Calls for an Unpaid Medical Debt by CMRE, but Physician’s Office Said No Outstanding Bills

February 14th, 2013

Question: I started receiving calls on an unpaid medical debt. The caller ID shows CMRE, which I found online as a debt collection agency in California that collects medical bills for hospitals and physicians. I did not receive anything in writing from them and when I get one of these calls, they immediately ask for my SSN, then hang up when I refused. I have now learned that CMRE shows on my credit report for a few hundred dollars. What can I do to get the calls to stop and the item off my credit, as I have perfect credit? Can I ever get my good credit restored?

My response:
CMRE is a large debt collection agency that collects unpaid medical bills, either because the bill was not covered by the patient’s insurance, the unpaid insurance co-pay, or the patient had no insurance coverage and did not qualify for indigent care. I have dealt with this debt collection agency’s collection efforts against my clients and sometimes had to defend my clients in court from a debt collection lawsuit filed by CMRE’s attorneys.

As a consumer, never reveal your SSN, DOB, or DLN to anyone who calls you, not even to your own bank or broker, because there is too much identity theft and you don’t want to add yourself as another victim of a phone scam. Caller ID’s are convenient, but they do not guarantee the identity of the caller, because identity thieves and other hackers know how to spoof a caller ID. Even hackers may use a caller ID of the police, sheriff, IRS or FBI. The agencies will not call you and ask for your SSN or other information. If you are called and asked to give out your personal numbers, you should check independently that this is a representative of the company that you are doing business with, such as by hanging up, then calling their legitimate number and getting to the extension of the representative.

Start by sending a letter by U.S. Certified Mail to both the physician’s office and CMRE, which address should appear on your credit report. Your letter should be in the form of my free sample letter #1.1, Notice of Dispute and Request for Verification, which I’d send to the debt collection agency. The CMRE letter should state that you never received anything in writing from them.

Your Certified letter to the physician’s office should confirm the conversation that you had with the office manager or billing assistant that they saw no outstanding bills under your name and add a sentence asking that they send you a copy of the bill that they assigned to CMRE. Also, ask them why the bill was not submitted to your insurance company or what the status of the insurance payment is. Be sure to keep a photocopy of the signed letters.

Your dispute letters serve several purposes, including forcing CMRE to indicate the account is disputed with the credit reporting agencies, which should exclude the account from affecting your credit scores. If CMRE does not verify the debt in writing, then they should also stop reporting the account to the credit reporting agencies, or be at risk for violating your rights as a consumer under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Such violations can result in damages and your attorney’s fees being awarded, if you prevail in court.

Your letters also make it clear that their failure to send you the letter required by law does not mean that you will wait for it to arrive some day and not proactively document the situation to protect your rights. In my years of dealing with debt collection agencies, if they fail to provide you with documentation promptly, either they are trying to get you to pay money on an account where there is a problem or their records are so badly screwed up that you will not know if they do anything correctly. Either way, the consumer should not tolerate their credit being harmed and annoying phone calls. Putting your position in writing, with the use of my sample letters, will let you sleep better now that you have firmly put the burden on them to respond in writing and provide you with written documentation.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoCalConsumerLawyer

Collection Call from Out Of The Blue for a Credit Card Not Paid In Five Years

February 2nd, 2013

Question: Is there any chance that I can be prosecuted for not paying credit card from five years ago? I have been clean and on probation and received a call out of the blue that they have sued me for $2000. Help, I need to stay out of jail. They said they would not dismiss until I make a large down payment and sign an agreement for monthly payment until paid in full, but I cannot afford this.

My Response:
I am very suspicious when a consumer gets phone calls from collectors from out of the blue. If I read your question correctly, you have not heard from these people, never received any collection letters from them, and you were not served with the summons and complaint. Though you did not pay this debt in almost five years, there are those debt collection agencies which prey on consumers for old debt that are expired, because of the statute of limitations.

In California, a debt not paid in more than four years is almost always past the statute of limitations, provided that a debt collection lawsuit was not filed within the correct limitations period for the particular account. Thus, the filing of an untimely lawsuit or threatening to sue you for an expired debt also violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) for harassment and misrepresentations. FDCPA violations can allow the consumer-victim to recover in court his or her actual damages, statutory damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

Since you have not received anything in writing from this collection agency, please advise this collector that you need something in writing and to send you the required initial letter, which contains the mini-Miranda statement, required by the FDCPA, for initial contacts of a consumer regarding collection of a debt. Verify that they have your correct mailing address. I do not believe that you should give them your cell phone number or email address, to protect your privacy, but you regular mailing address should be fine. You really don’t want them to contact you in too many ways, regular mail and regular phone calls at home are more than sufficient.

