Three Horrifying Acts by Debt Collectors: Why Federal Law Says “That’s Legal”
I graduated college in 2007 when the economy had just nosed-dived its way into what is now known by some as “The Great Recession”. Prospects weren’t very high for a recent college grad, but credit-card bills were; and they were growing every day. Like many of my contemporaries, I fell into a trap that had been set for me on my first day of school. “Sign here for a new credit card and a free t-shirt”. Six months after graduation, the t-shirt was long gone and the credit cards were maxed out. The onslaught of credit collection techniques had just begun, and the pressure began to rise.I was lucky because that dark period of my life did not last as long as it does for some. I managed to get my debt paid back in a few years and was only forced to endure a few of the many unscrupulous tactics employed by debt collectors trying to inspire payment. But I have heard (and witnessed) unbelievable stories of harassment and wrongdoing that have left me wondering why debt collectors are allowed to act so unreasonably without recourse. And, as it turns out, I am not the only one. Minnesota Senator Al Franken has proposed (for a second time) a bill that would fill some gaping holes in the FDCPA and provide additional protection for debtors. Senator Franken has listed three specifically atrocious debt collection tactics that the new law—called the “End Debt Collector Abuse Act of 2012”—would protect against. And while it’s unlikely that Senator Franken’s new bill will pass the Senate, it is just as important that we as individuals are informed about the type of acts this law is intended to protect against. 1. Harassment of patients and their families while they are in the hospital: It’s hard to believe that a hospital would employ someone to wait for people to be wheeled out of the operating room and then harass the patient about how they will be paying their bill. Well, hard to believe or not, certain medical collection agencies are using this technique to surprise and corner unsuspecting patients. The idea that a debt collector is allowed to harass individuals who are in their most vulnerable moments of life is scary, and honestly just downright wrong. But hospitals, just like many types of creditors, have a long history of collection abuses. Here in the State of Florida, the legislature thought it necessary to pass additional consumer protections from debt collections. The FCCPA adds additional protections from the traditional abuses that medical debt collection agencies use. If you suspect that you are the victim of improper collections techniques by a medical provider, call the Dolman Law Group for a free evaluation. 2. Failure to disclose the expiration of a debt: The law provides protections for debt holders in the form of formal legal proceedings. A creditor has a certain period of time (varies depending on the jurisdiction) to file a formal lawsuit against a debtor who defaults on a loan. Once that time period has ended, the creditor has no legal recourse if the debt is not collected (unless the debt is taken subject to a mortgage or other lien). This time period is referred to as a statute of limitations. Certain collection agencies have taken to purchasing these old, unenforceable debts for a fraction of the original value and then attempting to collect on them without disclosing the status of the old debt. Uninformed consumers are then harassed and pressured into paying debts that the law bars recovery on. This practice is disingenuous and misrepresentative. The law usually protects individuals for inducing another person’s reliance on a misrepresentation…and Senator Franken believe that concept should apply to debt collectors as well. 3. Jail-time and other legal actions against debtors If harassing people in the hospital isn’t unbelievable enough, how about the idea that people in this country are still being arrested in certain jurisdictions for failure to pay on a debt. To this day, certain states allow debt collectors to seek arrest warrants for people who just can’t pay their bills. We’ve all heard that the law targets impoverished individuals, and this is undeniable proof. What’s ironic, is that the FDCPA protects debts from threats of incarceration or other legal action as a tactic by debt collectors. But that doesn’t infringe on certain states’ ability to actually arrest them. What Senator Franken’s law proves is that knowledge of what protections you have varies according to where you live. It’s important that you are informed of your rights. At the Dolman Law Group, we ensure that our clients do not face the various forms of harassment employed by collection agencies. If you’re hurt in an accident, call us now to protect your rights. We will protect you from harassment and ensure that your debts are treated appropriately by the collection agencies. Dolman Law Group is a Clearwater creditor harassment and consumer justice law firm.