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Stories about breaking the law!

If You Test Me, You Will Fail

, , , , , , | Legal | CREDIT: MeowSchwitzInThere | July 3, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice.

 

I’m a lawyer. A friend from school reached out to ask for help dealing with an ambulance company. Her parent had passed away in an ambulance while traveling between a nursing home and a hospital. The ambulance company sent my friend a bill that she could not afford to pay, and they were threatening to send the bill to collectors.

Me: “Not a problem, friend! Your parent’s estate is responsible for this bill. You don’t have a personal obligation to pay it, so they can’t send it to collections in your name. Let me just mail a short letter, and they should stop bothering you.”

I typed a very polite letter (“This person has legal representation, please cease any and all shenanigans, etc.”) and thought that was the end of this nonsense. Fast forward a few weeks when my friend sent a picture of another bill. Because the law is so cut and dry on debt collection, I assumed the ambulance company had some computer or human error which caused another letter to be sent.

Me: “No worries, friend. I bet someone messed up. Let me give them a call real quick and figure it out.”

Imagine a super cool montage of me working through a really long automated phone tree before talking to an actual human.

Me: “Hey, I’m [Friend]’s lawyer. I sent a letter asking you to stop sending her collections notices. She got another notice yesterday, so I just wanted to figure out why and how to make sure these letters stop.”

“Surely, this will be a quick call and we can all have a laugh about whatever error occurred,” I think.

Employee: “We will stop sending her bills when she pays.”

Me: “Umm… but that’s pretty illegal for, like, a lot of reasons. I can think of three right off the top of my head. So, instead of me getting all riled up and starting a lawsuit, can you just be cool? Pretty please?”

Employee: “It’s not illegal. Try to sue us if you want our lawyers to explain it to you.”

She made me say the phrase that I hate more than any other phrase IN THE WORLD.

Me: “May I speak with your manager, please?”

Employee: “Nope, I am the manager, and I’m also more familiar with the FDCPA than you. What we are doing is perfectly legal. Tell your friend to pay.”

The FDCPA (Federal Debt Collection Practices Act) sets out certain rules for what debt collectors can or cannot do. But some states, like Texas, have stronger rules which protect debtors. I didn’t know whether or not the ambulance company was violating any FDCPA things, but I knew FOR SURE (and when a good lawyer says, “for sure,” that means one hundred percent sure) that they were violating Texas DCPA.

Me: “Telling me I don’t know what I’m doing is rude. Hassling [Friend] after their parent passed away is shockingly rude. So, last chance before I hang up to angry-type a lawsuit and angry-file it. You don’t want me to sue on this, because I will win.”

Employee: “Please do, and we will see you in court. Have a nice day!” *Click*

She hung up on me. Oh, man, I was pissed — easily in the top ten of pissed in a professional context.

The whole conversation took about ten minutes. I have a fairly high tolerance for abrasive people; most people don’t look forward to talking with a lawyer, I get it. Still, sending collection notices to the wrong person AFTER that person buried a parent AND telling me I’m a bad lawyer was pretty mind-blowing.

I literally started working on this complaint as soon as I hung up. Because if I threaten to sue and you ASK me to follow through, my hands are tied.

I filed and the company was served, presumably followed by an actual lawyer reading the complaint and thinking, “Oh, wow, we f***ed up here.” A very apologetic lawyer called, and we reached an agreement to settle which included an apology to [Friend].

The Sad Part Is That This Probably Works Occasionally

, , , , | Legal | July 2, 2022

At the office I work at, I’m not generally a front desk employee, but most of our admin staff covers the main office phone lines, so I end up answering quite a few phone calls. Some of these are for project inquiries, and some of them are other sorts of business, but, of course, a fair few are marketing cold calls or scammers. Recently, I got a somewhat unusual one.

I pick up the phone and give my typical introduction, stating the business name and my name.

Caller: “Yes, could I please speak to [Ex-Employee]?”

The caller does not identify himself, which is already not a good sign, but we have had legitimate callers not introduce themselves before, so I defer judgment for the moment.

Me: “May I ask who’s calling and what the purpose of your call is?”

Caller: “My name is [Caller] and I’m calling for [Ex-Employee] about some medical documents.”

I have to pause there. I’ve had mystery callers try to call about unspecified “business documents” before, but medical documents is a new one, and a baffling one — you’re calling a generic front desk line about something regarding someone’s private health information?

Me: “Uh… are you aware that you’ve reached the front desk line?”

Caller: “Sir, please, I have misplaced his personal number, and that is why I am calling you.”

I almost laugh out loud at this, but I manage to regain my composure.

Caller: “Sir? Can you please transfer me?”

Me: “No.”

Caller: “Okay, thank you.” *Click*

I get that these scams are low-effort, but I’m still baffled that they might think that something related to someone’s personal life would be more likely to get past the front desk than something business-related. We’re not even supposed to pass along personal calls unless we’re specifically authorized to.

