Lies, threats, debt collection: Tale of a few cities

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When a debt collector harasses and threatens you, it can be downright distressing – and illegal.

The FTC announced a complaint and settlement with American Municipal Services Corporation (AMS), which collects debts for cities and towns. The FTC alleges AMS made false threats and misrepresentations to get people to pay, and under the terms of the settlement, they’ll have to stop. The FTC says AMS threatened people would be arrested, have their driver’s licenses suspended, have their vehicles impounded, and have their debts reported to credit bureaus. Using names like “Warrant Enforcement Division,” AMS made people think these letters came directly from government authorities, according to the FTC.

But the FTC says AMS broke the law when collecting those debts. AMS had no power to jail people, nor did they actually know whether municipalities really intended to do so. In addition to stopping these deceptive and illegal acts, the order requires AMS to give up collection fees obtained using these tactics. 

Under federal law, debt collectors cannot:

  • falsely claim to be law enforcement officers
  • falsely claim you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay
  • threaten to seize, garnish, attach, or sell your assets — unless they legally can and intend to do so
  • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company
  • use a fake company name

If it’s a personal or household debt, it’s illegal for debt collectors to:

  • call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • contact you at work if you’ve told them verbally or in writing that your employer doesn’t allow such calls
  • contact a third party about you for any reason other than getting your contact information
  • harass you or anyone else they contact about you

Learn more about your rights when facing debt collection.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Learn so nobody will harass you in the future.

Great Job! The two criminal owners were let off way to light! They both should be given a much bigger fine and a lengthy prison time, as well as be barred from the collection industry for life and be monitored for 20 years.

Be monitored for 20 years? How about monitoring for life with an ankle gps bracelet

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and Americas Servicing Company called me every hour on the hour six days a week, at home, on my cell, and at work. I thought I was going to get fired because of all of the calls. In fact the lender had already received my check from my bank through auto-pay, but did not deposit the check or credit my mortgage account. I had that verified through my bank that the check had been written and mailed to the proper address. Later I found out the these two companies were deliberately holding back checks from deposit to marr thier credit rating and charge late fees on 1st mortgages, and Equity lines of credit. This tactic caused mortgages to go into default and long legal battles for homeowners including myself.

This is how American Express called me every day and all day that is became scary. AMERICAN EXPRESS sent me a letter telling me that since I had never been late with them that I qualified for a feature on my account called "Pay Over Time", where instead of paying my account balance IN FULL every month,I now had the option to pay down my balance over time as long as I paid the minimum requirement
for every statement period so naturally I used the card to pay for more expensive items since I wasn't required to cough up the entire balance every month. OUT OF THE BLUE, American Express called me demanding the Entire balance, which was a bit more than 6 thousand dollars. They told me it was due IMMEDIATELY. I had still never paid them late EVER and they gave me no explanation except for some imaginary "underwriters" gave them notification that I not eligible for PAY OVER TIME. They set me up for failure, causing my credit score to drop. They called me EVERYDAY and several times per day. They asked me questions such as, "don't you get a tax return that you can pay us with" and "we know you have somebody you can borrow the money from". I was so frightened by the constant calling that I ended up calling the bank that I mortgage with and asking them if they could pay it and some how add it into my mortgage but they rescued me from American Express by giving me a separate line of credit which was used to pay American Express. I resolved this matter within 1 month and I still have a derogatory note on my credit report from American Express. I know that it raises a person's credit score to have an AMEX card however I will never use them again. It seems like the whole situation was staged demographically to lower my credit score and prevent me from having certain things, work certain places or live in certain areas affordably.

If they are contacting family members, and they have a automated call system, how, what, & who do I contact to make them stop? This is a problem for my family and I wish to make a complaint.

You can report problems to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

I don't understand the judicial system at all. Murder someone, get 10 years. Rob someone, and in cases you're in jail for life. These people should be accountable for what they do and to the maximum. Really a slap on the hand because, well, Wells Fargo is a large Corp. People will pay their mortgages if they can. I get calls all day long because my credit is perfect. What's with that?

This is nothing more than self-serving regulatory enforcement aimed at grand-standing. If a large creditor like Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, etc. was the entity hiring AMS for the past 23 years, condoning this illegal activity, they too would be held accountable and the fines and penalties would have been far greater than the $350,000 stipulated to here. This is BS that you don't hold accountable the 500 municipal entities that put AMS to work.

how about taking their contracts away on a moral conduct clause. Same thing as hiring a hit man. You didn't do the crime but u know it is illegal. Governments agencies use these criminals because the were successful use illegal tactics

If I could, I'd press a "like" button for your comment! great idea... totally agree. lol :)

Thank you for this information.

