Large debt loads are a reality that most households are dealing with, and often, bill collectors are part of that situation.
While there are many legitimate bill collection companies, there are just as many shady bill collectors who will threaten and try to collect money on debt that has already been paid.
It is a such a concern that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Upstate NY are urging people to not pay under pressure from bad bill collectors.
In many cases, bad bill collectors will threaten immediate legal action, harm or claim they will contact a person's employer - all of which are prohibited by the "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act."
Melanie McGovern, Communications Director for the BBB of WNY, said the first thing people should do if they get a call from a questionable bill collector on a debt they don't recognize is to request a validation letter.
McGovern said by law, bill collectors must respond within 5 days or you do not have to pay the debt. A validation letter needs to detail how the debt was incurred and who took ownership of the debt. Often, bill collectors will buy up notes on debt and then call people, regardless of whether the debt was previously settled. It cannot just be a note saying you owe a certain amount of money.
It is important to keep records on any loan, credit card, medical bill, student loan and mortgage that you have paid in full.
Threats and intimidation from bill collectors should be reported to the BBB, NYS Attorney General and the FTC.
A link to the FTC is available here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
Complaint forms for the NYS Attorney General: https://ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms
Report to the BBB scam tracker: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/upstate-new-york
The Better Business Bureau recommends everyone check their credit reports yearly. Free credit reports are available here: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly will have more on this problem in his "Making Ends Meet" report.