Do I have a FDCPA case if a bill collector attempts to collect a debt that is not mine?
Because many debt collectors work with electronic files, you may find yourself talking to a collection agent about a debt that you did not incur. Imagine, if you will, a debt collector sitting in a cubicle containing only a phone and a computer terminal. There is no paper file, no copy of a loan or credit application, and no copies of actual bills from the original creditor. The debt collector relies solely on database information on his screen and that database information may be totally wrong.
Perhaps your name, date of birth or Social Security number has been incorrectly associated with a particular debt. Perhaps you have been the victim of identity theft. Perhaps you did owe a debt but you have paid it off years previously. Whatever the reason, you are not obligated to pay a debt that you did not incur and you can collect damages from the debt collector under the FDCPA if he continues to call you after you have disputed the debt and notified the collector of the error.
If you believe that you are being dunned for a debt that is not yours, you should follow the FDCPA procedure for disputing the debt – which involves writing a letter to the collection agency stating that you deny owing money and requesting proof or verification of the debt.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you that at least half of the time, it turns out that my client did, in fact, owe a debt to a client of the collection agency, but had forgotten about the debt. This is why I rarely file FDCPA claims based solely on my client’s dispute of the actual debt – I will almost always include another basis for recovery in my complaint, such as illegal harassment or statute of limitations. I assure you that you do not want to find yourself in front of a federal judge when the attorney for the bill collector produces a signed credit application for that disputed debt and you suddenly remember that, yes, you did open that credit account several years ago.
If you are receiving calls and letters about a debt that you feel certain does not belong to you, I invite you to call my office or fill out my free FDCPA case review form. I’ll be happy to take a look and get right back to you.
For over 25 years, Jonathan Ginsberg has represented honest, hardworking men and women facing financial troubles.
Latest posts by Jonathan Ginsberg (see all)
- Comedian John Oliver Exposes the Debt Buying Industry - June 10, 2016
- Debt Collectors in Indonesia Mean Business - August 17, 2011
- Collection Attorney Fred Hanna Successfully Defends an FDCPA Claim in Court - January 24, 2011