Assuming that they did file a debt collection lawsuit within the proper statute of limitations period, you need to get a copy of the lawsuit and understand your options. The first video of my website’s home page is “Understanding Your Options” when sued on a credit card debt. Please watch my video and a few of my blog postings, such as “Next Steps,” which explains what steps to take and the timing involved, so that you will understand the deadlines that are coming up for you. Please consult with a debt collection defense attorney to ensure that you have covered your bases.

The short answer to your question about going to jail for a probation violation is that our society does not have “debtors prisons.” We did away with that at the time we founded this Country. I would want to review the terms of your probation, but it is doubtful that missing payments on a debt or being sued for an unpaid debt would violate probation. Also, I would not tell the debt collection agent about your probation, as it is none of their business. If you discuss this, I can assure you that they will make all sorts of statement to belittle you. If they threaten you with trying to use this to get you in trouble criminally, that may also be a violation of the FDCPA.

Until you verify whether or not a debt collection lawsuit has been filed, I would ask for the documentation of this lawsuit, the debt collection letter, and check with the court’s online to see if you can determine if the documentation is genuine. Also, reviewing your own personal credit reports may help yield information about this debt collection agency and if there are outstanding judgments against you. I have a legal guide on Avvo.com that help people navigate case information that they can get for free or almost free online. Otherwise, you may need to take a trip to the local Superior Courthouse to ask of any civil cases have been filed against you.

When a debt collection agency calls out of the blue, be ready to ask for everything in writing and refuse to give in to their demands for your credit card number or banking information so that they can take your money over the phone. Until you have verified everything, you don’t know if the person on the phone is a scam debt collector or worse: an identity thief, who will take your credit card number to charge your credit to the max and your bank account information to clean out your account. Also, don’t provide this person with your SSN, DOB or DLN. All of these are private and should not be disclosed by phone from someone who happens to call you, even if they appear to know so much about a particular debt or other credit information about you.

A regular debt collection agent will understand and want to ensure that you get the information verified and in writing. A scam artist or identity thief wants you to give them the money now, right now, without anything in writing. Do not give into high-pressure tactics and risk becoming another victim of identity theft or bogus debt collection operations, collecting on time-barred debts.  Verify everything and consult with a lawyer. You could be waiving many rights by agreeing to pay on a time-barred debt from a high-pressure phone call.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoCalConsumerLawyer

DIY Collection Lawsuit Defense: Key Pitfalls

January 15th, 2013

Question: I am not attorney, but I want to represent myself in a debt collection lawsuit. What are the major pitfalls that I should study at the law library or online, so that I am ready to take the case to trial?

My response: There are so many books on the web that brag about having had one or two victories in court against debt collection lawyers. While I have gotten many collection cases dismissed for my clients and settled many others, when an individual expects to prevail in court on an unpaid debt, probably they have read too many web sites selling books and other materials that probably will do nothing, other than get a money judgment entered against them for the full balance, plus interest, costs and attorney’s fees.

Here are several of the major pitfalls, which is why it takes years of law school and experience defending debt collection cases, to really be able to have a sound strategy to help the client reach the outcome they desire for the case:
a. If the answer to complaint contains errors, the court may disregard it and enter a money judgment, if the Plaintiff’s attorney files a motion to strike or demurrer to the answer to complaint. Sometimes, the Defendant does not pay the court’s appearance fee.
b. The Plaintiff’s attorney sends written discovery to the Defendant or sets their deposition to answer questions under oath. If the defendant fails to respond timely and in proper form, the Plaintiff’s attorney can seek sanctions of more money or limit the important facts at trial.
c. The Plaintiff’s attorney can file a motion for summary judgment, which adds more costs to the case ($500). If granted, there is no trial, only a judgment.
d. The Plaintiff’s attorney can ask questions at trial of the Defendant, many of which might result in the court entering a judgment.
e. The court can set hearings and conferences that require both sides to attend. Missing these can cause the court to strike the answer to complaint.
f. The Plaintiff’s attorney offers evidence at trial that is hearsay or unreliable, but the defendant does not object properly or fails to explain why the evidence should be rejected, so the evidence is admitted and a money judgment entered.
g. The Defendant does not understand the rules that apply to the debt lawsuit, such as the Statute of Limitations, so they expend their efforts on incorrect views of the law and don’t pursue legitimate defenses that an experienced attorney would have found.

