FTC Brings Suit Against Debt Collector for “Phantom Debts”

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On June 23, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced​​ that it has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against a North Carolina debt collection company and its owner, alleging that the defendants took money from consumers for fake or “phantom” debts they did not owe.

According to the FTC, the defendants bought counterfeit payday loan debts from a lending company through a debt broker and began collecting on the debts. When consumers began complaining that they never took out the payday loans, or that they did not have an outstanding balance, the defendants reported the complaints to the broker, who then provided the defendants with a full refund for their purchase.  Per the Complaint, the defendants kept collecting on the debts for more than seven months despite their knowledge that the debts were phony.

As a result of the alleged actions, defendants are charged with violating section 5(a) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a), prohibiting unfair and deceptive acts or practices, and section 814 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §​ 1692l, prohibiting the use of false or deceptive means in collecting debt.  The FTC seeks both immediate and prospective injunctive relief, equitable monetary relief including restitution, and enforcement costs.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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