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News Flash: It is Illegal for Debt Collectors to Stalk Debtors on Facebook or Threaten to Kill Their Dogs

posted by Nathalie Martin

Do any of you read creditcards.com? It is a great source of info on various topics, not just credit cards. Today’s story featured three debt collection horror tales, as well as a state of the nation of nasty collection efforts. According to the story, in 2011, the FTC received 180,000 complaints about debt collectors, an increase of over 40,000 from 2010. In one case, a debt collector filed a lawsuit against a California debt collector, hired by a funeral home, who threatened to dig up the body of the debtor's daughter -- and also to shoot her dog. Here is a run-down of three other featured stories. 

In the first one entitled “terrorized by text,” Jessica Burke fell behind on her car payments. She called the financing company, and they agreed to give her extra time to pay. But the next day, she got a call from a man using a fake name who threatened to sue. He got her address and other private information from her cell phone company (say what?) by impersonating her father and asking to be added to her account. He called and texted and called and texted, after some time of which she called the police, who ordered the collector to stop contacting her. But the texts continued for weeks, coming from a disguised number and implying that he was watching her. In one, he called her "Porky Pig" and a "200-pound slob" and added, "I got picture messages of you today." Late one night, she says, he texted her, claiming he was outside her house.She says: "It was

11 o'clock at night, I lived in a very rural area and I was home by myself. I was terrified."  She ultimately got a judgment of $33,312 against the debt collector, who told her lawyer he had no intention of paying.

In tale number two, entitled “get your gun,” the debt collector called West Virginia homemaker Diana Mey about a debt owed by a son that had not lived there for eight years. The debt collector left a message on Mey's home answering machine. "It was a very ominous message that implied legal action," Mey says. Later, after requesting that the debt collector stop contacting her, the calls continued, and now caller ID suggested that the calls were coming from the local sheriff's department.

"I called the sheriff's department and said, 'Is somebody trying to get ahold of me?' They said 'No.'" in one late-night call, a deep male voice on the other end asked for Diana, using a vulgar slur. He then went on to make graphic threats of sexual assault. Horrified, Mey told him she was recording the call.  After she hung up, Mey called 911 to report the incident. Home alone, she got her husband's gun and hung it on her bedpost that night. She says: "I was literally shaking I was so scared."

Mey sued the company, Global AG, also known by several other names, including Reliant Financial Associates. Alas, the collection company's attorney didn't show up in court, so a judge listened to Mey's testimony and the super-vulgar tape with a local TV station filming. The judge awarded Mey a judgment of more than $10.8 million, but of course collection will be another story.

Tale number three involved facebook stalking, in a case in which Kathryn Haralson in Florida fell behind on her car payments. The bill collectors called the debtor, her office, her father, her brother, her husband, and her daughter, who was away at college. The collector dialed her husband's cell phone so much that he had to stop answering it and missed several business calls, she says. The collector called her brother at work enough to jeopardize his job and refused to stop, she says. Then he tracked Haralson down on Facebook and wrote: "Good day. Please contact Mr. Rice at MarkOne regarding a personal business matter," followed by his phone number. She found a lawyer and is prepared to sue. No kidding!

Check out the whole story (this was most of it) and get some useful tips for consumers for dealing with this sort of thing.



"The judge awarded Mey a judgment of more than $10.8 million, but of course collection will be another story." How ironic.

One way to stop the worst of these behaviors is to create strong disincentives for selling uncollected debts for pennies on the dollar or less. Companies that use unethical debt collection methods or sell debts to those who do should be placed on on-line "debt offender registries" that detail their methods. Those contemplating taking on debts should then be required to spend time looking through the registry before signing up. It's hard to see how minds can meet when buying on credit without transparency on debt collection.

Thanks very much for noting our story, professor, and your kind words.

Identity theift is increasing throughout the nation and more and more of the "nice" websites that we know of really is an easy oportuinty to take peoples identity. This story is really interesting. How could you have somebody on your side when someone has took your identity? Well you can get great counsuling by going on http://debthelper.com/ and they will help you to realieve the stress and get right bacck on your feet . Where hopeing to here from you soon :)

I just read a story about a police office forcing a young gorl to do horrendous things. I am so glad to see that some people, even scared out of their wits, will still not crumble to unjustified pressure
You Go!

As a matter of policy I don't deal with third party collectors at all. I have told a couple of them that.

Since I don't owe anyone money any third party collectors that call would be fraudulent. So I tell them I will just sue the original creditor for libel and for FDCPA violations for which there are attorney's fees by statute. And don't call back or otherwise contact me again.

I haven't ever had to do it. I'm kind of looking forward to it but my current approach has resulted in them completely backing off in every case.

I have a pretty expensive attorney. He needs the fees.

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