Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices: Know Your Rights and Protect Yourself from Threats, Lies, and Intimidation

Financial Times
Fred Williams  
Total pages
August 2010
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This year, America's enormous, poorly regulated debt collection industry will make more than 1,000,000,000 collection calls. They will threaten. They will lie and mislead. They will intimidate. Over the past five years, they've racked up more than 300,000 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission: more than any other industry regulated by the FTC. Financial reporter Fred Williams knows more about the industry than anyone else. Not only has investigated America's debt collection agencies, he spent three months working for one of the largest firms in the business. In Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices Williams reveals what he learned and shows you exactly how to fight back and protect your rights. Williams weaves indispensable practical advice together with stories straight from his collection agency cubicle. You'll learn what to do first if a collector calls; what collectors can and can't do; which debts you are and aren't responsible for; how collectors choose accounts to focus on; how to stop harassing or abusive calls; how to keep the advantage in a negotiation for a lucrative debt settlement; even how to take the offensive with a lawsuit that can halt collection and win yourself a $1,000 penalty!


Go inside America's debt collection industry: discover how it really works, and learn how you can fight back!


  • How you can protect your rights, stop harassing phone calls, and negotiate settlements that actually protect your money.
  • Discover the (legal and illegal) dirty tricks that collectors use every day and know exactly how to respond.
  •  By veteran reporter Fred Williams, who's covered the debt collection industry firsthand.

Table of Contents

Introduction     1

Part 1:  Debt Collection Secrets     9

Chapter 1:  Lessons in Deception     11

Chapter 2:  Credit Is King     23

Chapter 3:  Anger Can Be Power     31

Chapter 4:  Closeout: “No Tomorrow”      41

Chapter 5:  The Shakedown Industry     47

Chapter 6:  PIF Means Payment in Full     61

Chapter 7:  Payday, the Tables Turn     69

Chapter 8:  Debtors' Rebellion     73

Chapter 9:  Debt for Sale     83

Chapter 10:  The Golden Rule: Money Today     89

Chapter 11:  Strengths and Weaknesses     93

Chapter 12:  Collector of the Week     103

Chapter 13:  Retention     111

Chapter 14:  A Complaint     115

Chapter 15:  Data Minefield     121

Chapter 16:  Graduation Day     127

Chapter 17:  On the Floor     133

Chapter 18:  NLE Means No Longer Employed     145

Chapter 19:  Solutions     157

Part 2:  Coping With Collections     161

Chapter 20:  Stopping Collection Calls     163

Chapter 21:  Checking Out a Collector     167

Chapter 22:  Using Collection Law     171

Chapter 23:  Reading Your Credit Reports     177

Chapter 24:  Preparing a Complaint     183

Chapter 25:  Negotiating a Debt Settlement     189

Endnotes     195

Index     201

Back Cover

This year, America's enormous debt collection industry will make 1,000,000,000 collection calls. They will threaten. Lie. Mislead. Intimidate. Award-winning reporter Fred Williams went “undercover” inside one of its largest firms. Now, he reveals everything he learned-and shows exactly how to fight back and protect your rights.


A business journalist for most of the past 24 years, Fred Williams has written about debt collection for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and for The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, where he started covering the industry in 1999. He undertook a six-month research project on the industry in 2006, supported by the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at The Ohio State University.


In 2008, he worked as a debt collector for 11 weeks at a collection agency near Buffalo.


Fred graduated from Binghamton University in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in economics. He currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and is careful to pay his entire credit card balance each month.