38.6% Of Reported Debt Collectors Demand More Money Than Is Legal

Debtors have rights, and sometimes they get violated. The FTC released its annual Fair Debt Collection Practices Act report, part of which documents the number of complaints they get about debt collectors violating consumers rates. FTC received 70,951 DCPA violation complaints in 2007. Of them:

38.6% demanded more money than allowed by law
19.7% harassed consumers with repeated calls
9.2% used obscene, profane, and abusive language
2% called before 8am or after 9pm
.3% threatened violence
6.5% falsely threatened lawsuits
13.2% called third parties repeatedly to get information about the consumer

Here’s more information about the FDCPA. You can lodge complaints with the FTC about FDCPA violations by calling filling out this online form or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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  1. jwarner132 says:

    Ben, if I’m reading this correctly, it says that 38.6% of *reported* debt collectors demanded more money than was legal, according to the opinion of the complaining party. That’s way different than saying that 38.6% of all debt collectors do so. I see this incorrect headline becoming a digg sensation…

  2. Gah I’m dealing with the asking for more money thing right now. I cancelled T Mobile and they sent it to a collector before my end of month, end of service bill showed up. Collecter called me at WORK and asked for $100 MORE than the bill should have been. I started to pay over the phone, stopped, and asked the woman to send me an invoice. She said that her company ‘didn’t do that’.

    A week later I got one in the mail, still for $100 MORE than the bill from T Mobile says. Its a mess, and no one ever seems to answer the phone when I call.

  3. ratnerstar says:

    Soooo … 38.6% of COMPLAINTS were about debt collectors demanding too much money? This is like the king of all misleading headlines.

  4. DogTown says:

    When these guy’s call to harass you for money the best thing to do is fart into the phone and hang up.

  5. ShortBus says:

    Forget complaining to the FTC–sue in small claims court and collect $1000 for your troubles. They’re 90% likely to settle with you before the hearing anyhow since it costs so much to defend a FDCPA suit. I’m speaking from personal experience.

  6. @DogTown: That only works if you can fart on command. Not all of us are that blessed.

  7. tdatl says:

    I do wish the FTC would crack down on these pricks. I’ve never had an unpaid debt or collection account in my life, but even I have issues with them.

    They call asking for some woman I’ve never heard of. I finally get one to stop, and they simply sell it to another firm, and it starts over. They don’t believe me when I tell them they have the wrong number, and they say it’s the number the woman gave them. Well, either the debt owner got scammed, or it was many years ago (I’ve read of them calling people about debts 10-15 yrs. old), at least beyond the 4 years I’ve had my number.

  8. bohemian says:

    The whole credit reporting/debt collecting system is totally broken. Someone can cook up a “debt” send it to a collection agency then get you pursued for the debt and a bad mark on your credit. The only recourse you have is the hopes of maybe possibly dragging them to court or getting them to finally back off.

    Verizon accidentally sent a balance to collection when I switched from pay as you go to a regular account about six years ago. Verizon swears up and down they didn’t send it to collection and I don’t owe them money. But various skeezy debt collection firms kept sending me notices and it is on my credit. I disputed it with all the agencies who came back claiming the debt was verified.. I freaking give up.

    The system is broken.

  9. SkyeBlue says:

    I really don’t understand why people even stay on the phone and try and deal or reason with bill collectors.

    When you are dealing with them, don’t ever admit to the debt, ask them to send proof of the debt to you (I mean if it is yours you should pay it if possible, unless they are zombie debt collectors and it isn’t your debt of course), request that they not call you at work or at home again then hang up!

    Keep a notebook on hand in case they do keep calling you back after you have told them not to, note the dates, names and times of the calls. Good lawsuit evidence.

    Thank God I don’t have any debt collects calling me at the moment but even though I am on the Do Not Call list I seem to get alot of calls from salesmen (which I file a complaint on the donotcall.gov website immediately). I just try not to be rude, say “No thank you, I am not interested” and do not give them a chance to argue with me.

