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In loving memory of my learning ALL about bill collectors« and the many problems I have given them« trying to collect illegally.
If you feel like you're in over your head with personal debt, you're not alone. Millions of Americans have become overextended, many as a result of easy credit and the state of the recessions. Credit cards, medical bills, personal loans and raising interest rates do not make a good financial mix.
The 5 strategies you want to avoid: The first advice of experts is to be sure you don't make your situation worse by making common mistakes. Do you need every credit card you have? In particular: 1. Watch your debt! Like a hawk. Beware of just paying the minimum payments on your debts. This will results in your overall debt actually growing and with time your problems will only become worse. So, avoid the µeasy out¶ of just paying the minimum on your debts. And I¶m not saying credit cards are all bad, but« They do show up at every financial crash« After all, a crow shows up at road kill, it does not mean it drove the car that killed« right? 2. Beware of relying on friends and family for loans as it could damage relationships with the most important people in your life. You may really need them later on (hope that never happens!). 3. Beware of unscrupulous credit counselors that demand cash up front, or high fees for help they promise, but don't deliver. 4. Avoid taking out a new high-interest loan to pay off lower interest rate loans. It may be easier to just have one payment, but the money is not free - it will actually increase the amount you have to pay back. 5. Don¶t declare bankruptcy when debt settlement may work for you« Bankruptcy is often overkill, and often« painful.
Never ever say ³I won¶t pay´ to a just bill! bill collectors involved, that¶s for sure.
But« not all bills are just! Not with
Debt Settlement or Bankruptcy Two common solutions people turn to are debt settlement and bankruptcy. Generally, if you¶re struggling with a financial hardship, or falling behind on your minimum payments, then debt settlement may be right for you. Drastic measures are needed for drastic situations. If your situation is more dire than that, then you may consider bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy« Ok, not everyone¶s cup of tea ± nor should it be. Bankruptcy is not the carefree process shown on the TV ads ± otherwise, why would some people commit suicide after declaring bankruptcy, if it¶s such a cake walk... ? Funny thing is, after you file bankruptcy... you can get credit cards!.... you can buy a car.... buy a house, even..... After all, the credit card companies know you can't file bankruptcy again for 7 years... that is a lot of high interest payments for them to collect on.... and because of the allowable limits.... you can keep almost everything you now have. Go figure«.
Bankruptcy is a serious step with long term implications for you and your financial future. Most experts would suggest it only as a last resort. Try to attempt to work through your debt issue with your creditors, and this is where debt settlement companies can help.
http://www.debtorboards.com/ is a good place to go. Really.
What is Debt Settlement? You may have heard companies advertising recently they can get much of your debt eliminated. Is this process legitimate? Well, sometimes« yes or no. Take buying used car« There are, say, good used car dealers, and bad used car dealers. Buy a car via used car dealer, you can luck out, or bomb out. Do your homework first. Working with a good Debt Settlement company can actually be a great solution for many people struggling with a financial hardship. Debt settlement is the process of negotiating with your creditors to get them to forgive a potion of your debt. Specialty settlement companies determine a reasonable monthly amount that you can afford to pay, which is based on total amount owed. You make your affordable payment every month into a special purpose account, and as these funds accumulate, the settlement company reaches out to creditors to negotiate a final actual settlement amount. Typically these companies have excellent relationships with creditors and are negotiating on behalf of thousands of people every day. Every situation is different, but it¶s not uncommon for debt settlement companies to be able to negotiate a reduction that of as much as 60% of what you owe. So, find a legitimate and trustworthy debt settlement company to work with. Millions of Americans struggling with credit cards and other debts are wondering if there is a debt bailout program for consumers. There is some good news to report: Debt relief is available to consumers who get in over their heads, often through no fault of their own.
Relief from Credit Cards and Other Debts While the government is not able to extend a credit card debt bailout for millions of consumers, credit card companies are. Why are they willing to do this? It's simple: To protect their bottom line! For consumers who can't afford to pay their debts in full, credit card companies will often agree to reduce interest rates, waive fees and penalties, or even erase or forgive up to 60% or more of your debt. It all depends upon your financial situation.
How Much Could Debt Relief Save You? For consumers who are struggling in debt, The Debt Relief Center provides a convenient way to learn the debt relief options available to you. With a free debt relief analysis, you can quickly receive a free debt relief savings estimate. It's fast, convenient, and it's a great way for consumers to see the potential benefits and savings of debt relief, with no obligation.
Credit Card Companies Finally Giving Consumers a Break It's ironic to consider that credit card companies, who for years have been aggressively targeting vulnerable consumers, now hold out an olive branch to some of those same consumers - saying in effect, "what can you afford to pay?" There are many consumer advocates that would say this turnabout is fair play - thinking back to the sky-high interest rates, late fees and penalties, and impossible to decipher cardholder agreements that contributed greatly to the problem in the first place. That's why credit card firms are willing to provide a credit card debt bailout for consumers.
Finding Your Way Out of Debt - Stress Free! If you're stressed over debts, imagine what it would feel like to have that weighted lifted off your shoulders. You don't have to face your debts alone. The good news is, The Debt Relief Center can help provide you with much needed relief - and not only remove stress from your life, but possibly help you save you thousands of dollars as well.
First, the telemarketer stuff. This will free up your phone to let the bill collectors talk to you, well, call and swear and yell at you, really. But you can cut down on both types of calls to your phone, in either case.
Tips for Handling Telemarketers Three Little Words That Work 1.The three little words are: 'Hold On, Please...' Saying this, while putting down your phone and walking off (instead of hanging-up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt. Then when you eventually hear the phone company's 'beep-beep-beep' tone, you know it's time to go back and hang up your handset, which has efficiently completed its task. These three little words will help eliminate telephone soliciting. Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end? This is a telemarketing (or bill collector!) technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when a person answers the phone. This technique is used to determine the best time of day for a 'real' sales person to call back and get someone at home.
What you can do after answering, if you notice there is no one there, is to immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as quickly as possible. This confuses the machine that dialed the call and it kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer !!! 3.Junk Mail Help: When you get 'ads' enclosed with your phone or utility bill, return these 'ads' with your payment. Let the sending companies throw their own junk mail away. When you get those 'pre-approved' letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope. Most of these come with postage-paid return envelopes, right? It costs them more than the regular 41 cents postage 'IF' and when they receive them back. It costs them nothing if you just throw them away! The postage was around 50 cents before the last increase, and it¶s charged according to the weight. In that case, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little, postage-paid return envelopes. Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Send a pizza coupon to Citibank. If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them their blank application back! If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn't on anything you send them. You can even send the envelope back empty if you want to just to keep them guessing! It still costs them 41 cents or so. The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own junk back in the mail, but folks, we need to OVERWHELM them. Let's let them know what it's like to get lots of junk mail, and best of all, they're paying for it...Twice! Let's help keep our postal service busy since they¶re saying that e-mail is cutting into their business profits, and that's why they need to increase postage costs again You get the idea! If enough people follow these tips, it will work!
Want to deal with the telemarketer directly? Below is a list of questions to ask each telemarketer (a sales person) when they call you. Print out these questions, put them on a list next to the phone, and save the answers you get. Telemarketers are required by law to answer each of these questions ± and yes, you are going to ask them all. Write the answers down and as well as the date, time of the call, and anything else that will help you remember the call.
Putting on the breaks«
What is your name? Make them spell it out. Even if it¶s a common name, ask !
What is the name and address of the company you represent? Do NOT accept initials ± make them spell it out. Double check the address.
(Ask if they provide information to bill collection companies at this point. Don¶t believe a µno¶ statement if you get one.)
Do you work for [company name, given above] or do you work for a telemarketing firm? You might be surprised at the answer to this. Few companies do their own telemarketing, even when calling their own customers. Really. Ask the person calling if they work for the company they are representing, or if they work for a telemarketing firm.
What is the company phone number? We are getting towards the end« hang in there« Now, get ready for this« Even if you are not on the National Registry µDo not call¶ list, (and why not?) you can say«
Please put my number on your company "Do Not Call List". Yes, you heard right! In essence, there are two Do Not Call lists - the free to register National Registry that almost everyone should be on anyway, and a company's free internal µDo not call¶ list, unique to that company. Yep, there are some reasons some companies can claim an exemption under the law. You can plug even those µreasons¶ by asking to be placed on company's internal µDo not call¶ list. Most telemarketers, even those few that are legally exempt from the national Do Not Call Registry, are still required to maintain their own company-specific µDo not call¶ list. If you are contacted by a company that truly is exempt from the National Registry, you can request to be placed on the company's internal µdo not call¶ list. Checkmate! You can take advantage of this strategy even if you are not listed on the National Registry. (Grin) But you should be ± if not, apply now.
