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Intimidating Debt Collectors Push Brits to Suicide

(Reuters) – Irresponsible lending and intimidating debt collectors are pushing thousands of people in Britain into depression and suicide.  A report by England’s University of Brighton stated that “Debt clients frequently feel humiliated, disconnected and entrapped, with the process of debt collection having a clear impact on people’s mental health.”

man on phone This is terrible news.  I understand that everyone, worldwide is struggling with the slowdown of the economy but is seems that the tactics used by some debt collectors in the UK are driving people there to suicide.

There has been a significant rise in suicide over there, the report states a total of 4552 men took their own lives in 2011, a 7.8% increase over the previous year.  The study mentions that suicide rates have increased in the US “steeply in recent years” but gave no real figures.

I find it surprising that someone would consider suicide, much less go through with it, because of their debt.  I know the feeling of overwhelming debt.  You feel that you will never be able get out from under it.  I remember the embarrassment and shame of not being able to repay money that, with good faith, was promised to repay and the never-ending phone calls from collectors.

But I was never bothered by the collectors; I just didn’t answer the phone or half of the time open letters that were obviously from a collection agency.  This of course is not the way to handle your debt.  It actually is the opposite of handling your debt; it’s doing nothing and living in denial.

While there are, I’m sure, reputable collection agencies, the internet is full of sites and stories about abusive collectors and their tactics.  In a response to this story of suicide in the UK, a spokes-person from Rapid Recovery Solution, Inc. based in Long Island, told prweb.com “We believe that every debtor has the ability to pay if motivated correctly. We DO NOT alienate the debtors; we attempt to align with them and offer a number of ways to resolve not only your debt but also all their debts.”

I think that Rapid Recovery Solution, Inc. exposed their true outlook on collecting debt when they said “…every debtor has the ability to pay if motivated correctly.”  I think “motivated correctly” is the key.  When I was younger, much younger, I worked for a collection agency collecting on bad checks.  Our office also collected on small consumer debt.  All this company cared about was collecting money by any means possible.

I could not find any specific information on what kind of regulations there are in the UK that control collections, but if they exist, they must not be very effective.  In the US we have the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Our regulation addresses a myriad of concerns with debt collectors: Harassment or abuse, Misleading representations, Unfair practices, Legal actions by debt collectors, The use of deceptive forms and others.

I’m not sure what recourse consumers have in the UK but here are a few tips if you happen to find yourself victim of an unscrupulous collector:

Here is a bit of what a collector or collection agency cannot do:

Call you repeatedly or contact you at an unreasonable time (the law presumes that before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. is unreasonable).

  • Place telephone calls to you without identifying themselves as bill collectors.
  • Contact you at work if your employer prohibits it.
  • Use obscene or profane language
  • Use or threaten to use violence.
  • Claim that you’ll be imprisoned or your property will be seized.
  • Send you a paper that resembles a legal document.
  • Contact third parties, other than your attorney, a credit reporting bureau, or the original creditor, except for the limited purpose of finding information about your whereabouts. Unless you have asked collectors in writing to stop contacting you, they can also contact your spouse, your parents (if you are a minor), and your co-debtors.

What are you supposed to do if a collector or agency breaks the law?  1. Tell them to stop.  Simply send a letter stating that you want the collection agency to cease all communications with you. All agency employees are then prohibited from contacting you. 2. Document their illegal behavior.  Start a log of communication; try to another person there to witness the action. 3. File a complaint with the FTC. 4. Sue the Debt Collector. You could actually receive up to $1000 for any violation if you win in court.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself in an overwhelming debt situation, is to contact a professional debt manager or financial specialist.

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