What Do I Say When Speaking To A Collector?

Interviewer: Let’s talk about your behavior during a call with a collector. Can you do things that unintentionally will reopen the door and allow them to call you again?

Andrew: That is a great question. The law is a little bit up in the air on that. You can, unfortunately. I did have a case where I asked my client, “Have you been getting calls to your cell phone? Yes, from whom?”  They tell me and I ask repeatedly, “Are you sure you didn’t give them this cell phone number?”  The response is, “I am positive.”  I asked about five times.

So I file a lawsuit. Then 30 to 60 days later, I am listening to a recording of a call from a collector. My client is saying, “You can call me on this number.  Here is my cell phone number.  Go ahead and call me.”  That could be enough.  You probably gave permission.  That can screw things up. You do not want to give your cell phone number out unless you really want to be called back on it with an auto dialer or prerecorded message.

Interviewer: What other ways can you screw up?  Suppose you just answer, acknowledge it is you and tell them, “Do not call me.”  Would that protect you?

Andrew: That will help you because if you answer the call you are doing a number of things.  First, you have the ability to get information about who is calling.  Second, if you don’t want them calling, you say, “Hey look, do not call me.  You should not be calling this number anyway.”  If they call you again, as I said before, the damages are between $500 and $1500.

Once you tell them this is my cell phone, they should already know that. Say, “This is my cell phone number, do not call me again.” They call you again and they are demonstrating willful behavior, knowing behavior.  There is a case about that.

It actually happened here in Michigan to a man by the name of Harris. This is one of the cases that talks about this willful or knowing. The collector repeatedly called seeking location information. The man did not know who these people were and he said, “Look, this is my cell phone.  Do not call.”  They continued to call 75 additional times.

The judge said, “Once he told you it was a cell phone and not to call again, every call after that is $1500 a call.” That is one of the ways to establish willfulness or knowing behavior.

In my opinion, you do not even need that. If you are calling a number and you have not scrubbed it or obtained it from the original creditor, then the original creditor was not provided with it by the consumer. Then you are just inviting a huge judgment against you.

Interviewer: What do you mean by “scrub it?”

Andrew: Scrub it just means you take the number and you put it into a database that will tell you whether it is a cell phone or a land line.

Interviewer: You run it through this checker essentially to tell what it is before you call.

Andrew: The FCC has all the numbers that are dedicated to be used for wireless services out there.  They have a listing of the numbers. By the way, that changes every month.  Telemarketers are obligated to download a list from the FCC every 30 days.

Let me give you an example. I had a business land line and I was getting calls on it all the time. These were telemarketing calls and I did not really want them. To get rid of those calls, I took that business land line and I transferred it to a cell phone.  That is called porting.  I ported the number to a cell phone.

Suppose I transfer the number or I port the number. If you are following and abiding by the rules established by the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, the telemarketer will download the list every 30 days.

There on the list will be my number that was a business land line that is now a cell phone.  If you did the right thing and downloaded that list, you would know that number is not safe to call anymore. That is a cell phone number.  I can’t call that number anymore. Note: There is a 15 day grace period.

Once that 15 day grace period is up, the telemarketer or collector cannot call that number unless you have prior expressed consent.  That is another big problem.  A lot of the calls dropped dramatically but then, suddenly, I got about seven telemarketers and political candidates calling me.  All of them violated the law.

Interviewer: It seems a lot of call centers are overseas now. Does being based overseas, perhaps in India, enable them to get away with not following the rules?

Andrew: They are still liable. It is just a matter of whether they are collectible.  Again, you have the agency principle. If I am running a business in the states and I hire a call center in India to do my telemarketing calls, both of us are liable.

If I were suing a company, I would go after the American company.  I would name the other call center as well as the other company. But as far as trying to collect, I would go after the American company because it is easier.

There are a number of scams coming out of different parts of the world, such as Canada and parts of Africa and Asia. These people are calling consumers and saying, “You owe up for a payday loan. Pay me now. We are going to come and arrest you if you do not pay up.”

That is a big scam. That is technically extortion. That is a criminal act. Some people fall for that, unfortunately.  There is not a lot you can do other than contact the FBI in those cases.