Know your rights if a debt collector threatens you with jail or harm for not paying

Now that the holiday spending is over, the bills are coming in.

And that might eventually mean calls from debt collectors.

Some of those calls can be nasty including threats to your family and your dog.

The Federal Trade Commission accused one debt collector business of calling people "deadbeats, white trash, scumbag" and a lot of other names we can't mention.

In the FTC complaint, they say these collectors threatened to "shoot the alleged debtor's dog and eat it."

The collectors were even accused of telling consumers they would "desecrate the bodies of deceased children" if a debt wasn't paid.

Kevin Davis, president of the Arizona Collector's Association, says he's appalled at that behavior, calling it a "blight on the industry."

Davis sat down with me to talk about how his debt collector members follow a code of ethics.

He says similar threats by his members would never be tolerated.

"You can't lie to the consumer. You can't say the sheriff is showing up and you have 30 minutes if you don't pay your credit card right now."

That actually happened to Felicia Adams. An out-of-state debt collector threatened her job.

"He said 'let me speak to human resources. We're sending an officer out.'"

In a panic, Adams paid $350. She found out later, it's a debt she never owed.

"They have the job number, maybe I did owe them. But it was happening so fast," she told me.

Last year, the FTC brought four lawsuits against fraudulent collectors.

The debt collectors allegedly took in millions for debts that didn't exist or they didn't have a right to collect.

In one case, the FTC alleges collectors wanted added attorney's fees and late fees that weren't authorized.

So, if you get a call from a debt collector, Davis says you have rights.


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