Several years ago I tried to work with one of these jerks, and agreed to send what I could each month until my medical bills were paid. An hour later I slammed the phone down because the only way he would agree with that was if I sent him 12 post-dated checks in one envelope that day. I promptly went to bed and had a seizure from the frenzy he worked me into. I don't try to work with them anymore.

I am going thru a total nightmare right now with computerized voices contacting other people. They have gone so far as to contact my grown (& estranged) son who lives 1200 miles away TWICE. It gets way worse. This voice thing contacted his wife whom I never even met - PLUS my ex husband of 37 years!! But they broke the law very seriously by stating it was for a LAW SUIT against and even gave them all a phone number AND a reference case number against me!!! I don't speak to any of those "relatives" whatsoever. BTW. A process server even called me and left me 2 voicemails stating she would be at my house or place of employment between 2:00 and 5:00 the other day. Well, I was home waiting the entire day and she never showed up. And for the record, I have been disabled for over 10 years. So what place of employment did she think I could possibly be at?? Who ever it is found private cell phone numbers (also illegal to use) but didn't find that I live on Disability? I am ABSOLUTELY taking action. I refuse to tolerate such nonsense! Oh - I did research too. The name of this company is ARS.

The calls might be from fake debt collectors.

A fake debt collector might

  • ask you to pay for a debt you don't recognize
  • refuses to give mailing address or phone number
  • asks for personal or financial information
  • try to scare you into paying, threaten to have you arrested, or say he'll report you to law enforcement

The FTC has tips on what to do if a fake debt collector calls.

I am having a issue with some company claims that I took out a payday loan and owe x amount of money. Claimed they would be here this evening to serve me papers and I need to show id. Can't block them because they call from unavailable number. Has me stressed out

Meditaion Services and Monogram and Associates.

IRS scam with the number 408-809-3467.

In the 1970s when I was in high school, I took all the proper pre-college courses recommened like everyone else and earned good grades. I left home at 18 and joined the US Army. I thought I was prepared to take on the world.

I badly fell for the scams of my day of door to door salesmen, and car dealers. Schools today aren't much different; there still aren't any courses in school dealing with real world dangers of financial rip-offs once a person is on their own.

I remember we were taught about the dangers of rail road crossings and blasting caps in construction sites; so why not include financial education? This is where education needs to start.

I am disabled and got into some debt issues when I could no longer work 5 yrs ago. I got an online loan and was making small payments through my checking account until it overdrafted and my account was closed. My roommate slipped out in the night owing me around 2k for his share of bills causing me to get evicted. With all the chaos, and my disability, i forgot many things and bills went to collections. There is a so called collection co. called Atlantic who has been a thorn over $300 for the loan. I was getting calls saying they were going to file credit card fraud charges if i didnt make payment arrangements, I was making payments from my checking, if I had a credit card I wouldn't have needed the loan. I wanted to make things right so Atlantic had me get a green dot card to make payments, 3 for $198, due to interst?. I didn't know the laws at the time. When I called to make the second payment, their number said it was a non working number, so I called the very rude woman making the legal threats from my state, and all of a sudden I got a call from the non working number. I smelled scam, and was at my counselors office so I put the call on speaker phone. Fyi, by this time I had several calls to my cell phone with threats of legal action. This woman from Atlantic started screaming at me in a rage, so my counselor spoke up and demanded her name and who she was working for. She shut right up knowing she was caught violating the law and hung up. I called 2 lawyers one in Oregon, and one in Chicago, they did a search on Atlantic and the numbers they called from and both said that Atlantic wasn't a legit co. And said not to accept calls or talk to them. I have some 300 phone numbers blocked, and logged on my cell phone through Norton, also over half dozen digital voice mails archived, and from the last one, and for the second time, I'm waiting to be served lawsuit papers today. Also, after the first payment I asked for a reciept for the payment and she refused saying only after all payments were made. The attorneys told me that if I get served it would expose who they are and should list who they were collecting for, plus the amount of the collection amount etc. Then they would sue them for all the illegal actions they have used, including calls to my ex wife and sister. I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression and a major work related neck injury which I've had spinal cord surgery and still need 11 vertebrae fused in my neck and all my lumbar, total 15 fusions. I'm going numb from the neck down, surgeon's say I'm inoperable now. So here I sit today waiting to "be served" again. If, I do get served, I will turn it over to an attorney so they can resolve this farce. My credit is hammered, and I have a foreclosure still sitting on it from when my ex tried to get a modification loan, which I was included in the joint lawsuit against Bank of America for the illegal actions resulting in them stealing my house after my divorce. If anyone has been through this same thing, some experienced advise is appreciated. I'm scared and confused, but ready to deal with it.

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