When Angela first started working at a debt collection agency, she says she barely understood what her job was. "I was so completely awestruck that people didn't pay their bills," she told me. "I thought this was going to be really easy. Honestly, I don't even know how I kept the job the first couple of weeks." It wasn't easy. But Angela finally did start getting consumers to pay, and worked her way up in the industry. And then, 15 years into her career, she and several colleagues were sued for illegal debt collection practices by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General. Angela eventually settled, and as part of the agreement was banned from the industry for life and ordered to pay $4.4 million. She says she's not sure she'll ever pay that off. Now, Angela also has medical debt that's gone to collections. At first, she says she would pick up the phone when collectors called, just to critique them. "Now I just block the number and move on," she told me. "I will eventually get them paid off and until I can, there is no point in wasting their time."
If you're getting calls from debt collectors who you think might be breaking the law, find out how to contact your state's consumer protection office here.