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One Woman’s Fight against Debt Collector Harassment

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Wheeling, WVDiana Mey is a one-woman wrecking ball when it comes to debt collector harassment. But someone needs to be, in order to give it back to debt collectors who needlessly harass innocent consumers over debts they don’t even owe.

Debt collectors buy outstanding debts, many of them questionable to begin with, for pennies on the dollar and proceed to launch a tirade against unsuspecting consumers. That’s what happened to Mey, a West Virginia woman who was berated with vitriol over the phone from a mean-spirited collector posing as a municipal official. The debt at the center of the call wasn’t even Mey’s to begin with, as the Wheeling woman is debt-free.

But rather than ignore the call or cower in a corner, Mey launched a debt collector lawsuit and was recently awarded more than $10 million in damages. She has yet to collect and may never, as most less-than-legitimate debt collectors are slippery and hard to pin down. They move a lot. But no matter. Mey, who describes herself to ABC News (8/7/13) as “an accidental activist,” continues to fight against needless bill collector harassment on behalf of countless Americans caught in the web of venom.

It was in 2010 that Mey received a telephone message purported to be from Reliant Financial Associates (RFA), a division of Global AG LLC, suggesting she could lose her home if she didn’t pay an outstanding debt.

First, making such a threat is illegal. Second, the debt wasn’t even Mey’s. Her response was to send a letter by registered mail to the collector directing them to cease and desist. Mey did exactly what experts suggest, and the receipt of such certified correspondence should have ended the matter right there.

Here’s why: the business of debt collection has become a clearing house of accounts. When a collection agency is unsuccessful at collecting a debt, they will often sell the account to another agency for pennies on the dollar. Such transactions occur often, and in this way an account can go through many hands. In so doing, information can become watered down. Addresses and phone numbers can change, names misspelled.

The result is bill collector harassment of the kind Diana Mey experienced. But this is where the law is supposed to help the harassed consumer. When a debt collector receives a cease-and-desist letter by registered mail, they are required by law to stop all collection efforts until they can absolutely verify the debt and the debtor. If they can’t, then they either sell off the account to someone else to deal with or close the file.

This did not happen in Mey’s case. According to ABC News, within 23 minutes of receiving the registered letter (verifiable thanks to postal receipts), someone at RFA had “spoofed” a call to appear in Mey’s caller ID as if it was coming from Mey’s local municipal government - in this case, the local sheriff. Mey later confirmed the call had not come from the sheriff’s office at all, but was an outside call made to appear as if it had originated locally.

In reality, the debt collector harassment to which Mey was subjected was cruel, vulgar and threatening.

The bill collector harassment frightened her. But she also took action, investigating other alleged complaints against RFA. She also recorded the telephone call, and used the audio as evidence in a bill collector lawsuit. When the defendant’s attorney failed to appear during court proceedings in August 2011, Mey testified unopposed and the judge awarded her $10,860,000. According to ABC News, the judge ruled RFA’s actions as “malicious” and held that all allegations against them were true.

Mey has yet to collect the windfall stemming from her debt collector lawsuit. RFA has moved its offices, changed its legal team and appear to be avoiding the issue.

It should be noted that a key component in Mey’s action is the fact she sent a registered cease-and-desist letter to RFA. In so doing, RFA was legally obligated to stop all actions unless they could conclusively verify the debt. Various phone records subpoenaed by Mey’s legal team verified the origin of the debt collector harassment calls.

And Mey records all of her incoming calls, which she can legally do in her home state of West Virginia. Some states require that all parties to a call must give permission for a recording to be made. However in most states, so long as one party to the call gives permission, then the recording is legal. As one party to the call, Mey can grant herself permission to record the call without the need to advise the other participating party that the call is being recorded.

On her website, Mey links to a USB telephone gadget that records calls and can facilitate downloads to a computer for under $100. For anyone caught in the web of debt collector harassment, such evidence can be a welcome addition to a bill collector lawsuit.

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
I'd invest in a whitelist device for your landline or a whitelist app for your cellphone.

I have both and any number that's not in my contact list automatically gets sent to voicemail without even ringing my phone.

