“Deadbeat… piece of crap… scumbag… lowlife.”
These were the profanities hurled at a grieving Illinois woman… simply because she couldn’t pay her daughter’s funeral bills.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, was struggling financially and suffering through the recent death of a child.
But instead of lending a sympathetic ear and trying to work out a payment plan, the funeral home passed off her debt to a collections agency — a particularly ruthless outfit known as Rumson, Bolling & Associates.
These crooks were notorious for using underhanded tactics to coerce payments out of their debtors. And you can be darn sure the abusive language featured above was the most PG of the profanities in their arsenal.
But profanities, no matter how extreme, paled in comparison to the psychological torture they subjected this poor woman to.
According to an FTC complaint filed by the woman, representatives of Rumson, Bolling & Associates told her that they were going to “dig her daughter up and hang her from a tree if she did not pay the debt.”
They also threatened to have her “dog arrested… shoot him up… and eat him.” And even went so far as to ask, “Are you going to pay this bill right now… or am I going to have to kill you?”
Zero Authority, Zero Respect
Make no mistake, this sort of behavior is absolutely outside of the confines of the law.
Nobody has the right to harass and threaten you, no matter how much money you owe.
But deadbeats like these guys get away with this sort of behavior by using tactics like these to make you feel like you are the one in the wrong because you have some unpaid bills.
Thankfully, these particular lowlifes have since been shut down by the FTC. But they were able to operate as they saw fit for years before anyone took action.
And there are plenty more crooks like these guys still operating today. That’s why it’s important to know your rights.
We’d all like to think that we’d never let one of our debts go into collections. But anything can happen in a financial crisis or emergency.
Right now, 33% of Americans hold debt in collections. In some states that figure is much higher, with 46% of adults in Louisiana holding debt in collection.
Any debt you own can end up with a collection agency. If you owe money to your phone company, to a utility company, for medical bills or to a bank — that debt can end up with an agency.
You have no control over where your debt lands up. Which is why it’s so important to know your rights. You never know if you’re going to end up with another Rumson, Bolling & Associates.
- No Harassing Phone Calls
Collection agencies are legally allowed to call you to pressure you into paying your debt. But there are certain restrictions on when and how often they can call you.
By law, a collector cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you ask them to call during these times. And they are restricted from calling multiple times in one day. If you request not be contacted at work, in writing or verbally, collectors have to legally stop doing so.
- No Verbal Abuse or Threats
Verbal abuse, profane language and threats are all strictly off limits. Collectors cannot threaten to take away your property or have you arrested. In fact, it’s illegal to even imply that you have committed a crime by failing to pay your debt.
- Collectors Must Send Written Notice of Your Debts
Collectors cannot collect on a debt larger than you owe. And they must provide written notice of your debts. This written notice must show the specific amount they claim you owe, as well as actions to take if you believe you don’t owe any money.
- Collectors Must Verify Disputed Debts
If you dispute a debt, the collection agency is obligated to investigate your claim. They legally must stop calling you while your case is being investigated. But if they find your claim to be false, they’ll resume their collection activities.
- No Informing Your Friends or Family
A common tactic used by collectors is to inform your family, friends, co-workers and even neighbors about your debt. They do this to try to embarrass you into paying your debt.
This is totally illegal. A collector can call people you know, but only to find out your address and phone number. Revealing any details of your debt to coerce you to pay up is against the law.
If you’re a victim of any of the above behavior, you should report the debt collector to your state attorney general’s office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and/or the Federal Trade Commission.
As always, if you have any questions, ideas or even an unfair collections story of your own, click here to email me. I’d love to hear from you.
All the best,
Editor, Money & Crisis