I have had many clients come to me after they try to represent themselves. They typically received papers from the Plaintiff’s attorney or from the court, but didn’t know how to respond, so that they are facing sanctions or have been sanctioned by the court for noncompliance. Or, even worse, a judgment has been entered at trial, but the defendant still believes that they should spend more time and money on an appeal.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoCalConsumerLawyer

Victim of Identity Theft Crime Has Default Judgment

January 10th, 2013

Question: I was the victim of identity theft. A credit card collection company is now suing me on one of those debts and has a judgment in my name. I had nothing to do with it. This was not mine! I’ve contacted the collection lawyers and told them that this was not my debt and that it was identity theft. They have sent me an affidavit of fraud to fill out and return, but I find it little confusing and I am not sure what I should do about this lawsuit or what to expect.

My response:
I need to see the document that they sent you, the file from the court case, and your identity theft papers, such as a police report and FTC Identity Theft Complaint. With an estimated 10,000 identity theft crime rings around the country, it is not surprising that there are so many victims of identity theft, both consumers and small businesses. Here’s a link to the crime story on NBCNews.com.

Many identity theft victims end up being sued on the unpaid debt and a percentage of those debt collection lawsuits end up as default judgments. A default judgment can appear on the victim’s credit report and can result in attempts to garnish the victim’s wages and levy their bank account for the judgment amount plus interest. In particular, because the theft was perpetrated using an address that was not the victim’s correct address, the summons and complaint might be served at that address, so that the victim would have no idea that a lawsuit was filed and being pursued in court.

I have successfully set aside default judgments for lack of proper service and also default judgments against victims of identity theft. Properly defending a debt collection lawsuit or setting aside an invalid default judgment requires promptly taking action in the court case and documenting those efforts, so that the judge or the collection lawyers don’t challenge based on the defendant doing nothing after learning of the lawsuit or default judgment. I have discussed this subject in several other blog postings. I also have a list of steps to take for identity theft victims on Avvo.com.

If you have a police report documenting the crime and this account, as one of the false accounts obtained, then you can expect that the default judgment will be set aside and the case dismissed against you. Perhaps the collection agency will try to pursue the identity thief, but more likely they will not have the resources to learn their identity and whereabouts. Also, if the company learned from you that this was identity theft and continued to prosecute the case against you, then you may have recourse for damages and attorney’s fees, under California law and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I’d suggest you retain experienced counsel to represent you, to reduce your frustration and ensure that the T’s are crossed and the I’s dotted.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoCalConsumerLawyer

Identity Theft Victim Exploring Credit Protection Alerts

December 5th, 2012

Question: I am the victim of identity theft of a credit card that I had no idea was opened using my name and Social Security Number. I cannot believe how many hours I have spent trying to resolve this and it is still far from over. I found out about it when my wages were being garnished by the Sheriff, who was ordered to do it by the Superior Court of the State of California. A judgment was entered several years ago, but I had no idea and I was never served with the papers or even made aware of it by the debt collection lawyers who sued me. I cannot believe how much of a hassle this is, making many phone calls to rude debt collectors, who repeat the same mantra: You must pay your debts. I have and I do. What should I have done differently? Would I have been able to stop this, had I subscribed to Lifelock or another company that is supposed to warn me of changes to my credit and protect me?

My response:
You could probably have found this on to your credit and take protective measures yourself a long time ago. In Consumer Reports magazine, their January 2013 issue, page 13 advises consumers “Don’t get taken guarding your ID.” The article explains that American consumers spent $3.5 billion a year for identity theft products, but suggests that DIY measures are as effective, and can be done for free or very little. In comparison, a paid monitoring service runs from $120 to $300 per year and the marketing hype “can be deceptive” for these ID theft products. Also, be aware of the fine print warnings that come with such services.

First, as explained in the Consumer Reports’ article, this type of ID theft, “new account fraud,” is uncommon. Though I have represented a number of consumers who were the victim of new account fraud, the number is small compared with how many consumers I have represented on debts that they recall opening and charging.

Second, the article states that the credit monitoring is flawed in two key ways. One flaw is false warnings to the consumer, such as emails or text messages to the consumer more often than needed. The other flaw is that it can take too long to appear on your credit, such that a consumer would not be aware of it for weeks or months after the fact.

