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

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

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