15 U.S.C. Section 1692e covers a variety of activities that constitute “false or misleading representations” by debt collectors and are therefore against the law, including:
1692e(2)A: The false representation of “the character, amount, or legal status of any debt” OR
1692e(2)B: The false representation of “any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt” OR
1692e(12): “The false representation or implication that accounts have been turned over to innocent purchasers for value”
Can a Debt Collector Lie About My Debts?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a debt collector can’t lie about your debts. One section of the law (15 U.S.C. Section 1692e(2)A) is intended to protect consumers from a variety of types of misrepresentation, namely the character, amount, or legal status of the debt.
When is the Character of a Debt Falsely Represented?
There are a number of ways in which a debt collector can falsely represent the character of a debt. These include:
- Trying to collect a debt for merchandise that was mailed to you, but that you never ordered
- Threatening you with a lawsuit when the debt you owe is past the statute of limitations. Some courts, such as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Daugherty v. Convergent Outsourcing (836 F.3d 507, 509), have ruled that a letter from a debt collector offering to “settle” a time-barred debt – even in the absence of a litigation threat – violates this provision of the FDCPA.
- Telling you that you are responsible for your relative’s debt when you did not cosign for the account
- Attempting to collect a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy
- Continuing to try and collect a debt after you’ve told the debt collector that you dispute the debt
When is the Amount of a Debt Falsely Represented?
A debt collector can falsely represent the amount of a debt in several ways, including:
- Not giving you credit for the payments you made
- Piling onto your debt balance unauthorized or mistaken fees, such as attorney fees, interest, bounced check fees, credit card fees, and so forth. In Nance v. Ulferts (U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, 252 F. Supp. 2d 912), the judge ruled that the debt collector attempted to collect treble damages and attorney’s fees on a bounced check, and told the plaintiff that the damages and attorney’s fees were payable prior to bringing the matter before a judge.
- Not disclosing a substantial new charge that’s been added to the balance of your debt
- Demanding payment on a nonexistent debt
When is the Legal Status of a Debt Falsely Represented?
Debt collectors often misrepresent the legal status of a debt. Examples include:
- Trying to collect money on a judgment, when in fact no such judgment exists
- Threatening to garnish your wages even though the debt collector
- Sending a letter that implies that a lawsuit has been filed against you, when it has not
- If an attorney hasn’t reviewed your case, sending a threatening letter using an attorney’s letterhead that says the attorney will advise the debt collector to take legal action unless payment is received by a certain date
- Attempting to collect fees that are not permitted by law. In Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. MacKinnon et al. (U.S. District Court, Western District of New York No. 1:16-CV-00880-FPG-HKS), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleged that the debt buyer routinely added $200 to each debt they purchased, even if the underlying contracts or the law didn’t permit it
The next section of the FDCPA, (15 U.S.C. Section 1692e(2)B), prohibits activities such as:
- Claiming that a flat-rate collector will engage in activities beyond sending collection letters
- Telling you that you must pay collection charges that are illegal. The judge in the case cited above, Nance v. Ulferts, ruled that the debt collector violated this section of the law as well.
Are There Other Ways a Debt Collector Can Lie About a Debt?
A rarely cited provision of the FDCPA, Section 1692e(12), prohibits debt collectors from implying that your account has been turned over to a purchaser for value. This is a convoluted way of saying that a debt collector cannot misrepresent that they bought your debt when they were actually paid a flat rate or will be paid a percentage of what they collect. In a foreclosure case, Whittiker v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, 1:08 CV 300), the judge noted that the plaintiff alleged that Deutsche Bank implied that the mortgage was owed to the Bank, when in fact it wasn’t.
Lied to By a Debt Collector? Get the Justice You Deserve
If a debt collector has misrepresented the character, amount, or legal status of the debt they claim you owe, Lemberg Law can help. Federal law allows you to sue a debt collector and receive up to $1,000, plus court costs and attorney fees. You can turn the tables on debt collectors and get the justice you deserve, and it won’t cost you a penny 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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