If the company calling is a telemarketing firm, ask for your number to be put on both Do Not Call Lists: the telemarketing firm and the company they are representing. Also, ask whether they make calls for any other companies. If they say yes, ask them not to call you on behalf of any entity, and to be put on the other companies¶ µDo not call¶ list as well.
If you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to put you on their company-specific do not call list, that company can no longer call, even if you continue doing business with them. But if you request to be placed on the do not call list of a company with which you have an existing business relationship, your request will not apply to their affiliates. If an affiliate calls, you will have to request to be placed on that company's µdo not call¶ list as well. Oh, well, too bad for them. But you didn¶t call them, they called you, remember? In general, stall and muddy the waters ± maybe they¶re quick and will get the idea, and pass over you the next time. Maybe.
If after all this, they are still calling you« SUE! (grin) In Small Claims Court! Start looking up the Small Claims Court proceedings for your state. That makes them nervous when you do that. And why all the recording and note taking? To build a case if they don¶t take the hint, that¶s why. Oh yes, and if you feel a bit paranoid, there is nothing preventing this group from being a front for a bill collector, or just selling the info they get to a bill collector. But, don¶t worry, you will have the paperwork, you will deal with that case next.
Now, on to the bill collectors Notice: There are no laws that require you to speak to debt collectors on the telephone. There are no laws against hanging up on debt collectors. There are no laws that say you have to give out your new phone number to them. If a debt collector calls, simply ask them to put everything they have to say in writing ± on company letterhead ± and send it to you. Be very sure they have your
mailing address. If the debt collector refuses this and keeps talking, hang up the phone. It¶s that easy. But debt collectors will use a variety of approaches to get you on the phone with them. You may receive a letter from a collection agency telling you to call their office "immediately" ± don¶t bother! You are not obligated by law to call them. Reply with the statement of your mail address and how they must use it. Keary Floyd, an attorney who represents consumers at Floyd Legal in Atlanta, said that while most of his debt collection cases involve excessive phone calls, one of his recent clients recorded a disturbing phone conversation where a debt collector threatened that he, or someone else would come to the client's house to get the money in any way that he could. "I heard it, and if any phone call was going to worry someone, it would be that one," said Floyd.
Other aggressive tactics that are becoming more common are debt collectors calling before 8 a.m., or after 9 p.m., demanding more money than what is owed (legally, they can only ask for the original amount, nothing more), revealing a consumer's debt to a third party, or threatening "dire consequences" like prosecution, jail time, property seizure, or job loss. The practices are not just inappropriate, but they¶re illegal under the FTC's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which has been around since 1977. (as if the debt collectors didn¶t know that already!) An industry representative said the increase incompliant of harassment should not only be attributed to desperate and aggressive collecting agents, but to more consumers trying to cash in on lawsuits against them. Let me point out consumers are winning lawsuits ONLY because bill collection agencies are breaking the law more and more.
"Certainly if debt collectors are being more aggressive, they shouldn't be, but it's not fair to characterize the actions of debt collectors as the only reason why there is an increase in complaints - - they're not fully to blame," said Mark Schiffman, a spokesman for The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals
Oh, please, please tell me who is fully to blame! Please tell me how to be fair to all these Poor Bill collectors. Please tell me who is it is, that is causing all these Poor Bill collectors to be so out of control, to place such illegal calls.
"There's a growing industry of consumer attorneys and savvy coulters who have learned they can sue a debt collector fairly easily and collect very easily," he added. ` Ever think the reasons people are winning those lawsuits is due to your people¶s own actions? How well does the self selected µblinders¶ fit you?
Consumers are able to take a collector to state or federal court for harassment, according to the FTC. If the debtor wins the case, the collector is required to pay for any damages caused by the harassment, such as lost income and medical bills.
Even if debtors can't prove monetary damages, but are able to prove harassment, they can receive up to $1,000 and a reimbursement for the court and attorney fees.
What about one line that is as broad as can be to be included in all FDCPA/FCRA complaints: All relevant statutory definitions apply as required to justify the allegations in this complaint.
About phone lines, and what you can do« Google has a service called Google voice that gives you a phone number that will forward received calls to whatever phone you want. It's not your personal number, has its own voicemail box that you can record any voicemail message to, and, best of all, you can block numbers. That might solve your privacy/trust concerns. It's a free service. I use it for my business line.
ID spoofing It's a slippery little trick, sometimes used by tele- marketers to get homeowners to answer the phone. It goes by the innocuous name "ID spoofing". Been around for years, but the phone company is not aware of it yet ± or so they say. It's a technology that allows someone to change the name or telephone number that appears on caller ID and, in some cases, even allows a caller to change their voice, say from an adult's to a child's. Gov. Jeb Bush recently signed a measure that forbids telemarketers from using the controversial technology. Police, private investigators and debt collection agencies have long used it, but until recent years, it wasn't widely available. Well, it is now. "This is just one more use of modern technology to take advantage of consumers by hiding one's identity to scam them or get access to consumers who otherwise might not answer the phone," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said in a statement last week. "There is no legitimate reason for a telemarketer to use this service." Violators of the law face a fine of up to $10,000 per incident. Let me repeat that: $10,000 per incident« Bronson has some unusual advice for anyone getting a call from a company that appears on their caller ID that they don't recognize. If you somehow pick up the phone, hang up, he says, and look the company up in the phone book/on line lookup. Then call it back to make sure you're talking to someone legitimate. It gives reaching out to touch someone an altogether different meaning.
NEVER speak to ANY Debt Collector on the phone. Demand that everything be in writing, on company letterhead only, and you use only use certified mail, return receipt requested to the Internet clear address. Be sure to put the certified number on the letter itself and keep a copy for your records." I personally had not thought about putting the certified number on the actual letter, I will now.
Debt Collectors Cannot Do the Following: (But they do it every day«)
Call you at work when they know that it¶s inconvenient, or that your employer forbids it. Call you before 8:00AM or after 9:00PM in your time zone. Even one or two minutes is over the limit. Makes an excessive number of phone calls to annoy or harass you. Tell a person other than you, your spouse, or your attorney that you owe money. (If you are a minor, the debt collector can tell your parents or guardians about the debt. But how did a minor get a debt in the first place? Did they sign for it?). Misrepresent the amount, character, or legal status of a debt. Give others credit information about you that is false. Fail to honor your dispute or µcease communication¶ rights. Threaten to take your property or garnish your wages if this action is not legal, or if the debt collector says it, but does not intend to do it. Your property can not be taken and your wages can not be garnished without a court order. Threaten to use, violence or any other illegal means to harm you, your family, your reputation, or your property. Use obscene language in communicating with you. Intimidate you with criminal prosecution or even imply that you have committed a crime. Debt and credit issues are matters of civil law, not criminal law. Fool you into accepting charges for collect calls, telegrams, C.O.D.'s, etc. Falsely claim to be an attorney, a representative from a credit bureau or a member of law enforcement. If you find yourself in a bad situation, be certain to educate yourself on the laws in your state. Garnishment, lawsuits and property seizure are illegal in some places, which gives you a little more power to work out a deal. To learn what is and isn't allowed, call your state Attorney General's office, or the state consumer protection office. While most debt collectors abide by the law, you must prepare yourself if you are confronted by a debt collector who ignores the law and is bent on causing you grief. If
this does happen, and a third-party collection agency violates your rights, you can sue for actual damages and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees and court costs.
The counter to all this? Do your best to communicate with debt collectors only in writing. You can refuse to communicate with them in person or by telephone ± so do so. Debt collectors prefer greatly prefer oral forms of communication because it works to their advantage ± they are very adept at using the phone and scaring people. In one case, a determined debt collector repeatedly called a consumer late at night and when the consumer finally answered the phone, the collector threatened to have her fired from her job, which is another illegal tactic. Written communication works to your advantage because you have a record of everything that they say ± that can go to court. By forcing them to put everything into writing, you are taking the psychological edge away from them, and much more. They are more likely to use unfair and deceptive tactics if they get you on the phone, or are face to face with you. A written statement stops that. There are no laws that require you to speak to debt collectors on the telephone. There are no laws against hanging up on debt collectors. If a debt collector calls, simply ask them to put everything they have to say in writing. If the debt collector refuses and keeps talking, hang up the phone. It¶s that easy. But debt collectors will use a variety of approaches to get you on the phone with them. You may receive a letter from a collection agency telling you to call their office "immediately" ± don¶t bother. You are not obligated by law to call them. Communicate with debt collectors only in writing. Also, do not give your phone number out to a debt collector. The least amount of personal information they have, the better. If you give them your number, you are only inviting them to call you. You can also stop them from calling entirely with what's known as a "cease and desist letter." If you send a "cease and desist," letter, include your name, address and account number, and tell the company "do not contact me further about this debt." Send the letter certified returned receipt so that you have proof that the company received it. Doing this doesn't cancel your debt, no, sorry about that. But it does show you know the law!
