BBB warns about debt collector using illegal tactics

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Your phone rings and the person on the other end says you owe them money; pay up or you’re going to jail.

It sounds like a lot of scams you’ve probably heard about, but the Better Business Bureau warns some legitimate debt collection agencies are using this shady practice.

The BBB says they have gotten dozens of calls about this kind of debt collection tactic. They say it’s not necessarily a scam because it’s an actual law firm and some of the debts may be real. It’s the way the firm is trying to collect that is the problem, and the BBB says it’s not legal.

Two months ago, the Better Business Bureau of Central and South Alabama had never heard of Brewton Law Firm in Atlanta. Then the calls starting pouring in from people in Alabama complaining the law firm was harassing them.

“Where they were being told they needed to pay up on bad checks written to a grocery store up to 15 years ago,” David Smitherman, President and CEO of the BBB of Central and South Alabama, said.

If you look up Brewton Law Firm on the BBB website, you’ll see they have an “F” rating and a long list of complaints.

One consumer wrote:

“A representative of this company repeatedly threatened to have me arrested if I did not pay a debt which I do not owe or have any knowledge of.”

Another person wrote:

“Brewton Law Firm is calling me and family members about a bounced check from 1999 that they plan to take me to court over.”

Smitherman says the Federal Trade Commission has strict rules on what debt collectors can and cannot do.

“It was totally outrageous. It was absolutely against what the Federal Trade Commission allows,” Smitherman said.

WIAT 42 News called the number listed for Brewton Law Firm and it went straight to a generic voicemail every time.

If you get a call from Brewton Law Firm or any other debt collects, the BBB says know your rights before you pay. All debt collectors are required to send you written notice of what you owe, who you owe, and who you should contact if you believe there has been a mistake. They are required to mail that notice within 5 days of contacting you.

“It’d be a real big red flag if you get a call from a debt collector that you’ve never heard from before, demanding that you pay up right that minute,” Smitherman said.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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