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Top 10 Debt Collection Complaints Filed With The CFPB

final notice signIf you are being abused by a debt collector, you should know that you are not alone. There are thousands of consumers who have filed debt collection complaints in the past 6 months alone. These debt collection agencies make profit when they successfully get a consumer to pay off what they owe. The more they receive, the more profit or commission they will get. With that type of business model, you can assume that they will do everything they can to get debt payments. That includes implementing abusive and harassing practices.

According to a news report published on the CourtHouseNews.com this March 4, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is going after 15 abusive debt collectors. The debt collection complaints revealed that they used word like “US,” “American,” “Federal,” or “State.” They have mostly misrepresented the data they have provided consumers by implying that they are connected with the government. Consumers who they call upon will naturally be intimidated to pay the debt. This is in direct violation of the law. They have forced consumers to pay for debts even when the latter have challenged the debt.

It seems that intimidation, fear and harassment are common tactics of these debt collection companies to force consumers into making debt payments. To make things worse, there are several incidents when they do not even have to pay it back in the first place.

What are the 10 most common complaints against debt collectors

There are many debt collection complaints filed by consumers and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group conducted a research that identified the top 10. They dug into the data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to see the most popular complaints filed by consumers. The report was released on February of this year by the US PIRG Education Fund to make important suggestions to the CFPB so they can enhance the regulations that will keep the debt collection industry in check.

Based on the data published on the USPIRGEdFund.org, these are the 10 most common debt collection complaints reported by consumers.

1. Debt is not mine – 25%, 2,711

The leading complaint is about debts that are not even owned by the consumer. This can either be caused by wrong information or the debt collector really intended to dupe the consumer into paying something that they really did not owe.

2. Frequent or repeated calls – 13%, 1,470

The law prohibits consumers from being harassed by debt collection calls. However, this is one of their tactics to make the life of the consumer miserable enough to force them to pay. They call repeatedly and during hours that inconvenience the consumers.

3. Not given enough information to verify debt – 13%, 1,385

Close in third place is the collection agency’s failure to provide enough information about the debt. One of the requirements for debt collectors is to provide consumers with the data that will verify the debt that is being collected. This is usually to confirm that the consumer is really liable to pay the debt.

4. Debt was paid – 11%, 1,247

The fourth of the debt collection complaints is about incidents wherein the consumer is pestered for a debt they already paid off. This can also be caused by wrong information or the company really wants to trick the consumers into paying again. This is why after completely paying off your debt, you need to ask for a document from your creditor that will prove you already paid off what you owe.

5. Attempted to collect wrong amount – 6%, 667

It is probably okay if they are collecting a lower amount but what if they are trying to collect more than what is really owed? You have to be careful about these things because they could say it was accumulated interest but in truth, they slipped in some fees and charges into your debt bill.

6. Right to dispute notice not received – 4%, 440

All consumers have the right to dispute a debt collection claim and if it is not received, that is something that they can also report. Make sure that if you send in a dispute letter, you have to issue a return receipt.

7. Talked to a third party about my debt – 4%, 414

If the debt collector talked about your debt to anyone other than you, a spouse or an authorized attorney, that is another reason to file a complaint against them. They are only allowed to call someone else to ask about your contact details – but never about the reason for it.

8. Threaten to take legal action – 4%, 378

The eighth of the debt collection complaints involve the false threat to take legal action. While they can sue you in court, you have to understand that they should not use it to bluff. If they always threaten you but you are sure they will not push through with it, you can report them to the CFPB.

9. Debt resulted from identity theft – 2%, 263

If the debt is something that was caused by an identity theft incident, you have to tell that to the debt collector while you get help from the authorities to solve the crime. If they continue to pester you about it, you can file a complaint too.

10. Contacted me after I asked them not to – 2%, 244

The last is about continuous communication by the debt collector even if the consumer said that they do not want to be called about it anymore. According to the law, the debt collection agency should comply and make only one last communication. That last attempt will be to say that they wills top calling but they will take legal action against the consumer.

Most of these debt collection complaints are already stated in the law that the FTC is implementing – which is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. But although this is already in effect, a lot of debt collection agencies are violating them. The report was based on information taken from July 2013 to January 2014. That means the CFPB have to make new rules or give a more grave sanction to violators of the law.

How to protect yourself from rule breaking debt collection agencies

If you have debt and you have no means to pay it off, you should expect that debt collectors will start calling you very soon. To protect yourself from being abused, here are some tips that we have for you.

