Not too many would be shocked to hear that topping the nation’s list of consumer complaints during the year 2016 would be.
And the Winner IS……….
Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Debt collection efforts by creditors and collection agencies. I’m not sure about the general public, but I can tell you from experience in representing consumers as well as receiving calls made to me for someone else’s debt…..These collectors are relentless! It has been our experience over the years that the greatest relief clients seem to experience when they come in for a consultation is hearing the words: “You may tell your creditors and the collectors to contact our office for any information they need.” In other words, you can now have a reprieve from creditors and collection agencies calling all during the day and night. Most people don’t even answer their phones if they do not know the number, but it’s the interruptions all during the day that can unnerve even the most placid of personalities. According to ABC News, there were 859,090 complaints registered just for debt collection efforts.
Imposters and Scams
The next category that received the highest complaint volume would be imposter scams. The most popular imposter scam in recent months has been a con artist posing as a government agent or a “fake IRS agent“. In these scams the con artist contacts a taxpayer advising that they have been audited by the IRS and that they now owe money. If the victim does not pay immediately, they are told that they may face imprisonment, deportation or being involved in a court case. Please be aware that the IRS will NEVER contact you by phone demanding payments. If you do owe the IRS money, you will receive written correspondence from the IRS advising of amounts owed, payment options or collection efforts for defaulted amounts owed. It will be up to the taxpayer to contact the IRS to make payment arrangements, or, if ignored, the IRS may garnish bank accounts or wages. However, notice of levying against such property will be given in writing prior to such action being taken.
Rounding out the top three on the list would be identity theft. One very common identity theft problem occurs when someone’s information is used to commit a fraud, such as filing a fake tax return in order to steal the tax refund. Certainly a more familiar identity theft problem would be using someone’s information for credit card fraud.
Some of the less popular scams that still received numerous complaints are, sweepstakes, lotteries and prizes; shop at home/catalog sales and credit bureaus, (information furnishers and report users).
Always be very careful when giving out personal information on the phone to anyone. In the times that we live in, there are many people looking to make a fast buck-from you. Before sharing information, it is prudent to google the phone number and the name of the business. You may also contact your local Better Business Bureau, state attorney general’s office or the Federal Trade Commission for additional information that may be helpful as well as information regarding current scams.
If you have questions regarding your credit report, collection efforts by creditors and collection agencies, please contact one of our offices to schedule an appointment with an attorney to discuss your situation.
Suzanne Shinn is a shareholder of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama and Mississippi. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and a Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law. She joined the Bond & Botes team in 1992 as its first associate attorney and has been helping clients navigate the bankruptcy process ever since. Read her full bio here.