It's been awhile since we've written a story about a wacky debt collector. But now we have a story that might have to take up permanent residence in the Wacky Debt Collector Hall of Fame. This one is so nasty and over the top that it almost made me laugh.
Two collectors from the august firm of Rumson Bolling and Associates will have to pay more than $1 million in penalties and leave the debt-collection field because of complaints against them. How bad were these guys? A post at lawyers.com gives us the lowdown--and we are talking really, really low:
The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement this month with two debt collectors who were accused of abusive and over-the-top practices, including threatening to rape a debtor’s mother, kill the family dog and desecrate the corpses of debtors’ dead children.
Holy cow, that sounds like a scene from Night of the Living Dead. Reminds me of "All You Zombies," the classic Hooters tune from the big '80s. More from lawyers.com:
The FTC settlement agreement stipulates that Frank Lindstrom and Kevin Medley of Rumson, Bolling and Associates pay over a million dollars in penalties between them, and cease work in the debt collection industry.
The FTC complaint included an astounding list of abuses committed by the collectors, including “threatening physical harm and death to [alleged debtors] and their pets, threatening to desecrate the bodies of deceased relatives, and using obscene and profane language. The defendants also allegedly improperly revealed consumers’ debts to third parties, such as the consumers’ employers, co-workers, neighbors, and family members; falsely threatened consumers with lawsuits, arrest, seizure of their assets, or wage garnishment; and falsely claimed that consumers would be liable for legal fees incurred in the collection of the debt.”
As regular readers know, I have a special "affinity" for debt collectors. That's due to the unforgettable moments Mrs. Schnauzer and I have had with the charming folks from NCO and Ingram and Associates. The Ingram/NCO thugs sound almost like Alistair Cooke compared to the Rumson Bolling crowd.
In an effort to collect a debt that I allegedly owed to American Express, representatives of Ingram and Associates made a number of interesting representations via telephone. They said that:
* Ingram and Associates had been hired by American Express;
* Ingram and Associates had been hired by American Express to sue me;
* Angie Ingram, the law firm's principal, was American Express' attorney;
* Angie Ingram had a fiduciary duty to American Express.
There's only one problem with all of these representations. Evidence we've seen in our lawsuit indicates that they are not true.
That might seem tame compared to what we are hearing about the Rumson Bolling crowd. But making a false representation to an alleged debtor is a serious violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). When you consider the possibility that debt collectors played a role in cheating my wife and me out of our jobs . . . well, Ingram/NCO might be even worse than the Rumson thugs.
We are just two of thousands of Americans who will have unpleasant (and perhaps unlawful) experiences with debt collectors. From lawyers.com:
Unfortunately complaints against collectors like Lindstrom and Medley are far too common. The FTC registered 140,036 complaints about debt collectors in 2010, or 27 percent of all complaints taken, a big jump from 119,609 complaints in 2009.
Scaring alleged debtors apparently works, forcing consumers to pay funds they might not even owe--and nicely enhancing the bottom lines for collectors:
Tough-guy collectors are an unenviable consequence of falling into debt. “It’s the wild wild west with those guys,” says Scott Dillon, a bankruptcy attorney at Tully Rinckey in New York. “It’s all a commission-based service industry. They have to be as aggressive as they can, and there are probably not too many controls as far as management is concerned. You’ve got monetary incentive to be as impressive as possible.”
Scare tactics can be effective when vulnerable and scared consumers aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of the law. “I can’t tell you how often my clients come in under the complete belief that if they don’t pay the debts, they’re going to jail,” Dillon says. “That is continuously a theme I see with debt collectors.”