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Bonamici, Foster, Cohen Introduce Bill to Combat Predatory Debt Collection

February 25, 2020
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, DC [02/25/20] –Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Bill Foster (IL-11), and Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced legislation to protect consumers from predatory debt collectors.

 

Many debt collectors use misleading or incomplete information to undermine consumers’ rights and to try to convince them they must pay debts that are not legally due — or may not even be theirs. The Securing Consumers Against Misrepresented (SCAM) Debt Act will require debt collectors to provide consumers with crucial details about the debts they are trying to collect. The bill also expands the requirements that debt collectors must meet to take legal action against consumers.

 

In 2019 alone, nearly 500,000 people filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about debt collection fraud.

 

Too often consumers don’t have the information they need to defend themselves from predatory debt collectors, making them vulnerable to aggressive and financially devastating lawsuits,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “When I began my career at Legal Aid, I saw how these harmful tactics hurt families and our communities. The continued and widespread exploitation of debt collection shows why we need meaningful policies that will help struggling consumers protect themselves from unscrupulous collectors. The SCAM Debt Act will put power back into the hands of individuals and give them the information they need.”

 

“American consumers deserve to be free from unscrupulous, predatory debt collection practices,” said Congressman Bill Foster. “I am proud to support the SCAM Act to protect consumers from coercive litigation by educating them of their rights and improving transparency in the process.”

 

“Debt collectors should not be able to use unreliable or out-of-date records to trick consumers into paying debts they don’t actually owe,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “The SCAM Debt Act will make sure that consumers have access to the information they need to exercise their rights. I’m proud to join Representatives Bonamici and Foster in introducing it.”

 

Nearly one in three people in the U.S. have a debt in collection, according to data from the Urban Institute. Consumers often face threats, harassment at home and the workplace, and abusive litigation from unscrupulous debt collectors.

 

“Oregon Food Bank knows that hunger is not an individual experience,” said Moira Bowman, Director of Advocacy for the Oregon Food Bank. “It’s a symptom of inequities in our systems. The SCAM Debt Act is an important step in reducing predatory debt collection which contributes to food insecurity.  By dismantling the predatory tricks of debt collection practices, the SCAM Debt Act is a tool to fight hunger—particularly for communities of color who are more likely to be targets of predatory debt collection.”

 

A summary of the bill is available here and the bill text is available here.

 

The SCAM Debt Act is endorsed by: the Oregon Food Bank, National Consumer Law Center – on behalf of its low-income clients, National Association of Consumer Advocates, Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the National Consumers League.

 

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