The original creditor or the collection agency may decide to sue, or the creditor can simply hire another third-party collector and you will need to repeat the process. If they continue to call, be certain to record the dates and times that they call you. Calling you excessively to harass you is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. One former debt collector admitted that -- if he constantly called a consumer, and verbally abused them, and he kept on threatening, and he got nastier as the days went by, the more likely the consumer would pay.
Mr. Katz can also claim some credit for the increase in lawsuits. For six years, he has run a free Web site called Debtorboards.com, where people share tips on topics like keeping a paper trail and recording calls from collectors. He said the site received two million hits in 2009, a 60 percent increase over the previous year. Debtorboards.com is geared to help people use the laws as they are on the books as both a shield and a sword,´ said Mr. Katz, who says he has won $36,000 from his own litigation against collection agencies. (Since many of the settlements are confidential, it is difficult to prove the claims of Mr. Katz and others).
Does an agency have to contact me in writing before it calls me? No. A collection agency may contact you first by telephone« (and probably will given their track record). But probably with an (illegal) dialer. BUT in any case! Within five days after the first phone call, know what is used, the collector must send you a written notice as well, on company letterhead. The notice must tell you how much you owe, and the name of the creditor that says you owe the money. The written notice must also tell you how to file a dispute if you don't agree you owe the money. Anything less than that, and the company is breaking the law. And they will break the law in many ways, count on it. They will push the limits on the use of illegal dialers, call times, number of calls made per day, and the language used by them in said calls«
Within five days after the first phone call, they must send you a written notice ± on company letterhead. They will not do that, if they follow true to form. But they will get on the phone and drive you to drink during those 5 (or more) days, even if they did send the µfirst contact letter¶ Oh?« did they? Take a note, to be backed up by your phone bill. It starts with a call from an automatic dialer that calls your number and hangs up (typically on the third ring, so they miss most answering machines, normally set to four). I will assume you are the target of these phone calls.
Getting started Obviously in a perfect world you would have paid your debts in a timely manner, right? If you're like the vast majority of Americans that have found themselves in similar predicaments, I'm sure that there was some key event that caused the financial lapse: loss of job, a scam, serious/prolonged illness, divorce, etc. Whatever.
With that said, and done, in an attempt to answer your questions, here's how the bill collector µgame¶ is played. It starts with a call from an automatic dialer that calls your number and hangs up (typically on the third ring, so they miss most answering machines). I will assume you are the target of these phone calls. If this is from a bill collector, and not just some sleazy salesman, they are looking for a time you¶re home, so they can call and annoy you.
Finally, do this within the first 30 days (or less!) after receiving the letters or phone calls. They MUST send you a letter in writing (on company letterhead, no less) if they only call you as the initial contact. They must ± but I don¶t think they will. They LIKE the phone, they will overuse it. They will overlook the fact they have broken the law, while demanding you obey nonexistent laws and (overpay!) pay them.
Without following up with a letter on company letterhead they¶re breaking the law. Say Ooo! Shame on them! They frequently do break the law, and count on you not knowing this, and also count on you not calling them on it. It ticks them off major to have to follow the law ± that wipes out a lot of the µtricks¶ they pull. And ending up in Small Claims court! That COSTS them. They are suppose to take money from you, not give it to you. But they will say because they are out of state the small Claims Court does not apply to them« it does! Yes, they said it doesn¶t ± but it does. Grin. Remember Rule #1? Also, if you show up in Small Claims court and they don¶t ± you win automatically.
You now begin to look like a real hard case - someone that Knows The Law and their Rights. Bad news for them. They might just drop you as µtough nut¶ case and go on to someone else. Or they might be stupid« doesn¶t matter« you know your rights under the law«
Only a phone call and no letter from them is a possible sign they DO NOT have enough to really sue you (really suing is well, is spendy, and can go the wrong way, they could have to pay, not you), so they will try to bluff their way, and see if that works first.
For the bill collector, a bluff is a frequently used tool. Almost as frequent as telling a flat out lie. NOTE: In general, THEY WILL LIE LIKE A RUG! Every time. Count on it! But I did say that before, didn¶t I?
Final object of these µbluff and lie¶ moves? To get access to your bank account. Don¶t even think of giving them it to them! Not the branch number, not your account number, nothing. Ever. They get their hands on that - they will loot it! and you are screwed. Bill collectors try to hide behind lies, hoping you don¶t know your rights. You are learning your rights.
But in any case, if they do contact you, never give them any more than they already have« Make life hard for them.
And for some of these things they do, YOU MUST reply in writing. OK. If it has gone beyond the 30 days, they can report you to a credit bureau. They may anyway. (an illegal move) But if that happens and you follow the above instructions, if you challenge the credit report, the credit card company generally cannot verify the debt, and it will disappear from your credit report. No, it will not wipe the original debit! But, we are talking about what you can do against the illegal actions of a debt collector, no?
Debt buyers are subject to the law in spite of their assertions that since they bought the debt, they are not the collector. WRONG!!! They ARE a debt collector, and they are subject to the law, no matter what they would like to claim otherwise. (Remember, they lie, and lie again, before the truth ever gets told.) But they do lie.
If this is from a bill collector, and not just some sleazy salesman, they are looking for a time you¶re home, so they can call and annoy you.
Whatever you do, do not use the mailing address they give you over the phone of the office for bill collectors to receive registered letters. As a matter of course, they probably refuse any registered letters sent to that particular address, as a matter of everyday action, really.
It is also very important to send correspondence to a debt collector (any bill collector) by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. This way, you will receive a signed and dated notice from the US postal service saying the collector has received your letter. Attach it to the paperwork so that it all stays together and write the US postal service number on your copy. Without such confirmation, it may come down to your word against the collector. You may also want to fax your letter before mailing it. It is a good idea to include a date in your letter by which you expect to hear back from a collector, for instance, that either it is investigating your dispute, or that has been instructed to no longer contact you about another person's debt. Usually, a date of two to three weeks is sufficient.
This is an example of Rule #1 Once again, Bill collectors Lie.
"I've actually threatened people that if they don't pay then I'll serve a goods and lien on Christmas morning," said former debt collector Mike Flannagan. Flannagan is now exposing industry abuses. He says he used to take ten percent of the truth and stretch it into 100% of a threat to get you to pay up. "If I beat you hard enough, long enough, often enough, you'll pay the bill if nothing else to get me to go away," he said.
But« will a bill collector do that? Will he go away if you have µpaid the bill¶? He just got proof that he can bank, you will fold if pushed, do you think he will stop just because he got paid? Why should he? You just proved you were a pushover. He will try for more. You should know that debtors do have rights. To wit: Collectors can't garnish your wages. They can't have you arrested, and they rarely really sue for the money.
They can sue for big sums, but do that rarely, for a number of reasons. Lawyers are spendy, and lawsuits can backfire, but lies, bluffs, and threats are free.
But you can and should sue them if they contact you at inconvenient times, or places when you tell them not to, if they call neighbors or co-workers, or if they don't provide you with documentation substantiating the debt. Often they can¶t ± but they do bluff or lie. Oh, yes. And threaten.
A registered letter« Refused? They will tell you ³No« we don¶t do that´« but rule #1! ± remember it? They do. It happened to me. They can and will refuse a registered letter if they can.
A roistered letter, sent to the ³right´ address was returned to me unopened and unclaimed, so that someone could claim thru cu So« you have to µsneak¶ the letter in µpast the guard¶, so to speak. Enter the Internet for the right address ! and use it.
The counter attack« When do you have , xxx not mine them? The Law is clear on this, NOT sending you a copy on request on this so called µtrivial point¶ (their words! not mine) is something you can use against them« IF you had said that in a registered letter they acknowledged they received (and you kept a copy of« ). This is why you always want to print the same letter out at least twice ± one copy for them, and one to keep for your files. And keep a copy in your computer as well.
Instead, use the Internet to get the company address they use to collect money. That address is not blocked! They don¶t want to block incoming payments. A registered letter will get through, because it might contain a payment, or just be a letter, that¶s why. So« use it. Properly used, the Internet is your friend.
