A new trend is occurring involving unfair debt collection practices known as “overbiffing.” This practice occurs when a creditor or debt collector overstates a debtor’s balance in hopes of getting more money than what is owed.
A recent case in New York highlighted the problem. In the case, a New York debt collector overstated account balances for thousands of consumers in an effort to defraud them into paying more than they actually owe. The debt collector also used abusive and illegal tactics to get consumers to pay. The Fair Debt Collect Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) specifically prohibits this type of behavior, as was addressed by the court.
The “overbiffing” term comes from the act that the debt collector is trying to accomplish. The scam these companies are trying to accomplish is to tell the individual that what they are paying, which is an overstatement of what they owe, will pay the person’s “balance in full,” which is shortened to “BIF.” Of course, these “balance in full” payments are well over what that person owes.
One such debt collector is based in Buffalo, New York, named Robert Heidenreich, also known by the name “Bobby Rich.” The debt collectors working for Heidenreich have been accused of overstating balances that they say consumers owe on accounts. Regulators in this case used forms to compare the actual balances these consumers owe to the amounts that these scammers are saying that they owe. What these regulators found was that the difference between these two amounts was in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Heidenreich’s employees were also accused of misleading the consumers about who was calling. Many of the employees knowingly violated the FDCPA by posing as attorneys or even law enforcement, as a scare tactic. Threatening legal action when one does not have the right to do so or impersonating an attorney or law enforcement is a blatant violation of the FDCPA. These employees would tell the consumer that they had committed a crime and were about to either be arrested or served with notice of a legal proceeding regarding the debt. The consumer would then be directed to another debt collector pretending to be an attorney, who would take payment over the phone on the alleged amount owed. If the consumer questioned the person on the phone, the debt collector would become aggressive and even abusive in response, which is another violation of the FDCPA.
If you have been contacted by a debt collector who is committing one or more of these actions, it is important you know your rights. Per the FDCPA, any third-party debt collector is not allowed to use threatening or abusive language when communicating with the debtor regarding a debt. The FDCPA also prohibits third-party debt collectors from misrepresenting who they are, as well as the consequences of not paying the debt. If a third-party debt collector has done any of these actions, you may have a valid claim for damages under an FDCPA violation.
As a consumer, you also have the right to request validation of the debt from the debt collector. This validation must be produced in writing and must include how much is owed and to whom the debt is owed. You should then take that information and check to make sure that the amount given is, in fact, correct. This information can be validated, for example, with information on the consumer’s credit report.
If a debt collector has violated any provision of the FDCPA, it is important you report the debt collector to the state attorney general’s consumer affairs division, as well as the FTC.
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