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Threats To Publish Consumers’ Names For Failing To Pay Debts

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Among the many things some debt collectors threaten consumers with are the threats of publishing the consumer’s name and a list of their unpaid debts, and labeling the consumer a deadbeat who refuses to pay his debts. The thought of the public shaming is calculated to make people make payments, sometimes even if the debt is not properly attributed to the consumer, or the consumer has a valid defense against the debt.

Making the threat to publish a consumer’s debts is considered harassment under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. A threat to publish someone’s name as a person who does not pay his bills sometimes goes hand in hand with a threat to have the consumer thrown in jail or prosecuted criminally for failing to pay the debt. These kinds of threats are prohibited under the law, and can be the basis of a lawsuit against the debt collector.

There is a legitimate reporting of nonpayment of debts that debt collectors can do. Debt collectors can report consumers’ missed payments and delinquent debts to the credit reporting agencies. There are three national credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The information these companies receive from debt collectors is used to calculate a person’s credit score. A debt collector who threatens to report delinquent accounts to these agencies is not violating the law.

Reports made to the credit agencies regarding an individual consumer are not made available to the general public. The information is made available to people or companies with a legitimate business need, for example: landlords; companies with which the consumer has an existing relationship; companies considering granting the consumer credit; and, current or prospective employers.

The consumer has the right to see his credit report by paying to get access, or by requesting free annual credit reports. It is often recommended that consumers request copies of their credit report in order to be aware of the debts that could be affecting their credit. Debt collectors may not always provide accurate information, or may include added fees and interest to the reported amount of the consumer’s debt. If the consumer is aware of the discrepancies in the information reported to credit agencies, he can contest the information.

After reporting inaccuracies in a credit report, the credit reporting companies are required to conduct an investigation. In some situations, if the investigation does not resolve the dispute, the consumer may provide the credit reporting company with a short statement explaining the dispute of the debt. This statement can be included along with the reported debt on the consumer’s credit report.

Let Us Help You

When a debt collector makes a threat to publish your name and label you a person who refuses to pay his debts, do not be intimidated into making payments. Instead, keep track of the harassing phone calls and not the nature of the harassment each time. Then speak to a consumer protection lawyer about your legal options. Contact the law firm of Louis S. Schwartz, Attorneys at Law to speak to an experienced debt collection abuse attorney in Philadelphia.

Resources:

ftc.gov/system/files/documents/plain-language/fair-debt-collection-practices-act.pdf

consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports

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