Harrassed by a debt collector? Contact the FTC

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Over 69,000 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) complaints were lodged with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2006, according to a report released by the agency. These complaints related to the practices of third party debt collectors, and totaled almost 20% of all the complaints received by the FTC in 2006.

Is 69,000 a huge number? It depends upon how you look at it. The complaints were up from the previous year, which says something. However, debt collectors make millions of contacts with consumers each year, so the complaints are really a very small percentage based upon the total debt collection activity. The FTC does say, however, that they recognize that there are situations and complaints that go unreported to them.

The most common complaint the FTC receives about credit practices is that the debt collector is trying to collect more than the consumer owes or is trying to collect a debt that the consumer doesn't owe at all. If you're being handled in this way by a collection agency or other debt collector, by all means assert your rights against them and stand up for yourself.

Of course, if you've accrued legitimate interest and fees on the account, you probably don't have grounds to object. But if you believe the debt collector is trying to get you to pay something you really do not owe, take action. And that action probably should include complaining to the FTC. One way to make abusive debt collection practices stop is to report the behavior. Hopefully the FTC will take action on your behalf, and if the consequences are severe enough, collection agencies will be forced to follow the law.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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