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Yes, It's an FDCPA Violation to Threaten to Harm a Debtor's Children

Please allow me to present Exhibit A from the "Why do debt collectors get a bad rap?" file.

From Evan Brown's Internet Cases blog, I learned of the recent opinion in Sohns v. Bramacint, out of the District of Minnesota. Cases in which a plaintiff alleges that a debt collection agency violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by engaging in one form of harassing conduct or another are a dime a dozen. But an employee of Bramacint LLC seems to have gone the extra mile, aided by modern technology, in an attempt to collect back payments on a car loan.

From Internet Cases:

The first bad decision was to use a caller-ID spoofer to make it look like the collection call was coming from plaintiff’s mother in law. The next not-smart use of technology was to access plaintiff’s MySpace page, learn that plaintiff had a daughter, and to use that fact to intimidate plaintiff. There was evidence in the record to suggest that the collection agency’s “investigator” said to plaintiff, after mentioning plaintiff’s “beautiful daughter,” something to the effect of “wouldn’t it be terrible if something happened to your kids while the sheriff’s department was taking you away?”

Color me surprised that seeing your mother-in-law's number on caller ID would make you more likely to pick up the phone. But wow.

According to the opinion, the Bramacint employee, Vanessa Hummel (who, by the way, identified herself on the phone as "Investigator Ortiz"), denied making those threats, but did admit to having mentioned the plaintiff's daughter to be "intimidating to her that I knew or that I had found her and I would find the car."

The court granted summary judgment on FDCPA liability to the plaintiff. Whose MySpace page is still up. Good for you, Tosha. Don't let those debt collectors scare you into hiding!

Posted by Eric Lipman on October 15, 2010 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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