PORTLAND, Oregon — Michael Burns had never heard of a company called LVNV Funding, but after weeks of stress and a legal runaround, the Hillsboro man has become all too familiar with the debt collector.
"They decided I was the bad person, so they came after me," Burns said.
The trouble started back in September when LVNV Funding filed a lawsuit against Burns in Multnomah County. The debt collection company claimed he owed $1,096 to Credit One Bank, a company Burns argues he's never done business with. The Credit One Bank invoice from 2018, included in court documents, listed a Southeast Portland address for Burns.
"I've never lived there," Burns told KGW. "I've lived in Hillsboro since 2004."
Burns said his wife responded by calling LVNV Funding. The company asked for the last four digits of his social security number. When the numbers didn't match their records, Burns said the company admitted the error.
"They said, 'Oh, we got the wrong person," explained Burns, adding that at that point he figured the issue was resolved.
Three months later, LVNV Funding moved the case from Multnomah County to Washington County, where Burns lives.
"You get sick to the stomach because there is nothing you can do," he said.
Burns reached out to the Oregon State Bar for help and was referred to several lawyers, including Portland attorney Michael Fuller, who agreed to represent Burns for free.
"We've sued this company multiple times over the years," Fuller told KGW. "They buy junk debt. They don’t know much about what they buy. They hire lawyers to go collect on the junk debt."
Fuller encouraged Burns to respond to LVNV Funding in writing.
"I emailed them and said, 'This is not by debt," Burns said. "They never got back to me."
A judge dismissed the case in June, and later ordered LVNV Funding to pay $19,737 in legal expenses.
"You've got to push back. You've got to call them. You've got to write an email to them," explained Burns.
LVNV Funding did not respond to KGW's request for comment.
The company filed more than 2,700 debt collection and debt buyer lawsuits in Oregon last year, second only to Ray Klein Inc. which filed roughly 3,800.
In July, a KGW investigation highlighted how LVNV Funding also sued a West Linn woman for a debt she claims she doesn't owe.
Fuller filed a lawsuit against LVNV Funding in federal court on behalf of Burns, claiming the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
"This debt collector, LVNV, has been in hot water for years for its sloppy practices, suing the wrong person, suing on debts that are not owed, threatening to collect on debts that are not collected," Fuller said.