The entire debt collection industry has recently come under close scrutiny in the state of Georgia, where a number of collection agencies have apparently been implementing a wide range of completely illegal actions in order to convince consumers to pay for debts that may or may not have ever existed in the first place.
When operating a debt collection agency, we believe that the most profitable way of doing business is to be up front and honest with consumers, and also to follow all of the state and federal laws that stipulate what types of collection tactics are legal and which are not. So while some agencies may have been able to temporarily boost their returns by committing the following violations, we believe that the best collection practice is to avoid them.
Impersonating a Law Enforcement Officer
There have been multiple law suits filed across the state of Georgia where the plaintiffs claim that a debt collector either directly stated that they were a law enforcement officer or led the consumer to believe that was the case. In both instances, those collectors were breaking the law, as it is completely illegal in every state to even imply that you might be associated with a law enforcement officer.
Using Profane Language
Collectors in Georgia have been accused of using every word in the book in an attempt to scare consumers into making payments. Whether we are talking about actual swearing or simply referring to customers as “deadbeats” or “scumbags,” this type of behavior is completely unacceptable and is sure to produce negative results in the long run.
Calling at Late Hours
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act clearly states that it is unacceptable for debt collectors to make phone calls to consumers at unreasonable times. However, there have been more than a few documented incidents of collectors in Georgia making harassing phone calls to consumers in the middle of the night.
Once again, we believe that the best way to get a consumer to work with a debt collector on a legitimate debt is to treat them with respect and dignity. Clearly that was not what these collectors in Georgia had in mind, and now they are paying the price for their poor choices.
Making False Threats About Legal Action
Another illegal collection tactic that has been prevalent in Georgia was the practice of making threats of impending law suits in order to scare consumers into paying, whether the debt was legitimate or not. Once again, this is a practice that is clearly illegal according to the FDCPA, and any agencies that employ these types of tactics are destined to fail.
Collecting Debts That Never Existed
Collecting outstanding debts in an ethical manner starts with making sure that the debts you are attempting to collect are legitimate debts in the first place. Some of the law suits filed against collectors in Georgia indicate that those collectors were attempting to collect from consumers who never owed the debt in the first place.
Harassing Consumers About Time-Barred Debts
In addition to attempting to collect debts that never existed, collectors in Georgia were also accused of harassing consumers about debts that were far too old to still be collectable. The specific statutes of limitations on a debt vary from state to state, but it is illegal to attempt to collect debts that have reached that point in every state.
In Georgia, as well as in the rest of the country, the debt collectors who implement these unethical and illegal tactics are definitely in the minority. But should they be conducting on your behalf, you are opening yourself up to both a bad reputation and possible legal consequences. That is why you should always make sure that the agency you hire stresses the importance of collecting in an ethical manner.