Credit card issuers and illegal debt collection practices attacked by NBC Dateline

Relying on consumer expert Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, who says that credit card issuers have put the loan sharks out of business, NBC’s Dateline used hidden cameras to expose illegal and fraudulent practices of debt collectors working for credit card companies.

The case against credit card issuing companies includes the elimination of usury laws, extraordinary interest rates, and high charges for various things, largely late payments.

But the collection agencies come in for the worst attack.  They are shown routinely violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by calling more often than they are allowed to and making threats that are forbidden by the law.  One collection agency they found engages in something even worse. This company buys old debt, written off by credit card issuers, for pennies on the dollar.  Then,  representing themselves as law enforcement officers, they claim that they are about to send someone to the debtor’s home to arrest them unless they pay up right now.  (Remember that there is no such thing as debtor’s prison in this country.)

There is no need to get into details of the FDCPA and how collection agencies violate its provisions.  The best advice we can give you is NEVER, EVER deal with a collection agency.  Just don’t do it.  Do not take their calls. Do not listen to them.  Do not talk to them.  NEVER give them your checking account number.  Never send them money.  Get their address (if you have to, tell them you will send them a check if they give you their address); and send them a “cease and desist”  letter (see an example in our archives )  The law requires that they must not contact you except to tell you about a court date once they have received that letter.

If your debt is out of hand and you want to resolve it, talk to a local Consumer Credit Counseling Service or consult a bankruptcy attorney.  Bankruptcy is not nearly as bad as they would have you believe.  Remember that credit card debt is unsecured, so bankruptcy courts can wipe it out, or significantly reduce it.

Also see our article Fair Debt Collection Practices in our arcives.

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