In my blog posting from a while back (Make Your New Year Bright), I suggested visiting www.annualcreditreport.com at the start of the new year and check their credit for free, then dispute errors found. I also have a legal guide on Avvo.com for victims of identity theft, which also included checking credit as an initial step and suggests a security freeze, if the consumer learns that their credit has been compromised. The article in Consumer Reports recommends a security freeze and going to www.annualcreditreport.com three times a year, and get only one of the three credit reports at each visit, such that you end up with a different free credit report with each visit, to cover you throughout the year, at intervals of four months. That’s a great idea and totally free, no subscription, though it does require keeping track and having reminders when to make a new request and which credit report to obtain from Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union.

Consumers Reports proposes one other alternative to high-priced subscription services: a monthly alert for $5 at www.myidalerts.com. At $60 per year, it is not an excessive price, and perhaps they have periodic sale prices or discount coupons for signing up for a long term, but for some people is still too expensive, given how low the risk of new account fraud.

Many creditors and financial institutions will be (if they are not already covered) required by the Federal Trade Commission to put into place protections to prevent identity theft “red flags,” in particular to spot suspicious activity and prevent escalation into a “costly episode.” Here’s the link to the proposed regulation, recently issued by the FTC: http://ftc.gov/opa/2012/11/redflags.shtm

The most important thing a consumer can do is to check their credit at least once a year and examine each credit report closely for errors and inquiries of their credit reports that they did not initiate or are unrelated to their legitimate creditors or debt collection agencies collecting on unpaid legitimate accounts, then complete the dispute process, preferably in writing.

The other thing that Consumer Reports did not mention in this article, but other articles suggest at www.ConsumerReports.org, is to be proactive in protecting your passwords and sensitive personal information from persons who should not have access to it. shred all papers with a cross cut or confetti shredder, and protect yourself from online and telephone scams. The consumerreports.org site has more information on this as does my friend, attorney Mari Frank’s web site: www.identitytheft.org.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

If I file a Really Good DIY Answer, Is it 50/50 that I Can Win at Trial?

December 1st, 2012

Question:
I’ve read your web site and many law blogs. Now that I have all this information, I feel that I can file for myself the form answer in court, pay the fee to the clerk, then wait for trial to see what the judge does with my case, when I show up. The lawsuit is for under $6000 plus the collection complaint wants interest at 29% from November 2010, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the judge will dismiss. One of the other web sites said that at trial, the judge will probably throw out the evidence, because they don’t have original documents. Is it really 50/50? Sound like a plan?

My response:
As the first video on my home page makes clear (home page link), representing yourself against the debt collection lawyers is one option. However, as stated in my blogs in the category DIY Lawsuit Defense, many people who try DIY Lawsuit Defense get picked off by the debt collection lawyers, who know the drill and are in the civil courts almost every day on debt collection cases.

I have had many people come to me, while trying to represent themselves. The common situations when the DIY consumer-defendant contacts me are: (a) they don’t know what to do with the interrogatories, document demands, and requests for admissions received from the Plaintiff’s lawyers; (b) they did not respond to something that they received or do not recall receiving it, so now the Plaintiff’s lawyers have filed papers with the court for sanctions (a form of penalty on a party who does not follow the rules), on top of the judgment for the unpaid debt; ( c) the Plaintiff’s lawyers filed papers in court to get a judgment, even though trial has not been scheduled or is months away; (d) the court granted a money judgment for the full amount, after appearing at the trial to do this DIY Lawsuit Defense.

Certainly, there are a small percentage of debt collection cases in which the Plaintiff’s lawyers dismiss, after the defendant has filed a valid response in court, to prevent the entry of a default judgment on the complaint, or the case is dismissed shortly before trial, because the Plaintiff does not have their evidence ready for trial. More likely, however, is the likelihood that if the Plaintiff’s lawyers receive the paperwork from a DIY consumer defendant, they will look for and exploit any weaknesses, given their considerable experience collecting from DIY consumers. In my experience, the consumer-defendant’s papers are almost always defective. Even if the consumer-defendant’s court papers are excellent, the consumer later makes other big mistakes, which result in entry of a full money judgment against them at or before trial.

