Debt collectors are liars, cheaters, etc… They take advantage of every loophole possible and even break the law. They have been featured on almost every news program from CNN to 60 Minutes. There are laws in place to contain their harassment and collection efforts and to make this process more civil, but most figure the risk of getting caught is minimal and that the rewards of endlessly harassing and fleecing victims is far greater. We now have the power to take back our lives, stop them in their tracks and sue them for more than they are trying to collect.
First, lets start with what is actually owed and how most collection agencies work. Usually a unpaid debt is either sold or turned over to a collection agency. 95% or more of these debts are credit cards, store cards, gas cards, etc… These debts are then tiered according to age of debt, amount, credit, job history, etc… Generally most debts are bought for pennies on the dollar. Recent debt may go for $.15 to $.25 on the dollar whereas old debt that has had numerous collection attempts goes for $.05 or less and debt that is beyond the statues of limitations for the state the debtor resides in goes for less than $.01. So, for instance if you owed $10000.00 on a credit card, the debt collection agency paid at most $2500.00, but probably paid less than $1500 for it. Now, what’s interesting is that they will call and write you stating that you now owe $14000.00 or so stating that it has accrued interest and various questionable fees. This is all profit if you were dumb enough to pay that. A fair settlement would be $1700.00 or less. So, the point here is that you don’t ever owe what they are trying to collect from you – it is always far, far less.
Secondly, lets give you some more ammunition – The 1977 FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) gives you rights the debt collectors won’t tell you about. If you don’t want to hear from them again, its easy. Just write them a letter stating that you wish they cease all contact with you (make sure you put in the letter that – P.S. This letter is in no way an acknowledgement of the above listed debt(s) – that way they cannot even attempt to try and re-age your debt (add another 7years of collection and reporting to further harass). Send the letter registered return receipt requested mail and keep your proof of receipt. If they contact you after this for any reason other than to tell you they are either dropping the issue or taking it to court (99.99% won’t go to court as it costs them more money and their odds of getting anything are almost zero – even with a judgement) then you can sue them for each occurrence for $1,000. People win these suits every day – most settle out of court for a lot more than the original debt (just look this up on the internet under small claims court). You also have the right to question the debt and have the debt collector provide proof. Many debt collection agencies are being sued by many debtors for their failure to provide proof. Just look up Asset Acceptance on the internet – they are one of the biggest abusers of this federal law with thousands of outstanding lawsuits for harassing debt collection practices.
So, now you know how to stop debt collection agencies in their tracks. You know how to get relief – sue them! If enough people sue them things will change. Also use your state and local resources. State Attorney generals go after debt collection agencies that routinely break the law, Consumer protection agencies (the Better Business Bureau, etc…), the Federal Trade Commission goes after the worst abusers, and, of course, your state department of insurance and finance (whom actually licenses these agencies rto operate in your state). You state department of finance and insurance, or similar, has the power to fine, punish and even banish the debt collection agency from your state. Every state requires a debt collection agency to be licensed and put up a large financial bond (around $50,000) to operate in your state. Call these folks if you are having problems with a debt collection agency – they will get immediate results in your favor. Don’t threaten the collection agency that you have these rights – use them. Bring the collection agency to its knees if they are violating your rights.
The other problem is are these bills, debts even correct? Many hospitals, doctors, etc… have no ethics and will purposely double or even triple bill patients without insurance because they know they can get away with it. If you have a question about your bill demand a itemized bill and have this professionally examined. This will reveal things like overcharging ($100 tissue boxes, 1000 percent markup on medicines, etc…) We entrust these hospitals and doctors with our lives and then they screw us by double billing or worse. Right now there is no government policing on hospitals. Many times a debt collector will actually make up a debt or illegally pass one on to you from someone else (Asset Acceptance has been sued for this many times). Do not assume that you owe any debt and take them to task. If you do owe it, pay it, but pay the least amount possible, and pay it on your terms. If they break the law – make them pay!
If you have a problem with a bill make it known to your state politicians. If enough people do this things will change. Write to your local newspaper, tell a friend, do a press release. Tell others of their rights. Cigarette boxes come with warnings – shouldn’t debt collectors and debt collection agencies with their high propensity to skirt the law also come with mandatory warnings? The more the word gets out, the better the odds something will be done about it.