Posted by

on
What can be done to stop harassment from so called companies that call and threaten you using Magic Jack numbers or phone numbers that are not registered to ant legitimate company?

Posted by

on
This company called me about some debt I did not even had. They are sharks.

Posted by

on
Good job Dianna!

I also have sued several debt collectors, but I have sued for much smaller amounts $1500 - $5,000. All of them settled out of court within 60 days. I use consumer attorneys and they get the lion share of the money... but I get satisfaction and a small check. When you use attorneys they do the work and I sleep great. When I try to handle the situation myself... it was stressful and unprofitable.

For those who just want to get the collectors to stop calling...

Identify yourself, then tell them you want to discuss and resolve the issue... but before we get into the issue... ask for their contact info, company name, address, phone numbers, website, etc. Don't discuss anything, until you get their info, stay on point.

Be polite... they are going to give money. Every creditor call is worth $500 to you.... so be friendly.

After you have their contact info ask them if you can record the conversation. (Most cell phones have a recording program.) They will say no... Then tell them "I am going to start recording the call, if you stay on the call I am assuming you are agreeing to be recorded".

This is when they hang up and never call back. But before they hang up they will usually threaten you. That's all you need. If they threaten to do something to you and hang up... that is against the rules.

If they agree to be recorded... you probably will have a lawsuit by the end of the call and can collect some money. Ask a lot of questions.

It is impossible for them to know the accurate amount of the debt and interest, so whatever they tell you is the amount it is wrong. They need you to agree to an amount, so they can begin structuring a payment.

Tell the collector your not going to pay anything. If they threaten to take you to court, or garnish your wages, ruin your credit, etc. What ever they say... you repeat it and ask them to explain what they mean and what they intend to do exactly.

They can't or won't do anything to you. It is to expensive and takes to long... so if they don't follow through with the threat within 30 days it was coercion... and now you have a claim against them.

Point is... if collectors obeys the rules they cannot do their jobs. In order to do their job they have to violate the rules in order to manipulate you. It is a numbers game for them. For every 100 debtors their is one person who knows what is going on and will sue them for a small amount of money. For the collector it is one of the costs of doing business.

Get the violation on tape and you win.... just like Diana and I did.

Posted by

on
I have some idiot collection agency in Edina Minnesota calling me telling me I owe them for a US Bank account. I went to US bank got a statement from them that said I didn't owe the funds. I faxed it to them and they persisted. I sent it to the Attorney General in Minnesota. Dang if these fools didn't try to collect again. I told them to never, never call me again. They could call the AG's office and gave them the name of the AG rep dealing with. Mouthful of marbles about trying to collect debt. Told not to call back or I'd get attorney. Than was 3 wks ago.

Posted by

on
I have been dealing with a situation that is 100 times more malicious than what this Women had to endure and the guilty parties can't pull up stakes and go hide, yet I have not been able to garner the interest of legal representation. I have managed to back these thieves into a corner from which the only way out will be costly and I've done this as a pro se litigant for 7 years now.

I only wish I could find the legal team needed to crush these vile creatures within the corner that I have backed them into.

My hat is off to this women for the actins she took and the legal team that took on her case and i hope they find these people and take everything they have, which probably won't be much...

Posted by

on
Close to this matter, I fell prey to attorneys,3, who have succesfully placed SJ on me thru Fraud. It's is "fraud upon the courts", I will be handleing myself unless I get a attorney who sues debt collection lawyers, who claim to be suing in the name of the OC-they are not-they are a collection agency, who cannot sue--the OC has wrote off the debt (Accord&Satisfaction) once this has happened, the debt is EXTINGUISHED.Money is no longer owed.This action is a bare-faced lie & is Fraud.After they bought the debt--they had no original intrest in any original contract. The affadavits are inadmissable once this has been done.I have many case laws about affadavits.This in essence is a kind of racateering between the banks & debt collector. I do not stand to be cheated I will send a polite letter to the 3 attorneys first, not expecting a letter back.Next--all my cumalative paperwork will be saved for federal court. I will not loose. I am a uncollectable Veteran & will stop at nothing--justice must be served, it was not in County Court.Fraud has no SOL

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