Debt Collection

Cellphone Robocall Ban Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling this week that upheld a federal ban on robocalls to mobile devices. The ruling issued by the court broadened the ban, eliminating a 2015 exception that previously existed for government-debt collection while keeping the original 1991 robocall ban intact.

The matter came before the court in Barr vs. American Assn. of Political Consultants. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the case was ironically argued remotely via telephone. The ban was originally created by the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which issued fines up to $1,500 for any call or text placed to a mobile phone without prior consent by use of an automatic, robocall dialing or automated voice messaging system. The issue at hand arose after Congress created an exception to the law in 2015, that allowed for automated robocalls to consumers who owed debt to the U.S. government.

Debt Collection, Debt Relief

What Rights Do Consumers Have When it Comes to Debt?

When someone is in debt, he or she may feel trapped with nowhere to turn. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, the average American consumer has $38,000 in debt, not including their mortgage.

As soon as creditors or debt collectors begin contacting the consumer regarding what he or she owes, the person may feel like he or she has no choice but to do whatever is being demanded of him or her. However, most consumers do not realize that they do, in fact, have rights when it comes to debt they owe. It helps to know what these rights are when debt collectors or creditors come calling.

Debt Collection, Debt Relief

Tips for Getting Your Debt Out of Collections

Getting out of debt can seem like a never-ending battle. Once someone falls behind on one or more bill payments, the debt collector calls can be relentless. The late fees and penalties that are often assessed on past-due accounts, not to mention the interest rate spikes that come along with missing a payment, can make getting back on one’s feet nearly impossible. There are certain steps that can help consumers who are facing these types of situations get out of debt and stay out.

Remain Calm.

It can be easy to react out of stress or panic and make decisions that someone would not normally have made, especially when dealing with debt collectors. It is important that whatever decisions are made by the consumer are ones that are carefully considered and logical. Many consumers may react out of fear and enter into payment agreements that they would not normally agree with and cannot realistically afford just to get the debt collector to back down. The aggressive techniques used by many debt collectors have this motive in mind. Make sure you understand and get the terms in writing, first. Never agree immediately to a payment arrangement over the phone with a debt collector.

Debt Collection, Debt Relief

5 Disclosures You Should Never Make to a Debt Collector

In life, honesty is always the best policy, but not when it comes to communicating with a debt collector. In fact, it is best to use caution when making any statements to a debt collector, as they could be recorded and used against a person later. By no means should the consumer lie to the debt collector, but he or she should at least use reasonable care when talking with someone who is collecting a debt.

It is important to be aware of the tactics that many debt collectors will use to get you to pay on a debt. They often will resort to scare tactics or bullying to put the individual in fear of losing his or her home or livelihood if he or she does not pay on the debt. One key piece of advice is to know that all consumers have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief

How to Defend Yourself Against a Debt Collection Lawsuit

When someone is facing a debt collection action, it can seem like a hopeless situation. It is a situation, however, that many Americans face. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), more than 70 million Americans have interacted with a debt collector.

Of these 70 million, 25 percent of them report feeling threatened during their communications with debt collectors, who often use aggressive methods to obtain payment. If the collection gets to the point where legal proceedings are filed, certain steps can be taken to protect your rights.

  1. File a Response

The biggest mistake that consumers make is to ignore the paperwork when they receive it. A consumer who is facing a debt collection proceeding will receive a summons and complaint, informing him or her that a legal action to collect upon the debt has been filed. This paperwork will provide information regarding how long the individual has to file a response to the legal action. If a response is not filed, however, the debt collector or creditor can get a default judgment against the individual, resulting in a garnishment of the consumer’s wages. If that happens, the court can add the collection agency’s legal fees, court costs and interest to the balance.

Bankruptcy Law, Credit Card Debt, Debt Relief

Tips for Negotiating with Debt Collectors

Working with a debt collector is normally not a pleasant experience. Debt collectors are persistent when trying to reach a debtor, and many will stop at nothing until they are successful at getting payment. Any time someone is late on or has missed a payment, that person should expect some type of communication from a collector, whether it be in written form or through phone calls. Many times, it is a combination of both. It helps to know your rights when dealing with a debt collector and know how to work with them on negotiating your debt.

Get Verification of the Amount Owed

Never assume that the information the debt collector is providing is completely accurate. Believe it or not, many scams are out there where debt collectors attempt to collect on debt that belongs to another person or is entirely past the statute of limitations. As soon as the debt collector makes contact, ask them to provide written verification of the amount owed.

Also, verify the credibility of the debt collector. Ask for the person’s name, the name of the company, a business address and a phone number. It pays to do some research into the company to see if they are, in fact, a legitimate debt collector. Also, review the amount they say is owed against your own records to ensure that the amount is accurate. Collection agencies are bound by law to send a validation letter within five days of contacting a debtor, listing the debt amount, the original creditor, and what the debtor should do in the event an error is discovered. It could be possible that a debtor owes on a specific debt but in a smaller amount than the collector is arguing they owe. Always verify before making payment.

