. Why? Among other things, they allegedly “threatened to dig up the bodies of debtors’ deceased children and hang them from a tree or drop them outside their door if they failed to pay their funeral bills.” They also threatened to shoot, kill, and eat the family’s pet dog.
The Federal Trade Commission has a lot of information about how debt collection works and what to do if you’re facing abuse.