Report Debt Collector Harassment
When you’ve been abused by debt collectors, the last thing you want to do is deal with a government bureaucracy. Nonetheless, it’s important to learn how to report debt collectors’ harassment, how to report harassing phone calls, and how to report collection agencies that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). That’s because governmental agencies are responsible for enforcing the fair debt laws that protect consumers.
CFPB’s Annual Report: Violations of the FDCPA
Initially, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act mandated that the Federal Trade Commission submit an annual report to Congress that provides an overview of consumer complaints related to debt collection, as well as what the FTC did to make sure debt collectors followed the law, its educational efforts, and its research. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Now the duties are split. The CFPB submits an annual report to Congress, and has taken over the complaint tracking aspect of the Congressional mandate. The FTC continues to be responsible for the enforcement provisions of the FDCPA.
The 2013 report, which covered 2012, noted that the number of consumer complaints about third-party debt collectors decreased over the previous year. There were 125,136 complaints in 2012. Of those complaints, the vast majority (102,783) were about third-party debt collectors (as opposed to in-house collectors). The report acknowledged that the number of complaints don’t reflect the number of violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, since many consumers never file a complaint. However, there are still more complaints about debt collection than for any other industry.
Here is a snapshot of the categories and subcategories of complaints, along with the tally of complaints and the percentage of FDCPA complaints that number represents:
Harassment: Calling repeatedly or continuously (37,543 complaints, 36.5%); obscene, profane, or abusive language (13,329 complaints; 13%); calling at inconvenient times (8,166 complaints, 7.9%); threats or use of violence (3,312 complaints, 3.2%).
Demanding an Incorrect Amount: Misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of a debt (39,993 complaints, 38.9%); collecting amounts in excess of what’s permitted (9,034 complaints, 8.8%).
Failing to Send Required Notice: 26,139 complaints, 25.4%.
Threats: Falsely threatening a lawsuit or another unlawful action (30,470, 29.6%); falsely threatening arrest or seizure of property (24,062, 23.4%).
Failing to Self-Identify as a Debt Collector: 17,873 complaints, 17.4%.
Improper Third-Party Contacts: Calling to obtain location information (16.679 complaints, 16.2%); disclosing debt to a third party (12,272 complaints, 11.9%).
Workplace Calls: 14,4825 complaints, 14.1%.
Not Verifying Disputed Debts: 9,814 complaints, 9.5%.
Not Honoring “Cease and Desist” Notice: 4,928 complaints, 4.8%.
Enforcement Actions Against Debt Collection Agencies
Typically, the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforce fair debt practices through lawsuits. The FTC and/or CFPB either files suit against unscrupulous debt collectors itself, or it asks the Justice Department to do so on its behalf. The 2013 report to Congress noted that the CFPB brought its first public enforcement action in 2012, which resulted in American Express refunding $85 million to a quarter of a million consumers.
In the 2013 report, the FTC reported that it had achieved a judgment against Forensic Case Management Services that brought in $35.5 million and a ban on future debt collection activity. The FTC also reported that it had obtained a settlement against Luebke Baker for $3.1 million, and froze the assets of payday loan collectors Goldman Schwawrtz and AMG Services. The FTC also took action in “phantom debt” and time-barred debt cases, including those against Asset Acceptance and RJM Acquisitions.
Why You Should Report Harassing Phone Calls and Other Violations
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tracks consumer complaints, tries to achieve a resolution, and reports them to Congress. Moreover, the Federal Trade Commission uses consumer complaint information to investigate unscrupulous debt collectors and even to take them to court. So, if you’ve been the victim of a shady debt collector, you should report harassing phone calls and other violations, and make your voice heard.
How to Report Debt Collectors’ Harassment
It’s easy to file a debt collector complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can fill out an online form on the CFPB website, or call the CFPB at 1-855-411-2372.
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