Lori Swanson, activist Minnesota State Attorney General and staunch supporter of consumer rights, has contributed an article to Minnesota newspaper The Journal. Titled "Debt buying industry has seen explosive growth," the article, though published in International Falls, Minnesota, is an excellent education-in-a-nutshell for consumers throughout the country about what happens when debt buyers come calling.
Attorney General Swanson’s article does a nice job briefly describing how the debt buying industry works. She then goes on to explain why this business model often results in consumers being pursued for:
- Debts that have already been paid
- Debts that are not theirs
- Debts that resulted from identity theft and had been resolved with the original creditor
Ms. Swanson, who recently sued Midland Funding for their debt collection practices, notes that the debts at issue are often very old, sometimes originating ten or more years earlier. Consumers often do not keep canceled checks and other proof of payment that long, making it hard to provide evidence that a debt has been paid. And consumers are often put in the position of having to prove a negative (i.e., that they don’t owe the money), when creditors wrongfully pursue them without sufficient proof that they do owe the money.
Lastly, the Attorney General notes that because debt collectors are so aggressive in their efforts to collect debt (and thereby maximize profits for their shareholders), consumers may think they have resolved an issue regarding a particular alleged debt, only to find it has been sold to another debt buyer and has become an issue again.
The most important thing you can do, she concludes, is not ignore the situation. Know your rights. You can get information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) from the website of the Federal Trade Commission, one of the federal agencies in charge of policing the debt collection industry. Have a question? Ask us here.
- Sheril Stanford