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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Debt Collector's Creed: Lie Early and Lie Often

We have established that, based on my experience, debt collectors will target you even when they have little or no documentation to show that you owe the alleged debt. We also have established that debt collectors, when caught in the act and forced to account for their violations of federal and state laws, will go to great lengths to keep from disclosing information about how they do business.

Now we come to Lesson No. 3 about debt collectors: When you confront them with their nasty deeds, they will lie early and they will lie often in an attempt to get off. It's not a pretty sight. But we will show you how two debt-collection outfits--Pennsylvania-based NCO and Birmingham-based Ingram & Associates--practice the fine art of deceit.

We have many examples, but let's start with one of the most basic issues in our lawsuit against NCO and Ingram & Associates for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), plus multiple state-law claims.

In an effort to collect a debt that I allegedly owed to American Express, representatives of Ingram & Associates made a number of interesting representations via telephone. They said that:

* Ingram & Associates had been hired by American Express;

* Ingram & Associates had been hired by American Express to sue me;

* Angie Ingram, the law firm's principal, was American Express' attorney;

* Angie Ingram had a fiduciary duty to American Express.

There's only one problem with all of these representations. Evidence we've seen in our lawsuit indicates that they are not true.

Despite that, Angie Ingram goes to great lengths in an affidavit to make it sound like she was hired by American Express. Consider this statement from Ms. Ingram:

NCO Financial Systems Inc. (NCO), as agent for American Express, hired Ingram & Associates LLC to represent American Express as its attorney to collect a debt owed to American Express by Roger Shuler. NCO regularly acts as an agent for American Express in hiring attorneys to collect debts/account balances owed to American Express.

Contrast that with an affidavit from Gregory R. Stevens, vice president of customer contact management at NCO. Mr. Stevens states:

10. On July 5, 2007, NCO referred the account to Ingram and Associates (Ingram) to file suit.

Stevens says NCO placed the account with Ingram & Associates. He says nothing about American Express hiring Ingram & Associates or Angie Ingram acting as American Express' attorney.

Even Ingram's own statement, stripped of all its deceitful language, admits she was hired by NCO, not American Express. And her employees' representations to me were lies.

Clearly, someone has a problem with the truth.

Why would Ingram & Associates tell me that they had been hired by American Express, when they had every reason to know that wasn't true? My guess is that kind of deceit works. Consumers hear that the giant and famed American Express is about to sue them, and they are likely to cough up money--even when the debt collectors don't have basic documents to show the consumer owes the debt.

Remember what we learned from Lesson No. 1 about debt collectors: When asked to produce documents it had from American Express regarding our alleged debt, Ingram & Associates responded that it didn't have any.

How can you be an attorney for American Express when you have no documents from American Express?

We're just getting warmed up with our series about debt-collector deceit. Many more posts are coming. For now, take an up-close look at the affidavit from Angie Ingram in our case:


Angie Ingram Affidavit

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