Our Costa Mesa fair debt collection attorneys were disappointed, but not surprised, to read a recent account of the activities of a debt collection agency overseas. The Los Angeles Times on Sept. 15 profiled a debt collector that's located in Islamabad, Pakistan, even though it works with Americans. The focus of the article is on the fact that overseas call centers now include debt collectors, and are particularly busy right now because of the bad U.S. economy. However, the information in the article that stood out to us was the multiple examples of call center employees blatantly breaking the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the federal law that is supposed to protect debtors.
The article starts by describing a call to a woman in Texas who the caller says owes $11,000. After she rebuffs the caller and hangs up, the company locates her relatives, neighbors and co-workers, leaving messages that they are trying to reach her. This is illegal under the FDCPA, which says debt collectors may not tell anyone about a debt other than the debtor and any spouse or attorney he or she may have. Also illegal was a question asked in another call: "How would you like to go back to jail?" Debt collectors may not threaten any legal action they do not intend to take or cannot take -- and nobody in America is sent to prison for debt alone. The article also says these callers sue debtors for up to three times the amount actually owed, which may also be illegal, depending on the circumstances.
The article does not mention that any this behavior is illegal, or mention debtors' rights at all except in passing. As Oceanside debt collection abuse attorneys, we are disappointed at this wasted opportunity to remind Americans of their legal rights. While foreign collection agencies may be more aggressive because it's harder to successfully sue them, U.S.-based debt collectors routinely violate consumers' rights as well. They get away with it in many cases because people don't realize that they have those rights, and can report the illegal behavior to federal and state regulators or sue in a court of law. As a result, thousands of Americans are needlessly harassed, scared or pay debts they didn't truly owe.
Howard Law LLP has an active practice representing victims of abusive, harassing and unfair debt collection practices. As the article notes, business is up for debt collectors -- and not surprisingly, our Fontana fair debt collection lawyers have seen a corresponding increase in clients who come to us with debt collection horror stories. Calling in the middle of the night, threats of violence or arrest, embarrassing the debtor publicly and holding the wrong person liable for a debt are just some of the illegal behaviors we can fight. In a FDCPA lawsuit, victims of unfair debt collection practices can claim $1,000 for each violation of the law, as well as compensation for any harm the harassment caused and reasonable attorney and court fees. Just as importantly, a lawsuit allows victims to turn the tables on an illegal debt collector and stop the abusive practices.
If aggressive and unfair debt collection practices are hurting your job, your family or your life, you have legal options. Howard Law can tell you more about them at a free, confidential consultation. To set one up, please call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or contact us through our Web site.