I watched an interesting and informative program on Dateline NBC last night, and I was shocked. The program was about debt collection, and particularly about debt collectors who are using illegal practices to collect money. Lots of money. Apparently in the currect recession, creditors are selling their delinquent accounts to debt collection agencies for pennies on the dollar. These collection agencies then go ahead and use any means they can to collect the full amount of the debt -- and put it in their own pockets. It's a very lucrative business, and they often work out of shabby offices and basement suites, using illegal debt collection practices such as threatening the debtor with jail. They often pose as lawyers or sheriffs, telling the debtors if they "don't pay right away, they will be picked up".
Crooks will always find an opening for a new scam, and it seems that these thugs have turned the recession into a cottage industry. Hard-working, honest people who have gotten over their heads with debt -- for one reason or another -- are being scavanged. There was one couple in the NBC segment, who were convinced the police were on their way to pick them up, and they fled their home. The NBC investigation uncovered the fact that the so-called debt collectors were scam artists, currently out on bail for previous swindles they had committed. In other cases, legitimate collection agencies had hired people who were overstepping their boundaries -- a lot -- in their debt collection practices, and they were ultimately fired.
If you are in debt and are being hounded by debt collectors, you should inform yourself of your legal rights. Debt collectors are not allowed to:
● Make a charge or threat that has nothing to do with the collection of the debt;
● Make abusive calls in which they lose their temper and use profanity or other verbal abuse;
● Talk to your employer without your permission, unless it's to confirm your employment;
● Talk to you, your family or your employer in a way that will humiliate or distress anyone.
● Make frequent calls that constitute harassment. Unless you provide the reason, a collector should never call you more than once a day. Reasonable collection practices should not require that the collector call you more than once a week or every second week in order to determine if your financial situation has changed;
● Give you a document that is made to look like an official court document when it isn't.
In Canada the debt collection practices are governed by the Provinces and Territories, so you can check your Provincial legislation for the guidelines. In America, there is a document here where you can check your legal rights as a debtor. There are also lots of support groups, incuding several on-line.
I was shocked when I watched the program on Dateline NBC. The second part of the program will be aired on Sunday, March 29th at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
“One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” ... William Shakespeare.