Photo (cc) by Sam Howzit
Diana Mey is trying to collect a debt from a debt collector — a 2-year-old, $10 million debt.
Three years ago, a debt-buying company called Reliant Financial Associates called the West Virginia woman and left a message suggesting the company would seize her home over a debt, ABC News says. Not only was that an illegal, empty threat, but it was completely wrong: Mey owed no such debt.
Mey, who calls herself “a mom, a housewife, and an accidental activist,” wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the company, ABC News says. Then she started getting hang-up calls from a number listed as the local sheriff’s department. One time, she answered — and a male voice on the line swore at her and threatened sexual assault. Phone records later showed it was a spoofed number that came from RFA, the debt company.
Mey was in the habit of recording her phone calls (it’s legal in West Virginia, though some states require mutual consent) and had plenty of evidence, so she sued for harassment and illegal collection practices, ABC News says. RFA’s lawyer didn’t even show up in court, and the judge awarded a record judgment of $10.8 million. That was in August 2011, and since then, more than 1,000 complaints about the company and others linked to it pushed the Federal Trade Commission to raid its property, sue it, and freeze its assets.
“The Federal Trade Commission estimated the companies took in $140 million in revenue between 2009 and 2013 using these tactics,” ABC News says. More than enough to pay Mey, right?
You can learn more about debt collection laws and how to fight back in our story, “Ask Stacy: How Do I Stop Collection Agency Calls?“