  • Do not panic. We might feel threatened, intimidated and harassed but you should not feel panic. As long as you know that you are in a real financial crisis, there is really nothing much that the debt collector can do to you.

  • Know the laws protecting you. There are many debt collection laws that you should know so you can identify the bad practices of debt collection agencies. If you know your rights, you will not be rattled by any threats or bluffs given to you.

  • Organize your debts. You should also keep your debts in order so you will know which are paid off. This will also help you identify if the debt being collected from you is bogus or a result of an identity theft.

  • File a complaint. In case you can identify with some of these debt collection complaints, you have to speak up. If the debt collector violated your rights, you can go to the ConsumerFinance.gov to file a complaint against them. If not to help you case, it will save someone in the future from being tricked by these malicious debt collection companies.

It also pays to know the different tactics of debt collectors to help you prepare for them. Here is a video created by National Debt Relief to discuss some of the tricks that debt collection agencies commit to get consumers to make debt payments.

Be Careful Of Debt Relief Scams: Tips To Protect Yourself

scammer surrounded by billsIn September of 2013, the federal court in the State of Florida helped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in their quest to crack down the lingering debt relief scams that are trying to prey on struggling American consumers.

According the the press release found on the FTC.gov site, the court found the defendants to be guilty of violating the FTC Act by doing the following:

  • Misrepresenting the interest rate reduction services on credit card debts.

  • Misrepresenting policies about refunds.

  • Sending unauthorized billing to consumers.

  • Direct violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

This is just one of the many stories of fraudulent companies that the government is trying to track and shut down to protect the unsuspecting consumers. They are actively campaigning to help consumers learn how to avoid debt relief scams so they will not be swindled out of their hard earned money.

Illegitimate debt relief companies prey on the desperate

The thing about debt problems is it will really cause you to go for desperate measures just to save what little money that you have left. Some people are attracted by “too good to be true” campaigns that are simply just that – too good that it ends up being a fraud.

The Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) reports that in 2011, the FTC reported that 10.8% of Americans are a victim of fraud. That is equivalent to 25.6 million. The survey from the FTC that was discussed in the BBB article mentioned how most fraud cases happen online. Although the convenience of transacting on the Internet is there, you need to be very careful because a lot of people are easily victimized by all sorts of scams. One of them are debt relief scams.

Among the type of scams on the survey, Credit Repair rank 6th place with 1.7 million victims. On 7th place are debt relief scams that victimized 1.5 million consumers. Mortgage relief scams rank number 10 with 800,000 victims.

According to the FTC survey, a high percentage of the victims did not finish high school or have had a recent negative experience like divorce, illness or a job loss. Those who admit to having a lot of debt are also among the people who are most likely to be a victim of these fraudsters.

Obviously, nobody wants to be a part of this statistic. And since these people are really very sneaky, all you can really do is to do your research and find out how they go about scamming people. Here are 5 signs that you are about to be a victim of debt relief scams:

  • Upfront fees. One defining characteristic of legitimate debt relief companies is the fact that they are able to provide services without asking for upfront fees. This is one quick way of knowing if you are dealing with a fly-by-night company or an established one. The legitimate ones try to earn your trust by showing you that they mean business and they are not collecting anything before they have done their job.

  • Fraudulent practices. There are fine lines in debt relief and even in credit repair that scammers are not too scared to cross over. This is a perfect example of the means not justifying the end. One glaring example is being advised to secure new social security numbers. This is a wrong practice and should not be tolerated. Illegitimate companies would be the type to ask those in debt to consider this to start over a clean slate.

  • Absolute promises. Debt is a case to case basis and there are varying degrees of work that is needed to be debt free. But this knowledge comes only after knowing and assessing every situation carefully and looking at different scenarios and debt relief programs. Scammers will most likely skip this critical step and give big promises of eliminating your debt is given at the start

  • Leaving everything to chance. Debt brings an overwhelming emotion of fear and stress. This is a bad combination and we usually jump on the first “lifeline” thrown our way without thinking it through. Debt relief scams know this and exploit this very weakness debtors have. It is tough but composing oneself and checking emotions outside the door before making decisions will go a long way.  It is important to know the background of the companies by researching first and dealing with them after.

