With the economy on an upturn, the financial crisis of 2008 is like a distant memory. For many people, however, the hard times continue.
They may have lost their job, or become too ill to work, or experienced a financially devastating life event like a divorce. When calls start coming from debt collectors, the situation becomes even more stressful, especially if the collectors are rude or underhanded with you.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, dictates that debt collectors adhere to certain guidelines when collecting or attempting to collect a debt from you. Although regrettably common, the following tricks and tactics are illegal under the FDCPA:
Your Rights Under the FDCPA
- Leaving messages that fail to identify them as debt collectors trying to collect a debt
- Using profane and obscene language, or calling you names
- Using an autodialer to call you non-stop and leave automated messages
- Calling you outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. your time
- Calling you at places and times known to be inconvenient, such as at work when your boss prohibits such calls
- Contacting your friends, neighbors, and co-workers and telling them you owe money
- Threatening legal action they cannot take, like having you arrested
Unfortunately, too many debt collectors regard the FDCPA as a nuisance to be circumvented in whatever way possible.
Company Profile: Wakefield & Associates, Inc
Wakefield & Associates is a collection agency headquartered in Aurora, Colorado. It was established ="in 1982, has call centers in Denver and Fort Morgan, and employs approximately 55 staff.
Consumer complaints forums accuse the company of unfair / unethical debt collection practices, and the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website contains several court cases involving Wakefield & Associates and alleged violations of the FDCPA.
Alleged Violations Against Wakefield & Associates, Inc
Faith Domowicz v. Wakefield & Associates, Inc
In February 2008 New York resident Faith Domowicz started getting calls from Wakefield & Associates about a student loan she had defaulted on.
On February 21, 2008, one of the agency’s collectors allegedly left a message on her cell phone stating that his name was “Patrick Haywig” and directing her to return his call. He allegedly did not state that he was a debt collector or that he was attempting to collect a debt.
Ms. Domowicz called Wakefield & Associates from her work telephone number and asked to be transferred to Patrick Haywig. Upon answering the telephone, company representatives again allegedly failed to identify that they were a debt collector.
During the conversation with Mr. Haywig, he stated that he was attempting to collect on the student loan debt. Ms. Domowicz replied that she was filing bankruptcy and provided him with her attorney’s name, law firm name and law firm telephone number.
Although she had supplied an attorney’s number, a debt collector called her back within half an hour. When Ms. Domowicz insisted that they should be speaking with her attorney and not calling her anymore with regards to the debt.
The representative allegedly replied that he had called the attorney and “got no response.”
The next day, another debt collector named Marcel Smith called Ms. Domowicz. Ms. Smith allegedly demanded her attorney’s information, claiming that she had previously refused to provide it.
Ms. Domowicz refuted the accusation and told Ms. Smith to review her file. She later accused Ms. Smith of abruptly hanging up.
Feeling uneasy, Ms. Domowicz called the company back and spoke to a secretary, who confirmed that her attorney’s contact information was not in their computer system. She once again provided those details.
The complaint that Ms. Domowicz filed with the US District Court accused Wakefield & Associates of violating the FDCPA in the following ways:
- Continuing to contact Ms. Domowicz despite being informed that she was being represented by an attorney and despite the fact that she provided the company with her attorney’s contact information (15 U.S.C. §1692c(2))
- Engaging in abusive and harassing conduct by repeatedly and continuously engaging her in telephone conversation despite being notified that she was being represented by an attorney (15 U.S.C. §1692d and 15 U.S.C. §1692d(5))
- Using false, deceptive and misleading means in an attempt to collect on the debt by falsely documenting in her account that she refused to provide the company with her attorney’s information, and by repeatedly failing to inform Ms.Domowicz that Wakefield & Associates was a debt collector and that any information obtained would be used for that purpose. (15 U.S.C. §1692e, 15 U.S.C. §1692e(10), 15 U.S.C. §1692e(11) and 15 U.S.C. §1692f).
The matter was later settled.
Hire An Attorney
The phone numbers for Wakefield & Associates are 1-800-864-3870 or 1-303-537-2900. If it appears on your caller ID, a debt collector is attempting to collect a debt from you.
Be aware that contacting you about a debt if you have retained an attorney in the matter is against the law, so if Wakefield & Associates crosses the line in that regard, ask your consumer attorney to help you file a complaint against them.
You could be compensated $1,000 per FDCPA violation, so when debt collectors go too far, remember your rights and let a good consumer attorney help you act on them.
*Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is 1:08-cv-00750-RJA-HKS, from United States District Court for the Western District of New York
Disclaimer: The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be constructed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Wakefield & Associates, or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.