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Collection efforts on debts not owed: It happens too often

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released its November 2016 monthly "complaint snapshot," revealing that the most common consumer complaint filed with the federal agency that month about debt collection was that debt collectors were trying to collect debts that were not actually legally owed. In addition, many complained that the collectors would not provide documentation to verify that the debts were valid.

The CFPB's news release about the November report quotes the agency's director as saying that consumers reported "being harassed about debts they already repaid or debts they do not owe."

Collection complaints by the numbers

Since the CFPB began receiving consumer complaints in 2011, debt collection in general has been the subject of the most complaints -- about one-quarter of the total, according to the report. Consumers have complained both about first-party collections, referring to debts owned directly by the collecting parties, and third-party collections, referring to debts collected by entities that do not own the debts, but are collecting them for the owners for hire.

About 40 percent of all debt-collection complaints involved attempts to collect debt not owed.

Seek legal help

We represent consumers who are accused of still owing debts they have already paid off or of not paying debts they never owed. Our clients also may be experiencing harassing - and illegal - treatment by collectors. We offer a free initial consultation.

Anyone facing harassment over a debt he or she does not owe should speak with legal counsel immediately about what legal options are available to stop the collection efforts. Depending on the circumstances, it may even be possible to have legal fees paid by the party attempting to collect on the invalid debt.

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