More Debt Collectors Calling Cell Phones in Violation of TCPA
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As the economy stumbles deeper into a recession, more and more debt collectors are violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by contacting debtors on their cell phones when not authorized to do so. Unfortunately, most debtors don't know what the TCPA is, how it can protect them or that they may be entitled to money damages when debt collectors violate the TCPA.
What Is the TCPA?
We asked Steve Recordon, an attorney from San Diego, California whose firm represents individuals who have been sued or harassed by debt buyers, to define the Act and tell us how it works. Here's what he told us:
- TCPA defined. The TCPA is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and cases can be handled either in state or federal court. This shouldn't be confused with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which only applies to zombie creditors and debt buyers - in other words, third party creditors. A third party creditor is not the original creditor, not the Capital One, but the guy that bought the debt. The TCPA applies to the first party as well. So, if Capital One calls you on your cell phone to collect a debt, we now have a TCPA violation. It's much broader than the FDCPA when dealing with debt buyers.
- How the TCPA works. Capital One, for example, has an in house collection operation. They're like boiler rooms where you have a lot of people in one room and you have an automated dialing system. It's a requirement that they use an automated dialing system to fall under the TCPA, but there's no way the actual debtor will know that.
Many people are familiar with a slight hesitation when they pick up the phone. That's because it's an automatic dialer and it's being flipped to one of these people in the boiler room. Somebody picks it up and starts talking, but the average person will not have a clue that the caller is using an automatic dialing system.
All of the debt buyers and debt collectors from the original credit card companies use automatic dialing systems. The old fashioned way of pushing the buttons to dial somebody with debt collection went out the window years ago. So even though they may not realize it, they're being picked up on an automated dialing system. They may be dialing 100 people at a time.
So the chances of a hit are great. In fact, they're probably going to get a hit every 15 30 seconds. Somebody in that room will see the hit because the light goes on and they pick it up. They'll have a script on their computer so they'll know exactly who they've got, what the account is, etc. Then they'll start - 'Hey, I'm trying to get a hold of your father. Is he still at this phone number?' That is a TCPA violation. Obviously, those individuals didn't give their cell phone number to these people to call.
- Simply making a call violates the Act. When we are talking about the TCPA, we are not talking about harassment. Harassment is not a part of it. Simply making the phone call is all it takes. They can be pleasant as pie to you on the phone, but if they call you on your cell phone, they've violated the statute.
Getting Help with Your Debt Collector Harassment Case
If you believe that a debt collector has contacted you in violation of the TCPA or you've been harassed by a debt buyer in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), contact an experienced debtor's right attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options.