Collectors Robo-Signing for Credit Card Debt Suits
Reminiscent of the foreclosure crisis, a number of credit card companies that are suing to collect their debt are said to be "flawed" and point to "robo-signing" or "robo-testimony."
"I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can't prove the person owes the debt," said Brooklyn civil court judge Noach Dear, according to the New York Times.
Companies like American Express have filed lawsuits that judges have dismissed because one employee who testified provided generic testimony about the company's records, which the judge called "robo-testimony."
American Express sued Felicia Tancreto last year, alleging she owed more than $16,000 on her credit card and had stopped making payments.
Sonya Conway, spokeswoman for American Express told ABC News that the company "strongly disagrees" with Judge Dear's comments and "we feel consistency of testimony is a good practice."
"To introduce business records into evidence, similar foundational questions are asked in each case in order to comply with the applicable rules of evidence," Conway said. "The process of establishing a defaulted customer debt for evidentiary purposes should not change from one case to the next given that our processes are consistent for all customers. However, when this was done in the Tancreto case, Judge Dear characterized the questions and responses as 'robo-testimony'."
Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com and an ABCNews.com columnist, said "none of this surprises me," and he recommends consumers speak with an attorney or their state consumer affairs agency if they are told they owe money on a debt that was not processed properly or is not theirs.
"[The credit card companies] are in a frenzy right now to make up for money they're losing after the government restricted the insane fees these institutions were charging," Levin said.
Some lawsuits include falsified credit card statements, the New York Times reports.
Reilly Dolan, Federal Trade Commission's assistant director in the division of financial practices, said the agency has "heard that in some instances, debt collectors have not provided adequate evidence to support the amount of debt claimed, relying on the likelihood of obtaining a default judgment."
In 2010, the FTC addressed the issue with a report recommending that jurisdictions review their procedures for issuing default judgments in actions brought by debt collectors to ensure the collector can supports its claim.
Emily Collins, spokeswoman for Citigroup, said "we continually review the effectiveness of our controls and policies for credit card collections, and ensure that affidavits are validated for accuracy and signed by Citi employees with knowledge of the client's account. Citi Cards has a range of programs to support our clients who may be facing financial difficulty, and we make every effort to work with our clients to prevent delinquency."