  • Foregoing the fine print. There are people with a knack for reading between the lines. But this should not be the case with debt relief companies. The fine print explains all the general and vague clauses in the agreement. This explains all the details of the contract between debtor and debt relief company. Once you are forced to sign right there and then without being given time to read the fine print, better think twice about the company you are transacting with.

When faced with the decision of choosing a debt relief company to work with, keep in mind these  tips to avoid falling into the trap of scammers.

The TSR: how to spot the illegal ones

The Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) is a law that provide consumers with the protection they need against malicious companies that offer debt relief scams. According to the business.FTC.gov release about the TSR, companies who do not follow these rules are most likely operated by scammers. One of the latest addition to this law is covering not only outbound calls but it includes inbound calls as well.

Here are the important points in this debt relief law that will help you determine the legal companies from the not.

Illegal upfront fees. TSR has made it illegal for debt relief companies to front-load their fees. This is meant to protect the consumers because illegal companies will just collect fees and just prolong your debt problems or worse, disappear without a trace.

If the debt relief company is doing multiple settlements for you one after the other, they are allowed to collect after every successful negotiation with your creditors. Another option is similar to an escrow account where you deposit money to a separate account meant to pay the debt relief company after the transaction is done.

Disclosing information prior to closing. Being an advocate of consumers, the TSR compels all debt relief companies to disclose all basic and pertinent information to their potential clients before signing them into a contract. This protects the consumers by ensuring they are well aware of all aspects of the contract before signing.

This could include the timeline on when the debt relief company could deliver on their promise. It could also be about the costs involved and how much all the fees would be paid at the end. Another would be the negative effects of employing their services in terms of credit standing. These and more are important to be reminded of before signing any contract.

Misrepresentation. Illegal debt relief companies will promise you the stars and the moon just to get you to sign. This is in violation of the TSR too. Debt relief scams will promise you a huge reduction on your debt and most probably in a short span of time. These are too good to be true and they might be. Ensure that the services being offered by your debt relief company are legitimate and something they will be able to accomplish for you.

If you want to file a complaint on debt relief companies that scam people, visiting the FTC website at www.ftc.gov or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261 can get you talking to the right people in no time.

Learn what you can about these laws and your rights as a consumer. That way, you will be protected from debt relief scams. They always come up with new ways to trick you out of your money so make sure you will stay vigilant.

What You Need To Know About Zombie Debts

man chained to a debt ballThe debt collection industry is a nasty business indeed. While there may be legitimate companies out there who are trying their best to follow the rules, you cannot erase the fact that the abusive ones outweigh the good ones.

There are many things that debt collectors don’t want you to know and one of them are known as zombie debts.

What are zombie credit accounts?

What exactly are zombie debts? These are old debts that had been abandoned by debtors, creditors have given up on and have passed the statute of limitations. When a debtor fails to pay their credit obligations and the 6th month mark had passed, this is usually charged off by the credit company. This means they have given up on collecting profit from that debt. It will be written off as a loss on their books. When the debt passes the statute of limitations, that debt will be considered uncollectable.

This is where debt collectors come in. A lot of them purchase these old debts for a very low price. What they will do is try to chase down the consumers who owe the money. If they convince the debtors to pay even a part of the debt, they will be getting some huge profits for it.

But here are a couple of important facts that you need to know about zombie debts.

  • Most of these zombie debts are past the statute of limitations.

  • Debt collectors wish to earn profit from this because they can buy the debt at a very low price from the original creditor. The low price is because the debt is considered uncollectable already.

  • When a debt is past the statute of limitations, you are still responsible for the debt you owe. The collector can still collect the debt but they are allowed to file a legal suit against you – in case you refuse to pay up.

  • Debt collectors will trick you into acknowledging the debt because it will restart the statute of limitations. That means they will regain the right to collect and sue you for that debt amount.

  • Some people give in because of the pressure from the abusive and harassing behavior of the collector. In that case, the collector wins and profits from the whole event.

It is with these zombie debts that debt collectors get their notorious reputation. You have to understand that they will drive you to feel guilty, threaten you with a lawsuit, and telling you all sorts of bluffs. If you know that you are past the statute of limitations, you will know that these are just words. If you make just one payment, it ceases to become a zombie debt and it will be considered as a fresh debt on your credit report. Instead of being pushed past your credit report as an old debt, it will be reflected once more and can ruin your credit rating.

Most people will think that old debts should be ignored but you must not just into conclusions. There are things that you need to know about your debts before you make the decision not to act on this.

