How do I stick it to the man?
March 13, 2006 5:52 PM   Subscribe

A collections agent sent me someone else's information. How can I use this as leverage against them?

I posted a question about responding to a collection agency a couple weeks ago and got some very good advice. When I asked for proof of debt, they sent it. Only it was someone else's. Now that I have this info, what do I do with it? Ideally I'd like to:

1. Use it as leverage to get out of the debt.
2. Make sure my info hasn't been sent to someone else.

Do I return it and keep copies? Do I try to notify the person whose info I have?
posted by electroboy to Law & Government (14 answers total)
I'm not sure how ethically sound all of this is, but you can try a local news network. They usually eat this kind of stuff up ("Who's been reading through your financial information? Details at eleven").
posted by danb at 6:39 PM on March 13, 2006

Ideally I'd like to:
1. Use it as leverage to get out of the debt.

Are you asking how to blackmail the collections agency?
posted by attercoppe at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2006

Well, if I were in your position, I would simply write to the collections agent and say that you are not that person, because you're not.

I'm not really sure their mistake makes you not liable, legally, but either one of two things will happen in the future:

1) They sue you
2) they don't.

If they don't sue you, then you can write to the collection agencies and tell them that you don't really owe that money. The agencies will then try to validate, just like you did and might end up with the wrong info as well. That would probably make it easy to see that they had made a mistake.

If they do sue you, then you'll have to go to court and the judge will decide. In many states if you lose you'll also need to pay their legal bills.

IANAL, etc.
posted by delmoi at 6:53 PM on March 13, 2006

I should clarify. The apartment complex I left believes I owe them for damage to carpets. I claim wear and tear. They retained the collections agent. I disputed the debt, they sent someone else's information by mistake.
posted by electroboy at 6:56 PM on March 13, 2006

I don't see any way you can use this as leverage. They made a mistake, but it is unrelated to the merits of their collection claim against you. I would advise them of their error, in writing. At least it will be a little harder for them to criticize deficiencies in your paperwork going forward, since they made a big goof. Contacting the person whose information you received would be courteous, although not necessary.

As for your second question, I would just ask them to verify that your information wasn't sent to someone else and that it is being kept appropriately confidential. I can't think of much else to do on this point.
posted by brain_drain at 7:30 PM on March 13, 2006

In my estimation, you are never going to successfully "blackmail" the collection agency. Forget this wacky scenario. It only makes you look bad should you decide to pursue this in small claims court etc.

I would write them a letter pointing out that they sent you the wrong info, you want your correct info and ask did they carelessly send your info elsewhere. Keep it all in writing.

And continue on with the many good suggestion that were given in your earlier thread.

Good luck.
posted by bim at 7:30 PM on March 13, 2006

I agree that this sounds terribly misguided. The correct thing to do here is to contact the collections agency and tell them they've made a mistake. I know you have a great deal of anger directed toward them (and the apartment complex), but two wrongs don't make a right.

(Do I sound like your mother? God, I'm getting old.)
posted by jdroth at 7:37 PM on March 13, 2006

brain_drain said:
Contacting the person whose information you received would be courteous, although not necessary.
This is a good idea. It's possible this person received your information in an envelope-stuffing mishap. If they did then you have some proof that the collections agency violated your privacy. You could probably file a complaint about this (or maybe take legal action) although as brain_drain also said this has nothing to do with the merits of the collection claim, just the merits of the agency following up on it.
posted by Songdog at 8:08 PM on March 13, 2006

1. Wait till your collection agency files a motion in small claims court against you.
2. File for the dissmisal of the case the first day in court
3. Claim that the collection agency never met their notification burden
4. State that it is not your legal responsibility to ensure that your opponent adheres to their due diligence

Your mileage may vary, I'm not a lawyer. The case could quite possibly be dismissed on those grounds. It is perhaps as likely the you could be found against. However even in that situation some modifications to your credit record will be made as they can't claim they properly notified you and then you failed to pay.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:55 PM on March 13, 2006

I was thinking what Rubbstone said
posted by Goofyy at 4:54 AM on March 14, 2006

Don't think it helps you but it might help the person whose data they sent you; their sloppyness has violated someone else's privacy and may be construed as a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

You should definitely document this, however, since if you reach a point in their collection activity where you have to call into question their procedures (if they ever provided you with the 'mini-miranda,' for example) you can demonstrate that they clearly do not exercise a lot of diligence.
posted by phearlez at 7:40 AM on March 14, 2006

Use the other person's information to apply for a credit card in their name, withdraw cash on the card for the amount of the carpet damages, then pay the apartment complex off.

Be sure to call us from jail and let us know how it worked out for you.

(Seriously - Unless you've got picture evidence of the rugs being in good condition upon your move out, You're going in front of the judge with a they-said-I-said situation, which makes it almost a coin flip as to how it would come out. Did you or your friends take pictures in the room before you left that(Accidentally or intentionally) show the condition of the carpets in question?)
posted by Orb2069 at 9:09 AM on March 14, 2006

Call a lawyer and ask them. Under the FCRA, they have a certain amount of time to notify you - and they have failed to do that properly. It's worth a quick call to an attorney.

Also, there's a statute of limitations on lawsuits. It depends on the state, but if a certain amount of time has passed, they can't sue you. Again, ask a lawyer. There are lots of them that specialize in this sort of stuff and many are happy to answer simple questions like this for free. Contact your local bar association for further details. :-)
posted by drstein at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2006

Do not try to blackmail the collection agency. It will not work. Do not contact the person whose information you received. It opens the door to all kinds of potential or alleged liability that you don't want. Stick whatever you received in a folder, in case you need to present documents in small-claims court. Otherwise, destroy them.
posted by cribcage at 4:01 PM on March 14, 2006

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