What is the basis for those web sites that claim a DIY consumer can get their case dismissed at trial or even before? Do they have verifiable results, or is it merely anecdotal? How many money judgments do those web sites acknowledge are entered against people who try DIY Lawsuit Defense? Often, the web sites don’t rely on actual statistics, they make unsubstantiated claims or have only a handful of favorable results. When the dust clears, the DIY Lawsuit Defense typically yields to the plans of the plaintiff’s lawyers to get a money judgment against you, if you did not agree to the terms they proposed. Otherwise, the debt collection clients will be dissatisfied with poor results and hire other lawyers who will get better results.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Virtual Law Firm Prepared Legal Papers for Debtor Pro Per, Money Judgment Now Imminent

November 1st, 2012

Question:
I found an attorney online and used my only good credit card to have his firm prepare and file the legal forms for me to prevent a default judgment in Superior Court. This was a lawsuit on an old credit card which hired debt collection lawyers in San Diego, California. I read that the collection agency paid pennies on the dollar for my account.  My attorney said they did great paperwork, and that I can handle the rest of this myself, since their papers were so thorough, and that I should win a dismissal at trial.   Now the collection lawyers filed papers for a full money judgment, plus they want their attorney’s fees, too.  I don’t know how to respond to this and my lawyer now wants more money to prepare the papers, otherwise it will become a money judgment. No trial, just a judgment. This is very upsetting and no one told me this might happen and now I may need to explain this to the judge.  Help!

My response:
Virtual law firms preparing legal papers, without representing the debtor consumer, is a new low for lawyers.  In my 19 years as a lawyer, I understand why you should be upset. Lawyers are supposed to take responsibility for handling the case, not dump a bunch of papers onto their client without any guidance.  When a lawyer prepare the legal forms for someone as a “pro per,” then the client is 100% responsible for what happens next and for dealing with the debt collection lawyers and their debt collectors.

Did you know that the collection lawyers still call you and file papers in court to get a money judgment without trial?  Who would be comfortable with that. If you have a lawyer on the case, then you should not need to deal with debt collection calls. Filing the initial papers and sending some written requests is the tip of the iceberg, it does not win the case, without an attorney backing up those documents with actual, legal representation and efforts.

Also, what happens if the case goes to trial?  Do you know how to object to improper evidence, when to object, and what are proper objections? These are legal skills that lawyers take years to develop, even after several years studying at law school and passing the bar exam. I have read trial transcripts of a debtor who represented himself at trial, and he objected at all the wrong times and did not object to the evidence that resulted in a full money judgment against him.

I agree with you. Filing the documents for you and then leaving you to defend this lawsuit is shocking. Perhaps I am too old school, but if a judgment for the debt is entered against you, then I don’t see how this lawyer helped one bit. They charged you money and gave you some sheets of paper that looked really nice, but now you must hire an attorney to see if the case can be salvaged, before the court enters a judgment for the full balance against you. You should call me or another experienced lawyer to oppose this motion and take the immediate steps, before the trial date and to prepare for trial.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Disabled Army Veteran Alleges Collector Said he “should have died!”

October 15th, 2012

In my 20 years of practicing law and 15 years handling debt collection cases for consumers, I have had the distinct pleasure and honor of working with veterans and current service members of our armed forces. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know members of our armed forces from my experiences in Toastmasters (Palm Springs Toastmasters, Club # 8396), especially when I was an Area Governor, which Area included the U.S. Marine Base in 29 Palms, CA.

After 15 years of clients and others telling me what debt collectors have said during debt collection calls, debt collectors rarely surprise me.  However, when I was directed to this particular headline on www.rt.com, I felt compelled to blog about it here, so others can weigh in with their views on the alleged mistreatment.  This should be told and retold, until our members of Congress take immediate action to hold hearings and amend the law.

The article’s title summarized it well: “You should’ve served US better and died!’ Debt collector berates disabled veteran.”  This and other offensive things were allegedly said by a debt collector to a 100% disabled Army vet.

Why do debt collectors believe that they can get away with making such statements? Because it is their word against the word of the consumer, who often has not paid a debt. The he-said, she-said argument.  Also, defense attorneys for the debt collector regularly try to use the unpaid debt as a negotiation tool, if sued for collection harassment, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the FDCPA), which is stated 15 U.S.C. § 1692.  In particular, section 1692d prohibits debt collection efforts which harass, oppress or abuse any person, such as the debtor.

If Congress added to the FDCPA a provision that requires debt collection agencies to record every call and to securely store such recordings for at least two years (well beyond the one year statute of limitations period), that would be a great way to eliminate the he-said, she-said argument.  In adding a recording requirement, Congress should add to the FDCPA a provision that if the debt collector fails to make or save such recordings, then the burden of proof shifts to the debt collector defendant to show that the consumer’s allegations are untrue.

