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Customer Sues Verizon for Alleged Threat to Blow Up House Over Unpaid $308 Bill

June 2, 2010

Our San Bernardino debt collection harassment attorneys see a lot of reports about bad behavior by debt collectors. But even so, we were surprised to see an article about a man who is suing a phone company for threatening to blow up his house. A May 27 article from ABC News tells the story of Al Burrows, 45, who says a Verizon Wireless representative threatened to blow up his "[expletive] house" over a $308 debt Burrows owed on an account he had opened for his stepson. The threat upset Burrows and his wife so much that they eventually moved away from the house in Las Cruces, NM and into another state that the article did not name.

Burrows and his attorney told ABC that Burrows already knew about the debt when he got the call. In fact, Burrows said, he had already worked out a payment plan with Verizon. The second caller even acknowledged that the payment plan existed, the article said. Nonetheless, Burrows played a tape for the TV reporter of a woman who demanded immediate payment or, as she said, "I am gonna blow your [expletive] house up." His wife was so shaken that Burrows asked his brother to visit so his wife wouldn't be alone while Burrows was at work. Eventually, they left the state. Burrows also says he called Verizon to complain, but was not believed and has received no apology. His lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages.

As Westminster unfair debt collection lawyers, we're interested to see that this alleged abuse came directly from the original creditor rather than a third-party debt collector. As a rule, third-party collection agencies are more likely to be abusive, in part because the debt has already been written off by the time they get involved. By contrast, a company like Verizon has an interest in collecting in a way that leaves the door open for future relationships. Possibly for this reason, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to original creditors -- and neither do many state laws, including New Mexico's version of the Act. That means Burrows is probably claiming that Verizon's behavior violated another law, including state laws about personal injuries. If the FDCPA did apply, however, the use of obscenity and threats would be a clear violation, as these are among the many unfair actions prohibited by the law.

Howard Law PC defends the rights of Californians who have been harassed, threatened or otherwise abused by debt collectors using illegal practices. Most people don't realize this, unfortunately, but the law puts strict limits on how debt collectors may behave when they interact with consumers. Among other things, they may not threaten anything illegal or impossible, or that they do not plan to do; call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; demand more money than the law allows; or ruin the victim's credit by reporting false information to credit reporting companies. Collection agencies are also required to verify the debt on request and identify themselves as debt collectors. If they break these or any other parts of the law, our Oceanside abusive debt collection attorneys can help clients sue them for up to $1,000 in mandatory payments, plus attorney fees and other costs of bringing the claim. This won't necessarily cancel the debt, but it can help clients protect their legal rights.

If you believe a debt collector has harassed you, abused you, lied to you, threatened you or otherwise broken the law, don't hesitate to call Howard Law to learn how we can help. To set up a free, confidential consultation, send us an email today or call us at 1-800-872-5925.