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NJ residents need to be aware of illegal collection practices

For many Burlington County residents dealing with annoying debt collectors, this woman’s story might seem like Fantasy Island. A West Virginia woman turned the tables on a debt collection agency when she won a $10 million judgment because of their abusive behavior. Even though she has been unable to collect the awarded sum, she hopes to at least get the company shut down so they will stop harassing others who are struggling to pay their bills and seeking debt relief.

It all started two years ago when a debt collector left a message insinuating that her house would be repossessed if she didn’t pay her debt. It is against the law for debt collectors to use scare tactics like implying that your property will be seized or make empty threats about lawsuits. Luckily, she saved the message. The message, as it turned out, was from a company called a debt buyer. Debt buyers purchase old debts from creditors who have given up trying to collect their money. Debt buyers often use illegal threatening tactics.

The woman sent a cease and desist letter via certified mail to the company after the first phone call. Exactly 23 minutes after the company signed for the letter, another call was made to the woman. She answered the phone because the caller ID indicated that the call was coming from the local sheriff’s department. In actuality, it was the debt buyer calling to harass her about the cease and desist letter. Another illegal tactic is a practice called “spoofing” in which the debt buyers manipulate caller ID information.

The man on the line repeatedly called her vulgar names and made disgusting violent sexual threats. Again, the answering machine was recording. Feeling threatened and violated, the woman sued. The debt buyer company did not show up for court appearances and the judge awarded the record judgment, calling the company’s actions malicious.

Source: abcnews.go.com, “W.Va. Woman Fights to Collect $10 Million from Debt Collectors,” Elizabeth Leamy, April 25, 2012

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