But save the unopened letter you send them that µbounced¶ ± you can always hint it will be used as proof they had µabandoned the debt¶ ± not true of course, but« he he How do they prove that? After all - you do have the refused letter« he he.
Set up the µdo not call¶« xxx
And tell them« ´Please send me a copy of your "Do Not Call" policy. Ho, boy! This is a useable item. It will cause real song and dance on their part. Companies are required to provide you with their Do Not Call Policy on demand ± yes, even bill collectors! Bill collectors can, under the right conditions, legally call you, yes, but« there are cases where they should not call you ± Such as« a bill in dispute. And you want to know what those cases are ± you want to know company policy. So« ask about their µDo Not Call Policy¶ - send to you on company letterhead! The very politest thing you will hear to this request is @#$%$#$$ ! Remember rule #1? They do know this (or should), but they are just so addicted to calling you« it¶s going to be hard for them to stop. They may not even have one printed up, or they may try to claim they don¶t have to do that« but they do. They will tell you µNO, we don¶t work that way« ¶« but rule #1! Remember it? They may not have ³Worked that way before,«´ but they do now. At least, for you. They will very quickly forget that lesson ± until the next person starts also suing them on this issue (grin). I do so love the Internet. The Law is clear on this, they do have to send you a copy. They may not do it, but they do have to. And NOT sending you a copy on request on this, so called µtrivial point¶ is something you can use against them« IF you had said that (and more) in a registered letter that they acknowledged they received. True, they may try to get around that, in the case of trying to collect a bill, but« they do have your address. And you did invite them to write you ± but not to call you, ever. Translation of all this ± bottom line, you can sue them for not sending the "Do Not Call" policy copy, even if you do owe money«
Oh, that¶s not the end. You can sue them for many things« Remember the µDo not call me¶ thing that you started xxx If they keep on calling you, you can repeat one of the points you made in registered letter ³X´
No, these moves will probably not wipe out the debt in question ± sorry µbout that. Didn¶t say I would help do that, now, did I? But I will help you clean up the rest of the song and dance of the bill collector¶s act.
you don't owe the debt, or the statute of limitations has expired.
After all this they probably won't call you again, or at least it will give them a reason for pause. But save your notes, and if the company does call more then once (they are allowed to make one µmistake¶) in a 12 month period, then you can file a complaint with your local small claims court - again. (Grin) More money in your pocket, less in theirs. It will give them a taste of their own medicine. Oh! And although µSteve¶ or µPete¶ or whatever called you« they may be one and the same. The bill collectors have (and use !) voice changing equipment. Yep« And another way to hide who the caller is ± BUT! If caught, it¶s a $10,000 fine for using it.
µCredit Negotiators¶ While it¶s not directly a part of you and the debt collector µthing¶, here is another fact you should know. About third party µCredit Negotiators¶ (you¶ve seen the adds on TV) who stated they can cut the amounts in half, if not more. Well, one of the things those µCredit Negotiators¶ keep quiet about is that they only negotiate with bill collectors, not the card
companies themselves. So they request you don't make any payments till the collector¶s call. We were told once the calls started that it could get ugly - which it will at times. Needless to say, we were told repeatedly by the bill collectors that they did not deal with 3rd party or negotiating firms, (a lie, they do) and they only dealt with us (another lie, what a surprise!). The calls continued, got nastier, and the frustration grew. We were also informed to jot down and keep track of what time, where they called (work/home), and any statements made (but solid state voice recorders are so cheap nowadays, why write?). Copy the sound files into your computer, and make duplicates of the copies, and NEVER send out the originals ± just send copies. I love computers.
--General advice to anyone deep in the mud of collection efforts ± you will get tired, very tired, very quickly. They count on that. They work towards that end. They double team you. They make money from telling lies. Lots of money. With that as the goal, they will wear you down. But! Remember Rule #1 They lie. So, why should it end after the bill is paid? For many people it doesn¶t.
Here¶s help xxx and a few counters xxx One possibility is to keep the old phone number active, but with just and record all calls to it. Or« Get rid of your home phone, and go to a ³pay as you go´ cell phone. (or xxxx) .
Reason for all this? The bill collectors are lost, just lost, without a phone number to call, or instant message id to use to get to you. Yea, they do that, too. They do have sneaky ways to get your new number, so don¶t be surprised if they find you again after awhile. So« be ready to change the number again. Or«
The phone company is being pushed more and more xxx
About phones in general And changing your number. The phone company doesn¶t care what name your phone is listed under, not as long as someone ± anyone! - pays the bill. As long as the money arrives in their office the phone could be listed as µChris Cringle¶, no address given. Or some such. Really.
And you can call and id yourself as the account holder and make changes to the line. Want to know my suggestions on those changes? Block anyone calling you that blocks Caller ID. Cost? About $7 a month. If they don¶t want you to know who is calling« you don¶t want to take that call. So now, the phone company is on your side, outside of some µID Spoofing¶.
Want more? There is a way to block a phone number on a cell phone. You can block calls for residential phones whether cell or home land-line using the do not call registry: <https://www.*donotcall*.gov/*register* /reg.aspx> . It takes about 30 seconds to fill out the online form. Unfortunately business phones are not eligible.
DISPUTE anything placed on your credit files with the credit bureaus as«´Not my account.´
A view from the other side« ³I received an interrogatory from the µpariah¶ (a pariah - one that is despised or rejected: an outcast.) where it asked me to give them all kinds of information, including current and past address, etc...
People get these and immediately answer them because they will put in their cover letter that you have 30 days to answer it; and then state the law in which you have to answer the interrogatory. It is recommended you answer this within the time period, because you do not want to give them any kind of ammunition to use against you ± but ! the kind of answer« He He. You can lose your case on this fact alone. But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. However« In question #1 they are asking me to give them my entire defense case; are they serious? I do not even know these people, and they want me to turn over information thatµs none of their business. Here is the problem with interrogatories in the Special Civil Part. First thing is that it is Unconstitutional as with anything legal that you sign, because you are not afforded the right to invoke your Fifth Amendment; and because you are required by law to sign this document, and you can be prosecuted if your statements are found be 'untruths'.
Second is that this document will usually come within the first two weeks of you filing your 'Answer' in the court, and you are expected to answer this document, even though the party that is suing you has yet to prove they even have 'validity and claim' to ask - so you are turning over your personal information which will be used against you (count on that one) because the suing party has no case at this point, and are trying to get you to 'become one of their employees' by doing the work for them. Nuts to that.
Debt collectors must act within the law when recovering debts. This means they must obey laws that are designed to protect you from misconduct. Under these laws, a debt collector must not: use physical force or coercion (forcing or compelling you to do something) harass or hassle you to an unreasonable extent mislead or deceive you (or try to do so) take unfair advantage of any vulnerability, disability or other similar circumstance affecting you (this is known as µunconscionable conduct¶). These laws also apply to a debt collector's conduct towards your spouse, partner, family member¶ or other person connected with you. Other laws also apply to debt collection.
Remember: while you should not accept misconduct by a debt collector, such misconduct will not affect whether you are liable for the debt.
Counter moves: changes to your phone I don¶t suggest you ask for an unlisted number ± it just costs more, and it goes on a short list that is easy to hack / search for new additions. Why make it easy for them? I don¶t suggest you pay for an unlisted number, as a special list like that is the first thing they will target ± a listing there will just cost you money, and give only flimsy protection at best. Stay on the regular list of phone numbers, but! You don¶t have to give a valid address for a phone number. And who pays attention to the HUGE list? Sure, the number is in the phone book ± but, where?
But you can request a new number with a different name. The listing is under an un-related name, and no address has to be given. And it costs no more than a regular line, and goes on a very large list.
About remember, when dealing with bill collectors, they hate to put anything in writing. They will swear at you ± when they do, remind them they just broke the law. That will make them swear some more. He He! But the fact is, they just broke the law ± even if it¶s a small fine, they hate to pay even that. And because of the way they normally act, they will have to pay out a large sum in small fines on just you alone.
The tricks they use«
They might try to add a ³fine´ to up the bill. Bogus move. dude! They can¶t do that. They may try to stick you with the tab for the call, or a ³fine´. Don¶t pay it!
They will be glad to insist you have to pay. You don¶t. Remember rule #1! That is total BS and a lie. They might try to get you to pick up the tab for the call. Don¶t! They will be glad to insist you have to pay. Remember rule #1! That is total BS and a lie. They called you? It¶s THEIR bill. You don¶t have to pay it. They lie. Tell them to take a hike. A fine added onto your bill? Sure, they tried that on me. Didn¶t work, but they tried it. Did I pay the µfine¶? Ha! I know the law ± no, I did not.
