Actually, debt collectors probably invented robo-signing decades ago. And it has been easy for them to get away with this since most defendants never show up in court, or respond, when they are sued. In most cases the debts are valid and they can’t pay, or even afford an attorney.
Lately, more people have been showing up in court, with the help of the internet offering several forums of assistance for those that can’t afford an attorney, but do want to fight the lawsuit because they believe the debt is wrong. And this has help show to judges what’s been wrong with these lawsuits. Normally, judges won’t ever see the evidence when defendants don’t show up. So they won’t even know if the evidence is defective, which in far more cases than not, it has been, as revealed in the cases where defendants do show up. Things are changing.
It has been the summary judgment. The defendant does not appear so the plaintiff asks the judge to rule a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, not because the plaintiff prevailed by its evidence, but simply because the defendant did not show up. More than likely no evidence was ever shown.
But when a defendant does appears, in so many cases it turns out the debt collectors completely lack evidence, or have insufficient evidence, or in more recent cases have completely fabricated, false, or just plain defective evidence. They are hoping that the evidence they do bring looks real enough that pro-se defendants (those without an attorney and who are representing themselves) won’t know how to proceed against it. If the evidence is not challenged by the defendant, the judge usually has no authority to reject it. So a plaintiff can still win even when the defendant shows up, even though they have no valid case. This article is showing that now more and more defendants, some with attorneys to represent them, are now challenging this incomplete, inaccurate, fabricated, or just plain false evidence.
Part of the problem is bad record keeping both by credit card (and other) banks, and by the debt collectors buying these accounts, usually for pennies on the dollar. These errors sometimes point to the wrong people, or have the amounts miscalculated, or leave out credits that should have been applied to the account. Sometimes addresses get mixed up and the wrong people contacted. Where the banks make these mistakes, even the debt collectors are innocent victims (aside from their often too vicious and illegal methods of trying to collect).
I’ve personally been the victim of identity theft a couple times, incorrect skip trace by collectors a few times, incorrect calculation (actual arithmetic errors by computers) a couple times, and numerous other cases I never was able to figure out. One of my ID theft cases went to court (but I did respond and the case was ultimately dismissed).
Some other stories about bad debt collection:
The best things people can do if they run into situations like this (wrong debt, etc) is fight. If you can’t afford an attorney, maybe your community has a Legal Aid program (often supported by nearby law schools). Otherwise, you can find many ideas online. But the most important advice ever is do not ignore it. It will not go away.