FTC, State, and Federal Law Enforcement Partners Announce Nationwide Crackdown on Phantom and Abusive Debt Collection
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, along with the Federal Trade Commission and more than 50 federal and state law enforcement partners, today announced a nationwide law enforcement and outreach initiative to protect consumers from phantom debt collection and abusive and threatening debt collection practices.
The initiative, called Operation Corrupt Collector, includes enforcement actions brought by the FTC, three federal partners, and partners from 16 different states against debt collectors engaged in these illegal practices.
“In order to protect the citizens of South Carolina, it is important to raise awareness about corrupt debt collection practices,” said Attorney General Wilson. “I am proud to join other state attorneys general and the FTC in warning our citizens about this issue so that they can recognize red flags and know what to do.”
“For many years, we’ve been working with our law enforcement partners to crack down on illegal and abusive debt collectors,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “At a time when many are under financial stress, our coordinated actions today show that we’re continuing the fight against collectors who threaten people and try to collect debts they don’t owe.”
The operation includes five cases filed by the FTC, two cases filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three criminal cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. States reporting actions as part of the operation include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington.
In addition to law enforcement actions, state and local consumer protection agencies across the country are joining the FTC in rolling out new information to help consumers know their rights when it comes to debt collection and what steps to take if they receive a call trying to collect on a debt that they do not recognize. The FTC has also created a new online dashboard with information about reports received from consumers on debts not owed and abusive and threatening collection practices. So far in 2020, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network has received more than 85,000 reports from consumers related to debt collection, and nearly 45 percent of those were related to debts the consumer did not owe or abusive and threatening practices.
In South Carolina so far in 2020, there have been 1,668 total debt collection reports with 706 of those, or 42.3 percent, being reports about debt not owed or abusive/threatening debt collection practices.
If you get a collection call about a debt you don’t recognize, Attorney General Wilson advises:
- Find out who’s calling. Get the name of the collector, the collection company, its address, and phone number.
- Get “validation” information about the debt. Within 5 days of first contacting you, debt collectors must “validate” or tell you the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor.
- Don’t respond to threats. When scammers threaten to arrest you, suspend your driver’s license, or call your employer if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector.
- Do your own detective work. Check with the original creditor. Is the debt yours? Did they sell your debt or hire a company to collect it? If so, is the caller the original creditor’s collector?
- Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe some — or all — of the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online.