Sign of the Times ?

Complaints about debt collectors are higher than any other type of complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, having increased higher in each of the last 6 years. It's a sign of the times.

As the economy tightens, credit card companies, banks, suppliers and companies of all types are fighting to collect on bills that they once might have written off. ANd their tactics are getting worse, even when the debt is not really owed at all.

And more often than ever the collection effort involves "old debt" that in many cases is legally barred from any collection at all (sometimes called zombie debt by lawyers who sue debt collectors). In other cases the debts being sued on are for claims that were dismissed before or already resolved but the "crumbs" of its existence in computer records are being bought up by third party debt buyers along with other legitimate debt.

These companies are called "bottom feeders" and usually pay pennies (or less) on the dollar to buy the debt or the chance to collect on the debt. Cash-strapped companies that have written the debt off long ago, on the other hand, see a chance to create income out of nothing so they have every incentive to brush the dust off old uncollectable accounts that they themselves have already closed out, given up, sued on, compromised, or written off.

It isn't unusual anymore to get debt collector calls (they rarely use ordinary dunning letters anymore) trying to collect on bills that are ten to fifteen years old and which, in many cases, the consumer settled with the merchant years earlier. The problem is the merchant may have written off the unpaid balance and it is that unpaid balance that is now showing up in the hands of bottom feeder debt collectors, who aren't shy about their aggressive collection tactics.

There are laws to control crazy debt collectors but many consumes don't know about them. They limit phone calls, for instance, to only a certain time frame in the day. They also ban threats and harassment, but that doesn't always stop it from happening.

For more on what your credit rights are if you're being harassed, check out There you'll find explanations of
If they call and you don't owe it, you can stop the calls. Keeping debt collectors fair and honest is what the Fair Credit laws are all about.

Burdge Law Office

Helping Consumers Protect Themselves Since 1978