Debtor Rights

One big mistake many debtors make is assuming that they have no rights when speaking with a debt collector, which is very far from the truth. Because many times, a debt collector’s actions will border on the edge of harassment or threats, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, was enacted, which prohibits a debt collector from deceiving, threatening or harassing a debtor while collecting on a debt. The FDCPA prohibits any type of communication that threatens the debtor, includes profane language, or makes the debtor feel harassed. The collector can also not lie to the debtor, threaten to arrest or deport him or her, or threaten to take the person to court without any intention of doing so. A debt collector is also prohibited in the times that he or she can contact a debtor. Calls cannot be made before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If a debt collector is violating the FDCPA, inform them of the violation and demand that no more communication be made. The collector can be reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as the Better Business Bureau and the Florida Attorney General.

Look at the Type of Debt

It also helps to know what type of debt is involved when dealing with a collector. Many times, different options exist for payment plans based on the type of debt, whether it be credit card, medical debt, or something secured with collateral, like a car or home. Medical debt creditors tend to be more willing to work out a payment plan than credit card creditors. Also, if the debt involved is a medical debt, double check to make sure that the debt was processed by insurance first. Student loan service providers may also be more likely to work with a debtor on an income-based repayment plan or even may offer a deferment option to allow the debtor to get back on his or her feet first before continuing payment.

Some collectors will work with a debtor on a lump sum payment that is lower than the amount owed in exchange for releasing the debt. Ask if that is a possibility on the balance, and if it is, see if the collector will settle for a partial repayment over receiving nothing.

Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations

As mentioned previously, debt collectors will also try to get a person to pay on a debt that is past the state’s statute of limitations. It is highly possible that a phone call from a debt collector is on a debt that is past the time frame in which they have a legal right to pursue payment. The statute of limitations for Florida is five years for written contracts and four years for oral contracts or revolving accounts, such as credit cards.

Use the “Bankruptcy” Word

Sometimes it does benefit the debtor to mention that he or she is considering filing for bankruptcy. The collector wants to receive payment, and if the debt is something that is unsecured, such as a credit card or medical debt, it could easily be discharged through bankruptcy. If this happens, the creditor will end up receiving nothing. Tell the collector that bankruptcy is being considered not as a threat necessarily but more as a push to motivate them to negotiate. However, only do this if repayment in any form is an actual possibility. Otherwise you could be making empty threats.

Always Get It in Writing

When dealing with debt collectors, any time someone works out an agreement with the collector, it is imperative that he or she memorialize the agreement in writing. This rule of thumb applies for whatever type of agreement is reached, whether it be a debt repayment plan, a change in payment terms, or a lower interest rate. Request that the agreement be sent via mail, and always review the terms very carefully before signing on the dotted line. Make sure nothing has changed from what was originally discussed. Many times, a debt collector may add some additional language that was not agreed upon, and once the contract is signed, the debtor is bound by that agreement. Always review before signing.

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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Debt Relief, Timothy Kingcade Posts

‘Overbiffing’ is the Latest Trend in Illegal Debt Collection

A new trend is occurring involving unfair debt collection practices known as “overbiffing.” This practice occurs when a creditor or debt collector overstates a debtor’s balance in hopes of getting more money than what is owed.

A recent case in New York highlighted the problem. In the case, a New York debt collector overstated account balances for thousands of consumers in an effort to defraud them into paying more than they actually owe. The debt collector also used abusive and illegal tactics to get consumers to pay. The Fair Debt Collect Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) specifically prohibits this type of behavior, as was addressed by the court.

The “overbiffing” term comes from the act that the debt collector is trying to accomplish. The scam these companies are trying to accomplish is to tell the individual that what they are paying, which is an overstatement of what they owe, will pay the person’s “balance in full,” which is shortened to “BIF.” Of course, these “balance in full” payments are well over what that person owes.

One such debt collector is based in Buffalo, New York, named Robert Heidenreich, also known by the name “Bobby Rich.” The debt collectors working for Heidenreich have been accused of overstating balances that they say consumers owe on accounts. Regulators in this case used forms to compare the actual balances these consumers owe to the amounts that these scammers are saying that they owe. What these regulators found was that the difference between these two amounts was in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Heidenreich’s employees were also accused of misleading the consumers about who was calling. Many of the employees knowingly violated the FDCPA by posing as attorneys or even law enforcement, as a scare tactic. Threatening legal action when one does not have the right to do so or impersonating an attorney or law enforcement is a blatant violation of the FDCPA. These employees would tell the consumer that they had committed a crime and were about to either be arrested or served with notice of a legal proceeding regarding the debt. The consumer would then be directed to another debt collector pretending to be an attorney, who would take payment over the phone on the alleged amount owed. If the consumer questioned the person on the phone, the debt collector would become aggressive and even abusive in response, which is another violation of the FDCPA.

If you have been contacted by a debt collector who is committing one or more of these actions, it is important you know your rights. Per the FDCPA, any third-party debt collector is not allowed to use threatening or abusive language when communicating with the debtor regarding a debt. The FDCPA also prohibits third-party debt collectors from misrepresenting who they are, as well as the consequences of not paying the debt. If a third-party debt collector has done any of these actions, you may have a valid claim for damages under an FDCPA violation.

