The hassle began last May, the man tells the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column, when the collections agency contacted him about a supposed credit card debt from 2002.
Forgetting for a moment that the statute of limitations on credit card debt in New Jersey is six years — meaning he wouldn’t be on the hook for the debt regardless of whether or not he’d ever owed it — the man claims he never had the debt to begin with.
He looked at his credit report and found nothing on there, and his current credit score of 780 doesn’t indicate anyone with lingering debt issues. And as a recruiter for the Federal Air Marshal Service and an employee with the U.S. Customs and Border folks, he’d also been through several background and credit checks during the past decade without being flagged.
“I asked them to send me something in writing, and they never did,” he says.
And the collectors kept calling him, at home and at work. He told them to stop contacting him at the office — one of the aforementioned no-nos — “But they kept calling.”
Believing the collections people were violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, he contacted a lawyer, who sent two cease-and-desist notices to the collectors.
Ultimately, the man had to file a lawsuit against the company, alleging 10 FDCPA violations. In addition to the harassing phone calls, the suit claims that the collectors failed to provide written notice of the debt in a timely manner and that the account statements it did eventually provide clearly demonstrated “the debt had indeed been paid in its entirety in or around 2002.”
Of course, as the recent FTC report on debt-buying showed, these collectors often buy debt from creditors with no guarantee that it’s accurate.
Bamboozled look into this particular agency and found that it has been the defendant in 598 federal lawsuits — and that’s only since 2005!
If you find yourself dealing with a debt collector that refuses to follow the rather uncomplicated rules set out by the FDCPA, then — in addition to any legal action you might take — you should complain to your state’s consumer affairs division and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
And if a debt collector contacts you about a debt you believe is no longer active because the statute of limitations has expired, be warned that paying any part of that debt may result in it being “resurrected” or “zombie” debt, which could start the statutory clock ticking again.