Seattle Courant

Debt Collector Sued for Potty Mouth

By Keith Vance
February 23, 2009 02:02PM

“That kind of language isn’t just abusive - it’s illegal,” said the Attorney General’s office in a news release last Friday, adding that the state has received more than 120 complaints about Topco since 2005 and the Better Business Bureau gives the debt collector an F.

And it’s not just childish name-calling, according to court documents, one woman told Topco she was undergoing cancer treatment. Allegedly a debt collector said, “Aren’t you dead yet? I’m going to collect the money from you dead or alive?”

While it’s true that it’s hard to find people who rave about their debt collector, but there’s no love lost for Topco. Checking City Search, out of the eleven “reviews” of the debt collector nine describe horror stories of harassment and the other two refer to the legal action by the attorney general. Topco debt collectors are called: “a-holes”, “jackalopes,” “monkeys” and “morons.”

One reviewer, going by the name TopcoEmployee, wrote: “Calling these guys monkeys is being too nice.” Another person wrote about her confrontation with a Topco debt collector. She said that she was called an “idiot” and her husband a “deadbeat.”

“While they have a right to try to collect on debts that you legitimately owe,” said Shannon Smith of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, “they must treat consumers fairly and cannot bully, inundate you with harassing phone calls or lie about what will happen if you don’t pay a bill.”

Smith said that the nature of debt collection results in a lot of complaints, but what concerned her about Topco was the consistency of the complaints. “We believe that they had gone too far.”

And it might be the lying more than the name-calling that has the state so riled up. The Attorney General complaint alleges that Topco also threatened debtors’ credit rating and revoking their driver’s license, both of which are illegal.

At this time, Smith said they are using the court to ask Topco to stop violating the Consumer Protection Act.

Topco Financial Services declined to comment.
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You can read the Attorney General's press release, here.
The court documents are available here.