Many ― but not all ― debt collectors working for loan sharks are alleged humans who do the bidding of the dark side of the force. I have written about abusive debt collectors several times, in unflattering terms. It turns out that I’m not the only one who has noticed their abusive tactics. The feds are paying attention too.
I. The Abusive Tactics Epidemic
A. Criminal Charges Against Collectors
Writing in the November 18, 2014, issue of the ABA Journal, Martha Neil reported:
A Georgia-based debt-collection company, its owner and six employees have been criminally charged in what is described by federal authorities as a $4.1 million national scheme that took advantage of more than 6,000 people. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan, who is overseeing the case, says a larger investigation of “an absolute epidemic of abusive debt-collection practices” is ongoing by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal prosecutors in his own office. This appears to be the first time these agencies have coordinated on such a probe, which could signal that a major enforcement effort is underway, reports CNN Money. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Newsday (sub. req.) and Reuters also have stories. “[R]uthlessly persistent” collectors at Williams, Scott & Associates in Norcross, Georgia, bullied thousands of people nationwide into paying millions between 2009 and 2014, sometimes even when they didn’t owe money, said Bharara. Collectors falsely claimed affiliations with government agencies and threatened people with arrest or other enforcement action, he said.
Collectors lied! I’m shocked, shocked. Actually, I’m not shocked because I’ve had clients tell me that collectors have threatened to jail them for not paying a debt.
The FBI has an article about the Williams, Scott & Associates case, that provides much more detail about the scope of the abuse. I mention this to emphasize the fact that the FBI really is interested in going after abusive collectors. However, they cannot do so unless the victims report the abuse. Therefore, if you’ve been told by a debt collector that you’re headed for jail unless you pay a debt, call the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and tell them about it. If enough people complain, they will act.