Another thing - make sure whoever calls you, whatever is said, get it confirmed in writing - on company letterhead. And be sure to ask for the original bill, and tell them if it¶s a credit card you want to see the charges including signatures. Reason #1 to do this: Bill collectors hate to put anything in writing. It can work against them, it costs, it limits their options, it ties them up, it ticks them off. After they have been tickling you off so much ± so return the favor« (GRIN) Get them to show the original bill. Reason #2: if it¶s a purchased debt, chances are they don¶t have much more than your name, an old or out of date address, perhaps an old phone number, and an amount owed - which might well be off ± or totally wrong ± or not what was purchased, or who really purchased it, or what happened to it« and things like that. That will not stop them from trying to collect on a bogus bill. But now it puts the grief back in their court.
Credit card companies have all the records readily available. But the bill collectors may tell you xxx ± or should, if it¶s a real charge.
Get the person¶s full name, the company they¶re calling from, and if possible record your call with them. Don¶t get mad at them no matter what they say ± they want to get you mad. You might say ³?´ at that. Ahh. Welcome to the world of the bill collector.
You see, the bill collectors want to get you worked up. They have all sorts of tricks to get you mad, and even more to pull on you when you are mad. A clam, reasonable voice will drive them up the wall. Mad people make mistakes. They¶re ready for that. They are very practiced in turning those mistakes against you. So, don¶t get mad. Get calm. No, calmer than that. You will know it¶s working when you hear them getting mad. Which is just an act, by the way, but the first step in really getting them pissed off. Just tell them when you see the bill, you will write them back (though they will want to keep calling anyway ± and there is a legal counter to this). Also, if they¶re calling often and they¶re belligerent (and most are) with you (even vile), again don¶t get mad, since most of them thrive on such a response from you. xxxit, write a letter to them - the main address where not to call you, send it return receipt requested, proving they got it.
If the calls keep happening? Well, once you have sent a send a letter to your state¶s Attorney General¶s office of your state, cc the bill collection agency again in an email telling that you did« He he Do send them a copy. AND send it return receipt requested!
And more lies« Also, do not fall for the stories they tell. When they say they¶re going to send the sheriff to arrest you, LOL ± remember Bill Collector rule #1 - it¶s a lie. Not sure of this? Easy enough to check on this one - Contact the local sheriff and ask him! He will say no. Count on it. Now, who is telling the lie? The local law officer that just said ³No, we don¶t arrest you for overdue bills.´, or the people that want to get their hands on as much of your money as they can con out of you? You do the math. Once again, the overall operational rule here - Bill Collector rule #1 - it¶s a lie.
Oh. Also, we do not have debtor prisons (If that subject comes up, for laughs, ask them to name one, just any one. Bet them on this. And should they give you a name, say ³Nope, guess again.´). Also, if you don¶t own a home, it¶s very unlikely they
will even try and sue you, or garnish your salary, most likely your debt will just go back into a pool and on to the next agency. If you don¶t owe the bill, and the Collection Agency is trying to collect it anyway, (yes, they will do that) get a copy of your credit report and make sure it¶s not on there, OR« find the original creditor and deal with them directly. (That is your right!) One of the biggest scams are collectors calling on debts that are paid off, but not removed from your credit report. You didn¶t know they would do that? They do« And more«
If this does not work, get an attorney and go after the agency. Also, if you have settled on a debit for less than full amount (by agreement), make sure the agency sends a letter on their letterhead stating the debt is satisfied (Rule #1, again!), this way it can¶t end up in some other Collection Agency and they¶re demanding payment for it ± again!. Yes, that¶s illegal, and yes, they have done just that. Frequently. Also make sure you get a confirmation letter on their letterhead each time when you pay off your bills. Just remember, record and hold all calls they make to you. You can be sure they are doing this to you. If you have the money to pay the bill, fine. But get proof of the payment from them ± and be sure to keep all canceled checks as a backup . They are fully capable of cashing your check and then saying µNo, they never got it.¶ Ha. You will have the canceled check to prove you did pay it. Expect them to lie. Every time. They will not disappoint you.
Don¶t depend on a changed phone number to protect you forever. Oh sure, changing your phone number will stop the calls for awhile. But not forever. Sooner or later they will get your new number. A counter to that? Why, change the number again! Now, ask yourself this question - if you have an unpublished phone number and they get it, or they call you on your new cell phone, how are they getting it? Social hacking, that¶s how. The secret of how they get your number is simple (remember Rule #1, bill collectors lie, and not just to you they lie to everyone). If you have, say, cable TV, they call the provider pretending they are you, and say µI was left several messages for your company¶. (Lie #1, setting things up for the big lie) Then when the cable company says
what number are you calling from, the collector will in effect say µWell, what number do you have?¶ (the bill collector is suggesting there was a mixup on the cable TV¶s part). 9 out of 10 times the provider will just give out your new number. Opps on you! This also works with electric companies, water companies, gas, etc. This is just a slight rework of how a hacker could get your number, without ever being a super hacker, or even touching a computer.
They have your original phone number, and probably your street address as well. Using that phone number and a $5 address CD, they will call your neighbors, asking for your current number, stating something like they are an µInternational operator with an urgent call¶, when the neighbor says leave me the message they say unfortunately because of the nature of the call I can only leave it for them. They have a well polished line of BS, they will peddle this lie until your neighbor, or some nice old lady, will give out your number. As you can see, they will do anything to get your number. Even« lie (gasp). Please make sure to call people who have your number not to give it out no matter what, this is for your companies, work, friends and family.
But sooner or later, someone will slip up, and bang, they¶re calling you again. The counter to this is easy, just change your number - again. Or, leave it µin use¶ (but not by you!... µin use¶ just to collect their calls) and switch to using another number as your number. Or, do NOT play this game. At all. Refuse to take any of their calls.
Collection agencies are using abusive phone tactics across the board - the consumer's cheapest and best defense is to record the µverbal abuse¶ and lies, then present the audio file and a transcript to the Attorney General¶s office as an email. Why spent money on the mail? Not to worry, they are recording on their end, you can be sure - and I¶m fairly sure without your permission. Big hint: They can get pretty vile without swearing, and even more vile when swearing. Yes, they are breaking the law by swearing at you. No, you are not breaking the law by swearing back at them. Yes, you know the fines are small« but even small fines add up, so call them on it. But! really mess their heads - don¶t swear back at them! Instead, sweetly say things like µI will let the Judge decide that.¶ Or, my favorite - µI am sure the judge will
agree with me¶. They will fume! They will swear at you« They can do NOTHING about it. But« you might want to start a class action lawsuit against the firm.
How about some quotes from the people who work the phones from their end? ³The agency I worked for was one of the largest bill collectors in NJ, employing roughly 200 full time employees. When I first started, I and three other people were given copies of the FDCPA and had to watch several movies, then we were asked questions on what we saw and read. The next day we went to the training room and the floor supervisor and the company manger came in and made us sign a piece of paper stating we would follow the law etc, etc. After that we were flat out told if you want to make any money here you do what you have to do, but remember we won¶t protect you if you break the law. I remember sitting there thinking this is a joke, right. No such luck.´
The workers may tell you on the phone the company lawyer will come to their defense. Nope! Ha! ± Right away, they are fired. They¶ll not even be visited in jail, or even called on by the company lawyer, let alone µprotected¶ by them. No wonder the workers are so short tempered! So, when a worker says they have been there 20 years, laugh! There is 20% worker turn over every month. 20%! Think about it. In 12 months that turnover rate gives a 99% turnover of the workers. That turnover rate means a whole, brand new workforce is in place by year¶s end. I don¶t think even the owners have been there 20 years. Many companies are shut down and µdisbanded¶ to get the law off their backs. Then they¶re reopened a day or so later under a new name.
