One of the hazards of being an attorney is that, sooner or later, very
little will shock you. I thought I'd heard the worst of the worst
in debt collection stories. Having just read
this article, I realize that I was wrong.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from swearing
at, verbally abusing, and otherwise harassing consumers. Violations of
the Act carry a statutory penalty of $1,000 per violation and also could
entitle the consumer to recover actual damages, attorney's fees, and
In a recently-filed lawsuit, a disabled veteran named Michael Collier alleges
that an employee of debt collection firm Gurstel Chargo told him that
he should have died. Here is the full quote:
"F--- you! Pay us your money! You can't afford an attorney. You
owe us. I hope your wife divorces your a--. If you would have served our
country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security
while the rest of us honest Americans work our a-- off. Too bad; you should
I can spot at least four violations in this one quote. To make matters
worse, Gurstel also attempted to garnish Mr. Collier's disability
payments in violation of federal law.
What is also telling about this case is that even though debt collectors
know what they cannot do, they continue to do it. So why does this conduct
continue to occur? Once you rule out the fact that some people are prone
to be abusive to others when they are largely anonymous (see also: most
of the Internet), I'd argue that one of the main reasons is that the
stakes are rather low for the debt collectors.
People just don't defend their rights frequently enough. Perhaps not
everyone is aware that the FDCPA provides such broad protection against
abusive debt collectors. Maybe consumer defense law is an underserved
practice area. What it all boils down to is that a lot of this behavior
goes unpunished because people don't fight back.
If debt collectors are harassing you, then you have a case against them.
In many cases, your original creditor is not a debt collector under the
law. It is important to know the difference. If you believe that you may
have an FDCPA claim against a debt collector, contact an experienced attorney
to discuss your options.