    You should just treat debt collectors the same way.

  10. smitty1123 says:

    Or, and I know this is some radical, outside the box type thinking here, you could just pay your bills on time.

  11. Albion01 says:

    I recently had this same problem. A collection company representing Sprint called me repeatedly at work. I asked them on each of three occasions not to contact me at work because it wasn’t allowed. My requests were always met with, “That’s not how the FDCPA works.” It took a lecture from my employer’s HR department to stop the harassment.

  12. thesabre says:

    @DogTown: Works even better if you have a smellephone.

    @AlisonAshleigh: That’s why you have to keep one “on deck” at all times.

  13. picshereplz says:

    100% of reported debt collectors had complaints against them! OMG!

  14. thesabre says:

    @smitty1123: Not everyone that gets sent to collection actually owes. I had problems with Verizon where I moved into an apartment that was previously rented by a guy that didn’t pay his bill. When I signed up for Verizon DSL service, they said my address was taken. I told them that the person who lived there previously didn’t anymore. When they set me up, I started getting HIS account sent under my name. They reported it to a debt collector under my name a few months later and it took a long time for me to get it straightened out. Are you saying I should have just paid it?

  15. Buran says:

    @tdatl: Sue. Once people start suing these people will try harder to police themselves.

  16. Buran says:

    @smitty1123: Or, and I know this is radical out of the box type thinking here, you could read other comments in which people say they have nothing to do with the person actually being called. I’ve had this happen myself before, actually.

    I am not going to pay some dipshit’s bills for him and I expect to be left alone about it.

  17. WraithSama says:

    I get calls from a debt collector for the person that used to have my new cell phone number before me that uses a interesting tactic.

    They use an automated caller to call me once a week. When I answer, it’s a recording saying the call is from collections for some guy with a Hispanic name, and asks me to press 1 if I’m him, or 2 to wait one minute while he comes to the phone. I’ve stopped answering when I get “Unkown Number” calls, but the automated caller ends up leaving its message as a voice mail.

    I’m steeling myself up for a long, drawn-out argument with them about how this isn’t his number any longer…

  18. JustAGuy2 says:

    You really need to fix that headline. A correct headline would say: “38.6% of Complaints Against Debt Collectors Claim the Collector Demanded More Money Than Allowed By Law.”

    This headline is like taking the fact (I have no idea what the actual # is, I’m using it as an example) that 30% of African-Americans charged with a crime are charged with drug violations and writing a headline saying “30% of African-Americans Are Drug Dealers.”

  19. kenblakely says:

    Good story

  20. Starbright says:

    My family used to have debt collectors call us all the time and ask for a person that lived on our street with the same last name as my family. Just because we have the same last name and live on the street doesn’t make us the same family! The debt collectors must not have believed us because they kept calling. idiots.

  21. ratnerstar says:

    The new headline is better, but still not correct, unless you assume that there is a 1-to-1 correlation between complaints and individuals debt collectors. Why not just say: “demands for too much money form 38.6% of complaints against debt collectors” or something similar?

  22. JustAGuy2 says:

    How about “38.6% of Complaints Against Debt Collectors Allege the Collectors Demanded More Money Than Was Owed.”

    Not sexy, but actually accurate.

  23. econobiker says:

    And the FTC cares how?

  24. snoop-blog says:

    i like to screw with the debt collectors if they get mouthy, and offer to sleep with them to settle the debt. and if it’s a dude, i use my “gay” voice and call him big boy a lot, and tell him it turns me on when he talks all angry like that and to keep talking, i’m almost there…

  25. serreca says:

    I think a debt collector called me once (AT WORK) trying to find out information about my previous college roommate. I’m not sure how they would have found out that information (that we lived together), but once they got my name it would be easy to find me on the internets.

    All they wanted was for me to give them her current phone number (I refused to do this because they wouldn’t really say who they were) and have her call them at some 800 number.

