Talk about popular. No single industry receives more consumer complaints than debt collectors, says David Torok, director of the division of planning and information at the Federal Trade Commission.
In 2011, consumers filed 180,928 complaints about debt collectors, accounting for 1 in every 10 complaints the FTC received last year.
Of those, 86 percent fingered third-party debt collectors. The remaining complaints involved collection efforts from creditors.
Debt-collection complaints included debt collectors who called repeatedly or continuously, falsely represented the amount or status of a debt, failed to send written notice of a debt, falsely threatened a lawsuit, used profane language, and failed to identify themselves as a debt collector.
All of these complaints are violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, says Jeffrey Suher, a consumer attorney in Pittsburgh specializing in debt collection cases.
"These debt collectors will do this type of stuff, and they are very arrogant about it to try to scare a person into making a payment," Suher says.
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state attorney general's office and the FTC, according to the FTC's website. Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal act, Torok says.
"Collectors can't harass. That's the simple bottom line," Torok says. "Know your rights."