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Some Debt Collectors Are Using Illegal Tactics

Here’s How to Deal With Them:

The Federal Trade Commission gets more consumer complaints about debt collectors than about any other industry. Americans report being harassed, threatened, even coerced into paying debts that aren’t their own.

Debt collectors who are harassing you could be breaking the law, says “GMA” consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy.

Hundreds of collection companies now specialize in collecting on 10- to 20-year-old debts called “zombie debts” — debts so old you can’t even be sued over them.

One woman, whom we’ll call Jamie, did not want to be identified because she still runs into her co-workers. She said she heard “collectors threatening anything and everything they could in order to get the money.”

“There were collectors who would tell people: ‘I know your address. I know where you live. I know where you work. I’ll find out where your children live. I will do whatever I have to do to get this money,’ ” she said.

Jamie said collectors often claimed they would refer the debt to the legal department even though they didn’t have one. And when they needed a heavy, they put their “manager” on the line, only it was just another collector playing manager.

Some collectors threatened jail time, Jamie said, even though being in debt isn’t a crime. And if the consumer insisted it wasn’t their bill, the collectors had an answer for that, too. They would tell them that they were “going to call your electric company, your phone company, your mortgage company, and I’m going to tell them that these are all fraudulent accounts,” she said.

Jamie said some people were so afraid they paid the same debt over and over again.
“They honestly believed that someone was going to come and hurt them physically if they didn’t pay,” she said.

Jamie’s claims echo the FTC’s case against Camco. In court filings, company executives have denied the allegations. Their attorney declined to comment to ABC News.

Camco is not the only collection company to outrage consumers. One couple in Utah sued a collection agency that was harassing them and ended up collecting money from their collector. But many are still out there right now, harassing consumers.