I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.
What you're talking about is extortion, which is a second degree felony. Fl. Stat., Section 836.05. It's a crime to tell someone that you'll expose them to public ridicule if they don't assist you in getting financial gain. That is not the legal way to handle this type of situation at all. Putting a note on your credit without contacting you first is not illegal, if they believe you owe the debt. Not to mention that releasing everyone's financial information isn't going to fix your situation at all - it doesn't stop them from suing, and it doesn't fix your credit report. Many companies, when faced with the situation you're presenting, would simply go to court and sue you and wouldn't negotiate at all.
If you do not owe the money, you can file a dispute with the credit reporting agency. You can also file a Petition for Declaratory Judgment against the debt collection company, asking a judge to enter a ruling that you do not owe the debt, which will prevent them from adding any more negative information to your credit file or from continuing to collect the debt. Note that if you do that, they will probably file a counterclaim for the money owed. They are not required to negotiate with you, but most companies will.
Now, within 5 days after you contacted them, they were required to send you a notice with the amount of the debt, the name of the original creditor, and a statement that they'll obtain verification of the debt at your request. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Section 809. Your remedy if they do not do that (and since they didn't take your address, it could be difficult for them) is to sue for a penalty of $1,000 for violating the FDCPA. Section 813. It IS legal to let them know that you're logging their violations of federal law and will sue them if you cannot reach a fair settlement, as long as you believe you do owe some or all of what they're trying to collect.
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