SALEM, Ore. - National Credit Works hit Oregon like a whirlwind in 2010.
The Virginia Beach, Va.-based company began making untold numbers of phone calls to Oregon consumers, demanding they repay their debts or face dire consequences. The National Credit Works employees were sometimes obscene, bullying, and almost always threatening serious repercussions in the event of non-payment.
It was brutal welcome for many Oregonians to the ugly world of modern debt collectors. Debt buyers and collectors who buy consumer debt and then use hardball tactics to collect are one of the biggest emerging problems in consumer protection.
As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is warning Oregonians who have been victimized by a debt collector engaging in unlawful debt collection practices to file a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice.
In the last 12 months, the Department of Justice brought or resolved cases against several operations that allegedly used deceptive or abusive tactics to intimidate consumers.
The department signed a settlement with National Credit Works that banned the company from doing business in Oregon for three years. The company also paid $2,500 into the department's Protection and Education Fund.
"We're going to use all our resources at the Oregon Department of Justice to protect consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors," Rosenblum said.
The Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities is also active in the fight against illegal debt collectors. Like the Department of Justice, it too has received a growing number of consumer complaints.
State law requires debt collectors who have been hired to collect on behalf of the person to whom the debt is owed must register with the division.
Oregonians have certain protections under both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and a nearly identical state law.
Debt collectors must follow certain procedures to collect on a debt. They are prohibited from:
" Misrepresenting who they are or who they work for.
" Falsely implying the amount of the debt or any legal action that can be taken.
" Contacting you outside the hours of 8 a.m.tp 9 p.m.
" Continually calling or harassing you. During a phone call, a debt collector must identify him/herself and may not threaten violence against you or your family or use profane language.
" Contacting you at work, unless they've been unable to reach you at your home.
" Calling you more than one time a week at work. They must stop calling at your work if you request.
If you think you have been victimized by a debt collector, or want to notify us about an individual, company or agency that may be engaging in unlawful debt collection practices, please visit the DOJ online at oregonconsumer.gov or call 1-877-877-9392.