Big changes in debt collection practices--none of them good for consumers!

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Failure to pay a bill isn't a crime. But failing to show up in court to address it is.  And that crime--as minor as it may seem--can put you in the very real danger of being handcuffed and thrown in jail.  You need to be aware of the latest aggressive debt collection techniques being practiced today, before you become a victim of them.

At a time when our courts are overwhelmed with fabricated mortgage documents, and  automated debt collection lawsuits  the debt collection industry has found a couple of new and innovative ways to use the courts and law enforcement agencies to collect on old debts--- whether or not you know about or even actually owe the debt.
And if that isn't bad enough, the FTC is considering changing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to amend rules that would now allow debt collectors to contact the families of the deceased in an attempt to collect on the grieving families deceased loved one's debt.
Even though a debt collector has the right to go after the estate of the deceased for payment on debt, that's a far different thing from specifically opening the doors--and phone lines--to grieving families.
The first of the latest alarming schemes involves using the courts and police to turn the civil infraction of not paying a debt into a criminal offense, one that comes with potential jail time.
Normally, when police are called to domestic arguments and financially-based complaints, they tell the public that their complaints are a civil matter, that the police can't get involved.  Well, it seems the debt collection industry has found an innovative way around the laws to make sure the police do get involved. 

Debt collectors are asking the court to issue an arrest warrant for anyone who doesn't show up in court to dispute or address their reasons for not paying a debt the collectors claim you owe.

No matter if you didn't know a debt was owed, no matter you didn't open the mail advising you that this would be happening.  Maybe you thought it was junk mail and tossed it, or maybe you didn't receive it because it was re-routed to an identity thief's address, or maybe clerical and/or accounting errors erroneously reflect you didn't pay a debt that you did.  You have been warned: if you get a notice to show up in court, be there, or you may find yourself strip searched and put behind bars!
Check out these recent scenarios below before you find yourself in their shoes. You can also find a link to use to comment on the proposed amendments to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act below;
Arrested on the street, stripped and thrown in jail for not paying old debts.

For many people in Minnesota and across the country, defaulting on a debt has become tantamount to a crime.  States and consumers across the country including,  Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois and Washington are reporting that debtors have been jailed for not appearing before a judge and addressing their debt. According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, in 2009 alone, there were 845 cases of debtors being sent to prison in their state.

The Star Tribune reports that as a sheriff's deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer's purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.

No one had an answer.

Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense -- missing a court hearing over an unpaid $250 debt.

Watch the eye-opening video by Star Tribune staff writers Chris Serres & Glenn Howatt as they share results of their investigation into these latest aggressive debt collection practices. 
Watch the Star Tribune video; Tossed in jail for unpaid debt

Then read about the Top five companies using debt arrest warrants

And for more read;
Investigative voice:  DEBTOR'S PRISON -- Mortgage fraud investigator says he was wrongly jailed over disputed debt -shackled and handcuffed in front of two toddlers.


Ending up in jail over a disputed debt seems like a Dickensian throwback to the days of debtor's prison. But an overwhelmed court system that allows houses without mortgages to be fraudulently repossessed and where lenders admit they routinely falsify key documents in foreclosure cases, the notion that disputing a debt could result in jail time is not out of the realm of possibility, says Baltimore County resident Todd Wetzelberger. See more here. 

The FTC May allow Debt Collectors access to families of deceased loved ones.

In what seems an incredulous move in light of the many consumer lawsuits, FTC fines and industry wide innumerable reported violations to the FDCPA, this is a move that would only serve to weaken much needed consumer protections on already cash-strapped families.
It invites trouble -with a capital T.

How will a family member determine if the debt is actually owed, or already paid by their loved one? What if the debt collector is trying to collect on an aged debt no longer collectible? And what about debts that were incurred through fraud? How will a family member find the stamina and strength to deal with what will surely be a bombardment of threats and demanding phone calls at an already difficult time?

READ: Death won't stop these debt collectors  
A call to action; I encourage consumers to contact the FTC and tell them consumers have it hard enough! Tell the FTC not to open the doors that would allow aggressive debt collectors to hound innocent grieving family members.  If the rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act are changed, families will be bombarded by debt buyers for debts they never incurred. It's just plain WRONG. You can comment on the upcoming proposed rule change up until November 8th, 2010.

Read: Allied Interstate Inc; Debt collector to pay $1.75 million
Federal officials said they are trying to send a message to other debt collectors to stop harassing people over debts they don't owe. Weakening our consumer protection laws by allowing debt collectors to target families of deceased debtors -who may or may not owe a debt, does nothing to promote fair debt collection practices!

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