Unfortunately, the harassment and deceptive collection techniques to which you and your husband are being subjected by this collection agency are all too common in the collection industry. In my years working with consumers like you who are experiencing a financial downturn, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard an almost identical story, including a collection agency telling a consumer that he or she is violating federal law by “bouncing checks over state lines.” Due to the high-pressure techniques used by many collection agencies, consumers are frequently coerced into agreeing to payments much higher than what they can actually afford. This claim about bouncing checks is used by many agencies as a standard response when people are unable to make the ridiculously high payments the collectors demand.
Not only is what these collectors are telling you a flat-out lie, their statements are very likely violations of federal law (the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act). If you would like to read more about your rights as a consumer, I encourage you to visit the Federal Trade Commission debt collection page. Simply giving a collection agency a routing number and account number does not commit you to any payment. Even if you had authorized a payment, you have the right to stop the payment; why else would your bank give you the ability to place a “stop payment” on a check. The allegations being made by this collection agency are empty threats; you have committed no crime by closing your account or withdrawing your funds before the collection agency could take its payments, which you did not authorize in the first place.
Under federal law, a third-party collector is required to stop contacting you if you notify it in writing to cease communications with you. If this collection agency continues to call, harass, and threaten you, you may wish to send the agency a cease communications demand letter. You can review an sample cease and desist letter on the Bills.com Debt DIY page. I recommend that you send your letter via certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you have a record of the letter’s delivery. If the collection agency continues to call after receiving your letter, it will likely be in further violation of federal collection law, and you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the agency. If you find it necessary to pursue legal action against the collector, either for violating your cease communication demand or for making false representations about your “bouncing checks,” I would encourage you to consult with a consumer rights attorney licensed in your state who should be able to better explain your rights and tell you what action you should take against the collection firm. For help finding an experienced consumer attorney in your state, you can visit the Web site of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. You may also want to file a complaint against the agency with your state Attorney General’s office and with the Federal Trade Commission.
Although you can probably stop the collection calls and harassment you have been experiencing, your husband will probably still be liable for the debt in question. I invite you to read about the various options available to assist consumers who are struggling with their debts by visiting the Bills.com Debt Help page. I wish you the best of luck in resolving the problems you have been experiencing with this collection agency, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.