UPDATE: Acquiesce to the Zombie Debt Collectors

Relevant to our earlier post about Chris getting call after call from his debt collectors and wanting to stop their zombie madness, and T-Mobile and Catherine Zeta Jones’ inability to do anything about it, reader Erik found the Federal “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” from Title 15 of the United States Code.

Here’s a delightful snip:

1692d. Harassment or abuse…the following conduct is a violation of this section:

(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number

For your viewing pleasure, after the jump are seven pages of creamy Federal law goodness on debt collection. Enjoy at your own peril.

    “Federal “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” from Title 15 of the United States Code

    1692c. Communication in connection with debt collection

    (c) Ceasing communication

    If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except–

    (1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated;

    (2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or

    (3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.

    1692d. Harassment or abuse

    A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

    (1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.

    (2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.

    (3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of diction 1681a(f) or 1681b(3) of this title.

    (4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.

    (5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

    (6) Except as provided insection 1692b of this title, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.

    1692e. False or misleading representations

    A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

    (1) The false representation or implication that the debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State, including the use of any badge, uniform, or facsimile thereof.

    (2) The false representation of–

    (A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; or

    (B) any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt.

    (3) The false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney.

    (4) The representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action.

    (5) The threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.

    (6) The false representation or implication that a sale, referral, or other transfer of any interest in a debt shall cause the consumer to–

    (A) lose any claim or defense to payment of the debt; or

    (B) become subject to any practice prohibited by this subchapter.

    (7) The false representation or implication that the consumer committed any crime or other conduct in order to disgrace the consumer.

    (8) Communicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.

    (9) The use or distribution of any written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by any court, official, or agency of the United States or any State, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval.

    (10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer.

    (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, except that this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action.

    (12) The false representation or implication that accounts have been turned over to innocent purchasers for value.

    (13) The false representation or implication that documents are legal process.

    (14) The use of any business, company, or organization name other than the true name of the debt collector’s business, company, or organization.

    (15) The false representation or implication that documents are not legal process forms or do not require action by the consumer.

    (16) The false representation or implication that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency as defined by section 1681a(f) of this title.

    1692f. Unfair practices

    A debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

    (1) The collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.

    (2) The acceptance by a debt collector from any person of a check or other payment instrument postdated by more than five days unless such person is notified in writing of the debt collector’s intent to deposit such check or instrument not more than ten nor less than three business days prior to such deposit.

    (3) The solicitation by a debt collector of any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument for the purpose of threatening or instituting criminal prosecution.

    (4) Depositing or threatening to deposit any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument prior to the date on such check or instrument.

    (5) Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication. Such charges include, but are not limited to, collect telephone calls and telegram fees.

    (6) Taking or threatening to take any nonjudicial action to effect dispossession or disablement of property if–

    (A) there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest;

    (B) there is no present intention to take possession of the property; or

    (C) the property is exempt by law from such dispossession or disablement.

    (7) Communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card.

    (8) Using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business.

    1692g. Validation of debts

    (a) Notice of debt; contents

    Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing–

    (1) the amount of the debt;

    (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;

    (3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;

    (4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and

    (5) a statement that, upon the consumer’s written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

    (b) Disputed debts

    If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) of this section that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.

    (c) Admission of liability

    The failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt under this section may not be construed by any court as an admission of liability by the consumer.:

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  1. Mary Marsala With Fries says:

    What, I wonder, is 1692b, with regards to not meaningfully identifying themselves? My biggest problem with those jerks (and the other jerks who are simply telemarketing, too), is that they always refuse to tell you who they are. (Which means they get hung up on–that’s our house rule–but it’d be better if I could keep them from calling back!) -M.

  2. Ben Popken says:

    Paperninja writes:

    “Thank you for the information regarding the avoidance of frustrating debt collectors. As a former college student I know all about hearing from those in need of my money. It’s too bad that all forms of harassment are illegal. My extended family is filled with stories of my great grandfather, who ran an loan company of his own. If someone became a bit too tardy on their payment, he would give them a little visit at four in the morning carrying not but a heavy chain and a shotgun. After making enough racket to wake up his “client,” he’d politely remind them that their payment was late, then drive away. While it’s entirely possible that people like him were the reason for the creation of harassment prevention laws, it was a fairly creative way for him to stay in business.”

