Marquis Jones has been sued by a debt
collection company for a credit card that she does not believe
she owes. The firm never proved she did own the debt.
But Jones was never given
notice of the lawsuit.
The collection company’s process server claimed her nonexistent
“wife” accepted the summons. The county judge approved a $992
judgment against her last year.
This scene is typical in
courtrooms throughout Maryland and across the country. Companies
buy past-due consumer debts and sue to collect have won judgments
against even though documentation to prove those cases is very
“This is a $100
billion-dollar-a-year industry … the sale of ‘accounts receivable,’
” said Peter A. Holland, who runs a University of Maryland law
school clinic that specializes in debt cases. “It’s created a
crisis in our small-claims courts. There’s tens of thousands of
cases filed without
proof just in Maryland. Nationwide, it’s in the tens of
Debt buyers typically
purchase default accounts at a low price with little information
about the debt and debtor. Then they swear in an affidavit that all
the information is correct. Generally, they don’t pay to acquire
the necessary documentation like signed credit card agreements or a
list of purchases. What ends up happening is that mistakes are made
such as suing twice for the same debt, suing on debts discharged
through bankruptcy, debts already paid
and debts incurred by people with similar names.
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