    It was the most bizarre thing.

  26. Amelie says:

    I’ve been getting calls for almost a year now from various collection agencies. Some leave a message for a person I’ve never heard of. After reading the horror stories, I refuse to pick up the phone. Fortunately, most have quit and I’m now down to one call a month by some “law office.”

    @smitty1123: You stupid little douche, can’t you read? Numerous people are getting harassed for bills that aren’t even theirs, or mistakes made by the companies.

  27. hypochondriac says:

    My friends love it when a collector violates FDCPA, it’s free money. The internet makes it even easier to collect for violations lots of sites exist that tell you exactly what to do when a dept collector calls.

  28. Rusted says:

    @smitty1123: I’m not paying anyone else’s debt. I don’t care that I got their old phone number. Ain’t happening.

  29. Buran says:

    @WraithSama: Don’t bother. Turn them in to your cell phone provider and to the FCC as it is illegal to robocall cell phones.

  30. bohemian says:

    BTW, it is illegal to call you to collect a debt on your cell phone. There is a rule in the FDCPA that a collector can’t force you to incur a cost as part of them trying to communicate with you. I think it was originally written to prevent them from collect calling people. But from what I have read calling your cell phone costs you money (your minutes) thus making it illegal.

  31. nursetim says:

    @DogTown:
    Or, if you don’t have one in waiting, I imagine a long blast from a whistle, such as a Fox 40 that I use as a referee, would do the trick too.

  32. VikingP77 says:

    I never negotiate with debt collectors. They will take what I offer or else they will get nothing.

  33. cmp179 says:

    I am proud to say that I filed quite a few lawsuits against these heartless bastards last year.

    BTW, why is it that every post about debt collectors gets ruined by some douchebag saying that all you have to do is pay your bills?

  34. Buran says:

    @Amelie: That was uncalled for. Obviously there’s a failure to read and think before typing, but namecalling is out of hand.

  35. Buran says:

    @cmp179: Same to you. No namecalling necessary.

  36. solidstate42 says:

    Definitely explicitly prohibited by 15 U.S.C. 1692f. Congress specifically said that trying to collect amounts not specified nor permitted by state law is “unfair” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

  37. Amelie says:

    @Buran: It would be uncalled for if I was actually referring to him simply not reading. After checking his other posts, it’s quite obvious he was intentionally being an asshole.

  38. Buran says:

    @Amelie: Ok, so he’s either not reading or just wants to be an idiot. But why feed the trolls?

  39. Amelie says:

    @Buran: Because occasionally I get fed up with all the new jerks on this site and remember how it used to be.

    What they need to do is have comment ratings and a score next to each person. That would do more to rid this site of trolls than anything.

  40. chartrule says:

    @Amelie:

    the comment rating sounds like an interesting idea.

    how would it work ?

  41. thesabre says:

    @Amelie:

    Not it wouldn’t help anything. It would turn this site into Digg where anyone other than the majority-thinkers have negative scores. Anyone that stands up for Wal-Mart asking for a receipt or suing for legal expenses to be refunded would get “punished”. If Consumerist ever went to a comment rating system, I’d be out of here faster than you can say “Best Buy sucks”.

  42. snoop-blog says:

    @Amelie: Yeah well this is the consumerist, not the communist. Idiots are intitled to their opinion as well. Like buran said, it’s best to not even give them the satisfaction of knowing you read or cared about their comment, and just ignore them as it just feeds their need to be noticed and entices them to continue being a “douche”. However straight up offensive launguage can be reported to Ben or the tips@consumerist.com. Now a nice feature on the poker site I play on is the ignore feature. I can ignore anyone I want. It just shows all their texts as “xxx xxxx xxxxx” or whatnot. That would be cool. Too many commenters think they are here to be judge judy and determine who’s right and who’s wrong, and who’s an idiot. I like to remind them that this is the Consumerist, where the “shoppers bite back”, Not the Consumerist, where we try to determine if a corporation can legally screw you, because if so you deserve it.

