We get a lot of calls from consumers about abusive debt collectors and debt collection harassment, intimidation, and threats of arrest or seizure. Many people do not know how to handle this type of situation and there is not much understanding — even amongst attorneys or within society at large — that debt collection is a highly regulated industry.
Debt collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”) This law protects consumers from all manner of lies, abuse, intimidation, shaming, defaming, and other acts and scummy behavior. It is a good law that protects all of us as individuals. The FDCPA is a relatively short and easy-to-read statute, but please note: the FDCPA is NOT a defense to the underlying debt. You may well have a claim against a debt collector for a violation of the FDCPA: this does not, in and of itself, extinguish any debt you might owe.
The Ripoff du Jour here is this: there are hundreds of scam debt collectors out there. DO NOT PAY an alleged debt collector with a credit card over the phone or by Western Union! In many cases, the scammer will threaten arrest, violence, immediate seizure of property, or threaten to serve the consumer with a lawsuit at her workplace. People get so scared that they often make a payment, even though there is no legitimate underlying debt. I had one client who recorded a collector threatening to foreclose on her home. When she said that she lived in an apartment, the scammer told her that he was going to foreclose on the apartment complex. Threats of arrest, service of lawsuits at work, seizure of cars etc. are usually indicative of a scam. These charlatans are usually hard to track down, so you should report this activity immediately to the FTC, the CFPB, and the Michigan Attorney General.
So, to answer the question which is the title of this post, “What do I do about an abusive debt collector?” the answer is, 1) save all voicemails; 2) save all letters from the debt collector or collectors including the envelopes; and 3) call my office, (248) 843-0550. The consultation is free.
One final point: if you get sued, do not ignore the lawsuit. Call my office, (248) 843-0550, right away. Do not go to court without a lawyer. You will lose. On the other hand, I have defended consumers against credit card companies, debt buyers, and sub-prime lenders and I have saved them thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.