When you’ve been abused by debt collectors, the last thing you want to do is deal with a government bureaucracy. Nonetheless, it’s important to learn how to report debt collectors’ harassment, how to report harassing phone calls, and how to report collection agencies that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). That’s because governmental agencies are responsible for enforcing the fair debt laws that protect consumers.
CFPB’s Annual Report: Violations of the FDCPA
Initially, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act mandated that the Federal Trade Commission submit an annual report to Congress that provides an overview of consumer complaints related to debt collection, as well as what the FTC did to make sure debt collectors followed the law, its educational efforts, and its research. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Now the duties are split. The CFPB submits an annual report to Congress, and is taking over the complaint tracking aspect of the Congressional mandate. The FTC continues to be responsible for the enforcement provisions of the FDCPA.
The 2012 report, which covered 2011, noted that the number of consumer complaints about third-party debt collectors increased over the previous year. There were 142,743 complaints in 2011, about 500 more than in 2010. Of those complaints, the vast majority (117,374) were about third-party debt collectors (as opposed to in-house collectors); the number of complaints about third-party collectors in 2011 increased by 8,120 over 2010. The report acknowledged that the number of complaints don’t reflect the number of violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, since many consumers never file a complaint. However, there are still more complaints about debt collection than for any other industry.
Here is a snapshot of the categories and subcategories of complaints, along with the tally of complaints and the percentage of FDCPA complaints that number represents:
Harassment: Calling repeatedly or continuously (47,362 complaints, 40.4%); obscene, profane, or abusive language (16,576 complaints; 14.1%); calling at inconvenient times (10,488 complaints, 8.9%); threats or use of violence (3,977 complaints, 3.4%).
Demanding an Incorrect Amount: Misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of a debt (46,482 complaints, 39.6%); collecting amounts in excess of what’s permitted (9,314 complaints, 7.9%).
Failing to Send Required Notice: 30,742 complaints, 26.2%.
Threats: Falsely threatening a lawsuit or another unlawful action (35,473, 30.2%); falsely threatening arrest or seizure of property (27,624, 23%).
Failing to Self-Identify as a Debt Collector: 20,781 complaints, 17.7%.
Improper Third-Party Contacts: Calling to obtain location information (20,519 complaints, 17.5%); disclosing debt to a third party (12,636 complaints, 10.8%).
Workplace Calls: 16,895 complaints, 14.4%.
Not Verifying Disputed Debts: 10,000 complaints, 8.5%.
Not Honoring “Cease and Desist” Notice: 5,922 complaints, 5%.FTC
Enforcement Actions Against Debt Collection Agencies
Typically, the Federal Trade Commission enforces fair debt practices through lawsuits. The FTC either files suit against unscrupulous debt collectors itself, or it asks the Justice Department to do so on its behalf. The 2011 report to Congress noted seven cases that the FTC filed or resolved during 2011. It boasts that two civil cases resulted in “the two largest civil penalty amounts the agency has ever obtained in cases alleging violations of the FDCPA.” These cases were United States v. West Asset Management, which resulted in a $2.8 million settlement, and United States v. Asset Acceptance, which resulting in a $2.5 million settlement.
Why You Report Harassing Phone Calls and Other Violations
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does track consumer complaints and report them to Congress. Moreover, the Federal Trade Commission uses this tracking information to investigate unscrupulous debt collectors and even to take them to court. So, if you’ve been the victim of a shady debt collector, you should report harassing phone calls and other violations, and make your voice heard.
How to Report Debt Collectors’ Harassment
It’s easy to file a debt collector complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can fill out an online form on the FTC website, or call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will soon be taking over the complaint process, and you will be able to file a complaint on the CFPB website
If you have been the victim of harassment or illegal or unfair debt collection practices, contact the Fair Debt Attorneys at Lemberg & Associates immediately to discuss your options and protect your rights. When you owe creditors money, you are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as other federal and state laws. If a debt collector has violated your rights, you may be entitled to up to $1000 in damages, and they may even have to pay your attorney fees. Sergei Lemberg, and the attorneys at Lemberg & Associates have helped countless people to assert their legal rights with debt collectors. Don't be intimidated by illegal debt collection practices. For more information, contact Lemberg & Associates today at .