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When Bill Collectors Pay You

Since the national economy began to sharply deteriorate in 2008, consumers naturally are having a more difficult time in paying ordinary bills, especially credit card charges.

This has led to an increase in high pressure tactics by consumer collection agencies. Aggressive, often belligerent phone calls can come at all times of the day, and interrupt meals, visits from friends and disrupt your daily routine.

Too often, debt collectors cross the boundaries of what is lawful behavior.

Some make threats to tell employers or other about your debt, or actually do so.

Some call so often that they border on criminal harassment.

Some will accuse you unfairly of criminal conduct.

Others will tell children who answer the phone “your parents are in a lot of trouble and they better call me,” as one debt collector in Florida recently did.

They often threaten to take all kinds of legal action when they have no intention to do so. (Sometimes debt collectors try to collect a debt when the statute of limitations has expired.)

Both Congress and the state of Massachusetts have enacted laws that protect consumers from the kind of harassment that debt collectors use too often to intimidate, and these laws give you the right to sue them.

Outrageous conduct by debt collectors has been in the news lately. (In Indonesia, debt collectors working for Citibank actually murdered a debtor. See Huffington Post June 30, 2011.

The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating debt collector agencies who seek to recover debts from the next of kin of deceased customers. Abusive practices directed at grieving spouse have been documented.

Heirs have no personal responsibility to pay the debts of deceased relatives but bill collectors have been known to trick debtors into paying bills they had no responsibility for.

The Fair Debt Collections Practice Act, a federal law, and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act have enabled debtors to bring claims against rogue debt collectors. Lawyers who handle these claims, such as the author, usually do so on a contingent basis.
The important thing to remember is when bill collectors behave badly, do not suffer in silence. The law is on your side!
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The author is a lawyer with offices in Newton and Hull. In 1999, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named him “Lawyer of the Year” for his civil rights work. Visit his website at www.grossack.com 

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