Harris & Harris is one of the largest debt collection agencies in the United States. As with any large company, consumers often have mixed experiences.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Harris & Harris to separate fact from fiction and determine if they should be viewed as a friend or foe.
Background on Harris & Harris
Founded in 1968 and headquartered in Chicago, Harris & Harris Ltd. employs over 500 people across various locations. They specialize in collecting various types of debt, including medical bills, government fines, utilities, and more.
In the debt collection industry, size and specialization do not necessarily equal quality of service or ethical practices. It’s important to understand the business model and what consumer protections are in place.
As a third-party debt collector, Harris & Harris’ goal is to recover unpaid debts on behalf of creditors. This means their incentive is to collect as much money as possible through whatever legal means.
While most debts are legit, some collection attempts involve obsolete, discharged, or incorrectly assigned debts.
Understanding the Debt Collection Process
To put allegations about Harris & Harris in context, let’s review the typical debt collection lifecycle:
Charge-off – If a debt goes unpaid for a set period (usually 6 months), the original creditor writes it off as a loss.
Placement with an Agency – Creditors sell portfolios of charged-off debts in bulk to collection agencies, who pay pennies on the dollar.
Validation Notice – By law, the collector must notify the consumer in writing that a debt is in collection and provide details to validate the debt is theirs.
Collection Attempts – Agencies place phone calls, send letters, and reports to credit bureaus in an attempt to resolve the debt.
Settlement or Payment – If contact is made, the consumer may pay in full, agree to a payment plan, or settle for less than the full amount.
Credit Reporting – Paid or settled debts remain on credit reports for 7 years from the original delinquency date.
At each step, there is opportunity for error or abuse if collectors do not verify information or follow regulations. Let’s examine some common Harris & Harris complaints.
Allegations of Wrongful Debt Collection
Among the top complaints filed against Harris & Harris are attempting to collect on debts without authorization, disclosing private information to third parties, and failing to validate the debt as required by law.
For example, some consumers allege receiving calls for debts they claim were previously settled, discharged in bankruptcy, or they did not recognize at all. Others take issue with how personal details were shared during collection efforts.
Because agencies purchase massive debt portfolios with minimal documentation attached, mix-ups can occur. However, collectors are still required to adhere to rigorous validation requirements to avoid these situations.
There are also reports of Harris & Harris failing to remove negative items from credit files after debts were paid or resolved. This violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which requires timely updating of credit data.
At this stage, determining the validity of any one complaint is difficult without access to account records. But repeated allegations illustrate the importance of consumer protections and a collector’s responsibility to handle sensitive financial data with care.
Understanding Your Rights Under the FDCPA
To address concerns about improper practices, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in 1977. As one of the leading regulators of third-party debt collectors, the FDCPA grants consumers several key rights:
✅ Demand validation of the debt: Within 5 days of initial contact, the collector must provide written validation including original creditor name and amount owed.
✅ Restrict communication methods: Consumers can request all contact be done only in writing to their address of record.
✅ Limit contact at work: If notified, the collector may not contact the consumer at work if their employer disapproves.
✅ Dispute the debt freely: Consumers have 30 days from receipt of validation to dispute the debt in writing without penalty.
✅ Cease all communication: Upon written request, the collector must cease all contact if the consumer has retained counsel related to the debt.
✅ Report consumer complaints: The Federal Trade Commission maintains a database of complaints filed against debt collectors for potential legal action.
While the FDCPA doesn’t prevent all collection attempts outright, it gives consumers ammunition to address careless, persistent, or threatening conduct by debt buyers and agencies acting on behalf of others.
How to Handle Harassment from Harris & Harris
If you receive questionable calls or letters from Harris & Harris regarding a debt, take these steps to mitigate potential FDCPA violations:
Request Validation Immediately
Demand the collector provide the required validation notice in writing within 5 days of first contact. This validates the details of the debt such as the creditor and amount. Save all correspondence.
Keep Communications in Writing
Orally, request the collector only contacts you by mail regarding the account. Avoid phone calls where improper comments could be made. Maintain documentation of all contact by mail or certified letter.
Look Up the Original Debt
Using your credit reports, check for details on the collection account. Look up prior statements from the original creditor for verification as well. Errors happen but validating facts protects your rights.
Dispute If Needed
Submit a written dispute letter by mail within 30 days if any details don’t match your records or you have proof the debt is invalid such as paid, discharged or statute barred. State your defense and demand proof.
Report to Regulators
File a complaint with the FTC and your state Attorney General if the collector keeps contacting you after a cease communication request or if the harassment does not stop despite your disputes. Provide all documentation of exchanges.
Consider a Debt Validation Attorney
In extreme and persistent cases where self-advocacy has failed, consult with a consumer attorney versed in FDCPA violations regarding potential legal remedies such as debt validation, cease and desist letters, or litigation options at minimal cost.
Analyzing Online Harris & Harris Reviews
To obtain a more well-rounded view, let’s analyze Harris & Harris’ online reputation across multiple review channels including the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google, and independent complaint sites.
At the time of research, Harris & Harris holds an A+ rating with the BBB based on a low volume of resolved complaints and timely response record over the last 3 years. On a scale of over 800, their rating is very good.
However, delving into over 1000 reviews on Google and the BBB’s site, a pattern of both positive and concerning experiences becomes apparent. Top complaints include:
- Attempting to collect on incorrect or discharged debts
- Failing to validate or provide support for collection claims
- Threatening legal action that was not justified
- Continuing collection efforts despite payoff or error proofs
- Rude, unprofessional comments by collection agents
On the other hand, some consumers praise Harris & Harris’ accurate reporting of owed balances, prompt response to requests, and willingness to accept settlement payments. There are two sides here.
Not surprisingly, independent consumer complaint aggregators show much higher negative review volumes. But these ratings may skew negatively compared to official watchdogs due to selection bias toward dissatisfied users.
Bottom line is, no business is perfect and debt collection always involves potential for flaws. But consumers deserve polite, lawful, and responsive treatment when facing financial stress – an area Harris & Harris could likely improve upon according to user comments.
Should You Trust Harris & Harris?
After thorough research and examination of law, it’s clear the decision whether Harris & Harris can be trusted requires weighing both sides of the story on a case-by-case basis. Here are the key takeaways:
Harris & Harris is a legitimate and large debt buyer operating within the law. However, size doesn’t preclude errors or consumer harm either.
As with any collection agency, proper debt validation and careful record keeping are paramount to avoid potentially illegal collection attempts or data privacy issues.
Isolated errors happen and all firms face complaints – but persistent or multiple similar grievances raise real cause for consumer caution that civil rights are respected.
FDCPA protections, state laws, and federal oversight aim to curb harassment – yet relying on self-advocacy requires assertively documenting all interactions.
A range of experiences exist – satisfied and frustrated customers alike – so personal experiences vary and average ratings only paint a broad picture, not a verdict.
In disputed cases, collecting strong evidence and elevating concerns to authorities when informal resolution fails is advisable before writing off the firm entirely.
While Harris & Harris may induce apprehension merely due to their industry, sweeping judgments help no one. Each case demands clear communication, verification on both sides, and exercising legal options sensibly according to real facts if needed.
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