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Using MySpace Photo Of Debtor's Daughter As An Intimidation Tactic Is A No-No

from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept

Collections agencies are pretty notorious for pulling out all sorts of tricks to get people to pay up, including finding out info about family members. However, apparently one collections agency went too far in two specific ways: first, by spoofing the caller-ID to pretend to be a phone call from the woman's mother in law, but perhaps more seriously is getting a photo on MySpace of the woman's daughter and using it to suggest that something bad might happen to her:
The first bad decision was to use a caller-ID spoofer to make it look like the collection call was coming from plaintiff's mother in law. The next not-smart use of technology was to access plaintiff's MySpace page, learn that plaintiff had a daughter, and to use that fact to intimidate plaintiff. There was evidence in the record to suggest that the collection agency's "investigator" said to plaintiff, after mentioning plaintiff's "beautiful daughter," something to the effect of "wouldn't it be terrible if something happened to your kids while the sheriff's department was taking you away?"
The woman sued the collections agency and won, as the court found that the agency "engaged in conduct the natural consequence of which was to harass, oppress, or abuse in connection with the collection of the debt; used false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in connection with the collection of the debt; and used unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect the debt."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ted E. Bear, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 7:14pm

    And under FDCPA the court gave her 1000 for the violation. Amazing sue an ordinary person the sky is the limit sue a company and they are protected by law on how much they have to pay.

     

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  2.  
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    DV Henkel-Wallace (profile), Oct 19th, 2010 @ 8:03pm

    Actually that's not so bad

    This allows someone to sue in small claims court rather than having to have to try to lawyer up (it's unlikely you could find a lawyer to take most such cases). In this case the press coverage is a free bonus penalty for the debt collector.

     

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  3.  
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    Tim, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 8:16pm

    Only a fine?

    With a threat like that, the guy should go to jail.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 8:21pm

    TERRORIST!!!

    "That's terrorism!! That's a terrorist remark!! It's intended to terrorize the woman, and therefore it must be terrorism! The company, it's owner, that employee, and everyone associated with that company should be brought up on Federal terrorist charges and sent to a hardcore, manual labor, pound-me-in-the-*** prison for twenty years!!! Where's the president and his socialist agenda to prosecute??"

    ... Isn't that the way it's going nowadays? Might as well use the 'terrorism' card on everyone...

     

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  5.  
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    Christopher (profile), Oct 19th, 2010 @ 8:41pm

    Re: Only a fine?

    Agreed. This isn't just harassment, this is 'making terrorist threats' and is a serious crime.

     

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  6.  
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    MadderMak (profile), Oct 19th, 2010 @ 8:54pm

    Re: TERRORIST!!!

    No no no... they copied the terrorist tactics that makes them Pirates! Even worse than terrorists.

    They should all be flayed with AOL cd's.

     

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  7.  
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    Jesse, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 9:34pm

    Collection companies, if found guilty of using such threatening tactics, should be liable for the entire sum of the debt.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 10:54pm

    thats 1000 per violation, a violation is defined on a per incident basis. Make a threat, thats a violation, spoof caller ID, thats a violation.

    Hopfully you see the point here, a single call can quickly rack up into 5 or 6 digits. Once you lawyer up is vary common for a debt collector to settle (and you can even make them wipe the debt off your record).

    The best way to pull this off is live in a 1 party state for phone taps so you don't need to tell them its being recorded.

    Or, a more evil way is to say, "This is being recorded?" right at the start of the conversation. That generally catches them off guard.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 11:24pm

    The debt collector's "reality distortion field" was weak.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 12:22am

    Cases like this just lend more weight to the fact that debt collectors are nothing more than legalised thugs. It would not surprise me in the least to discover many debt collection agencies are run by organised crime. If not, they should really get into it.

     

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  11.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 20th, 2010 @ 2:13am

    Re: Actually that's not so bad

    Are you serious? Attorneys will do anything for their per-hour fee.

    I once took an attorney with me to small claims court, because I had a slam dunk case and I wanted the plaintiff to have to pay my attorney's fees as well as what she owed me.

    It was a beautiful thing.

     

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  12.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 20th, 2010 @ 2:13am

    Re:

    Yes.

     

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  13.  
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    abc gum, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 4:44am

    Re: TERRORIST!!!

    Although your comment was surely intended to be humorous, I doubt it would be as funny for you had it been your daughter this person was threatening.

    The offense sounds like it should be criminal menacing. Hopefully the DA or whomever will see fit to prosecute.

    In addition, I doubt this small monitary judgement will do anything to curtail such activities.

     

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  14.  
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    DS, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 7:05am

    Re:

    On the plus side, there's an easy way to avoid being targeted by debt collectors....

    pay your damn bills that you agreed to pay in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 20th, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re:

    You automatically assume everyone who gets a call from a debt collector is a lowlife. That's not true.

    I got a call from a collector claiming I owed Verizon money. I had payed them two months before I got the call. They admitted to me paying the bill in full before the collection agency got the info from Verizon. They still wanted to muscle the collection fee out of me. I let them know I payed Verizon in full, Verizon still put the paperwork threw, so if they wanted money they will have to call Verizon for it. They never called me back.

    I'm not the only one I know who got hit with calls from collectors looking for money that no one agreed to pay in the first place.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 8:56am

    You think the publicity around this collection agency will hurt them? I can just imagine their phones ringing off the hook from business owners who think that they are the firm that will really fight for the money owed to them.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re:

    Nope. I pay my bills flawlessly, but a collection agency called West Asset Management has been calling my house for fully 10 years, for a debt someone I never met apparently owes. That person has a different middle initial from the name my phone is in. Notes have been made to the credit reporting bureaus after the collection asshats somehow got their bullshit attached despite the middle initial. Documentation has been provided them that this is not the number for the person they want, alleged managers have agreed to note that and stop the calls, but they are lying. Google that company and you will see that they have garnered an exceptional level of hatred even for the internets. Eventually we stopped answering calls from their robo-dialer and the 3-4 other spoofed caller IDs that I have come to recognize as them. A few times they even called me at work (the home phone is not in my personal name, not positive how they made the connection, I don't social network at all) At some point it becomes simpler to ignore them than to keep fighting with them, but don't tell me paying my damn bills has any bearing at all on whether you get targeted by collectors.

     

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  18.  
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    j, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    Re: Actually that's not so bad

    The FDCPA is a fee shifting statute; therefore if she prevails on her claim against the collection agency, her attorneys fees are paid by the collection agency. The reality is that there are many consumer attorneys who take these cases.

     

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  19.  
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    j, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    This is an incorrect statement. It is $1000 per action, not violation.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2010 @ 10:25am

    Re:

    Well it depends on what kind of business you have.
    If you have a business that isn't dependent on your reputation in the local community and it doesn't get a substantial boost from local word of mouth, then it might be fine.
    I own a small business and we do use a collection agency, but I would fire the agency in question here in a heart-beat because I know my income is completely dependent on my local reputation in my community. I don't want my neighbors bad-mouthing my company because of the reprehensible actions of a company I hired to represent my interests.
    One other thought about this. With internet search engines, even for companies that aren't essentially local in character, reputation is now more important than ever.

     

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