Long Beach may be the second busiest port in the U.S., but it’s the #1 destination right now if you have clients in the debt collection industry. The FTC-CFPB Roundtable, Debt Collection & the Latino Community, begins at 9:00 PT and you can watch the webcast live. FTC staff will be tweeting from @FTC and @LaFTC in English and Spanish. (Use the hashtags #debt and #deuda.) But that’s not the only news for industry members.
On the law enforcement front, the FTC has gone to court to challenge the tactics of an outfit that targeted Spanish-speaking consumers with threats of arrest or immigration investigations if they didn’t pay debts they didn’t even owe. According to the FTC, Centro Natural Corporation cold-called consumers nationwide and unleashed a torrent of deceptive, unfair, and abusive tactics in an effort to collect on bogus debts – or even to get people to buy products they didn’t want. The lawsuit also names individual defendants and a related company, Sumore L.L.C.
The FTC’s complaint includes a translated transcript of a message the defendants left on one victim’s phone:
This is Carla Villa, calling from Supreme Court Number 11, of the City of Tallahassee, State of Florida, in the Spanish area. The reason for my call is to inform you about an approved claim against you . . . Said claim has already been filed also before the Record and Fraud Court of your state . . . For this reason, we are contacting you from the conciliation area of this Supreme Court, to verify if you will decide to proceed with the claim or if you wish to reach some kind of solution. I remind you that we will be sending the corresponding report to the Record and Fraud area of the federal government and also another copy will be sent to the Immigration office area, which has already started an evaluation of your residence here in the United States. Please contact us for more information otherwise, you will be summoned and will have to answer, as it has a minimum penalty of USD 3,970.
The complaint charges the defendants with violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Section 5. The FTC says they also violated numerous Telemarketing Sales Rule provisions by – among other things – calling people on the Do Not Call Registry, failing to honor entity-specific DNC requests, and falsely claiming a government affiliation. A federal judge in Miami has issued a temporary restraining order.
To educate the industry on the dos and don’ts of debt collection, the FTC has just released a revised video. It's also available in Spanish. Refer to other free resources on the Business Center’s Debt Collection page and check out these tools to help you comply with the Telemarketing Sales Rule.