Debt Collectors Make Threatening, Harassing Calls
When a Middle Tennessee woman answered the phone one day, she said she never thought she'd be threatened and harassed.
It was a debt collector who wanted her to pay a bill that was six years old, a bill she didn't even know she owed.
NewsChannel 5 consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus found out what that bill collector did next was not only shocking, but illegal.
The man who called Maria Tubbs was no ordinary bill collector. "He informed me that I owed a bill," Tubbs said.
He was calling from a company that buys old debts and then tries to collect on them. "They wanted their money, no matter how they were going to get it. They wanted their money," she recalled.
Tubbs, the caller said, had an unpaid bill dating back six years and he told her that she needed to pay up or she'd be hauled into court.
"He said the Warren County court system already had paperwork on file and it could go into litigation," said Tubbs.
When Tubbs called the Warren County courthouse, they said nothing had been filed.
Radio money man Dave Ramsey said he frequently heard about these unscrupulous debt collection companies from listeners.
"You're kidding? They lied? I'm aghast. Of course, they lied," Ramsey declared. "You have to realize you're being emotionally bullied."
The collectors prey on people's fears and say whatever it takes to collect the money that's due.
"He mentioned probably three times during that conversation that my driver's license were going to be suspended if I did not pay it by that Friday," Tubbs said.
Ramsey said they will even tell you things they know are not true.
"They're going to come pick the tomatoes out of her garden too. I mean, give me a break. They don't have any power with the DMV. That's just absolutely ridiculous," Ramsey said.
Tubbs found dozens of complaints online about the company that called her, Eastern Asset Management.
"There's no telling how many people they've gotten so far," said Tubbs.
They all tell similar stories about being harassed and threatened by employees of the company who called demanding money.
"I wish this was unusual. It is not unusual and it's more and more prevalent," said Ramsey.
Ramsey said occasionally some of the more unscrupulous companies out there will try to collect debts that are so old they are legally uncollectible.
Tubbs was not even sure she owed anyone any money six years ago.
"I asked him to send me something showing what I owed," she remembered.
The company should have then mailed Tubbs a statement, but they refused. She refused to send any money.
The man, she said, kept calling and calling, threatening her and making demands.
"These people are in total violation of federal law," said Ramsey.
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is supposed to protect consumers from abusive debt collectors. It spells out what these companies can and cannot do. Under the law, what Eastern Assets Management did to Tubbs was wrong.
"I was so worried. I worried myself sick for quite a few days," said Tubbs.
Ramsey said there was no need to worry if you get a call like Tubbs did.
"Hang up the phone and let them talk to a dial tone if they're misbehaving cause companies like this break federal law on a daily basis," the financial expert suggests.
There are a lot of debt collectors out there that do follow the law. If you get a call from one of those companies and they can prove you owe money - you do need to pay it.
Ramsey said if you don't have all of the money upfront at least pay something and pay the rest as you get it.
Debit Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers