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  I'm being sued by Forster and Garbus in the New York courts.  Their client from what I understand is a debt buyer collection agency.  The complaint says something about a credit card that was defaulted on three years ago.  

  I never had any unpaid credit cards.  What should I do?
I do have a very common name, and it is probably a different person.  This is the first I ever heard of this debt.  I have moved a couple times in the last few years if that makes a difference.  Could I be a victim of identity theft?  Please shed some light on why this is happening to me!  Thanks.  John from NY.


Sorry to hear about your situation.  Sometimes a collector will sue a consumer on a debt about which the consumer has no knowledge.  One explanation is that an identity thief opened an account in your name.  However, I do not think this is the case here based on what you wrote.

Most likely the collector mixed up your identity with that of the real debt owner.  This explanation is far more common than many realize, particularly with the explosive growth in accounts purchased by debt buyers.  Not only do the debt buyers have minimal information on the account holder, but they are seeking to collect very old debt, when the debtor often has moved one or more times since the account was closed.  

Debt buyers and their attorneys who can not find a consumer's present address often use a consumer report from a credit reporting agency to locate the consumer.  This practice results in a significant number of cases of mistaken identity because the consumer reports themselves are fraught with error.  A majority of consumer reports contain serious errors.

The mistaken identity phenomenon is so common that it has a name: mismerge.  Merging is the process whereby billions of pieces of information received each month by each of the three national credit reporting agencies gets properly sorted and inserted into the correct consumer's file, by matching individual identifiers associated with the information: name, address, date of birth, and Social Security numbers.  Mismerging occurs when the files of two or more consumers are improperly mixed because of the over inclusive matching programming used by the reporting agencies that do not require a perfect match of identifiers, but only a close match.

Because debt buyers do not have to notify consumers when they use their consumer report for skip tracing, a consumer, like you, caught up in a case of mistaken identity will have no notion why it is happening, and will either ignore collection contacts or simply tell the collector they have the wrong person.  As in your case, the collector's next action might be a lawsuit filed against the wrong person for the debt.

Hope this answers your question.  If you have any follow up questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Jason A. Shear, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Admitted in NY & NJ
4160 Harlem Rd.
Buffalo, NY 14226
(716) 566-8988

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION:    Thank you, that it explains it now.  I feel a little better now.  But how do I go about handling this matter so that there is not a judgment against me for an account I never had?  Thanks again!


Good question.  In defending a case of mistaken identity, an obvious first step is to look at the way you were identified in the complaint and accompanying documents.  After you file an Answer, seek through formal discovery all the identifying information about the account owner.
Also request copies of applications, statements and contracts as well.

Another step is to order consumer reports from the three major reporting agencies.  The inquires section on each report will indicate who has pulled the report, and this information will allow you to identify which report the plaintiff utilized to locate you.  

Hope this gets you on right track.  If you have any questions or require further assistance to handle this matter, please call me directly.

Jason A. Shear, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Admitted in NY & NJ
Law Offices of Jason A. Shear
Buffalo, New York
Phone: (716) 566-8988

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Jason Shear, Esq.


I can answer questions for residents of New York and New Jersey regarding creditor harassment claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA); credit reporting errors under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); debt collection defense/credit card defense; student loan law; and consumer class actions. I can also answer questions relating to consumer debt defense/collection agency defense, specifically pertaining to consumers being sued or harassed by collection agencies or NY collection attorneys. If you live in New York and have been contacted or sued by firms such as: Mel Harris & Associates, Forster & Garbus, Rubin & Rothman, Choi Law Office, Lacy Katzen, Malen & Associates, Solomon & Solomon, Daniels & Norelli, Cohen & Slamowitz, Pressler & Pressler or others; give us a call at (716) 566-8988.


I have obtained settlements for consumers in NY and NJ under the FDCPA and FCRA. I have successfully defended consumers who were sued by collection agencies/debt purchasers in the New York State courts.

National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) Law Offices of Jason Shear Consumer Attorneys 3957 Main Street, Second Floor Buffalo, New York 14226 (716) 566-8988

BA/BS, Accounting & Political Science, Hunter College. Juris Doctor, Univ. at Buffalo Law School. LLM (Criminal Law), University at Buffalo.

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