Did You Give Prior Express Consent To Call Your Cell Phone?
Interviewer: Do you get calls from people who think they have a case but actually do not? What factors determine if they have a case?
Andrew Campbell: I think people get confused about prior express consent and what that means.
Let me give you an example. Somebody has a debt, let’s say with Citibank.
They gave Citibank their cell phone number when they put it on the application for credit. Then they stopped paying for one reason or another. They had an emergency, and they couldn’t afford it.
So the bank then gave the case to a debt collector. The debt collector starts auto dialing the person’s cell phone. The person receiving these calls then says, “Wait a minute. I didn’t give this debt collector this number. Why are they calling me? Isn’t that illegal?” The answer is no.
The debt collector has a right to do that because the creditor was given that information. It is an agency type of principle.
That is what the legal principle is called. It is a principle that says if that collector is hired by the creditor, then they have a right to call that number as well.
Interviewer: What if the debt was sold to a debt liquidator or a company that buys it at a discount and then tries to collect on it?
Andrew Campbell: Now you are asking me a very difficult question.
Interviewer: There is definitely a class of debts where they disappear for years, and then some company will buy it and try to collect on it.
Andrew Campbell: They still have the right. They are buying the debt and they are buying everything along with the debt.
In my opinion, they would still be an agent of the original creditor because the debt was sold and all the rights to that debt were sold with it.
Part of the rights to that debt, in my opinion, would be the ability to call your cell phone if you, in fact, had provided that number.
Here’s the big key, though. A lot of people have had their credit cards for years and years. They forget whether they had that cell phone number at the time they got the credit.
They forget whether they had that cell phone number at the time they got the credit.
A lot of people think, “I gave them the number.” However, in actuality, what happened was they might have had a different cell phone number at the time. They got the debt and they switched cell phones.
They got the debt and they switched to cell phones.
Now years later, it is a different cell phone and suddenly they are getting called on it.
The reason that happens is because the consumer might have called into the creditor to make a payment, using their new cell phone.
Well, a lot of companies have a caller ID tool.
That caller ID tool can trap the caller’s number automatically. They take that number and import it automatically into their customer management system and associate it with that caller’s account number.
Interviewer: Does it capture the number?
Andrew Campbell: Yes, it captures the number. By you calling, you are not giving prior express consent for them to call you back at that number. That does not give consent. Some of these creditors do that and that is illegal.
That does not give consent. Some of these creditors do that and that is illegal.
Interviewer: So you change your number, and that is one way to know you haven’t given it to them. Is that right?
Andrew Campbell: Exactly. A lot of times, just like in your previous example, the debt was sold to a debt buyer. You do not have that cell phone number anymore. Still, they call that cell phone. Now they violated some other person’s rights. However, they still try to locate you and they can’t.
You do not have that cell phone number anymore. Still, they call that cell phone. Now they violated some other person’s rights. However, they still try to locate you and they can’t.
What they do is a skip trace. A skip trace is just a simple search on a database for information about people. Those databases will contain cell phone numbers. So they do a skip trace, find a cell phone number and then call you using an auto-dialer, prerecorded or computer-generated.
Those databases will contain cell phone numbers. So they do a skip trace, find a cell phone number and then call you using an auto-dialer, pre-recorded or computer-generated.
Again, if it is a cell phone number they call and that number was not on the application for credit, they just violated your rights.
They are supposed to, what is called, scrub the number from their system. You see, every single cell phone number out there has been categorized by the FCC.
Interviewer: Do they know they are calling your cell phone?
Andrew Campbell: They know because there are databases that they have to, by law, subscribe to.
Those databases will tell them whether that number is a cell phone.
Let me give you a quick example. 810 is an area code. My cell phone number is (xxx) 701-xxxx.
The 701 indicates a Verizon Wireless number.
701 will always be a Verizon Wireless number, subject only to a very rare exception.
So if you see 701, then that is a Verizon Wireless phone number.
There is simple software out there that knows these exchange codes. They are able to figure out whether that exchange code is a wireless number or a land line number.
If they simply scrubbed their records, they would know what number is or isn’t a wireless one. It is because all callers do not scrub their records that there are so many TCPA lawsuits filed nowadays.
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