If Congress someday amends the FDCPA, I would also like to see a rule that prohibits settlements from having terms that attempt to restrict the free speech rights of the settling consumer or their attorneys.  In my experience settling debt collection cases, many debt collection agencies and their legal defense teams insist that the consumers and their lawyers sign a settlement agreement that prohibits them from talking to anyone or posting about the illegal collection acts on the Internet or social media.  If debt collectors can deny the general public from knowing the collection industry’s dirty tricks and practices, how can voters and government officials know when abuses are taking place, to ensure that the laws and law enforcement are keeping pace?

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Asset Acceptance Did Not Serve Its Debt Collection Lawsuit, Monitoring Online

October 12th, 2012

Question: Per your fabulous on-line instructions – I looked on-line to find out about a lawsuit against me.  I noticed that Asset Acceptance, LLC filed a collection lawsuit against me to collect a older debt.  Unfortunately, they have not served me. What do you suggest I do? This is in California Superior Court and there is a hearing set in a couple of months. I was thinking of going to the hearing to see what they say.

My response:
First, it is not “unfortunate” that you were not served.  It is actually good news, as your time to respond to a lawsuit does not begin, until you (the defendant) have been served.  See link to my blog on deadlines to respond to a collection lawsuit. Thus, there is due date for you, until you have been served.

Second, I would not do anything. Fly below the radar and wait to see if you are ever served. It that occurs, marke that date on your calendar, so that you know exactly when your response will be due in court.  Until then, let’s just see what progresses and I certainly would not advise you to just show up in court, when you have not filed a formal response in the case.

Third, to be safe, every couple of weeks, I would visit the Court’s web site for this collection case for any activity, such as the filing of a proof of service. If that occurs, then you need to take action, even if no one has really come to serve you, because that is a formal representation to the court (though false) stating that the process server had served the summons and complaint.  Stay on top of this, because many times the process server states under oath that the defendant was served, when that never took place.  A default judgment may be entered after that, unless you take proper action.

Update:
Congratulations.  I checked online with the Superior Court’s web site. A recent entry shows that Asset Acceptance has dismissed its case against you without prejudice. They never served you, but for whatever reason, they dismissed their collection case.  It is unlikely that they will refile the case, now that they have decided to dismiss.  Thus, in my opinion you have dodged a bullet.

Once again, this proves that staying below radar, such as with my “Don’t Pay a Dime Strategy,” sometimes works and can save thousands of dollars and avoid bankruptcy. Had you been served, you would have contacted me, no doubt. I really appreciate your kind words.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com

Twitter @RStempler

Are Capital One’s debt collection lawyers playing fast and loose against consumers?

September 28th, 2012

Question: I heard that a big lawsuit was filed recently in New York (ABC News), because Capital One’s debt collection lawyers were illegally harassing people for the money, allegedly.  Is this also happening in California, from what you’ve heard?

My response:
Yes, I have been counsel in a fair number of cases recently in which California collection law firms contacts were harassing of the consumer.  In particular, my clients complained of receiving many calls at work, though the employer prohibits personal calls and the consumer told the collection agent to stop.  Also, too many and too much harassing calls to the consumer, by the in-house collectors. Another complaint I have seen is filing lawsuits after the statute of limitations has expired, which I discuss in other blog postings, because they fail to find out when the period expires.

I have also seen debt collection law firms jump the gun in trying to get a default judgment. Many debt collection law firms find that they’d much rather try to enforce a default judgment, than have a defendant who opposes the lawsuit. Thus, the firm may try to file the request for entry of default as soon as possible, to be within a day or two of expiration of the consumer’s time to file a response to the credit card lawsuit. Perhaps the papers cross in the mail, but for a debt collection law firm to be this eager–in my mind–reflects a disregard for the consumer’s rights, under California procedural law and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). It also is a violation, because the collection agency ends up contacting my clients directly, which violates the FDCPA and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Clearly, these collection law firms must adopt better procedures, so that these violations do not occur. Sadly, the economic downturn has created a more aggressive debt collection environment and attracted inexperienced lawyers into serving as debt collectors, without having the minimum procedures to comply with the FDCPA. Thus, violations of the FDCPA are more likely to occur.

There is one bright spot in all of this and that is the increased use of recording and monitoring debt collection calls. If more calls are recorded and monitored, then at least there is a better chance that a harassing collection agent can be disciplined or fired, before their victims are ready to file a class action lawsuit against the debt collection lawyer.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler