Debt collectors play an important role, but it's surprising how often they seem to violate individual rights. In some cases, scam artists pretending to be debt collectors make phone calls or send emails demanding money. In other cases, debt collectors may be legitimate--but the debts have already been paid or forgiven.
Debt collectors may also harass innocent individuals who are the victim of identity fraud. In many cases, it is appropriate to file a complaint against a real or alleged debt collector who is making your life miserable.
How to File Complaints Against a Collection Agency
To report an alleged violation of your rights and file a complaint against a debt collector, start by contacting your state’s attorney general. If your state has its own laws (in addition to federal debt collection laws) governing collection procedures, your attorney general’s office will know.
You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a complaint. The FTC does not resolve problems; it records complaints and looks for patterns and trends about a particular business.
To file a complaint with the FTC about a debt collector’s practices, write to:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC.gov website will take you through a multi-step online process to report the issue.
What Kinds of Issues Does the FTC Address?
The FTC can provide at least some help and direction for individuals complaining about:
- An original creditor collecting a debt
- A company other than the original creditor collecting a debt
- A company offering debt management or credit counseling
- A company offering to repair your debt
If your problem relates to a telemarketer or unwanted direct marketing by email or text, the FTC will redirect you to the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov) or ask you to forward the unwanted email to email@example.com.
If you actually paid an organization to resolve a debt and found that you were scammed, the FTC will ask you to fill out an extensive questionnaire and then describe the events in your own words. You will have the option of providing as much or as little personal information as you desire.
It's important to know that the FTC will not take action as the police might. They may, however, sue a company that is breaking the law, and you may be able to collect at least some money if the FTC is successful in its suit.