FOX19 Investigates: Abusive debt collectors

(FOX19) - Bill collectors sometimes call Kevin Lynn's house up to 20 times a day, yet the debt isn't even his.

"I always told them I don't owe the debt, they had the wrong person, that I don't know who the person is," Lynn said.

But that person apparently used to live in the same house. Kevin has filed three lawsuits to get this ringing to stop. Even more frustrating, Lynn's phone company charges him for each incoming call.

The Federal Trade Commission got more than 150,000 complaints about debt collectors last year. That's more than any other industry.

"Some of our number one sources of complaints for consumers are for harassment and abuse: calling too often, using profanity, making violent or abusive threats," said FTC attorney Chris Koegel.

To crack down, a new federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is starting to police some of the largest collection agencies in the country.

Have you ever wondered how bad can some company's tactics get? Just take a look at some of these messages left in consumers' voicemail systems:

"I'm going ahead with a warrant for your arrest," said one debt collector.

"You will be behind bars for six months," said another. "And once you go behind the bars you may lose your job."

In one FTC lawsuit filed against a bill collector, a grieving mother said she was asked how she would feel if the funeral home dug up her son's body and "dropped it outside my house because I hadn't paid my debt."

"Every industry is going to have bad apples," said Pat Morris, who represents the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.

The debt collection trade association says it wants those using abusive tactics weeded out so others can do the job right.

"Don't shoot the messenger," Morris said. "We're here doing our job. We're here respecting laws and regulations and we treat consumers with respect."

Starting this month, the CFPB got new authority to make sure large collection firms are not harassing or deceiving consumers into paying debt and are using accurate data to pursue debts.

Lynn says that's good news because he's still getting collection calls and feels helpless to do anything about the harassment.

"Americans definitely need a new watchdog to help them," he said.

To file a complaint against a debt collector, contact the Federal Trade Commission and your state's attorney general. In Ohio, that's Mike DeWine's office. In Kentucky, it's the office of Jack Conway. And in Indiana, it's Greg Zoeller's office.

To reach the Federal Trade Commission by phone, call (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).

Also, be sure you know your rights by reading about what debt collectors can and can't do.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tells FOX19 it's not currently accepting complaints about debt collectors. However, they are collecting consumer's stories here:

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.