  3. Spr1dle says:

    Note also 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(a) (not produced in this post), which states that debtor can only be called during the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and cannot be called at work.

    Also, look at 1692(k), which prescribes civil penalties for a debt collection agency’s failure to comply.

    I took a brief look at some cases, and from what I could tell, the best advice I could give is to log all your calls.

    Here is an excerpt from a 2002 California case, Joseph v. J.J. Mac Intyre Companies (238 F. Supp.2d 1158):

    “Whether there is actionable harassment or annoyance turns not only on the volume of calls made, but also on the pattern of calls. In Bingham v. Collection Bureau, Inc. 505 F. Supp. 864 (D.N.D. 1981), the court held that when a call was terminated and the collection agency called back immediately, that subsequent call alone could constitute harassment under § 1692d(5) regardless of the content of the call. Id. at 873. In Kuhn v. Account Control Technology, Inc. 865 F. Supp. 1443 (D.Nev. 1994), the court found that six phone calls in a span of 24 minutes constituted harassment in violation of § 1692d(5). Id. at 1453.”

    With regard to the specific facts of that case, the court stated:

    In view of the applicable legal standard, the Court finds there are triable issues of fact regarding Plaintiff’s claims under Civil Code § 1788.11(d), § 1788.11(e) and 15 U.S.C. § 1692d(5). Defendant acknowledges that it made nearly 200 calls to the Plaintiff over a nineteen-month period. Moreover, on some days there were multiple calls made after voice contact in which the Plaintiff requested no further calls be made. For example, Defendant’s phone records indicate that on June 13, 2001, at 8:00 a.m., Defendant had a heated conversation with Plaintiff for 6.6 minutes in which the phone operator noted that Plaintiff said “not to all (sic) her anymore” and “no calls.” Exhibit 3. The phone records indicate that Defendant nonetheless called and left messages at 9:12 a.m. and 11:22 a.m. that same day. Id. On January 10, 2001, Defendant called Plaintiff at 9:53 a.m., they spoke briefly, and Plaintiff hung up. Id. Defendant called back and left two messages later that day. Id. Plaintiff also terminated a call on April 11, 2001 at 8:02 a.m. and Defendant called back and left a message at 10:42 a.m. Id. In light of Jeter and Baker, there is at least a triable issue of fact on these claims.”

    However, note that this opinion was not a ruling in favor of the debtor but rather a ruling that there was sufficient evidence to move to trial. Still, I think it’s a pretty helpful case in demonstrating the meaning of the language in 1692d.

  4. djwoodyphl says:

    Thanks to whoever did this research :) I’m the Chris that wrote the initial letter, and just so eveyone knows … I have tried calling the number back and I always end up either being hung up on, or put on hold by the automated system and left there. I’ve done my due dilligence … and now I just want it all to stop.

    I’ll take this information and see where I can go from here … thanks again!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Recently I was contacted by a collection agency posing as a law firm trying to collect on a (zombie debt) which statue of limitation has expired, these mischeviouse,malisiouse con artists had threatend me.They have stated is I do not pay this debt they will proceed with further actions like filing a 1099c with the I.R.S..And have my property siesed and my wages garnished.They used a false pretence of a lawfirm cover telling me they have my file and a case number.I looked up the fair debt collections act and the things they cannot do and they are in violation of doing multiple things from fals pretence to threatening my belongings and or possessions, now I would like to know how to make these con artist pay for thier relentless stupidity and maliciouse deeds theve done. Nevermind about making them stop, they crossed the line, now its time for them to pay the piper.

  6. Getting Ripped Off says:

    To make a long and painful story short, we received a letter from a debt collector when we were never notified by the original creditor that a debt was even owed. Gave a van to our son in Ohio, van broke down in apartment parking lot, apt. manager ordered it towed. Since my wife’s name was still on the title, creditor sent registered letter to apt. manager, who signed for it. This occurred in 2007. Late last year, we got a collection notice for $1,400 (for towing and storage). The debt collection notice was the first hint we had that we owed money. Now debt collector said he’ll settle for half, and he “guarantees” he’ll wipe all references to the debt from our credit report. We’re considering just leaving the bad debt on our credit report because we’re not paying him. My wife (a paralegal) talked to one of her attorneys and he suggested that, saying there was no way to guarantee the write-off. “Debt” incurred in Ohio, collection agency in Michigan and we live in Indiana.