Running the Numbers: 199,721

July 15, 2013
Bloomberg Businessweek 
debt settlement news

Last year, third-party debt collectors raked in $12 billion by pursuing outstanding debts, according to Philadelphia-based Corporate Advisory Solutions LLC. Since the economic downturn in 2007, debt collectors have been using bolder tactics -- including accusations of lying, general harassment, and threats of arrest over the phone. In one case, Connecticut blues-rock musician Bart Bryant received a phone call in 2007 from a debt collector in New York state. The caller claimed to be an attorney who was contacting Bryant about a small gas-card debt that Bryant's son owed. Bryant said it was only a few minutes before the collector began hurling racial and anti-Semitic slurs, foul language, and degrading comments. Bryant called the police and filed a lawsuit against the debt collection company, and the case was settled out of court. The Federal Trade Commission reports that it received 199,721 complaints about similarly aggressive collection practices in 2012 alone, up more than 30 percent from 152,718 in 2010. On July 10, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it would expand its focus on debt collection practices to include banks that mistreat customers when pursuing unpaid debts. Under the new policy, if a consumer disputes a debt, collectors must end the collection effort or suspend it pending verification; collectors may not harass or abuse a consumer when seeking to collect a debt; and collectors must record 75 percent of their collection calls and must retain the records for 90 days.
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