SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. and ROCKVILLE, Md. -- With millions of consumers receiving calls and letters from collectors every year—not all of them legitimate—Consumer Action has released its popular guide, When a collector calls: An insider’s guide to responding to debt collectors, in Spanish (Cuando llama un cobrador: Guía del conocedor para responder a cobradores de deudas). The free guide provides tips for communicating effectively with authentic collectors and avoiding imposters.
Ethnic or minority groups are among the most likely victims of scams that continue to plague consumers, warned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) during a roundtable last year in San Francisco with leaders of various community groups, including Consumer Action.
The FTC’s then chair, Edith Ramirez, told the audience that the FTC “sees companies that are out there seeking to collect on debts that don’t exist.”
A 2014 report prepared by the Urban Institute and Encore Capital Group's Consumer Credit Research Institute (based on 2013 data) estimated that 220 million U.S. adults have a credit file, and concluded that 35 percent, or 77 million U.S. adults, have debt in collections reported in their credit files. Scammers have used these statistics to their advantage by making bogus collection calls and coercing consumers into either paying them or revealing bank account or other sensitive information. Consumers who don’t know their rights may find it difficult to tell the difference between a real collector and an imposter.
The new guide gives Spanish-speaking consumers specific signs to look for—the use of profanity, a request for your full Social Security number or an unwillingness to provide specific information about the debt or who is calling, for example—that will help consumers determine whether a collection call is genuine or not. It also provides next steps, depending on that assessment. For collection calls and letters that are legitimate, the guide offers tips to help consumers deal with the debt proactively while preserving their rights.
Consumer Action created When a collector calls in partnership with the Consumer Relations Consortium (CRC), an association of leaders in the debt collection industry, making it a true “insider’s” guide. The English version of the guide has been viewed online by close to 10,000 visitors and downloaded by hundreds.
Nelson Santiago, one of Consumer Action’s community outreach managers, noted that it was a great opportunity to work with CRC members on the guide. “Fake debt collectors often target Spanish speakers, and collaborating with CRC will allow us to reach a broader group of consumers before the scammers do. We also hope that consumers who area dealing with legitimate debt concerns can use some of the guide's insider tips to help resolve their money troubles before they get worse."
“The mission of the CRC has always been to collaborate with consumer groups in order to bridge the gap of misunderstanding that often exists between consumers and legitimate collectors. This project fit that mission perfectly,” said Stephanie Eidelman, CRC co-executive director.
About Consumer Action
Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change.
By providing consumer education materials in multiple languages, a free national hotline, a comprehensive website (www.consumer-action.org) and annual surveys of financial and consumer services, Consumer Action helps consumers assert their rights in the marketplace and make financially savvy choices. Nearly 7,000 community and grassroots organizations benefit annually from its extensive outreach programs, training materials and support.
About the Consumer Relations Consortium
Consumer Relations Consortium (www.crconsortium.org) is a group of 30-plus leaders in the debt collection industry whose focus is on collecting the right debt, from the right consumer, in the right way. The CRC proactively engages with regulators and consumer advocacy groups to bridge the gap of understanding and expectations often present between consumers and collectors.