Federal law prohibits a debt collector from making any statement that tends to abuse or harass an alleged debtor. But we have audiotaped evidence of a collector, working on behalf of the largest bank in the United States, repeatedly making the kind of abusive statements that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
This all was in an effort to collect a debt I allegedly owed to American Express. Discovery in a lawsuit my wife and I filed under the FDCPA showed that the collector had no information showing I owed any obligation to American Express--or that I even had an AMEX card.
But that did not keep representatives of the Birmingham law firm Ingram and Associates, working on behalf of Pennsylvania-based collection company NCO (which is owned by JPMorgan Chase), from using unlawful tactics in an effort to squeeze money out of us. It also did not keep them from lying to us repeatedly, another violation of federal law. (See video at the end of this post.)
Let's focus primarily on 15 U.S.C. 1692d, which holds: "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."
How many ways did Ingram and Associates representative Jann Blalock violate that provision of the law, while working on behalf of JPMorgan Chase? Let's count the ways, in a few snippets of a conversation I had with Ms. Blalock. The first begins with my efforts to inform Ms. Blalock that her boss, Angie Ingram, has an obligation under the law to report misconduct by other lawyers, which led to our alleged debt issues:
Roger Shuler (RS): Do you understand the Rules of Professional Conduct in the legal profession?
Jann Blalock (JB): Absolutely, but what does that have to do with a debt you owe to American Express?
RS: It has to do with any attorney who becomes aware of wrongdoing in her profession.
JB: Have you pulled this with every lawyer that represented someone that you owed a debt to?
That insult was violation No. 1, especially in light of what we later learned--that Ingram and Associates had no proof I owed a debt or even had an AMEX card. Here's another example, where I invoke the right that any alleged debtor has under the law, telling the collector not to call me again, especially at work:
RS: Well, I've been called a witch hunt, and I've been called everything else, and I'm getting sick of it. Do not call me at work.
JB: Okay, you need to find a different horse to ride, sir. This one is not going to work with us, okay?
That insult is violation No. 2. And it's particularly important because Ms. Blalock knew her only chance of collecting the debt was to berate me via the phone. If the case went to court, she had no information with which to win a case, unless I failed to appear--and that wasn't going to happen. Here is another violation, again on the issue of telephone communications:
RS: Well, you need to quit calling me at work and you need to quit calling me at home if you are going to act this way. I've--
JB: I'll call you about a debt? I'm not interested in playing any schemes, okay?
This is a violation on multiple levels. Her reference to "schemes" on my part is the kind of abusive, insulting language that is prohibited by law. Furthermore, collectors are required to abide by requests not to call at work or home--and Blalock admits she is going to ignore that request.
As for false statements, my communications with collectors were filled with them. The most blatant example in this audio involves Blalock's statement: "Sir, all we have to do with you is that we've been retained by American Express to collect a debt."
Discovery later showed this to be false; Ingram and Associates was retained by NCO, not American Express. That is a violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692e, which states: "A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt."
What is it like to be on the receiving end of abusive calls from debt collectors? The following video will give you an idea.
Previously in our series:
Tape Recordings Nail Debt Collectors In Flagrant Violations Of Federal Law (Part 1)
Tape Recordings Nail Debt Collectors In Flagrant Violations Of Federal Law (Part 2)
Tape Recordings Nail Debt Collectors In Flagrant Violations Of Federal Law (Part 3)