What to do when your are being collected for an old debt?

When you are called by a debt collector for a zombie debt, here are the things that you need to do.

  • When you receive a phone call, and you know that it is a debt collector asking you to pay for an old debt, you do not have to say anything or give out any information. Never acknowledge the. Instead, simply ask for the address of the collections agency.

  • Send that collections agency a formal letter asking them to verify the debt that one of their collectors called you for. Make sure there is a return receipt so you have proof of when their received your letter.

  • You should not receive any calls or communication efforts until the collector has sent their response.

  • If they send back a response, keep it safe.

  • Send a dispute letter if the debt is not yours. Ask them to show proof that the debt is yours. Until they do, you should not be bothered with the debt.

  • If they persist, you can send them a letter asking them to stop calling or communicating with you unless it is to tell you that they will be filing a lawsuit against you. If the debt is beyond the statute of limitations, you should not hear from them again.

It is very important that you educate yourself about the FDCPA or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You can get information about this law from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.

The FDCPA provides consumers with the following issues:

  • The collector cannot sue you over a debt that had been inactive for six years – in some states, even less.

  • Inactive debts must also be removed from your credit report after 7 years.

  • Debt collectors are prohibited from providing false information, or delivering threats that are only meant to scare you into paying a debt.

  • Any cease and desist letter from the debtor must always be honored.

  • Collectors are not allowed to report a zombie debt to credit bureaus.

In case the debt collector is in violation of these laws, you have every right to file a complaint against them. You can do it through the FTC website, the Better Business Bureau or the local office of your State Attorney General.

How to locate an FTC-Compliant Debt Settlement Company

How to find a good debt settlement company

Have you seen advertisements–maybe on TV or the Internet–from debt settlement companies that promise they can reduce your debt by as much as 75 percent? Or that they can settle your debt without it affecting your credit score?

These are all false claims.

There is just no legitimate debt settlement company that can cut your debt by as much as 75%. And debt settlement will definitely have an adverse effect on your credit rating and credit score. This is because in order to settle your debts, you will have to stop making payments to creditors for probably six months. Logic dictates that this is all bound to have a negative effect on your credit rating. These are claims that are never made by a debt settlement company that’s compliant with the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) rules and regulations.

The difference between debt consolidation and debt settlement

It is important to understand the differences between debt consolidation and debt settlement before you choose one or the other.

Debt consolidation is where you consolidate all of your outstanding debts, such as credit card debt, into one new loan. Debt consolidation loans generally come with lower interest rates and longer terms, meaning that instead of having to pay off the debt in two to three years, you have five, seven or even more years to repay the money you borrowed.

Debt settlement or debt reduction is where a debt settlement company negotiates with your creditors to reduce the amount of money you owe at lower interest rates and with a better, easier to manage repayment plan.

Federal Trade Commission compliant

Debt settlement can be a very good option but only if you choose a Federal Trade Commission compliant company. This is because an FTC-compliant company will give you an honest assessment of your current debt situation. It will also explain the new personal bankruptcy laws and regulations and why it is more difficult now to get out of debt through bankruptcy. Your debt settlement counselor will explain how debt settlement or debt resolutions has helped thousands of individuals through the years and why you need to have a strong personal commitment to make it work.

The differences between FTC compliant debt settlement companies and the others

A company that is compliant with FTC rules and regulations will not charge upfront fees. Instead, it will provide a free, no obligation debt analysis that will include an estimate of how much money you could save with debt settlement.

In addition, an FTC compliant debt settlement company won’t ever “guarantee” how much money you can save you. This varies from person to person, on the amount of debt you owe and your debtors so it’s just not possible to guarantee any savings in advance. Instead, it will only tell you that it will word to save you as much money as it possibly can and that you will pay nothing until you approve a settlement

How to find an FTC compliant debt settlement company

Before you choose a debt settlement company, be sure to check out its accreditation. This should include a notice that it is fully compliant with the Federal Trade commission final TSR rule 16 C.F.R. Part 310. This will ensure you that the company collects its fees only after it has completed all outstanding issues with your creditors. Its credentials should also include a link to the new FTC law. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/07/tsr.shtm

Debt settlement has worked for thousands of Americans

Whether you call it debt negotiation, debt arbitration, resolve debt, or settle debt, it has worked successfully for thousands of American families and it could work for you. However, do make sure that you choose a debt settlement company that is FTC compliant.

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