Many Philadelphia consumers struggle to make ends meet. If they are unable to pay credit card bills or loans on time, they may face calls and letters from debt collectors. Collection agencies can be very aggressive in seeking payment. In 2017 alone, 70 million people across the United States had some kind of contact with a debt collector, reported the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the National Consumer Law Center. Around one-third of all American adults with credit of any kind also had some kind of debt in collection.
Each year, consumers across the country receive around 1 billion calls from debt collectors. These calls are a major source of complaints about unethical behavior and even fraud. It is important for consumers to know that they have rights when they deal with collection agencies. In 2010, Congress re-enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, prohibiting certain types of harassing behavior on the part of debt collectors. They are forbidden from calling at certain hours or above a specified number of times. In addition, debt collectors may not notify family members or employers about the debt. When collection agencies break the law, victims can sue for damages as well as fees.
Even when debt collectors do not violate anti-harassment laws, there are other issues with many of their practices. Collectors only have the authority to collect a debt when they can prove that they were assigned the initial contract that the borrower had with a lender. Collection agencies need to prove they are seeking a legitimate debt, but many cannot do so.
Some debt collectors attempt to collect fees far in excess of any outstanding debt, and they may use harassing methods. A consumer protection attorney may help affected people to defend their rights against out-of-control collection agencies.