A New Jersey Senate committee will consider legislation Monday that would stop debt collectors from harassing some victims of identify theft.
Some New Jersey residents who had their identities stolen are repeatedly called by debt collection companies demanding payments for purchases they didn’t make, said state Sen. Jeff Van Drew.
“It’s a serious issue because it affects your credit rating. It certainly affects your whole lifestyle. It’s very, very nerve wracking for people to go through,” said Van Drew, D-Atlantic. “When you do not owe the debt, when you are not the individual for whom they are looking, there should be recourse.”
Van Drew’s bill requires consumers who don’t owe the money to give written notice to a debt collector. Until it’s determined who is actually responsible for the debt, companies that don’t stop calling could face fines up to $1,000 for each violation.
“Unfortunately some of these collection agencies have a large number of employees working for them, and sometimes these employees really don’t care. They promise that they’ll straighten it out,” he said. “Yet they hang up, and a week later the individual gets a phone call again that they owe debt, that they owe money.”
Since he proposed the legislation, Van Drew said, there have been fewer of the harassing calls.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about it. I think some of the companies have been more careful because we had quite a run for a while of problems with this issue,” he said. “It’s a been a little quieter, but we believe we should codify into law the protection for the individual consumer.”