Complaints about harassment by debt collectors have more than tripled in Mexico, with Mexicans unhappy over late-night or early-morning phone calls dunning them for debts they often don't even owe.

The head of the country's agency for protecting bank customers, Mario di Constanzo, said Friday that it has levied about US$12 million in fines against collection agencies that work for banks or other financial entities.

Di Constanzo said 16,201 complaints were registered in the first six months of this year, compared to 4,997 in the same period of 2014.

He said about half of this year's complaints involved people getting calls about debts they didn't owe.

The next biggest causes of complaints were late-night calls or calls in which collectors used threats or insults. Both are prohibited by federal regulations.

Mexico's banking sector has a high level of past-due debt. But banks in Mexico don't do a very good job keeping track of their customers, checking out references or making sure the phone numbers listed on credit applications actually belong to borrowers. The collection agencies they contract are even less careful.

Under current laws, anyone complaining of harassment must attend a hearing and prove the debt isn't owed before the calls can be stopped.

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