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Debt Collectors Harass and Threaten Man Over Debts Incurred by Parents

November 20, 2009

As San Diego County fair debt collection attorneys, we are used to seeing horror stories from people who have been the targets of debt collectors. But a Nov. 13 post on The Consumerist blog (owned by the parent company of Consumer Reports) added a new twist: harassing debt collector calls to the adult son of an older couple who made some bad decisions with their retirement income. The son, referred to as Jay in the post, said he was put down as a reference on some of his parents' purchases. When his parents failed to make all of their payments, he said, debt collectors began calling him to demand payments. He wrote to the Consumerist blog asking for advice.

According to the post, the harassment goes beyond repeated phone calls. Jay wrote that the phone calls, which come from blocked numbers, come not only to his home, work and cell phone numbers, but also to his neighbors. He said he tried politely explaining that he can't control his parents' actions, but it didn't work. Instead, the post said, debt collectors started asking him to pay the debts, and threatening him with arrest and lawsuits when he declined. Reasoning that "this has got to be highly illegal," he began a log of all of the calls and planned to file a police report, but wanted some advice. The Consumerist suggested that he get names of companies, record or have a witness for phone calls and report them to his state's attorney general. If they are retailers rather than debt collectors, the blog said, he should ask them to remove him from the account.

As Corona debt collection harassment lawyers, we're glad Jay was smart enough to realize that this is indeed highly illegal behavior -- at least if the phone calls are coming from actual debt collectors rather than the original creditors. If they are, we spotted at least five violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act described in his letter. The FDCPA, a federal law, does not allow debt collectors to call anyone about the debt but the debtors themselves and any attorney or spouse. That includes adult or minor children and other relatives as well as neighbors. Collection agencies may also not demand payment from someone like Jay who is not a party to the debt, and certainly may not sue such a person for failure to pay it. And they may not threaten anyone at all with arrest, because we do not arrest people for debt in the United States, and the FDCPA explicitly forbids threatening impossible legal actions.

At Howard Law LLP, we have seen a sharp increase in blatantly illegal behavior from debt collectors trying to squeeze more money out of debtors in this bad economy. Unfortunately for debt collectors, the FDCPA applies even when their business is not so good. In addition to the sections on required and prohibited behavior, the law includes a provision that allows lawsuits by people who are victims of FDCPA violations. Our Carson abusive debt collection attorneys help clients sue debt collectors for up to $1,000 per violation of the law, plus attorney fees and the cost of any actual financial harm the abuse caused. Suing allows debtors -- and people mistaken for debtors -- to send a message that they won't put up with threats, vulgar language and other abusive, illegal behavior. It also offers an opportunity to stop the harassment for good.

If you believe, or know, that you've been mistreated by a debt collector, you should call Howard Law right away to learn more about your rights. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, please contact us through the Internet or call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925.