One of the people told us the same thing went on at two other agencies they worked at. ³They encourage you to break the law because that¶s the only way to get the debtors to pay, and the fines are so small it doesn¶t really matter. Plus all bill collectors are expendable (resulting in at least a 20% turn over every month) and any one that was caught was canned on the spot. Once that was done I was given a fake name (yes, every collector you speak with is using a fake name, and yes, that too is illegal) a cubicle, phone and a computer loaded with accounts to call on. I could run Credit reports on these people whenever they want. Yes, the people doing the collecting can get away with just about anything, because the majority of people in collections they call on don¶t know their rights. But even so, 20% of the collectors are canned each month.´
Recently I've been receiving calls from a specific debt collector using an automated dialer (you can spot them by the message ´Please stay on the line for an important call´). Just hang up when you hear that« and add the number to your µspecial list¶. Or, ID the number and have your fax modem kick in when it hears it (he he). Such a call is not legal for a number of reasons. But every bill collector firm uses such a dialer, to get hints at when you are home, to put pressure on you. They are in violation of several FCC Telecommunications Privacy Act laws by calling in such a manner. If they leave voice mail (in the form of an automated message), but do not identify themselves (an illegal action), or give a made up person¶s name, (often done, and another illegal action) do not provide an opt out number (yet another illegal action), and what¶s more, they block caller ID on the line from their autodialer. I suggest you have your line set to automatically block any calls that are blocked to-do this. (In this case I suggest you ask your phone company to block all such calls to you that block caller ID ± after all, turnabout is fair play, and it¶s cheap). Their message may simply ask you to call them back for an "Important business offer" (Yea, right, what real business would use such an illegal dialer). This message is a come on, and I suggest you do not call them back in any case. In my case, I only found out they were a debt collection agency by doing a web search on the phone number they left (I love the web!). What¶s worse is that I have no debts, so whoever they¶re looking for is not me. I reported them to the FCC for the 4 telecommunications violations.
The best thing for anyone to do is educate yourself. A debtors¶ ignorance is the collector's best weapon. So, get on the Internet and get schooled.
They refuse to identify themselves (an illegal action) and sometimes tell all about the debt they claim you owe without any indication they¶re speaking to the right person who supposedly owes the debt (also very illegal). Remember rule #1? What happens if you have an unlisted phone number? You may feel you cannot be sending µcease-and-desist¶ letters giving them your true name and phone number -that would completely defeat the purpose of being unlisted. But once it¶s breached, once the number is known, that¶s it ± the number is toast. They have the number already, so it¶s not unlisted, is it? Not anymore, that is. So get ready to add another number to the list of unusable numbers. I can't stand these people, and from the research I did when we first started getting these calls, it's likely more than some of the "debts" they¶re pursuing are even
legitimate. Oh, yes, didn¶t you know? Sometimes the "debts" they¶re trying to collect aren¶t legitimate« and sometimes the person in question will just keep your payment and not turn it over to the company, or not report that it came in ± after all, bill collectors LIE« even to other bill collectors, and sometimes to their boss as well.
Wrench in the works« I have taken to trying to make them miserable and crazy when they call, since I have no sympathy for them. Some points on jamming their lives? The people that work there, some of them have a real need to verbally abuse the customer. And aren¶t too stable to start with. Questions like: ³Are you off your meds?¶ hits them rather hard ± because they really might be! He he Not too many jobs will give the hard cases the rush of verbally assaulting a person ± and with a monthly 20% turnover, they are under the gun, poor things. Want to get under their skin a bit? (grin) Given the job turnover, and talking to them, you can always point out it¶s a small field, and suggest there are no places that will give a µhas been¶ in trouble a second chance. Which is also true.
I hope others will do the same -- the more we waste their time, the more grief they get, the higher their costs, the less incentive they have to bother innocent people.
Hummm« I wonder« one-half of one cent for a portfolios with a "face value" (the total amount owed, but defaulted on) of $10 million or more. If you're the new owner of this portfolio AND it includes your debt as part of the package« do you HAVE to pay yourself? No? Hummm« type of bad debt and have paid half a cent (on every dollar owed), but end up recovering three or five or ten cents on the dollar, it can be a pretty profitable business. In fact, it IS a very profitable business. However...
Stranger things have happened with the law
Here's the advice from the FTC: First, get the address of people who are calling and then WRITE them a letter insisting they stop (that's assuming of course that you have a valid reason such as you don't owe the debt, or the statute of limitations on the debt has expired, or some such).
Then, write everyone you can think of about your problem. That includes the FTC, your state's Attorney General's office, the Better Business Bureau (a bit useless) but a stamp is cheap, and email is even cheaper) -- and send copies to the collection company as well. Unfortunately these places can't solve individual complaints, but letters to the watchdogs do put pressure on them, and the industry in general.
--WARNING! Junk debt buyers purchase debts that are outside the statue of limitations for lawsuits (legal enforcement of the debt) but not outside the statute of limitations on your credit report! They like to report this debt as a revolving account, which is illegal. (remember Rule #1!)
Your Name Your Address City, State, Zip
(Sent via CERTIFIED RETURN MAIL #123 456 789 with RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED) XYZ Collection Agency/Law Firm 1234 Main Street, #100
Any town, USA 10021 Re: File #0000000 - ABC Bank - #4445566778899000 For: $5555.55 Dear Debt Collector /Debt Collector Attorney: This will serve as your legal notice under provisions of federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), to cease all communication with me in regard to the debt referenced above. If you fail to heed this notice, I will file a formal complaint against you with the Federal Trade Commission who is responsible for enforcement, the States Attorney General office and/or the American Collectors Association or local State Bar Association. In addition, there may be legal, civil or criminal penalties accessed as well. Changing the dates of last activity on a credit bureau report, (something that many companies regularly engages in) is illegal and consumers can take actions against the company and the credit bureaus that allow it. A reminder, all parties are informed any pleadings by a firm AFTER they have purchased a defaulted account are hearsay and not admissible in court proceedings. [[I/We have decided that we do not desire to work with a collection agency under any circumstances. I/We will contact the original creditor to resolve this matter directly, as circumstances warrant.]] You are also notified that should any adverse information be placed against my credit reports as a result of this notice, that appropriate actions will be taken. unconscionable conduct All parties are informed, should these matters go to court, company employees will be required to testify under oath to the truthfulness of their statements. (Watch them run, watch the cases be dismissed. See how many company employees will NOT commit perjury for their employer.) My being involved in illegal activities« If you continue in this action, let it be known that in addition to civil charges or criminal law - I CHARGE $50 an a hour, or any part thereof; for being involved in a illegal action such as created by your firm. I will bill your firm for these charges. As you
have no account with me at this time, the bill will be due monthly. Failure to pay in a timely matter will result in legal action being taken. Give this very important matter the attention it deserves. Sincerely, John J. Consumer NOTE: This is an attempt to make a debt collector obey the law. Any information obtained, will be used for that purpose.
3. Various Code Violations:
(e.g. consumers not being notified that their calls are being monitored or recorded) are also likely violations in almost all fifty states. 4. Multiple Listings of the Same Debt: Junk debt buyers are often responsible for multiple reporting of the same debt as these change hands among buyers and sellers. Usually, these same debts are reported by the original creditor as well. Thus you could have the same debt reported multiple times! You can legally and morally increase your credit score by disputing and deleting these duplicate accounts, and you block one of the bill collector¶s tricks as well. ---
These purchased debts are generally fraught with lots of problems. If you are contemplating buying debt, or if you¶re being sued on a credit card debt from someone other than the original creditor, read on...I¶m about to save you a lot of grief. Here are the usual problems with purchased debt:
1. The debt buyer usually does not get any supporting documents to show that the debt is owed by the consumer. If you are a consumer and you get sued by a debt buyer, simply ask the court to order the debt buyer to provide proof of the amount of the debt, and a signed contract. 99 percent of the time, the debt buyer cannot produce these documents. This leads to a dismissal of your case. Oh, and it bugs them real bad. 2. The debt was usually presented to other collection agencies and/or lawyers to collect. They couldn¶t collect it, and that¶s why it was sold. Now the new owner is trying to collect it and what happens? Chances are he¶s not going to be any more successful than the previous collector. What amazes me is when the debts are represented (misrepresented?) as having been presented to only 1 prior collection agency. Oh? Big time ? on that! How do they know that for sure? There is no way to verify this. Bill collectors lie even to themselves. 3. If the debt was consumer based, then the new owner and collector are both subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This Act is so easy to violate. Suing on this debt can easily turn a defendant into a plaintiff. I have frequently sued collection agencies for violating the FDCPA. Usually, as part of the settlement, we have the debt extinguished. We frequently settle these cases not just because the collection agency made an error of some sort, but because if they defend it, attorney¶s fees in defending the case will cost them thousands of dollars. Even if they successfully beat us in court (to date that has not happened...but even if that fateful day ever came), and the collection agency was awarded attorneys' fees against the debtor, they know that their chances of collecting are essentially nil. They have much to lose and very little, if any, to gain. Buying debt that is already in default subjects not only the collection law firm to the FDCPA, but it also subjects the debt purchaser to the Act as well.
4. The Fair Credit Reporting Act presents a host of new opportunities for debtors to sue you as well. If the debt purchaser reports the debt on someone's credit bureau, the consumer can dispute it. The debt then has to be flagged by the new purchaser as a disputed debt or the debt purchaser gets into trouble. Here is something else to consider. If the consumer asks the credit bureau to investigate the debt, the debt purchaser better be absolutely sure that the debt is valid or else the purchaser can get into trouble with the consumer and yes, end up paying the consumer's attorneys fees.
