FTC hits collection agency with largest penalty in history
For the past few years, I have been blogging on how collection agencies have been spiraling out of control. Late last year, the FTC assessed the largest penalty it ever has against a collection agency for harassing and intimidating debtors. I found this blog post about Academy Collection Service, Inc. and its owner, Keith Dickstein. The FTC assessed a penalty of $2.25 million for their actions. Guys, it ain’t just me noticing how collection agencies and collectors are losing control.
Today, perhaps more than ever, its important for people to know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This statute levels the playing field between collectors who have the power to threaten legal action against people who owe money. The Act requires the collector to act as human beings and not tyrants.The Act was actually formed to be a shield for debtors. Over the years, case law has morphed the FDCPA into a sword used by debtors to attack unscrupulous and sleazy collectors. Don’t get me wrong. I am a lawyer that specializes in debt collection. However, I don’t abide sleazy collectors and have sued them without hesitation.
Because our economy is in such a down turn, I am seeing more and more debt collectors actually stooping to these lowly tactics that violate the law. Many are purposely violating the law in order to bully debtors into paying. I predict that the FTC will be collecting more and more penalties as these agencies and their tactics come to light. I have the following advice for you, depending on who you are:
Debt Collection Agencies – Train your collectors on the FDCPA. Make sure that you spend time and money not only training them, but document the fact that your collectors have learned the ins and outs of the statute. It ain’t that complicated. Moreover, you must watch and monitor your collectors on the telephone. Be sure that they document every conversation that they have with every debtor. Lastly, screen them for temperament. If you hire a loose cannon, an attorney (such as I), will absolutely go after you and your agency because you have the deep pockets.
Humans who owe money. Remember that you are not just a “debtor.” Rather, you are a human being entitled to be treated to with respect and dignity. If you are abused by a debt collector, chances are excellent that you the debt collector has violated the FDCPA. Do not roll over and take this laying down. You can and should sue the collector.