Illegal ‘zombie’ debt collections rampant in Florida, advocate says
David LyonsSun-Sentinel Invalid and illegal debt collections are at record levels across the U.S., and Florida is No. 2 for complaints about the practice, according to a national tracker of frequent flier programs and credit card rewards. The practice, dubbed “zombie debt collections” by RewardExpert, are defined as attempts to collect debts not owed, those that were already paid or discharged, debts owed by someone else, or are a result of identity theft. The practice is conducted mainly by third-party debt collectors who purchase and collect debts that have been written off by the original creditor. Florida is second among five states identified by RewardExpert in which the collection activity is most prevalent. Last year, the state had 8,314 complaints or a per capita rate of 42.43 per 100,000 residents, behind Delaware, which had a rate of 44.72 per 100,000 residents. Georgia, Nevada and Maryland rounded out the top five. “Third-party debt collectors, who purchase and profit on collecting debts that have been written off as a loss by the original creditor, are most likely to practice zombie debt collection,” said Roman Shteyn, CEO and co-founder of RewardExpert. Consumers can avoid these collections by submitting written demands that the collector verify the debt, checking for discrepancies, and responding to court summonses to ensure the collector doesn’t win a court case by default. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission declared in a new report that Florida is the scam capital of the nation, with nearly 2.7 million consumer complaints made to the agency in 2017. The top categories were debt collection, impostor scams, identity theft, phone and mobile, and banks and lenders, according to the latest FTC Data Book, Georgia and Nevada rounded out the top three states reporting fraud per 100,000 in population. For identity theft, it was Michigan, Florida and California.