Do’s & Don’t’s of Fair Debt Collection

Debt collection is big business in America, employing about 140,000 workers who recover roughly $50 billion each year, according to the Federal Reserve.  The debt collectors’ cotillion has an etiquette of DO’s and DON’T’s that separates the fair from those using unfair debt collection practices. Fair debt collector DO’s include: Contacting you if you are behind in your payments. Contacting you in person, by mail, email, telephone, telegram, or fax. Sending you written notice within five days after you are first contacted, informing you of the amount owed, the creditor owed, and what action you may take if you disagree. Accurately disclose their identity to whomever answers the telephone.  Fair debt collector DON’T’s include: Communicating with you or your family with such frequency as can reasonably be considered harassing. Calling you at work if the collector knows your employer does not approve. Contacting you before 8 am or after 9 pm (unless you agree) Contacting you after you have written a letter to them asking them to stop contacting you (except to tell you that there will be no further contact, or to notify you of their specific action). Harassing you or your family. Threaten violence. Use obscene or profane […] Read More

Your Credit and You

There are a lot of credit repair services “as seen on TV,” but if you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own.  Some of the basics include pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, stay away from new debt, and avoid credit repair scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that consumers were scammed for hundreds of dollars each by a company called Southeast Trust, LLC.  Southeast used illegal robocallers to claim they were a non-profit group that could offer credit card interest rates as low as zero percent.  It was too good to be charity, and Southeast Trust was anything but “trustworthy.” Here are some of the red flags of credit repair scams noted by the FTC and others: Charges fees before your debts are settled Guarantees to make your unsecured debt go away Claims to be able to stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits Refuses to send you free information about its services unless you provide personal and financial information, like your credit card and bank account numbers Advises you to stop communicating with your creditors Claims to be a deity with the authority to forgive […] Read More

Dealing with Debt Collectors

Jacksonville was recently named as a southern city with a disproportionate number of people in debt collections.  Debt is bad enough, dealing with debt collectors can be even worse.  You can stop the debt collector calls and letters, though, while you work on repaying the debt. Debt buyers purchase debt in bulk, often paying pennies on the dollar, then they attempt to collect the full amount.  It is a numbers game.  They will not collect on every account, but they try to make enough to be profitable.  There are good collectors and bad collectors.  A good debt collector knows how to inspire you to pay within the law.  A bad collector strays into unfair debt collection practices. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. You still owe the debt, but you do not have to deal with all the calls and letters.  Ask the debt collector to stop contacting you with this sample letter drafted by the Federal Trade Commission.  Download the letter at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0289-stop-calls-and-letters-debt-collector and complete the information as indicated.  You do not have to have straight A’s in English to get your message across. Read More

Tips to Avoid Debt

Weird Al Yankovic has a new album, and was releasing one song a day to promote it.  Weird Al is a vegan.  Makes you wonder where does he get all that energy without eating meat?  It is like that mysterious debt that piles up out of nowhere. From medical hardships to mortgages, to student loans and auto loans, credit cards, gym memberships, and phone contracts—debt adds up to subtract from your bank balance.  Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to save yourself: Make a budget.  Let this free online budget calculator to help you balance your monthly expenses with your monthly income: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf. Pay yourself.  Set money aside to go into a savings account or investment at regular intervals.  You may be able to arrange an automatic withdrawal from your checking account or divert part of your payroll direct deposit.  What you do not see in your wallet may make a nice bonus for you later. Keep it going.  If you get a raise at work, divert that added income into a savings account, or if you pay off a car, keep up the payments but into your own account. Debt and taxes are a part […] Read More

Statement of Accounts in Small Claims?

