According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), one in 10 Americans faces calls from a debt collector, and these people owe an average of $1,500. Over a million consumers are sued by collectors in courts for credit card, medical and other debt.
Debt collection firms are hiring more workers to compensate for increased consumer financial stress. For example, to cope with their collections volume, debt management and recovery solutions firm Account Control Technology plans to hire 300 new workers in its Dallas call center.
In January, the CFPB released new rules designed new provisions to crack down on bad practices from debt collectors. Debt collection companies would be monitored to make sure that they identify themselves at the beginning of the telephone call.
The agency would also examine collectors to make sure they use accurate information. Accuracy means that collection agents aren’t calling people who have already paid their bills or calling the wrong consumer about the wrong debt.
Mark Schiffman of the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA International) says that documentation is a system-wide issue.
In particular, once a company sells a debt off of its books to a collection company, the collector may then sell the debt to another company. Sometimes, customers receive calls from multiple companies, and inaccurate or insufficient information is transferred between the collectors who’ve handled the debt.
The CFPB would also look into suspected cases of harassment. No collector can threaten a consumer with imprisonment or threaten to call the consumer’s employer. In fact, federal law prohibits collectors from calling anyone about the consumer except to obtain a phone number, address or place of employment.
Also, every collector should have a dispute resolution system in place, and no collector should ever threaten a customer with profane or abusive language.
When someone receives a collections call, they should first ask the agent to send notice of the debt in writing. When they receive the notice, consumers should then call to ask for a validation or verification of the debt revealing how far back it goes and what interest has been applied.
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