Scammers Don’t Care Who They Screw Over

, , | Legal | June 30, 2022

We are a small independent bookshop in a rather depressed UK city. With the rise of Internet shopping, we started selling books online a few years ago. We have only really had one bad customer.

We sent the book to this customer, and the following day we got an email from her along the lines of:

Customer: “I want a refund. Your delivery driver didn’t deliver the book after I paid for redelivery.”

That was odd. Not only did we send the book via Royal Mail, not a private service, but no delivery service charges for redelivery. I wasn’t in the shop at the time, but a worker was, and he called me, quite confused. I was equally confused.

Then, the penny dropped. There’s a scam where people send emails or text messages to people with the subject “redelivery of your parcel.” Clicking on the link, the victim is prompted to pay a redelivery charge. Because we were the last business she had ordered something from online, she thought the email was to do with her order from us.

By this time, we had received another email from her.

Customer: “I DEMAND A REFUND! YOUR DRIVER SCAMMED ME!”

I wrote politely back explaining that this had nothing to do with us at all, and having looked at our records and the date the book had been sent off, there was no way it could have reached her yet. I explained the scam, linking to a police website about it, and advised that she needed to cancel the card that she had used, as there was a possibility the scammer now had her card details and could use them to make purchases online.

She still demanded a refund from [Online Marketplace], which we gave. But seriously, the issue had nothing to do with us!

These Motorists Are Getting Antsy

, , , , , , | Legal | June 28, 2022

I’m a police officer. Back in the 1970s, [Highway] was loaded with traffic all of the time. The sides of the road narrowed as it went through the swamp areas and were barely wide enough for a vehicle to park with steep banks going down to the water.

One afternoon, traffic backed up for several miles. I attempted to weave my way through traffic to find out the problem. After several minutes, I arrived at the scene of the situation. A motorist was parked with his vehicle parked half on the road and half on the side with a flat tire. Clearly, he had enough room to get completely off of the highway but didn’t. His poor wife was flagging cars around the car.

I noticed that he was changing his tire in a “Fire Ant” nest. Before I could get parked, the ants started to sting. He danced out in the road in front of traffic, completely stopping traffic both ways, stripping off his shoes and pants as his poor wife beat the ants off. The motorists got a h*** of a show watching this naked man dance around.

I was a shavetail twenty-year-old trooper then. I’m now in my seventies and still laugh about this “fire ant” FEEDING.

They Almost Got You With The Old Switcheroo

, , , , | Legal | June 26, 2022

I am out doing my regular run of [Food Delivery Service] work and have been at it for about seven hours when I accept an order for [Popular Burger Chain]. Within a few seconds of accepting the latest order, my phone rings, and because these gig services filter all customer contact through their own platforms, the caller ID says, “[Delivery Service]”. I accept the call.

Caller: “Good evening. Am I speaking with [My Name]?”

Me: “Yes”

Caller: “Great, I am [Caller] with [Delivery Service]. The reason I am calling you tonight is that the order you are on now was placed with a stolen debit card.”

Me: “Oh, wow!”

Caller: “We are going to remove the order and ensure you are compensated for your time. Could you please go into the [Delivery Service] app and unassign the order for [reason]?”

Me: *Does so* “Okay, I’ve removed the order.”

Caller: “Great, now could you please verify your ten-digit phone number so that we can ensure you are compensated for your time?”

I wait for [Caller] to recite my number.

Caller: “Hello?”

Me: “Yes?”

Caller: “Yes, could you please verify your ten-digit phone number?”

Me: *Thinks for a moment in confusion* “Yes, if you can read off my number, I can verify it for you.”

There’s an awkward pause.

Caller: “Could you please verify your number for me?”

There was a longer pause as I try to process this request.

The caller hung up.

What happened was an order was placed for nothing but some condiments which, when combined with a promo code, can let them make free/discounted orders for delivery, but more importantly, it gets them into the system as a customer and eventually gives them access to a gig worker via the app. Once the order is picked up, they call their victim, get the order canceled, and then get the worker to hand over their phone number. With the phone number in hand, the scammer can attempt an account recovery which requires a two-factor code sent by SMS to be entered. The scammer will say they are sending the worker a text to verify the phone number at the same time they are going through the recovery process, the worker recites the code thinking it came from the scammer, and the scammer logs into the account, changes the bank information, and extracts whatever balance the worker has on hand, leaving the worker high and dry.

Being that I work in IT for my day job, my brain had a short-circuit when THEY asked me for my phone number. No one calling me with a legitimate business purpose is going to need ME to provide THEM with my number; they will already have it. I recognized it was wrong in some way.

Now, I’d been at this pretty much all day for three days straight, it was late, I was tired, and if it weren’t for my tech tingles going off, I might well have at least given them my ten-digit. I ended up calling the support line for [Delivery Service] right away to report it, and the scammer’s account was likely closed and the details passed on to the fraud division. It’s an unfortunate fact that enough gig workers fall for this that it is a viable scam to run, so I hope sharing my story here will help others to avoid it.