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Abusive debt collection impacts military families

Military personnel, veterans, and their families are often the targets of aggressive or unscrupulous debt collectors.  Now that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is keeping statistics, it's possible to quantify a degree to which abusive debt collectors target service members in Ohio and elsewhere around the country.

The bureau first began to take complaints in July 2013.  Since that time, military community members have filed about 3,800 complaints about abusive debt collection. Military families have filed over 4,500 complaints about forced sales and foreclosed homes, but the agency has been providing consumer support on those issues for more than two years. It appears that creditor harassment may be a more prevalent problem.

Thirty-nine percent of complaints about creditor harassment related to debt collectors chasing debts that were not even owed. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau calls these "phantom debts" and says that abusive debt collectors often resort to extreme tactics in their attempts at collections, telling presumed debtors that they could be arrested or sued.

Military personnel are particular targets for aggressive debt collectors, who sometimes call their commanders or claim there will be military penalties, such as loss of rank, for default on payments. 

The Federal Trade Commission also sees a high number of complaints involving abusive debt collectors who have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Ten percent of the commission's complaints in 2013 were from debtors and others victimized by debt collectors.

"Robo-suing," a practice of filing hundreds or even thousands of lawsuits against debtors in one fell swoop, affects service members and veterans as well as the general population. The lawsuits, which often contain incorrect information, are sent electronically to the court.

In this atmosphere of increasing creditor harassment, a lawyer who is experienced in debt collection and bankruptcy law may be your best ally in reaching a fair resolution to consumer debt. If you are facing creditor harassment and/or mounting debt, it may be wise to talk to a reputable attorney about your rights and options.

Source: Military Times, "Consumer Watch: Protect yourself from unscrupulous debt collectors," Karen Jowers, April 2, 2014

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