Man Wins $1.5M Over Profane Debt Collection Calls

Burrows, who works as a customer service phone rep for Frontier Airlines, said the message shook him and his wife, forcing him first to change his locks and then to move to another state.

Customer Claims He Moved After Threats

"We were scared," said Burrows, who added that his brother came to stay with them for several weeks after the incident so Burrows' wife wouldn't have to be home alone when he went to work.

When Burrows initially called Verizon to complain about the incident, a customer service representative allegedly accused him of making up the story. Burrows claimed that Verizon so far has not apologized.

"You can't just threaten to kill people and get away with it," he said.

Burrows' attorney said he is seeking "justice" and unspecified damages.

"We want to make sure this never happens again," said James Scherr, an attorney with El Paso, Texas-based Scherr & Legate. "This is the ultimate example of offensive collection efforts that are absolutely unnecessary."

Crossing the Line to Collect Debts

This lawsuit, if permitted to proceed, would force Verizon Wireless to defend itself against accusations sometimes made against third-party debt collectors.

Companies eager to collect on consumer debts cross the line every once in a while.

In 2006, a retired Sears technician, Stan McLeod, died of a heart attack after receiving phone calls from debt collectors. His wife Elizabeth has sued their mortgage servicing company, Green Tree Servicing, for wrongful death and the case is now making its way through the court.

Abusive practices by debt collectors are a common complaint among consumers, especially as many recession-battered Americans find themselves behind on mortgage, car or credit card payments and other debts.

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission received 88,190 FDCPA complaints about third-party debt collectors, more than about any other industry.

Experts point out that companies like Verizon have strict internal policies that govern interactions with customers.

"At a company like Verizon, if that person was caught doing that they'd be fired on the spot," said Gary Herman, president of debt consolidation company Consolidated Credit.

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