  43. civicmon says:

    EECB the original creditor and debt collector.

    I did that with AT&T and guess what? Debt’s been taken care of and I do not owe AT&T a dime. I really sent the EECB to AT&T to scare the debt collector into the practices of their vendor.

    Why? Four FDCPA violations in less than 20 seconds. I also EECB’s the debt collector but that took nearly an hour to even find the CEO’s name. No problem though, LinkedIn sure helped me with that.

    These “collectors” really are just hired account reps. AT&T gets a portion of the debt payment, the firm and the collector him/herself get cuts.

    Of course, giving a credit card over the phone from someone you have never talked to before is pretty stupid. And then personally attacking me w/o the debt collector warning or them reading off the firm they represent as well as repeatedly calling me to intimidate me does not help.

    Also does not help that the AT&T rep didn’t want my payment except with a 20% “collection” fee.. lol no thank you. Got that taken care of.

  44. dixiecup says:

    HI, I’m new to this site, and I’m happy to be here. I’m learning a lot. My story with a bill collector dealt with a medical bill from a specialist from a trip to the hospital last year. I had full coverage, no deductible on this bill. When I got it in the mail, I assumed it was just a time thing, that the ins. co. would soon get it and pay it. Then the collector started calling me, leaving messages.

    I called the hospital about it, and a wonderful woman gave me a special number to call. It turns out that the bill had been sent to the wrong address for Blue Cross. (Of course this took me over two hours to figure out.) That night the collector called me and I answered; no problem, I thought. I explained it was to be paid by the ins. co. and the mixup with the address. The collector was furious that I had talked to the specialist’s office, because he said I wasn’t supposed to. He asked me all these personal questions, which I did not answer; merely told him it would be paid by the ins. co. He was extremely rude and confrontational.

    Apparently, once it’s turned over to the collector, the office that generated the bill won’t talk to you, but because the wonderful woman from the hospital gave me a special number to call, I was lucky. I will NEVER speak to a collector again. I thought I could reason with them, but no. The phone calls kept coming, and so did the collection notices until they finally stopped when the bill was paid. I haven’t checked my credit report yet, but I will. I know I should, but I’m so tired of having to fix other people’s mistakes when it comes to billing.

    I hope some day there will be a law that when a company makes a mistake, that if it takes more than X hours to remedy over the phone or through email, that the company will have to pay a fine to the consumer, or at least to the government. As consumers, it’s aggravating and time-consuming for us, but the companies aren’t held to any standards as an incentive for them clearing up their mistake immediately.

  45. marsneedsrabbits says:

    @AlisonAshleigh:

    The next time they call: invite them to sue you in court. Remind them that you have an invoice from them that shows them charging you $100.00 over what you may possibly (admit nothing) owe.

    See if they’ll settle for some fraction of the total that you actually think you owe to keep from losing in court or actually paying if you sue them.

  46. Xkeeper says:

    @Amelie: Or going invite-only again. Remember those days?

    I haven’t had to deal with any of this crap yet, but I think the first thing I’ll do is probably take them to court, since it won’t be my debt :P

  47. Amelie says:

    @Xkeeper: Ah yes, “invite only.”

    @chartrule:
    @thesabre:
    I was thinking more along the rating system at plastic. And I also was expecting comments to be rated appropriately. Positives for rare insights, as opposed to “I agree with you, man.” And negatives for people acting like “douchebags,” as opposed to people who made the ‘cardinal sin’ of shopping at Walmart in the first place. ;)

    There’s a big difference in saying, “I think Walmart is within its rights to check for receipts, to curb stealing,” and someone who says, “I bet your the kind who would knock the old lady greeter over. Just show your god-damned receipt and stop being such a jackass”.

    I participate at a small site called Helldot and we have a reputation system, which works out very well. It’s rare that people get negative rep just because someone disagrees with them.