Our firm recently brought suit against New York City collection firm Stephen Einstein & Associates, P.C. on behalf of a victim of identity theft.
A Victim Provides Documentation And Gets Sued Anyway
Our client has never lived in New York City. An identity thief rented an apartment in the Bronx using our client’s name and social security number. Unsurprisingly, the thief did not keep up with his rent. Our client became aware of the unpaid rent after receiving a collection notice and promptly contacted the collection firm, Stephen Einstein & Associates, informing them that this was a case of identity theft and that the client had never resided in, applied for, or leased an apartment in New York City. The client even attached an affidavit and police report, along with photo I.D.
Unfortunately, the collection firm’s response was to promptly initiate a collection action, seeking thousands of dollars in rental arrears from the client.
To make matters worse, the debt collector contacted the debtor directly to explore settlement even after being informed that the debtor was being represented by counsel, something the FDCPA explicitly prohibits.
Schlanger Law Group filed suit in the Southern District of New York, alleging that Stephen Einstein & Associates, P.C. violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which bars unfair and deceptive collection tactics (including seeking money that is not owed) and “conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse”. We also brought suit under New York Judiciary Law § 487, which prohibits making false statements “with intent to deceive the court or any party”.
Using The FDCPA To Combat Collection Activities Against Identity Theft Victims
Although the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is not typically thought of as an identity theft statute, it can be a critical tool for assisting victims of identity theft when collection law firms or other debt collectors are attempting to hold a victim liable for the actions and debt incurred by the thief. This is particularly true where the identity theft victim apprises the debt collector regarding the fraudulent nature of the debt, and the collector nonetheless persists with collection activity.
The FDCPA is a strict liability statute, meaning that the debt collector is generally liable for conduct that is deceptive or unfair or otherwise oppressive (or for violation of any of the FDCPA’s many detailed disclosure and other requirements) even if the collector’s conduct was not negligent or willful. The FDCPA provides for federal jurisdiction, statutory damages of up to $1,000, actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs. Because the FDCPA and other federal consumer protection statutes are fee-shifting statutes, Schlanger Law Group regularly represents victims of identity theft and false credit reporting in New York on a largely or entirely contingent basis.
We Could Help You With FDCPA Litigation If You Have Been A Victim Of Identity Theft
Schlanger Law Group has been a leader in FDCPA litigation and has established multiple important precedents—at the District Court and Appellate level regarding collector liability on issues ranging from suit on time-barred debt; interest and usury; false statements in boilerplate legal pleadings and affidavits, and more.