How Non Consumer Lawyers Can Recognize FDCPA Cases

How Non Consumer Lawyers Can Recognize FDCPA Cases.

Lawyers in Alabama and other states ask us how they can know when their clients have been abused by debt collectors.

We wanted to share a few thoughts that might be helpful to the attorneys reading this website.

Personal injury cases are usually obvious — a wreck is a wreck

As you may know, we spend the majority of our time doing consumer litigation cases along with personal injury cases.  The personal injury cases are for the most part rather obvious – a car wreck or a truck wreck, etc.  And normally, it is obvious when a potential client has a good personal injury case.

But sometimes FDCPA cases against debt collectors are not so obvious.

While a typical Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) case may not have the same value as a “good car wreck case” involving personal injury, we had a lawyer that sent us a case that had been bounced around a number of lawyers who did not see the value in the case but the case was actually worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement.

We have obtained verdicts in the six figure range on FDCPA cases that were referred to us. So some of these cases, while not obvious, can have significant value.

As you may know, the FDCPA only applies to debt collectors (not the original creditors) who are collecting consumer (i.e. not business) debt.

Let’s start with voicemails as these are often a source of FDCPA violations.

First, if they are receiving any collection calls it is very helpful to have them save any voice mails.

And not only save the voice mails but transfer them into digital format.

Some phones allow the voice mails to be emailed.

In other situations, the client will need to record the voice mail into a digital format.

Simplest way is to play the message out loud and record it on an iPhone or Android phone.

It’s important to have them put it in digital format and send it to you so that they don’t accidentally lose the messages.

One example of illegal voice mail is the kind that contains threats or abusive language.

The threats could be the threat of arrest, the threat of being sued (when the collector has no intention to do so or cannot do so), threats to garnish wages when it is illegal to do so without a judgment, etc.

It could also be more traditional abusive language such as insults, racial slurs, profanity, etc.

Another example is when a message is left but someone other than your client or his or her spouse hears the message.

This is normally a violation of the rule prohibiting a debt collector from informing a “third party” of your client allegedly owing a debt.

Illegal third party contacts are a popular violation by debt collectors because they are so effective.

A debt collector cannot inform a third party about the debt.

So what or who is a third party?

Anyone other than the consumer (who allegedly owes the debt) or the consumer’s spouse or lawyer.

For example, Bob supposedly owes AmSher (a rather famous or infamous Birmingham collection agency) a $350 debt.

Bob married Jill.

AmSher calls Bob and says, “You owe the debt.”

No third party violation as Bob is the consumer.

AmSher calls Jill and says, “Your husband owes the debt.”

Again no third party violation as Jill is married to Bob.

But if AmSher talks to Bob’s 21 year old son and says, “Your dad owes this debt.”

Now we have a serious violation of the law.

There are exceptions to speaking to third parties.

A debt collector can communicate with a credit reporting agency (but it must be accurate in any credit reporting).  And the more common exception is to find “location information” on your client.

Location information means:

  • Your client’s home address
  • Home phone
  • And your client’s place of employment

Nothing else.

Not amount of pay.

Or how long he has been working at his job, etc.

And there is no right to even ask for location information unless the debt collector actually needs it.  Here’s an example:

Midland Credit has your client’s information.

But it calls Bob’s neighbor Jim to ask for location information.

This is a violation as Midland Credit already has this information.  It doesn’t need to call a neighbor or family member or co-worker.

We sue when this happens.

We will continue to expand this article but hopefully this gives you, as a lawyer, some useful actionable information to help your clients and your own business.

If we can help you in any way, let us know.

Call us at 205-879-2447 and let the receptionist know you are a lawyer and have a question about a potential FDCPA case and we’ll be glad to help you.

John Watts

PS — or you can fill out this form and we’ll get back to you right away.


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