Imagine if your child, the center of your world, becomes ill. And not just run-of-the-mill sick, either, but goes into kidney failure due to a debilitating disease. She needs constant medical treatment to keep her alive and will likely need a transplant. You do your best to stay on top of the expenses, but the bills soon start to pile up. You eventually fall behind on payments and start dealing with medical debt collection agents on top of everything else.
In addition to harassing you via phone and mail with continual threatening messages, the debt collectors manage to garnish your wages, all while you are still trying to stay strong and keep up the fight against your daughter's condition. You face several collection lawsuits and fear that the harassment will never stop. You have almost reached your breaking point when you get a call from the president of the debt collection agency himself reaches out to offer you a glimmer of hope: he has gifted you with a reliable vehicle so that you can transport your child back and forth to medical appointments and treatment sessions.
You think that this may signal a new day in terms of freedom from the harassment and negativity of the debt collection agents. After all, the president of the company reached out to acknowledge your plight; surely, this will make the threatening calls and letters stop, right? Sadly, no. You still face additional collection lawsuits and it seems like the company has stepped up their efforts.
'Exceptional, but not uncommon
This story, based on the tragic tale of a real family in Nebraska who went through this exact situation is a powerful example of debt collection gone wrong. The truth is, although this story may be particularly egregious, the overall pattern of bad behavior among debt collection companies is all too common.
Unscrupulous debt collectors, often those with little training or financial background, who have literally bought debt for pennies on the dollar and will undertake any effort to collect it, have been known to take all manner of harassing, illegal and unethical actions against hapless consumers. These include:
- Threatening criminal action like arrest or imprisonment
- Calling multiple times a day, particularly very early in the morning or very late at night
- Calling employers, neighbors, friends or family members to discuss the debt
- Sending letters purporting to be from government agencies or authorities
- Using foul or profane language
- Threatening physical harm to the debtor or his/her family
- Added interest, fees or penalties to the debt
- Exaggerating the amount of the debt by hundreds or thousands of dollars
- "Reviving" otherwise uncollectible debt by extorting payments (thus creating so-called "zombie debt")
- Filing collection lawsuits despite the statute of limitations for collection having long passed
If you are in the midst of collection efforts like these, you may be worried, frustrated and desperate. You may be considering bankruptcy or another huge step to make it stop. What you likely don't realize, though, is that many of the collection actions listed above are not only immoral, they are illegal under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and the regulations set forth by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). Behaviors like these are punishable by steep civil fines and possible criminal action against the collector. You might be able to bring a lawsuit against them -- with no out-of-pocket or upfront cost to yourself -- that will not only make the harassment stop, but could result in a financial award for you.
Take the first step toward freedom from debt-related harassment: to learn more about stopping outrageous collection actions without bankruptcy, contact a consumer debt collection defense attorney today.