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I am in Washington state. Recently, I've been receiving calls from Conserve, a company that provides private and confidential services to private and public companies (as stated by the agent on the phone). This immediately made me suspicious, and when I asked for more information, they simply stated that they could not give me any more information. I told them that the person they were looking for was not available, and they stated that they would call back later. Before I could tell them not to, they had hung up. I looked up the company, and found that they are a debt collection agency, and on their website, it states that

This communication is from a debt collector, and is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

As far as I am aware, if it is a debt collection agency calling, don't they have to inform of this, before I tell them any information? There is not automated message that states this, and it is from a different number each day.

The reason I am certain that it is a debt collection agency calling, is because the person that they are looking for, has told me about debts that they have, and have received letters attempting to collect a debt.

What steps can I take in this situation to either prevent them from calling, or have them at least let me know who they are?

  • I just want to make sure I am correct on one statement. They are not calling for you, they are calling and asking for another person. – Jdahern Jul 7 '15 at 23:46
  • Yes, they are not calling for me, but for another person. The phone number that I am receiving the call, is not that person's phone number. It is my personal phone. – Zymus Jul 7 '15 at 23:51
  • Have they contacted you more than one time? By contacted, actually spoke with you and confirmed that the other person is not available at that number? – Jdahern Jul 7 '15 at 23:52
  • Yes. Before I could tell them that the person they're looking for no longer has a functioning phone (as far as I'm aware), they say "That's okay, we'll call back later" and hang up. – Zymus Jul 8 '15 at 0:25
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    If they call back, report them to the FTC (see my response for the link). The reason they are contacting you is to attempt to locate person X. They should only call you a total of one time to attempt to locate person X. That is bad practice on their part, you were willing to give them information, and yet, they did not collect it. If they are not acting in good faith with that, and basically harassing you, they should get reported. – Jdahern Jul 8 '15 at 15:47
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They don't have to inform you that they are a debt collector. Because that can be a violation of 15 U.S.C. Section 1692b(2) by exposing that the person they are attempting to collect from has a debt. They are required to:

identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer -- 15 U.S.C. Section 1692b(1)

They also may not use any language indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt 15 U.S.C. Section 1692b(5)

What they do not have the right to do is harass you. They can not attempt to contact you again 15 U.S.C. Section 1692b(3) unless they have reason to believe you lied. I would contact the company back and inform them that you wish to have your number removed from their calling list, and that future calls may be a violation of 15 U.S.C. Section 1692b(3). Also, send them a notice in the mail. If they continue to attempt to contact you, report them to the FTC. You may also be entitled to monetary damages as well. See FTC

The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs.

To file a claim with the FTC, go to there online claim for debt collectors

Its worth it to show that you won't joke with them. I had a "debt" with T-Mobile (really, I had a billing error in their favor, and they admitted to it, but would not stop the debt collectors) and they violated the rules. I tried to work with them, 6 months later, they damaged my credit. I contacted FTC about it and T-Mobile with in 3 days had the debt cleared and reversed on my credit. They also paid for my damages. All I wanted was the debt cleared.

  • Note: for calls being recorded, always make sure you follow local laws and inform the other party that the call is recorded. If they have a right to record you, you have a right to record them. You must always infrom them as well.
  • 15 U.S. Code § 1692e(11) would seem to say that they do have to disclose that they are a debt collector... "disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector" – jimsug Jul 6 '15 at 23:26
  • There seem to be certain situations that are covered by their definition of debt collector, and then limited entities that exclude them, but if that's what you're referring to, you should address that in your question. – jimsug Jul 6 '15 at 23:32
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    Careful about recording the call: That's a felony in some states! E.g., in Washington It appears to be illegal if you don't give fair notice to the other party of the recording. – feetwet Jul 7 '15 at 17:16
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    @jimsug They are not trying to contact the op, but instead a person that he knows. The first part of part 11 "communication with the consumer" where consumer is the person who has the debt. – Jdahern Jul 7 '15 at 17:24
  • Your Note on the call recording contains some dangerously incorrect statements. I would leave it at "always make sure you follow applicable laws." Line recording is a tricky and involved subject, at least in the U.S. – feetwet Jul 7 '15 at 18:19
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If...