5. HIPPA - yes...you must have heard of it by now. Essentially, and in an overstated fashion, if a healthcare professional gives away any of your personal information, they can get into deep trouble with some governmental agency. Note, that presently, there is no private right to recovery, but the government can fine the health care professional up to $50,000 for violating this Act. (Grin)
--Many years ago, I heard attorney Manny Neuburger talk about the power of using an offer of judgment in the defense of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim. Manny is a Texas attorney and a giant when it comes to the defense of FDCPA cases. He said that one of the best defense techniques that a defendant can interpose in litigation is an offer of judgment. Under an offer of judgment under FRCP 68, the defendant offers to give the Plaintiff a judgment for a certain amount. There are great tactical advantages to this. First, if the offer of judgment is accepted, the Defendant is able to cap its damages. Secondly, if the offer is accepted, the Defendant is also able to effectively end the litigation and curb further attorneys' fees in its defense. Thirdly, if the offer is NOT accepted, then the Plaintiff runs the risk of having to pay the Defendant's attorneys' fees if the Plaintiff does not get a judgment that is greater than the offer made in the offer of judgment. But wait...now there is more. (Grin)
The United States District Court for Western District of Kentucky recently held in Tallon v Lloyd and McDaniel et al, (3:06CV-314-H) that when a defendant makes a good enough offer of judgment, that it can actually get a case dismissed on the grounds of mootness. That is great news for defense counsel in FDCPA litigation. In a nutshell, one of the defendants was a law firm that was accused of violating the FDCPA by sending garnishments to several banks in an area local to the Plaintiff/Debtor. The debtor sued stating that the blind garnishments violated the FDCPA. The court held that inasmuch as the Defendant offered to pay the Plaintiff the maximum that the Plaintiff could recover in this litigation, that the case should be dismissed on the basis of mootness. The court reasoned that the defendants have offered to satisfy all of the Plaintiff's monetary claims and the Plaintiff's claims are now moot. Even though the Plaintiff did not accept the Defendant's offer of judgment, the court appears to have made that acceptance on behalf of the Plaintiff anyway.
The court granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the case by entering a judgment in favor of the Plaintiff for the $1,055; the amount of the offer of judgment. The court stated that it would enter the judgment pursuant to FRCP 68 which is the Offer of Judgment Rule. But, one question not answered by the court is whether it will now assess costs against the Plaintiff for failing to timely accept the offer. After all, the Plaintiff did not better its position in the litigation after failing to accept the offer. I suspect that there will be a subsequent motion to determine these costs.
Obviously in a perfect world you would have paid your debts in a timely manner, right? If you're like the vast majority of Americans that have found themselves in similar predicaments, I'm sure that there was some key event that caused the financial lapse: loss of job, serious/prolonged illness, divorce, etc. With that said, and in an attempt to answer your questions, here's how the game is played. Is it a strange coincidence? Probably. Most creditors age and write-off bad debts in a similar manner. Once an overdue-but-soon-to-be-bad-debt begins the voyage...from internal collection department to third-party debt collection agency and finally to the "write off pool," it's pretty normal to see them end up in a portfolio of like "bad/charged-off debts." They're sold off to companies (sometimes referred to as "bottom-feeders" or "vultures") in about the same span of time, and these companies specialize in turning bad debts into very profitable returns for their investors. By the time this class of debt reaches this level, usually 4-6 years (or more) has passed since the consumer has made a payment and the debt is clearly viewed as uncollectible. Bottom feeding investment companies pay sometimes as little as one-half of one cent for portfolios with a "face value" (total amount owed, but defaulted) of $10 million or more. If you're the new owner of this type of bad debt and have paid half a cent (on every dollar owed) but end up recovering three or five or ten cents on the dollar, it can be a pretty profitable business. In fact, it IS a very profitable business. However..... The statute of limitations for the enforcement of most defaulted credit card debts in Texas is four years. If they fail to sue you within the four year window following your default on the account, they lose. However! They can always sue you, many years after the fact, and if you fail to answer the lawsuit, they'll win by default. It's imperative to understand if these companies do±in fact±sue you for non-payment, in order to avoid losing the lawsuit you'll need to hire an attorney to respond to the suit, and ask the court to dismiss the case, citing the fact the debt is unenforceable because it's exceeded the enforceability statute.
And a "Cease & Desist" letter citing the fact that the debt is no longer enforceable, sent via Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested to the main address (not the one they give you) should take the wind out of their threatening sails. The µcorrect¶ return address is the same address they gave for you to send the payments to. They may try to send you to send a registered letter to another address ± just apply Rule #1
and send the "Cease & Desist" letter to the (µsent the money payment here¶) address given to you. Or the one gotten from the Internet. Any other address they give you is pure bogus.
Appling rule #1, the more foolish companies will try to duck this registered letter by refusing the envelope. That way, they reason they can continue to call/bug you. That is mistake on their part, and at best, a feeble move. The way around this is to save the returned envelope unopened, so you can show the reason behind the start of the $50 an hour charges you are laying on them.
Hey, wait a minute. This is an interesting thought ± what if the µrefused and unopened envelope¶ had the debt payment in it, or even just a partial payment? You can show in court that you made a good faith attempt to pay your debt ± and by refusing it the firm showed they had abandoned the debt. True, it may not be good legal argument, (or it might! Ask your lower) but.... should be fun to try. This is called µmessing with their head¶.
If not, save the postmarked and returned envelope and think about it. You just may come up with Plan B. If so, tell me.
--Steve Harms. Mr. Harms is a µguru¶ in the debt collectors industry and the author of a book that many debt collectors affectionately refer to as "the Bible."
--Finally, try to do this within the first 30 days after receiving the letters or phone calls. They MUST send you a letter in writing on company letterhead, if they only call you, they are breaking the law. They will try to get away with no letter.
But YOU MUST reply in writing. If it has gone beyond the 30 days, they can report you to a credit bureau. But if that happens and you follow the above instructions, if you challenge the credit report, they generally cannot verify the debt and it will disappear from your credit report.
While they try to claim most debt collectors follow the law, it is the exact opposite and it is because people do NOT know their own rights. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL THEM TO BUZZ OFF, YOU CAN EVEN ABUSE THEM IF YOU WANT TO. There is no law prohibiting YOU from abusing the collector, only laws preventing them from abusing YOU. Only problem is, the fines behind this law are modest at best, so yes, they will mouth off at you. So be ready to return the favor, but not by swearing - by being all sweet and politeness ± that response will scare them. --On the threats« In one outrageous example, a collector for a funeral home threatened, to "rip the bodies" of the plaintiff's parents out of the ground, "put them on his lawn..." and chop their heads off. My suggestion? Tell him you will talk to the local police about the timed arrival ± and the penalties for grave robbing and trespassing. With new bankruptcy laws making it harder to wipe out credit card bills, experts say collection agencies feel justified doing whatever it takes to collect. But then, that¶s the same way they felt before the new bankruptcy laws were passed. "I've actually threatened people that if they don't pay then I'll serve a goods and lien on Christmas morning," said former debt collector Mike Flannagan. Flannagan is now exposing industry abuses. He says he used to take ten percent of the truth and stretch it into 100% of a oh no! threat to get you to pay up. "If I beat you hard enough, long enough, often enough, you'll pay the bill if nothing else to get me to go away," he said.
You should know that debtors do have rights. To witt: Collectors can't garnish your wages. They can't have you arrested, and they rarely sue for the money. They
can sue for big sums, but do that rarely. Lawyers are spendy and can backfire, lies and bluffs are free.
But you can and should sue them if they contact you at inconvenient times, or places when you tell them not to, if they call neighbors or co-workers, or if they don't provide you with documentation substantiating the debt. Often they can¶t ± but they do bluff or lie on this ± perhaps even threaten.
Collection agencies are using abusive phone tactics more frequently and the consumer's best defense may be to secretly record the abuse, a panel of Nevada lawmakers was told Friday. A proposed bill would allow Nevada consumers to record phone conversations initiated by debt collection agencies without notifying the agency. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that recording telephone conversations without the consent of both parties is barred under state law.
Here's the advice from the FTC: First, get the address of people who are calling and then WRITE them a letter insisting they stop (that's assuming of course that you have a valid reason, such as you don't owe the debt, or the statute of limitations on the debt has expired).