Statement of Accounts was made for merchants.  If you and I do business, then at the end of the month we get together and reconcile our accounts—the who-owes-who of commerce.  However suing on Statement of Accounts happens in Small Claims Court not between merchants, but by Debt-Buyers against Consumers. Debt-Buyers purchase debt in bulk for pennies on the dollar in hopes of collecting the full amount.  They play a numbers game, knowing not all claims are going to pay off, but filing enough claims to make money on the ones that do. The problem with Debt-Buyers suing on Statement of Account in Small Claims Court is that a lot of those last statements say “zero balance.”  Consumers are making deals with Debt-Buyers when they do not have to. The issue is can the plaintiff prove it? If the credit card company sent you a statement and you failed to disagree with the charges, then you agree to pay them.  But if your debt goes delinquent and is sold to a Debt-Buyer, the credit card company zeroes the balance on your account.  So how does the Debt-Buyer sue on Statement of Account? (With credit card interest rates at 29.9%, the interest […] Read More

The Way Garnishment Works

The way garnishment works is first they take your money, THEN they tell you they have taken it.  You wake up one day and whatever you owe them, that money got disappeared.  Later when you receive that notice of garnishment, they also send you a form to file for exemption. If you are head of household supplying more than one-half the income to support a minor child, that income is eligible for exemption. If your income comes entirely from Social Security or a pension fund, that income is eligible for exemption. People have options.  Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car—that is why certain incomes are eligible for exemption.  You do not have to promise your Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.)  St. Johns Legal Aid is located at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine and they are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 […] Read More

Sample Letter for ID Theft Recovery

Sometimes representation is a good thing…sometimes it is Identity Theft.  If someone has been representing you in a bad way (using your credit cards without your permission or knowledge), here are some links for letters you can complete for yourself to help you recover from ID theft.  The Federal Trade Commission has already done the wording, so all you have to do is fill in the details. Letters Ask a Business to Remove Fraudulent Charges From Your Existing Accounts Ask a Business to Close a New Account Opened in Your Name Ask Credit Reporting Companies to Remove Fraudulent Errors on Your Credit Report Ask a Business to Block Information on Your Existing Account Ask a Business to Block Information on a New Account Ask a Credit Reporting Company to Block Information Get Copies of the Documents the Identity Thief Used Stop Calls and Letters From a Debt Collector Memo from FTC to Law Enforcement [PDF]     Read More

Low Cost Legal Resources

The Sixth Amendment gives you a Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  But what if you are poor, elderly, disabled, and your landlord has locked you out?  Or you are facing home foreclosure and do not know what to do?  There are good legal resources in St. Johns County which may be able to help you in a civil matter at little or no cost to you.  These include the following resources: St. Johns Housing Partnership (SJHP) SJHP is non-profit agency whose services are offered to the public regardless of income.  They work with borrowers living in million dollar homes as well as those eligible for Legal Aid.  Their HUD certified counselors are sensitive to what their clients are going through, and they are knowledgeable and experienced negotiating with lenders on a loan modification that works for everybody.  SJHP does a background check on their clients without waiting for the bank to do one.  They get good results because they do the homework ahead of time.  There is no way to predict how long a mortgage modification will take, but you have a better chance to a permanent solution with SJHP. To learn more about St. Johns […] Read More

Do Not Call Lists for Debtors & Non-Debtors

If you owe money, but do not want to deal with all the calls and letters you can ask the debt collector to stop contacting you with a letter drafted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The body of the letter is already worded for you and the format is set, just download from the FTC website and complete the information as indicated at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0289-stop-calls-and-letters-debt-collector If you do not owe money and are tired of sales calls, try these free registration websites for DO NOT CALL lists at the State and National levels: National DO NOT CALL LIST registration: https://www.donotcall.gov/ Florida DO NOT CALL LIST registration: https://www.fldnc.com/   Read More

Sample Letter to Stop Debt Collector Calls

Failed typing?  Fortunately the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has done most of it for you—just fill in the blanks to stop calls from debt collectors. You still owe the debt, but you do not have to deal with all the calls and letters.  Ask the debt collector to stop contacting you with this sample letter drafted by the FTC.  Download the letter and complete the information as indicated.  The body of the letter is already worded for you and the format is set. You do not have to have straight A’s in English to get your message across.  Let the FTC do the typing.  Go to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0289-stop-calls-and-letters-debt-collector   Read More