This is one of those stories that you have to read twice to fully comprehend. On the first pass, you might find yourself saying "no way!" And then on the second pass you realize it is (sadly) true.

Delores Maddux had a credit card with CitiFinancial, and her account was eventually sold to Merchants Retail Credit Association (MRCA). The company demanded $10,000 from Maddux (and her husband, and her daughter), which she believed was an incorrect amount, so she disputed the amount owed.

According to Caveat Emptor: When she disputed the amount, MRCA debt collectors called her lazy, fat, black, inbred, pathetic, and stupid. The MRCA debt collector threatened to tell everyone Dolores Maddux knew that she was a deadbeat. The debt collectors from MRCA laughed at her and threatened to ruin her life and Gilbert Maddux's life. They called her a liar, a thief, and verbally abused her and her husband, daughter, and others, telling the people they called that Dolores Maddux was a deadbeat, a thief, a liar, etc.

The threats and harassment carried on, including vulgarities and racial slurs. So one day, Delores had enough and hired an attorney. The case has concluded with the court awarding Delores Maddux $616,971 plus $237,419 in attorney fees and costs. I wonder if that sends a message?
I believe consumers should pay their debts as agreed. I understand the necessity of "debt collectors," but I also understand that they need to play by the rules. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior, and I'm sure most of us have heard our fair share of harassment stories when it comes to collection agencies.

It is suggested that this type of behavior on the part of debt collectors happens more often than we realize. The problem is that those who are in debt don't usually have the resources to hire an attorney to stand up for their rights. Hopefully, the publicity surrounding this case will give more people the courage to assert their rights with the help of consumer advocates.

Forensic accountant Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations through her company, Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners honored Tracy as the 2007 winner of the prestigious Hubbard Award and her first book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud, will be on bookshelves in March 2008.

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