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New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on abusive collection agencies

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aggressive, harassing and abusive bill collectors are a top consumer complaint in the United States. Fighting back can be frustrating for the 30 million Americans being pursued by a collection agency.

Bill collectors sometimes call Kevin Lynn's house up to 20 times a day - and the debt isn't even his.

"I always tell them I don't owe the debt, that they have the wrong person, that I don't know who the person is," Lynn said.

The person debt collectors were in search of apparently lived in Lynn's house before him. Lynn has filed three lawsuits to get the phone to stop ringing. Even more frustrating, Lynn's phone company charges him for each incoming call.

"I'm very upset that I have to pay to be harassed," Lynn said.

The Federal Trade Commission says it got more than 150,000 complaints about debt collectors in 2012. That's more than any other industry.

"Some of our No. 1 sources of complaints from consumers are for harassment and abuse, calling too often, using profanity, making violent or abusive threats," said Chris Koegel, an FTC attorney.

To crack down, a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, is now policing some of the largest collection agencies in the country.

Attorneys representing consumers say bill collectors leave people threatening messages. In an FTC lawsuit filed against one bill collector, a grieving mother said she was asked how she would feel if the funeral home dug up her son's body and "dropped it outside my house because I hadn't paid my debt."

"Every industry is going to have bad apples," said Pat Morris with the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.

The debt collection trade association says it wants those using abusive tactics weeded out so others can do the job right.

Lynn said he's still getting collection calls and feels helpless to do anything about the harassment.

If you're dealing with a debt collector and would like more information on your rights or how to file a complaint, visit www.consumerfinance.gov. The site also has a debt collection fact sheet with useful information.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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