Abusive Debt Collectors Informative - Local prosecution of abusive collectors.
Here it is kids. It’s not legal advice, so go to your local prosecutor for that. A regular commentator on the site (DebtorBasher) already detailed how debt buying hurts those with paid accounts or those who are victims of identity theft. I fully know that it’ll take the “right” prosecutor in the “right” state with the “right” complaining witness for this to put abusers on notice. But, once the ball gains momentum…who knows? Believe it or not, I also submit it on behalf of the diligent and decent collectors who perform a needed service humanely and within the bounds of law. Here goes…
Abusive collectors often justify offensive conduct because it “facilitates payment”. This argument is empty because physical assault would have the same effect. And, of course, battery is equally illegal to threats or criminal harassment.
We’ve all heard about abusive debt collectors targeting innocent victims having a recycled phone number, invalid “debts”, a similar name, or blood relation to people targeted by them. Worse, is the abusive collector who bullies a victim of identity theft with repeated daily/nightly calls, threats of arrest, cursing, and threats of social shame.
There’s new approach possible and it protects non-abusive collectors (Few prosecutors are willing to dabble in malicious prosecution). While other, traditional, mechanisms (i.e. FDCPA) exist to deal with abusive collectors, these rarely work because the fines are miniscule compared to the abusive collector’s income and it takes numerous complaints to trigger an investigation and sanctions…while the abuse plays on.
However, virtually every state prohibits using the telephone to threaten, harass, or abuse another party. Look for the topic in your telephone book. These laws usually target illegal calls made by family abusers, disgruntled employees, or social malcontents. The laws negate any defense that an abuser has a “legitimate” reason to call you and their prohibitions focus on the content of the call, number of calls, and times of the calls.
So, pursuing a criminal case against an individual, abusive collections employee may be an option. Ask how your local police, prosecutor’s office, and telephone service provider handle abusive and harassing calls and what evidence is required for a successful prosecution. You may encounter less than enthusiastic support because of bias. However, point out that abusive collectors are often target innocent victims and that all citizens have an expectation of protection from criminal conduct.
The services you need are free and the involved agencies are obligated to help crime victims. Prosecution targets the individual abuser, not the agency. It’s doubtful that a disreputable agency will aid their employee in a criminal case. Prosecutions will get the attention of other employees having a personal interest in avoiding criminal prosecution for “just doing my job”. Collection agencies engaging in abusive conduct as a policy can no longer blame-shift that it’s “only a few bad individuals” giving their industry a bad reputation. Employees of an agency having a policy promoting abuse know that they as individuals will bear the ultimate responsibility for their actions. Rogue employees of good agencies will be accountable.
State lines are not an impediment to prosecution. Threatening or harassing calls may be prosecuted at either the receiving or originating end (ask your prosecutor how it works). Extradition isn’t needed. A local bench warrant will haunt the abuser every time he/she changes jobs (frequently!) or is encountered by law enforcement. Jail time is not an uncommon penalty for telephone harassment or threats. It’s a sure bet that a local judge will not look favorably on some bully beating up the judge’s neighbors on his watch.
It’s a technique worth exploring and one that’s difficult to argue against unless you’re a fan of abusive collectors. It also brings the possibility that purchased debt may come with a history of criminal prosecution by an abused party…adding to the risk in buying junk debt. The abusive collectors count on your silence and “shame”. It’s time to pull the pin on the grenade they tossed you…and throw it back.