Fraudulent Debt Collection Schemes
White collar crimes are broadly defined as offenses that involve an economic component, are non-violent, and involve some sort of fraud. Although embezzlement, money laundering, and bribery all fall under this definition, lesser known schemes, such as fraudulent debt collection are also charged as white collar crimes, which are punishable by jail time and fines. For help defending yourself against these types of charges, please contact a member of our white collar crime legal team today.
Debt Collector Violations
Most debt collectors are careful to comply with the FTC’s consumer protection laws. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for debt collection companies to be unfairly accused of engaging in illegal conduct by disgruntled debtors. The most common accusations include allegations of:
- Harassing or threatening consumers with violence or arrest;
- Demanding larger payments than allowed by law;
- Refusing to verify disputed debts;
- Disclosing debts to a consumer’s employer, co-worker, friend, family member, or other third party;
- Making false representations to payment processing companies;
- Using obscene or profane language to intimidate consumers;
- Calling consumers repeatedly or at unreasonable hours;
- Attempting to collect on non-existent debts;
- Over-collecting on debts that have already been paid in full;
- Misrepresenting a consumer’s legal rights; and
- Obtaining information about a consumer through false pretenses.
This type of conduct is prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which makes it unlawful to use deceptive, unfair, or abusive debt collection practices.
Civil Liability Under the FDCPA
In addition to criminal penalties, those who are accused of using unfair or deceptive debt collection practices could face civil liability and be required to pay damages in an amount equal to the sum of:
- Any actual damages allegedly sustained by the plaintiff;
- Additional damages of up to $1,000; and
- Court costs and attorney’s fees.
When determining liability for fraudulent debt collection schemes, courts assess a number of factors, including:
- The frequency and persistence of the alleged violations;
- The nature of the violations;
- Whether the violations were intentional or the result of error;
- The debt collection company’s resources; and
- The number of individuals allegedly affected by the company’s tactics.
However, it’s important to note that debt collectors cannot be held liable if they can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- Their violation was not intentional, but was the result of a bona fide error; and
- The error was made despite the existence of procedures that were put in place to avoid such mistakes.
Other defenses are available to those who are unfairly accused of using deceptive or unlawful debt collection practices, so if your company is being investigated for violating the FDCPA, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney who can help you begin building a defense.
The Legal Representation You Deserve
To speak with dedicated Miami white collar crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. about your own pending fraud charges, please call 305-670-9919 today and a member of our legal team will help you schedule a free consultation at your earliest convenience.