Billion dollar debt buying and collection abuses

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(NNPA)—Are you or someone you know being pursued or harassed late into the evenings and on weekends by debt collectors? If so, research shows that you are among one in seven Americans being pursued by debt collection agencies. In a newly-released chapter in its State of Lending series, the Center for Responsible Lending found that debt buying and debt collection is big, big business. Among publicly-traded debt buyers’ income grew from $582 million in 2009 to more than $1 billion in 2012.

And amid these billion dollar deals, scant regulation allows profiteers to take advantage of financially-distressed consumers, often securing court judgments for debts that may not even be owed. A 2009 Federal Trade Commission analysis of 3.9 million consumer accounts, found only 6 percent of the accounts came with any documentation.

The new report also cites a disproportionate impact on low- and moderate-income communities. Black communities were also found to have higher rates of debt buyer lawsuits and default judgments.

“The sheer lack of accountability in this industry is astonishing,” said Lisa Stifler, CRL policy counsel and co-author of the report. “There is no requirement to verify debt information or inform a consumer about the transfer of debt. Sometimes a consumer learns about a debt only after an onslaught of collection attempts—or worse—a judgment is entered and wages are garnished or a bank account is seized.”

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