Well, it's about time, New York Times. Finally, a trend article that doesn't only apply to the upper East side but has actual news we can use:
Mr. Katz, a 58-year-old accountant in suburban Tucson, spends his free time schooling debtors on the finer points of consumer protection law to help them turn the tables on debt collectors. On occasion, he thumbs his own nose at them too.
“How many times can I sue you? Let me count the ways,” he wrote under his pseudonym, Dr. Tax, in a March posting on Inside ARM, a debt collectors’ Web site.
A former bill collector himself, Mr. Katz rebelled after a debt buyer damaged his credit score with what he says was a bogus bill. Mr. Katz sued, and in 2003 he collected his first damage award, a $1,000 check that he now keeps framed behind his desk.
“The bill collectors, when they call, make you feel like the only option you have is to lay down and play dead. That’s not true,” said Mr. Katz said, who does not charge for his advice. “Nothing validates this more than getting a check.”
Call this movement revenge of the (alleged) deadbeats. Even as collectors try to recoup debts from millions of Americans struggling to pay their bills, a small but growing number of lawyers and consumers are fighting back against what they describe as harassment, unscrupulous practices — and, most important to their litigiousness, violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If I accidentally pick up the phone when a debt collector calls, I immediately let them have it: "You used a spoofed caller ID, which is a violation of federal law. Please give me your company name, address and phone number so I can file a federal complaint." (So far, they've always hung up.)
In fact, 8,287 federal lawsuits were filed citing violations of the act in 2009, a 60 percent rise over the previous year, according to WebRecon, a site that tracks collection-related litigation and the most litigious consumers and lawyers on behalf of debt collectors.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court made it even easier for consumers to use the courts to fight debt collectors, ruling that collectors cannot be shielded from suits by claiming they made a mistake in interpreting the law.
When a consumer stops paying a bill, creditors often try to collect on their own for a few months. In many instances, the creditor hires another company to collect the debt. In other cases, they may dispose of the debt by selling it to a debt buyer for a steep discount.
Debt collectors and debt buyers are the targets of litigious consumers, since the debt collection law primarily applies to third-party collectors.
Peter Barry, a Minneapolis trial lawyer, is so bullish on the future of debt collection litigation that he holds several “boot camps” each year to share his secrets with other lawyers who want in on the action. If the debtor wins a court case under the act, the debt collector must pay the lawyer’s fees.
[...] “I can’t sue every illegal debt collector in America, although I’d like to try,” Mr. Barry said.
Mr. Katz can also claim some credit for the increase in lawsuits. For six years, he has run a free Web site called Debtorboards.com, where people share tips on topics like keeping a paper trail and recording calls from collectors.
He said the site received two million hits in 2009, a 60 percent increase over the previous year.
“Debtorboards is geared to help people use the laws as they are on the books as both a shield and a sword,” said Mr. Katz, who says he has won $36,000 from his own litigation against collection agencies. (Since many of the settlements are confidential, it is difficult to prove the claims of Mr. Katz and others).