Reader PJ sued a bunch of harassing debt collectors and won $5,000, and Google Voice made doing it really easy. Someone had put down his work cellphone number on their credit applications and ran up a bunch of debts and collectors started calling him multiple times per day. He told them he wasn’t the guy and asked them nicely to stop, but that only made it worse.
In fact, the call frequency increased once they realized they had reached a live person. I called each of these companies multiple times, and though I was given assurances each time that my number would be taken off of their lists, the calls continued, morning, noon and night.
At my wits end, I decided the only way to have the harassing calls stop was to file suits against the collection companies. It’s very important to understand that it is against the law for a company to leave a pre-recorded message on your cell phone. Armed with this knowledge, I filed suit against several of the collection companies. I filed in small claims court so I did not need to hire an attorney, and the process was as simple as completing a paragraph on a complaint form. For evidence, I had over a hundred Google Voicemail transcripts showing the times the companies called and the text of the pre-recorded messages.
Mysteriously, the calls all stopped immediately on the same date the collection companies received the certified letters stating they were being sued. Then a new flurry of calls began pouring in. This time it was their attorneys.
The attorneys representing these out of state collection companies were all desperate to settle out of court. hey did not want to incur the expense of traveling for court or hiring a local law firm who wasn’t on retainer. They also understood they had no justifiable defense for the calls. To make a long story short, so far I have successfully sued 3 of these collection companies and settled for more than $5,000 out of court. All it cost me was $35 and 20 minutes per suit.
Making these companies pay is the only incentive for them to stop their illegal and harassing practices. If more consumers knew their rights and actually took a few minutes to stand up for them, it would become less profitable for these companies to conduct business the way they do now.
That’s awesome, PJ, and you’re totally right, filing in small claims court is a very easy way for consumers to fight back. Here’s how to do it.