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Served with Lawsuit for Someone with Similar Name

Question: Can I sue if I was served for a debt that was not mine? I was served with a summons and complaint for a debt that was not mine. I have the same first name, middle initial, and last name as the debtor. It was embarrassing because they left the summons with a friend who was staying at my house. Can I sue for this?

Answer: The first thing you need to do is win the collection case. You should consult an attorney immediately. You or the attorney needs to appear at the time and place specified in the summons and explain that the debt is not yours. If the claim is for over $10,000, a written answer is required and you should so state. If it is for under $10,000, you have the option of filing a document stating that you are not the debtor.

The next thing you need to do is obtain copies of all three of your credit reports and see if there is any information on them that is not yours. You should make a list of all such items and submit it to each credit bureau with a request that they delete the items. Send a letter rather than use the web sites of the credit bureaus. Also request that each credit bureau put a fraud alert on your report, so that you will be contacted if any attempt is made to obtain credit associated with your name.

Possible reasons for the problem include (a) mixing of files by credit bureaus, which identify information using “algorithms” that are imprecise and allow information to be retrieved based on less than a 100% match of name and Social Security Number, (b) bad skip tracing by the debt collector, (c) identity theft. It is not possible to determine which is the case without investigation.

You may have a claim. It could be against the debt collector, one or more credit bureaus, or someone that extended credit. We handle such cases and normally take them on a contingency, as it is possible to recover attorney’s fees against the other party.

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