Monday, November 22, 2010
Money Monday: Sue Debt Collectors
If you've ever gotten behind in paying your bills you know the bill collectors can be brutal, but it's in your best interest to know what rules they have to follow when calling you, because if they don't you can make them pay. It's Money Monday and 7's Lynn Martinez is here with more.
WSVN -- Bill collectors tormented Cheyenne. They called repeatedly and even threatened her with prison.
Cheyenne: "They told me they were gonna come get me and they'll be to my house to arrest me."
That's illegal. Bill collectors also hounded Michael, calling him at work even though he told them to stop.
Michael: "I would get these phone calls during the day periodically at least four to five times a day."
That's illegal too. Cheyenne and Michael admit they owed money on unpaid bills, but they didn't realize they could make money if they could prove the bill collectors were breaking the law.
Scott Owens, Attorney: "You can sue for up to $1,000 in statutory damages under the fair debt collection practices act."
If you win your lawsuit, your legal fees will also be paid. Attorney Scott Owens sues debt collectors who step out of line.
Scott Owens: "The phone violations are the most common."
The law says a bill collector can't:
-Call you incessantly
-Call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
-Use abusive language
-Or call you at work after you've told them to stop.
Some victims are like Brian, he didn't owe a penny, but was hounded over a case of mistaken identity.
Brian: "I was frustrated because it wasn't my debt and they just continually called."
That's also illegal. Bill collectors must prove that you owe the money, but many are illegally aggressive.
Scott Owens: "I would urge the consumers to save their voice mail messages and contact a consumer attorney who can evaluate the message to see whether in fact if it violates federal law."
Brian and Cheyenne fought back in court and won. Brian was awarded $750, Cheyenne got $1000 dollars and she hopes others will learn from her bad experience.
Cheyenne: "I know I'm probably not the only one and now other people will know."
Michael also won his case, but the debt collector is now appealing that ruling in court.
We have more tips on how to fight aggressive debt collectors on our website.
If you have any other money questions or story ideas you'd like us to look into on Money Monday, you can tell us about it by emailing us at email@example.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO BATTLE DEBT COLLECTORS:
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION:
National Association of Consumer Advocates
Attorney Scott Owens: