Stop Debt Collector Calls

"Who Calls Me From…"

Have you ever wondered, "who calls me from" some unknown number? Are you getting a lot of unwanted phone calls that you think may be from telemarketers or are some kind of scam? Do you pick up the phone only to hear a recording? Does this aggravate and embarrass you? Do you feel it intrudes into your privacy?

There is a federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), designed to protect the privacy of consumers like you. Often, collection agencies violate the TCPA when they call to try to collect consumer debts. The TCPA makes it unlawful to call cellphones using an automated dialer or a prerecorded voice.

How To Catch Debt Collectors Violating The TCPA

When a collection agency robocalls you on your cellphone, they must clearly state at the beginning of the prerecorded message the name of the person calling, the name of the business under which the caller is registered to do business in your state, and clearly state the phone number where the business may receive a return phone call, all at the beginning of the message.

Additional laws can join the party when there's a violation of the TCPA, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and in Washington state, the Collection Agency Act (CAA) and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Here's how that works:

  • Suppose a collection agency that places the robocall follows everything the TCPA tells it to do, but the call is going to your grandpa's landline? That's a violation of the FDCPA, because the debt collector is not allowed to disclose the debt to uninterested third parties.
  • Suppose a debt collector is robocalling you on your cell, but you pick up the phone because the caller ID identifies it as something other than a collection agency. That violates the TCPA if you did not give express consent to receive those calls, and it violates the FDCPA because the FDCPA requires that a debt collector identify itself as a debt collector when it is contacting you.
  • Suppose a collection agency calls you before 7:30 a.m., after 9:00 p.m. or more than three times per week. That's a violation of the Washington State Collection Agency Act, and a per se violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

The Damages (What They Owe You) Add Up Quickly

If a collection agency is found to have violated these statutes, what they have to pay the consumer ("damages") can add up pretty fast. The TCPA provides for statutory damages of $500 per call, and up to $1,500 per call if the violation is willful. The FDCPA provides for statutory damages of up to $1,000 per consumer/victim. The Washington State Consumer Protection Act provides for three times any actual damages up to $25,000, and injunctive relief (make a business stop certain behavior).

"I'm Getting These Calls. What Should I Do?"

If you are getting calls like these, and you're fed up and want it to stop, the first thing you should do is keep a log of these calls. If you are able to access your home or cellphone call records through an online account portal, you may be able to download or print out records of all your incoming calls for two or three billing cycles back without having to go to the trouble to get a subpoena for your phone records. When you receive these calls, you should also make a note of the number and name that appears on the caller ID, for the reasons stated above. Having detailed call records is one of the most helpful things you can do when you work with a consumer protection lawyer.

If "robocalls" to your cellphone or unwanted and embarrassing calls to your friends or family about your debt are driving you crazy, contact me, attorney SaraEllen Hutchison. I'd like to help you put a stop to these calls, and what's more, I'm a live person! Call 888-339-3942 today.

I am a member of NACA, the National Association of Consumer Advocates.