FTC Releases Fotonovela Series to Increase Awareness Among Spanish-Speaking Consumers on Debt Collection
In order to inform Spanish-speaking Americans on their rights regarding debt collection, the Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday, Jan. 20, that it has published a short graphic novel on the subject.
The 13-page comic, entitled Cobradores de Deuda (or “Debt Collectors”), lets consumers know about basic laws that debt collectors must follow and what consumers can do if debt collectors violate those regulations.
As part of the FTC’s fotonovela series, the booklet relates the story of a mother who tells her son, Juan, that debt collectors have called her regarding his debts. The mother then receives information about a Spanish-language seminar on debt collection and advises Juan to attend.
At the seminar, Juan asks about what debt collectors are prohibited from doing, such as calling at inappropriate times, threatening debtors with criminal charges or deportation, or discussing that debt with a third party.
Many people, whether they speak Spanish or not, may not always know their rights when faced with aggressive debt collection. At the seminar portrayed in the booklet, Juan and other students learn that debt collectors cannot call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and they cannot harass debtors in any way.
Juan also learns that he has the right to dispute debt and can call the FTC about any problems with debt collectors.
Each year, millions of Americans wind up in debt due to medical bills, loans, or credit card debt. For example, although Visa cards are the most popular types of credit cards in the world, the average American Express cardholder charges approximately $7,714 to that card annually, which could make it easy to wind up in debt.
The FTC’s outreach program is aimed at promoting consumer education and protection in the Latino community. Other fotonovelas in the series, which is only available in Spanish, have focused on government impostors and income scams and can be read in PDF format at ftc.gov/fotonovela.
Spanish-speaking consumers with limited English proficiency are often the victims of debt collection scams and harassment. In addition to releasing the series of booklets, the FTC also hosted a joint roundtable with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last fall, titled “Debt Collection and the Latino Community.”
Last year, the FTC also helped reach a huge settlement with a debt collector that targeted Spanish-speaking consumers. The owners of Rincon Debt Management were ordered to surrender $3.3 million in assets to pay back English- and Spanish-speaking consumers who had been unfairly targeted and harassed.