Do really debt collectors have to be abusive to conduct their business?
Not really. However, they are paid very little and promised hefty commission which force them to do these harassing tactics for quick money. Also, the collection agencies continuously push them for raising their collections because they are paid a higher amount for their collections in a short period of time. They have many clients and have little trained staff to call and collect.
The consumers should know that they have rights. There are serious limitations and ethical conduct required from debt collectors. They have to follow a rigid discipline under the FDCPA to ply their trade, collect for their clients, and comply many set of laws. However, at times, and because they are commissioned based employees which needs to show continuous performance, they quite often conducts themselves in an unethical and overboard ways, and violates the laws.
They are continuously watched by federal agencies and other consumer groups how they conduct their businesses. In September, J.P. Morgan Chase settled regulators’ charges that it made errors in hundreds of thousands of debt-collection lawsuits. There are more than 4,500 debt-collection firms nationwide. Banks can collect on their own debts, hire outside debt collectors or sell the debts outright. All of them have to comply all the FDCPA laws. Every small, large and high business have collections issues. If they can’t collect they cannot survive. Specially, it is a big issue for very small businesses.
The worst thing is that the consumers should not ignore a call. Every call is traceable and should be replied. If the debt collector is yelling, tell them to talk in a more subdued tone. If you do not like to talk to them, simply tell them that you do not like to be called at a given hour, on a given phone number or simply does not like to be called via the medium of phone. Give them your phone number to take out from their list. Best thing is to send them a letter in writing. Oral communications would not stop these harassment calls. No need to change your phone numbers; you have remedies under the FDCPA.
You get phone call from debt collector, and the worst thing is to be panicked.
No need to show that you are harassed. After all, you have remedies. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 a.m. in the morning or after nine at night, unless you agree to it. Collectors may not contact you at work if they are told (orally or in writing) that you are not allowed to get calls there. Again, it is not a bad idea to resolve the debt collection issues. After all, it is your debt and you have utilized the money or services, and it is a good citizenship to pay for these services or commodities. We live in a capitalistic country and needed to be responsible to pay our bills. You should talk to a debt collector even if you think you do not owe any money to them. Maybe they are mistaken and this debt belongs to someone else. Maybe you can have a debt payment plan or can settle this for a small amount. After all, nothing would hurt you if you talk to them. Again, if you decide, it is not you and your debt; you can do other measures to stop it. If you do not want them to contact you anymore, send them in writing to contact you only via writing and via US mail. Make a copy of your letter, and send them via certified mail and pay for a “return receipt”. You would soon receive a letter from them that they would not be contacting other than via US mail. They can continue collection but can only send letter through US mail. It would not stop their collection activities. At least now, you would not be getting any more harassing phone calls either on your home, cell phone or on your office phone.
Why you should hire an attorney?
A knowledgeable attorney can help in every possible way. You do not need to be aggravated and hide yourself from friends and families. This is your debt and you need to fight it and take this bull by the horn. It is good to let the attorney conduct all these. First, there would not be a quick settlement as the debt collector wished. It would be a great pause, and the attorney’s intervention can lower your payment, perhaps got rid of lots of junk fees, and many reduce the debt to a reasonable size which can be affordable for you to pay. In addition, each payment would be documented and would reduce your debt. The debt collector is obligated to send you a validation notice.
What Debt Collectors can do and Cannot Do?
False statements. They cannot lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
- falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
- falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
- falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
- misrepresent the amount you owe;
- indicate that papers they send you are legal forms; or
- Indicate that papers they send to you are not legal forms if they are.
Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
- you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
- they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
- Legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they do not intend to take the action.
Debt collectors may not:
- give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
- send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
- Use a false company name.
Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
- try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
- deposit a post-dated check early;
- take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
- Contact you by postcard.
Can I choose which debts to pay?
Yes. If a debt collector is trying to collect more than one debt from you, the collector must apply any payment you make to the debt you select. Equally important, a debt collector may not apply a payment to a debt you do not think you owe.
Can a debt collector garnish my bank account or my wages?
Absolutely not. There is no way they can garnish or seize your bank accounts. This question has been asked from us much time, and sometime a disgruntled consumer is shocked that his bank account is empty. It is because they did not know that a lawsuit has been filed and now they are executing a judgment. An executed judgment can seize your accounts. However, a lawsuit must have to be filed and won. You were sending many notices, letters and you ignored it. Perhaps you moved from another state and never received any of these notices. The lawsuit can be filed and must be served on you. Perhaps in your absence a service by publication was done. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and interest and the cost of execution of judgment. In Nevada, wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Please do not under any conditions ignore lawsuit summons and complaints. Maybe you could be defended. Perhaps the statutory time period is expired. Perhaps you are not properly served. Just ignoring the summons and complaint would not help you. In fact, it would become more difficult to defend you, if you stay stubborn and ignore everything from the opposing counsel and the court. I had seen many such cases where the consumer thinks that perhaps this lawsuit would disappear into thin air. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage garnishment.
Your wages can also be garnished. However, the debt collection has to win a lawsuit, and there must be an execution proceeding against you. In addition, they have to locate your employer and the constable has to serve him the execution paperwork. Once they do, you still would be notified. Please do not procrastinate anymore, call any of your favorite attorneys or us at the Law Office of Malik W. Ahmad at (702) 270-9100.
Can federal benefits be garnished?
We have been asked if any of the social security or veteran benefits or civil service pensions can be garnished. Again, the answer is big emphatic NO. Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:
- Social Security Benefits
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
- Veterans’ Benefits
- Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
- Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
- Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance
Federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including paying delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans.
Do I have any recourse if I think a debt collector has violated the law?
You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you cannot prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.
What should I do if a debt collector sues me?
If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, respond to the lawsuit, either personally or through your lawyer, by the date specified in the court papers to preserve your rights.