Every time I believe that “no one would be stupid (or greedy) enough to try that old trick”, some debt collector does.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) prohibits :
“the use or distribution of any written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by any court, official, or agency of the United States or any State, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization or approval.”
A Missouri consumer recently filed a class action against “United States Civil Claims Department” alleging that, among other things, the company violated the above-quoted section of the FDCPA.
The consumer alleged that he received a letter entitled “Notice of Intent United States Civil Claims Department vs. [Consumer].”
The “United States Civil Claims Department” should not be surprised that a consumer alleged that the company’s representation that it was sent on behalf of the United States Civil Claims Department had the effect of conveying to an unsophisticated consumer that the company was affiliated with, employed by, and/or an agent of the United States government.
The Notice of Intent further stated “this is a notice that a claim has been made against you.” But, the company had not filed a lawsuit against the consumer. Even large, publicly traded debt collectors that purchased charged off debts are unlikely to actually sue a consumer.
The Notice of Intent further stated “U.S. Civil Claims Department hereby demands you to pay $ 860.93 no later than ten (10) days from the date described above.”
Unfortunately for our putative government agency, the demand to pay within ten days was set forth in their initial letter to the consumer and, therefore, contradicts or undermines the thirty day notice (the “g Notice”) required to be set forth in the initial letter.
Finally, the Notice of Intent states that the consumer “could be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law” unless he pays the United States Civil Claims Department.
Such threats of prosecution are not only empty, they violate the FDCPA.
Good luck to the Missouri consumer. Hopefully, the plaintiff will obtain an injunction against the “United States Civil Claims Department” so that unsophisticated consumers are not tricked into paying these self-appointed public servants.
UPDATE : November 17, 2011
I recently reviewed the dockets concerning recently filed cases against our “public servants” at U.S. Civil Claims. As is often the case with debt collectors who allegedly violated the FDCPA by employing “over the top” collection “techniques”, the Plaintiffs’ lawyers are unable to locate US Civil Claims and the company has apparently vacated its former headquarters and failed to update this information with the California Secretary of State.
If you have any recent addresses for US Civil Claims, pass them along in the comments section and I will alert the lawyers who are attempting to serve these find “public servants”.
(C) 2011 Donald E Petersen
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