CNN Money has a round-up of recent debt-collection horror stories. Here are some choice examples that highlight why the debt collection industry has a bad name:
1. You Shouldn’t Threaten To Take Someone’s Kids Away
Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission shut down a Texas-based debt collector that allegedly told debtors it would have the government take their children away if they did not pay up. It also threatened to have the debtors arrested.
2. It’s Just Gross To Tell Debtors You’re Going To Desecrate Family Members’ Dead Bodies
In 2011, an agency was accused of — among many, many things — of telling some alleged debtors that if their debts were not repaid, that the dead bodies of their family members would be desecrated.
One lovely example cited in the complaint [PDF] involves a mother who lost two sons within one week of each other. When she was having trouble paying the debt owed to the funeral home, the collector is accused of calling her a deadbeat and asking how she would like it her dead son’s body was dug up and dropped outside her door.
3. And Don’t Mess With People’s Pets Either
According to the FTC complaint, this same firm also made the threat to one customer that it would have her dog, “arrested… shoot him up and… eat him.”
4. You Can’t Pretend To Be A Lawyer, Let Alone A Courtroom
It’s common sense that debt collectors who are not lawyers are forbidden from representing themselves as such. But one Pennsylvania debt collection agency went a step beyond merely pretending attorney — in 2010, it was accused of setting up an entire fake courtroom in its offices to hold bogus hearings.
5. Don’t Collect On Debts Owed To Someone Else
Last year, the FTC also shut down a global operation of debt collectors who were not only lying about being the police, but were often attempting to collect debts that either didn’t exist or which the collectors had no right to collect on. The man at the center of the network was indicted by a grand jury last year, though he claims to be an innocent pawn.
As you can see, all of the above incidents involve violations of the law. While most debt collectors do not go this far, it’s these sort of bad acts that taint the the entire industry.