Find A Financial Attorney For Debt Collection Defense
Complaints against illegal debt collection tactics have soared as more and more Americans consumers fall behind on their installment loans. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said in 2007, these complaints jumped 26%. More and more consumers are turning to debt collection defense to protect their consumer rights.
Even if you owe money, bill collectors should not use unfair, deceptive or harassing methods of collection. If they do, you can contact a consumer attorney to help make them stop.
In 2004, one collector sought revenge against a consumer who owed a $1,000 hospital bill by breaking the default amount into dozens of smaller delinquent payments, thus ruining the patient’s credit score. In other cases, homeowners behind in their mortgages found themselves threatened with immediate eviction, lockout or seizure of their personal property.
Illegal debt collection has a devastating effect on people’s life, pressuring some to choose between late bills and necessities, like groceries or prescription drugs.
In troubled economic times like these, illegal debt collection has become big business. According to one recent survey, U. S. companies turned over $141 billion in delinquent consumer debt to collection agencies in 2005, resulting in $51 billion in recovery. Debt collection agencies generally keep a quarter of their recovery.
Creditors have laws they must abide by. In 1977, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) was created in order to stop illegal collection practices. However, the FDCPA applies only to third-party collection agents hired to collect a debt for someone else. First-party collectors (i.e. company agents) are not bound by the same rules, although many do follow the FDCPA as a legal guideline.
In the United States, being in debt is not a crime. You cannot be arrested or imprisoned merely because of money owed. And unless the creditor has obtained a judgment against you, your house is safe. If you are being harassed unfairly, you can talk to a consumer attorney to file a claim against the collection company.
The FDCPA allows debt collectors to contact you at your place of employment as long as the collector does not talk about your debt to anyone but you. If you advise a collector that you are not allowed to receive calls at work, they are prohibited from calling you there. While collectors are allowed to call family members, neighbors, and anyone else they can find to obtain contact information on you, they cannot disclose your debt. If you rights have been violated by harassing bill collectors, a consumer attorney can provide you with the debt collection defense your deserve.
Collectors can only contact you one time a day, between the hours of 8 A.M. and 9 P.M., unless you give them permission to do otherwise. They cannot use threats of violence, obscene language or cause your phone to ring repeatedly. They cannot threaten lawsuits, foreclosure, repossession, etc. unless they already have a judgment against you. They cannot advertise your debt for sale or put your name on a debtors list (except to a credit reporting agency). They must identify themselves whenever they speak with you.
If you advise the collector that you have a financial attorney and provide your attorney’s name and phone number, the collector is required to communicate only with your attorney.
If you contact a collector in writing and advise them to stop contacting you, the collector can only contact you one additional time to let you know that they will stop or to let you know about a discounted payoff.
A collector cannot send you a letter that indicates you owe money on the envelope, such as the name of collection agency or an ink stamp saying “PAST DUE."
Also, the collector cannot do things that cost you money such as phone you collect or send you a COD letter.
It is a common practice for collectors to request that you do a “check-by-phone” when they are requesting money from you. This is allowed by the FDCPA and not considered an illegal practice as long as the collector sends a letter confirming your authorized payment.
If you fail to repay an existing debt, your creditor may legally sell it to a debt buyer or a scavenger collection agency, which will then try to collect the money from you. Debt buying involves purchasing old debt often for as little as pennies on the dollar and attempting to collect the full amount, plus interest.
All debts have a statute of limitations after which the debtor cannot be held accountable for the balance. If you know that your statute of limitations has expired, tell the debt collector that your debt is no longer collectable and hang up. Never admit that you still owe the debt because the statute of limitations can be started over again.
Be aware that any contracts you sign; such as, mortgages, credit card applications and car loans, spell out that you are liable for legal fees and collection costs if you do not repay your obligation in full. So don’t be surprised if you receive a bill down the road for those pesky late night collection calls.
Who Can Sue
State laws vary on what debt collectors can and cannot do in order to collect. If you have been the target of illegal debt collection practices, contact a consumer law attorney to find out your rights.
The higher the dollar amount of your debt, the more you will be pressured to pay. Hiring a consumer attorney to represent you may cost money up front but having a legal expert work on your behalf will insure that your rights are protected, and it may save you down the road. An experienced consumer attorney who specializes in debt collection defense can sometimes even recover damages on your behalf.
If you are sued by a debt collector and do not have a consumer attorney to go to court with you, you are a ‘pro se’ defendant (pro se means without a lawyer).
Sometimes, identity theft victims are sued over debts which are not even their own. That is why it is important to be provided with the actual proof of your debt. In the case of an older mortgage that have been sold several times over, or debts that have been moved to a scavenger collector, the original signed contract may no longer exist. If this is your situation, an attorney can have the case thrown out of court. You may also be entitled to collect for damages, including court costs and attorney fees.
The FDCPA is a federal statute which gives consumers the right to sue debt collectors who unlawfully threaten, intimidate, harass, call at off hours or make false representations about themselves or the debt. An attorney can quickly review the facts of your case and advise you whether or not you are in a position to sue.
Only the IRS, state taxing authority and Child Support Enforcement have the power to garnish your account without first suing you. Debt collectors can not garnish your account unless they have successfully sued you and gained a judgment against you.
Debt collection agents must, by federal law, introduce themselves by name, advise you that they are with a debt collection agency and caution you that information you provide can be used as part of the collection process. Without this, a debt collector’s attempt to collect on your debt is not considered legal. Collection letters received in the mail must also contain similar written warnings. If the debt collector continues to violate this rule, seek legal advice.
The FDCPA has a one year statute of limitations, and lawsuit cases can be filed in state or federal court.
whocanisue.com can help you find a consumer financial attorney
in your area to fight for your rights by providing the debt collection defense you are entitled to.