The person calling you is included in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") definition of debt collector1:

(6) The term “debt collector” means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (F) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term includes any creditor who, in the process of collecting his own debts, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such debts. For the purpose of section 1692f (6) of this title, such term also includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. The term does not include—
(A) any officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for such creditor;
(B) any person while acting as a debt collector for another person, both of whom are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if the person acting as a debt collector does so only for persons to whom it is so related or affiliated and if the principal business of such person is not the collection of debts;
(C) any officer or employee of the United States or any State to the extent that collecting or attempting to collect any debt is in the performance of his official duties;
(D) any person while serving or attempting to serve legal process on any other person in connection with the judicial enforcement of any debt;
(E) any nonprofit organization which, at the request of consumers, performs bona fide consumer credit counseling and assists consumers in the liquidation of their debts by receiving payments from such consumers and distributing such amounts to creditors; and
(F) any person collecting or attempting to collect any debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the extent such activity
(i) is incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation or a bona fide escrow arrangement;
(ii) concerns a debt which was originated by such person;
(iii) concerns a debt which was not in default at the time it was obtained by such person; or
(iv) concerns a debt obtained by such person as a secured party in a commercial credit transaction involving the creditor.

And...

They do not fall under the exclusions provided for in § 1692p of the Act,2:

Subject to paragraph (2), a private entity shall be excluded from the definition of a debt collector, pursuant to the exception provided in section 1692a (6) of this title, with respect to the operation by the entity of a program described in paragraph (2)(A) under a contract described in paragraph (2)(B).

Then...

They are required to identify themselves as a debt collector by the FDCPA (15 U.S. Code § 1692e(11)3, my emphasis):

... disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and ... disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector, except that this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action.

Or, in plain English:

If you are the person for whom they are calling/to whom they are writing, they must disclose that they are a debt collection agency in all communications. If the initial communication is oral, they must also disclose that they will collect information for this purpose.

However

If you are not the person the debt collector is calling for, § 1692b (2)-(3) applies 4:

Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall—
(2) not state that such consumer owes any debt;
(3) not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information;

If they contravene the FDCPA...

  • You may report them to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), which is empowered to enforce the FDCPA administratively.
  • You can also file a private lawsuit against the company. Violation of the FDCPA is actionable per se, without you needing to prove actual damages. You may be awarded statutory damages up to $1,000 plus legal fees, unless the debt collector can prove that this occurred despite procedures designed to prevent it.

1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1692a
2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1692p, text truncated
3. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1692e
4. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1692b, text truncated

  • I understand what you're saying, but if the agent on the line does not tell me anything more than we provide these services, is X available, and keeps repeating it, how could I find out? I could scrape their website, but is there any other way of telling really? – Zymus Jul 7 '15 at 6:43
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    If you are not the person who they are calling for, they may not be obliged to tell you that they are a debt collector. If you are X then you should say so. At that point, they are obliged to disclose that they are a debt collector (subject to the above provisions). If they fail to do so and attempt to carry on the business of debt collection, you can do your own research and then file a lawsuit, or ask them to send a letter to the address they have for you. At that stage, they will have to disclose that they are a debt collection agency. – jimsug Jul 7 '15 at 6:50
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    Just to add to what @jimsug is saying, even my bank won't give out details about a missed payment on my credit card to anyone but the account holder, because they don't want to open that can of worms. What if I had a secret card my abusive husband didn't know about, and the debt collector let it slip, and the husband beat me over it? It sounds far-fetched, but a few years ago someone got caught cheating on their spouse by a survey sent by the transportation dept. as a result of monitoring specific cars with bridge cameras for a traffic study. It's a privacy issue. – ColleenV Jul 7 '15 at 23:21

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