Latest FTC Study Highlights the Debt Buying Industry
National Mortgage Professional
January 31, 2013
Results are now available on the first empirical study of debt buyers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced. "The Structure and Practices of the Debt Buying Industry" found room for improvement in the information debt buyers have when trying to contact consumers to collect on debts. Past research by the FTC found that collectors may have insufficient information, causing them to target the wrong individuals or try to collect the wrong amount. The new report is based on analysis of more than 5,000 portfolios of consumer debt and nearly 90 million consumer accounts, with a face value of $143 billion. Seventy-one percent of the debt (by dollar amount) was credit card debt although the study also included mortgage, medical, and utility debt. Debt buying raises significant concerns about consumer protection. Consumers each year disputed an estimated 1 million or more debts that buyers had tried to collect; debt buyers verified only about half of these disputed debts. At the time of purchase, creditors may hand over debtor information that includes addresses, social security numbers, and account numbers; but they often do not receive key data such as whether the consumer previously disputed the debt or whether creditors previously verified the debt.
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