Then, write everyone you can think of about your problem. That includes the FTC, your state's attorney general's office, the Better Business Bureau -- and send copies to the company as well. Unfortunately these places can't solve individual complaints.
WARNING! Junk debt buyers purchase debts that are outside the statue of limitations for lawsuit (legal enforcement of the debt) but not outside the statute of limitations on your credit report! They like to report this debt as a revolving account, which is illegal. (Revolving charge account - a charge account that does not have to be paid to zero balance.) What is a revolving account? A type of credit account where a consumer has the option to pay the debt in full each month, or to make a minimum monthly payment based upon the outstanding balance. Examples include department stores, gas and oil companies and bank-issued credit cards.
3. Various Code Violations: (consumers not being notified that their calls are being monitored or recorded) are also likely violations in almost all fifty states.)
4. Multiple Listings of the Same Debt: Junk debt buyers are often responsible for multiple reporting of the same debt as these change hands among buyers and sellers. Usually, these same debts are reported by the original creditor as well. Thus you could have the same debt reported multiple times! Increase your credit score by disputing and deleting these duplicate accounts.
Steve Harms. Mr. Harms is a guru in our industry and the author of a book that many debt collectors affectionately refer to as "the Bible."
if you are being sued on a credit card debt from someone other than the original creditor, read on... I am about to save you a lot of grief. Here are the usual problems with µpurchased debt¶: 1. The debt buyer usually does not get any supporting documents to show that the debt is owed by the consumer. If you are a consumer and you get sued by a debt buyer, simply ask the court to order the debt buyer to provide proof of the amount of the debt
and a signed contract. 99 percent of the time, the debt buyer cannot produce these documents. This leads to a dismissal of your case. But you do have to show up for the suit. 2. The debt was usually presented to other collection agencies and/or lawyers to collect. They could not collect it, and that¶s why it was sold - again. Now you (a beginner debt collector?) are trying to collect it, and what happens? Chances are you¶re not going to be anymore successful than the previous collector. What amazes me is when the debts are represented (misrepresented) as having been presented to only 1 prior collection agency. How do they know that for sure? There is no way to verify this. 3. If the debt was consumer based, then the new owner and collector are both subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This Act is so easy to violate. Suing on this debt can easily turn a defendant into a plaintiff. I have frequently sued collection agencies for violating the FDCPA. Usually, as part of the settlement, we have the debt extinguished. We frequently settle these cases not just because the collection agency made an error of some sort, but because if they defend it, attorney¶s fees in defending the case will cost them thousands of dollars. Even if they successfully beat us in court (to date that has not happened...but even if that fateful day ever came), and the collection agency was awarded attorneys' fees against the debtor, they know that their chances of collecting are essentially nil. They have much to lose and very little to gain. Buying debt that is already in default subjects not only the collection law firm to the FDCPA, but it also subjects the debt purchaser to the Act as well. 4. The Fair Credit Reporting Act presents a host of new opportunities for debtors to sue you as well. If the debt purchaser reports the debt on someone's credit bureau, the consumer can dispute it. The debt then has to be flagged by the new purchaser as a disputed debt or the debt purchaser gets into trouble. Here is something else to consider. If the consumer asks the credit bureau to investigate the debt, the debt purchaser better be absolutely sure that the debt is valid or else the purchaser can get into trouble with the consumer and yes...end up paying the consumer's attorneys fees.
HIPPA - yes...you must have heard of it by now. Essentially, and in an overstated fashion, if a healthcare professional gives away any of your personal information, they can get into deep trouble with some governmental agency. Note, that presently, there is no private right to recovery, but the government can fine the health care professional up to $50,000 for violating this Act.
Many years ago, I heard attorney Manny Neuburger talk about the power of using an offer of judgment in the defense of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim. Manny is a Texas attorney and a giant when it comes to the defense of FDCPA cases.
He said that one of the best defense techniques that a defendant can interpose in litigation is an offer of judgment.
Under an offer of judgment under FRCP 68, the defendant offers to give the Plaintiff a judgment for a certain amount. There are great tactical advantages to this. First, if the offer of judgment is accepted, the Defendant is able to cap its damages. Secondly, if the offer is accepted, the Defendant is also able to effectively end the litigation and curb further attorneys' fees in its defense. Thirdly, if the offer is NOT accepted, then the Plaintiff runs the risk of having to pay the Defendant's attorneys' fees if the Plaintiff does not get a judgment that is greater than the offer made in the offer of judgment. But wait...now there is more. The United States District Court for Western District of Kentucky recently held in Tallon v Lloyd and McDaniel et al, (3:06CV-314-H) that when a defendant makes a good enough offer of judgment, that it can actually get a case dismissed on the grounds of mootness. That is great news for defense counsel in FDCPA litigation. In a nutshell, one of the defendants was a law firm that was accused of violating the FDCPA by sending garnishments to several banks in an area local to the Plaintiff/Debtor. The debtor sued stating that the blind garnishments violated the FDCPA. The court held that inasmuch as the Defendant offered to pay the Plaintiff the maximum that the Plaintiff could recover in this litigation, that the case should be dismissed on the basis of mootness. The court reasoned that the defendants have offered to satisfy all of the Plaintiff's monetary claims and the Plaintiff's claims are now moot. Even though the Plaintiff did not accept the Defendant's offer of judgment, the court appears to have made that acceptance on behalf of the Plaintiff anyway. The court granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the case by entering a judgment in favor of the Plaintiff for the $1,055; the amount of the offer of judgment. The court stated that it would enter the judgment pursuant to FRCP 68 which is the Offer of Judgment Rule. But, one question not answered by the court is whether it will now assess costs against the Plaintiff for failing to timely accept the offer. After all, the Plaintiff did not better its position in the litigation after failing to accept the offer. I suspect that there will be a subsequent motion to determine these costs.
This should be a last resort; however, you might want to let your credit card company know there is a problem that you are working on resolving just to establish a case file. Let them know that if you cannot resolve it you might turn to them for
assistance. I know how this works because the business I owned provided automotive aftermarket services. My average invoice was around $300 to $400. I quickly learned that the "public" includes some really low-life types who believe anything they can do to get something for free is fair game. I had a few very unethical customers pay with a credit card, then a few weeks later call the card company with a complaint about our service. The card company would then ask me what I was going to do about it.
Ok, here¶s the kicker. No matter what I said, they always refunded the customer's full purchase price and deducted my account for the money.
K e a r y F l o y d , a n a t t o r n e y w h o r e p r e s e n t s consumers at Fl oyd Legal i n Atl anta, sai d that while most of his debt collectio n ca se s involve excessive phone calls, one of his recent clients recorded a disturbing phone conversation where a debt coll ector threatened that he or someone el se woul d come to the client's house to get the money in any way that he could. "I heard it, and if any phone call was going to wo r r y s o me o n e , i t wo u l d b e t h a t o n e , " s a i d Floyd.
O t h e r a g g r e s s i v e t a c t i c s t h a t a r e b e c o mi n g more common are debt collectors calling before 8 a. m. , or aft er 9 p. m., de man di ng more money than what is owed (they can only ask for the origi nal amount), revealing a c o n s u me r ' s debt to a t hi rd pa rty , or threatening "dire consequences" l i ke p r o s e c u t i o n , ja i l t i me , p r o p e r t y s e i z u r e , o r job loss. T h e pr acti ce s ar e no t just i nappr o pr i ate, but they¶re illegal under the FTC's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which has been around si nce 1977 . (a s i f t he debt collectors di dn¶t kno w that!)
An industry representative said the increase in compl aints of harassment should not onl y b e a t t r i b u t e d t o d e s p e r a t e a n d a g g r e s si v e col lecti ng agents, but to more consumers trying to cash in on lawsuits.
"Certai nl y i f debt coll ectors are being more aggressive, they shouldn't be, but it's not fair to chara cteri ze th e ac ti ons of debt collectors as the only reason why there is an i ncrease in compl ai nts - - they're not full y to bl ame," sai d Mark Schi ffman, a spokesman for The Associati on of Credi t and Collection Professionals.
³ «they're not full y to bl ame," Do tell us!
" T h e r e ' s a g r o w i n g i n d u s t r y o f c o n s u m e r attorneys and savvy consolers who have learned they can sue a debt collector fairly easily and collect very easily," he a d d e d . Consumers are able to take a collector to state or federal court for harassment, according to the FTC. If the debtor wins the case, the collector is required to pay for any d a m a g e s c a u s e d b y t h e h a r a s s m e n t , s u c h a s l ost inco me and medi cal bill s.
Even if debtors can't prove monetary damages, but are able to prove harassment, they can receive up to $1,000 and a reimbursement for the court and attorney fees.
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