As a consumer, you also have the right to request validation of the debt from the debt collector. This validation must be produced in writing and must include how much is owed and to whom the debt is owed. You should then take that information and check to make sure that the amount given is, in fact, correct. This information can be validated, for example, with information on the consumer’s credit report.

If a debt collector has violated any provision of the FDCPA, it is important you report the debt collector to the state attorney general’s consumer affairs division, as well as the FTC.

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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

 

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Timothy Kingcade Posts

How Long Can a Debt Collector Pursue an Old Debt?

When it comes to debt collections, certain rules do exist as to how long a debt collector can attempt to collect on a debt. These rules apply to the actual lawsuits themselves, as well as credit reporting.

Statute of Limitations

Every state has what is referred to as a statute of limitations, laws which set a limit as to how long an individual has to bring a legal claim on a certain matter. States have limitations on how long a debt collector has to collect on a debt. In Florida, the statute of limitations varies for different types of debts. For written contracts such as personal loans, the statute of limitations is five years. So once this type of debt is more than five years past due, the lender can no longer sue in order to collect owed money.

However, the problem is the debt collectors are not obligated to tell the consumer that they are past the statute of limitations. It is up to the consumer to do the research and know his or her rights if a debt collector is trying to communicate with a them regarding an old debt.  There are ways to deal with old debt. Most states have a statute of limitations for debt collections that restricts collections on debts that are four to six years after the date the debtor last made a payment.

One thing to keep in mind, if you think the debt is past the statute of limitations- do not pay on it, until you confirm. A single payment towards an old debt can revive that debt, restarting the statute of limitations.

Indefinite Attempts to Receive Payment

Technically, while there are laws that state how long a debt collector can take legal actions to collect on a debt, there is no law saying they cannot keep trying to contact the individual to pay on the amount.  For all purposes, the original creditor can try to get the individual to pay indefinitely, unless the debt has been settled or discharged in bankruptcy.

The law does restrict certain tactics taken by third-party debt collectors who are trying to collect on a past-due debt. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) specifically prohibits any communication from third-party collectors that is abusive, harassing or threatening. If a third-party debt collector is continuing to call to the point where the communication is harassing, the individual can send a written letter ordering that debt collector to cease and desist.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

 

Bankruptcy Law, Credit, Debt Relief, Student Loans, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Federal Judge Sides with Debtor Finds Law Firm’s Debt Collection Notice “Misleading”

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the Law Offices of Frederic I. Weinberg & Associates’ motion for summary judgment and granted plaintiff Ronn Homer’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the law firm in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in its validation notices.

“We conclude that the validation notice in this case violates the FDCPA because it misleads and deceives the debtor about how and when to dispute the debt,” Savage wrote in his opinion on November 9, 2017. “The notice leads the debtor to believe that he may dispute the debt orally when only a written notice of dispute is effective. It also requires the debtor to act to dispute the debt in less time than the FDCPA provides.”

The crux of the case was in the meaning of a sentence in the debt collection notice: “Unless we hear from you within 30 days after receipt of this letter that you dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume the debt is valid,” said Savage.

The plaintiff alleged that the notice creates confusion about how to dispute the debt and the timeframe in which to do so. He argued that the letter misleads the debtor into believing that the law firm must receive the notice of dispute within 30 days rather than that the debtor must send the notice within that timeframe.

In the end, the debtor prevailed and the judge concluded, “The letter here is misleading.  It creates the impression that the debtor can dispute the debt by calling the debt collector. The phrase ‘[u]nless we hear from you’ imparts the understanding that the debtor can dispute the validity of the debt orally. Contrary to Weinberg’s characterization, ‘hears from you’ is not a colloquial phrase that a reasonable debtor, let alone a least sophisticated debtor, would construe to mean that a dispute must be in writing,” Savage said.

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If you have any questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Bankruptcy Law, Credit, Debt Relief, Foreclosures, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Just How Often Do Debt Collectors Harass People? The Answer Might Surprise You

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), debt collectors are required to stop calling once an official request has been made to cease communication. However, approximately 75 percent of consumers who have asked for debt collection calls to stop say that the calls kept coming.

The CFPB released a report earlier this year that surveyed over 10,800 consumers in 2014 and 2015 about their recent experiences with debt collectors. They received approximately 2,000 responses that revealed that over one in four consumers have felt threatened by the debt collector that most recently contacted them. Although debt collection agencies are not allowed to abuse or harass consumers, many collectors do not play by the rules. Approximately 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they asked a creditor or debt collector to stop contacting them, however; only one out of four people reported the collector actually stopped.

Debt collection is a $13.7 billion industry in the U.S. and the most frequent topic of complaint fielded by the CFPB. Approximately 70 million people have been contacted by a creditor attempting to collect on a debt in the past year, according to the CFPB.

The CFPB recently issued proposed rules that would strengthen consumer protections by limiting how often debt collectors can contact consumers. The rules would also require these companies to get the details right and offer an easy dispute process.

Click here to read more on this story.

If you have any questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.