What if a debt collector is misleading or deceiving me about their identity?

15 U.S.C. Section 1692 includes several provisions mandating that a debt collector identifies themselves when contacting you. One provision is included in the portion outlining activities that constitute harassment and abuse:

  • 1692d(6): The placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity”

Others are included in prohibited activities that constitute “false or misleading representations:”

  • 1692e(11): The failure to disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and the failure to disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector
  • 1692e(14): The use of any business, company, or organization name other than the true name of the debt collector’s business, company, or organization
  • 1692e(16): The false representation or implication that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency 

Can debt collectors lie about who they are?

The short answer is no, a debt collector can’t mislead you about their identity. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlaws actions that amount to misrepresentation, and the courts have issued rulings that drill down into the nuances of debt collector misrepresentation.

Do Debt Collectors Have to Identify Themselves in Phone Calls?

The FDCPA (15 U.S.C. 1692d(6)) says that, when a debt collector fails to reveal their identity in a phone call, it is a form of harassment or abuse. Courts have ruled that debt collectors must state their name and the company they work for when calling. If you’ve had no previous dealings with a debt collector, it isn’t enough for them to leave a message saying they’re from “ACS.” They have to say, “Aardvark Collection Service.”

We’re all used to getting cell phone calls that say either “No Caller ID.” It’s not a violation of the FDCPA when a debt collector blocks their telephone number so it doesn’t show up on Caller ID. However, if a debt collector puts a fake name on their Caller ID, that is a violation of this section of law.

Sometimes, a debt collector wants to use a fake name so that consumers can’t track them down. There have been conflicting rulings from the courts and the Federal Trade Commission regarding collectors’ use of aliases. It seems that a debt collector that consistently uses the same alias is in greater alignment with the law than one that uses a variety of different aliases.

A different section of the FDCPA (15 U.S.C. 1692e(14)) prohibits a debt collector from telling you that they’re with one company or organization when they’re actually with another. For example, if the debt collector is with Aardvark Collection Service, they can’t say that they’re calling from the Acme Debt Relief Organization. Similarly, another section (15 U.S.C. 1692e(16)) prohibits a debt collector from telling you that they’re calling from a consumer reporting agency or credit bureau or using the words “Credit Bureau” in a debt collection agency name, since it might mislead you.

What is a Mini Miranda?

Virtually everyone has heard of the Miranda warning – “You have the right to remain silent,” and so forth. In debt collection circles, there exists what’s known as a “mini Miranda.” This is a provision of the law (15 U.S.C. 1692e(11)) that requires that a debt collector reveal their identity as a debt collector, that they’re trying to collect a debt, and that any information they obtain will be used for the purpose of debt collection.

The mini Miranda pushes back against devious debt collection tactics, such as asking you to complete an entry form for the chance to win a prize, and then using the contract information you provide to attempt to collect a debt. This requirement also prohibits behavior like leaving a vague message that says, “Call Steve about an important matter at 123-456-7891.”

Even when a debt collector isn’t attempting to be devious, the mini Miranda remains in effect. Every time a debt collector contacts you – by letter or by telephone – they must tell you that they’re attempting to collect a debt and that the information you provide will be used to collect a debt.

Ready to Fight Back Against Misleading Debt Collectors?

If a debt collector misrepresents himself or misleads you in some other way, you have rights under the law. With the help of a fair debt attorney, you can sue the debt collector in federal court. If the court finds in your favor, you can recover up to $1,000. Because the lawbreaking debt collector will be ordered to pay your attorney fees, taking the debt collection agency to court shouldn’t cost you a dime out of pocket.

Lemberg Law attorneys protect consumers from abusive debt collection agencies. If you are receiving unwanted collection calls at work, then you could have a case against the collection agency. Contact Lemberg Law at 844-685-9200 ☎ or complete our online form for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

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