Dear Bill Collector: You Got the Wrong Man!

Beware of debt collectors, they are one shady bunch.

I once had a friend who racked up a pretty good-sized college debt and was getting harassing calls on a weekly basis. He devised a devilishly clever scheme to get rid of them. What he did was to simply keep them on the phone. He’d ask about their family, their favorite ball club, where they went to school, the weather, how their job was going, what the wife and kids were up to, vacation plans? Finally, the exasperated bill collector just hung up on him.

While I digress, it does underscore the point that debt collectors need to be carefully watched. According to a report released today by WashPIRG, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is being flooded with complaints and most of them involve nasty debt collectors who are going after the wrong person.

What you have are “third parties who go out and buy up other companies’ debt for pennies on the dollar,” and then hires people to hound the debtor, who in many cases doesn’t owe a dime.

The report also found that Washington consumers are in the top-third highest percentage of states most likely to file complaints to the CFPB about debt collection, and that debt collection is a top source of complaints.

“The CFPB is helping consumers get relief from shoddy debt collector practices,” says WashPIRG's Chris Esh. “Many consumers who don’t owe debts are being harassed by lazy debt collectors who don’t verify consumer identities.”

“Regardless of your financial situation, it is important to remember collection agencies have no right to harass or intimidate you,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “Just like the CFPB, the Attorney General’s Office receives a high number of complaints regarding collection agencies. People should always feel free to contact us about abusive collection tactics.”

The worst offender is the San Diego-based Encore Capital Group, with 900 complaints registered in the past year, notes Esh.

We placed a call to them today, seeking a response as to how they felt about being the most complained about debt collection company in Washington State – and the rest of the country for that matter.

First, Michelle Gibbs, an account manager, said she’d transfer me to public affairs, but instead, we ended up speaking briefly with Eddie Beter, in customer service. He offered no response and suggested we speak with Jill Brown in the complaint department. He proceeded to transfer the call. Shockingly, her voice mail was full.

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