So let’s start at the top. I get a lot of faxes. A lot. Many, many, of them are mortgage ads sent by “lead generators”. The idea is that, just as it’s totally legal to hire a hit man, or at least legal to hire someone who promises you will inherit money even though he doesn’t say exactly how he will kill your parents, it is obviously totally legal to hire someone to “generate leads” for your business, by sending unsolicited faxes, even though you are not yourself sending the solicited faxes. The analogy is perhaps not entirely precise, but the legal effects are rather similar, which is to say, you might be able to get a judge to laugh openly at your stupidity.
So, this company called “Mortgage Services” sends faxes. That’s probably not a real name; rather, it’s a name specifically intended to make it impossible to identify them, serve them with paperwork, or anything. (If you have an idle moment, try calling one of these places and trying to get real identification. They will hang up on you if you push it, but they will never give any kind of actual company identification. If you talk real pretty, you might get them to admit that the “loan officer” is not at their company, but that they are rather a marketing firm only.)
When you call the response number for the fax, you are directed to a “loan officer”; that’s the guy at the mortgage company buying the leads. What that means is that the ads are being sent on his company’s behalf. The way the TCPA works, that’s the company you have a case against. You could in theory probably sue the fax broadcaster too, but there’s no point; companies like that (such as the famous fax.com) simply dissolve in the night, leaving no contact information, while the people who ran them take a little money out of their offshore bank accounts to start a new company doing exactly the same thing. It’ll keep happening until the market dries up; that is to say, until the local mortgage companies stop paying for “leads” generated through theft, conversion, and tresspass to chattel. (Don’t the legalese words make it sound cool?)
Last April, I called “Mortgage Services” and gave them my name and city and some information about the size of house loan I might be looking for. (I did not, as a matter of happenstance, get around to mentioning that I am not gonna get a mortgage from the sorts of companies that send junk faxes; Northern Lights Mortgage, whom I sued for this a while back has since been busted for predatory lending, and it seems commonplace in the “mortgage brokers who send faxes” part of the industry.) I was directed to a man who was identified as “Jeff” at a company he called “Integris Mortgage, in Coon Rapids”. I got their corporate web site and such, and explained to them that junk faxing is illegal and I planned to sue.
Well, stuff happened, and I didn’t actually get around to suing. My mistake. They’ve since sent me a lot more faxes. A bit over a week ago, I called one of the six most recent faxes I had from “Mortgage Services” (now using a new 800 number), and got directed to… Jeremy at Integris Mortgage, in Coon Rapids. Same story. He doesn’t care about illegal, he wants me to call the fly-by-night scam operation whose real corporate name is a closely-guarded secret. I explained about liability. He ignored me.
So I got another one. And I called back. This time, Jeremy saved time and hung up on me.
I called their office, and confirmed that there’s only one Integris Mortgage in Coon Rapids. Yes, they send faxes; the receptionist assured me that this was not illegal, and tried to convince me that it was not Jeremy, but some guy at Mortgage Services, who hung up on me. Uh-huh.
So we have all the elements in place. They know they’re faxing, they get told that they can and will get sued, they keep faxing. The complete lack of surprise about the “I saw your fax” stuff makes it clear that they were already aware that faxing was happening. In terms of the TCPA, that’s willful and knowing even if they didn’t know about the law; the law cares whether you understood what you were doing, not whether you were aware that it’s been illegal for fifteen years. They don’t think anything can happen to them.
I am expecting lots of fun from these bozos. They’ll deny that it was illegal, they’ll try to claim I asked for the information, they’ll blame the third party. They will probably try to avoid actually identifying that company. They’ll accuse me of all sorts of things; they’ll talk about how I’m in it for money (heh), and when that blows up, maybe we’ll get another “it’s a lark!” defense. They will try to claim we don’t have enough evidence, but they won’t provide any evidence to the contrary. What with them being junk faxers, I think it’s pretty much a given that they’ll lie about it, and whine about how hard it is to make a living stealing people’s houses. (Of course, they’ll deny being predatory lenders. So do all the predatory lenders.)
As a side note, if you’re in the MN area, and you’ve gotten faxes from these people, you might find it interesting to give them a call. So far, every fax I’ve gotten in 2006 that said “Mortgage Services”, and that I’ve called back, has gotten me to Integris. I have no reason to believe anyone else uses that particular blaster; there are a number of mortgage fax blasters, so I’m guessing the other mortgage brokers use other blasters.
Anyway, fun ensues.