Consumer fraud has risen sharply in recent years. This is no real surprise, as Americans have begun to use more and more technologies - tablets and smartphones, PayPal and Venmo - to conduct transactions, leaving themselves vulnerable to more and more types of theft.
Yet the most prevalent form of fraud is one that has been perpetuated for decades. According to a recent report issued by the Federal Trade Commission, the most common consumer complaint stemmed from illegal practices undertaken by debt collection agencies. The FTC received nearly 900,000 complaints to this end. Now the question is what they might do about it.
What is the government doing about it?
While some debt collection agencies comply with federal laws, many engage in illegal activities in order to obtain what they're owed. They will harass and threaten debtors, demand excessive payouts, and share consumers' private financial information. The effects can be disastrous. Consumers are often coerced into paying money they do not owe, and find that their privacy, their jobs, and their personal relationships are in jeopardy.
For such reasons, the FTC has stepped up its efforts to protect consumers from illegal debt collection practices. In 2015, it banned 30 companies and individuals from the industry, and collected more than $90 million from unlawful collectors through the court system.
Can an attorney help me fight back?
Nevertheless, consumer complaints persist. For many, there is no solution - no way to stop the harassment. Others, however, find success through legal representation; with the help of a lawyer, one can at times fight back against collection agencies, and often recover financial damages.
The contemporary age is unkind to consumers. They are vulnerable to risk at every turn, whether on the internet or in their own homes. The FTC will continue to play its game of catch-up, but it often seems that's the best the agency can do. Others, in their pursuit of justice, must take matters into their own hands.