Is Smith Haynes and Watson calling you? Here’s what you need to know.
Debt collectors frequently use aggressive methods to pursue consumers who owe money. Some tactics, like threats, daily phone calls, and accosting the friends, relatives, and neighbors of an alleged debtor, are illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) but they are still commonly applied, even on those who don’t owe money in the first place.
In 2010 the US Federal Trade Commission fined one debt collector, Allied Interstate, Inc., $1.75 million for allegedly using abusive means to collect money from debt-free consumers.
The FDCPA outlaws the following acts when used to collect or attempt to collect a debt:
- Calling consumers before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. in the latter’s time zone
- Contacting someone at work after being informed that the workplace in question does not allow such calls
- Using profane and obscene language
- Concealing their real identity and purpose to trick a person into taking their call
- Telling someone they can be arrested or sent to prison if they don’t pay
Smith, Haynes & Watson, LLC is a debt collection agency located in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. In 2010, after it was established, the agency’s license to collect debts in Maryland was temporarily suspended because the payday loans it persisted in collecting there were illegal under state usury laws.
Records archived by the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website confirm that this is not the first time Smith, Haynes & Watson, LLC has been in trouble with the law for its debt collection practices.
Griff Baker v. Smith Haynes & Watson, LLC
According to PACER, in April 2009 Minnesota resident Griff Baker received a call on his home phone from Smith, Haynes & Watson regarding an alleged debt. The voice message stated, “This message is for Mr. Griff Baker. Mr. Baker, my name is Elaina Woods with the offices of Smith Haynes & Watson.
I’m calling to notify you of a grievance that has been issued against you directly. We do need to speak to you immediately so that I can give you this information. I can be reached at (866) 489-0907 extension 2238 and you need to reference your grievance number 376347.”
A few days later, Ms. Woods called Mr. Baker’s home again and left the following message: “This message is for Mr. Griff Baker. Mr. Baker, my name is Elaina Woods with the offices of Smith Haynes & Watson. I’m calling to notify you of a formal grievance that has been issued against you directly using your name as well as your social security number.
Please understand that you do have the right to appeal portions of the allegation that has been presented against you. However, it requires your response to this phone call immediately. I can be reached at toll free (866) 489-0979. My direct extension here is 2238. Reference your grievance number 376347.”
Mr. Baker retained a consumer attorney and filed a complaint accusing Smith, Haynes & Watson of violating the FDCPA in the following ways:
- Failing to identify themselves as a debt collector during each communication (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d(6) and 1692e(11))
- Referring to an alleged “grievance” or “formal grievance”, as well as Mr. Baker’s “right to appeal” (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d, 1692e, 1692e(2)(A), 1692e(7), and 1692e(10))
- Failing to provide Mr. Baker with validation of the alleged debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692g)
The matter was later settled.
The phone numbers for Smith, Haynes & Watson are 1-866-489-0979 and 1-913-529-2174, so either one appears on your caller ID, a debt collector is trying to contact you. If they leave misleading messages that fail to identify them as debt collectors or fail to validate the debt as required by law, contact a consumer attorney.
An attorney can help you protect your rights and even sue Smith, Haynes & Watson for violating the FDCPA during its dealings with you.
*Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is 0:10-cv-00182-DSD-AJB from United States District Court, District of Minnesota
Disclaimer: The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be constructed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Smith, Haynes & Watson, or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.