Money Matters

Dealing with Debt Collectors Who Go Too Far

You’ve fallen behind in a loan payment, and you get numerous calls from an obnoxious and offensive debt collector. Their tactics are to strike quickly and threaten severe action unless you agree to payment of the debt. “If you do not cooperate,” they say, “We may file a lawsuit against you!”

What can you do?

Mike Cardoza, an attorney based in San Francisco, has just published The Secret World of Debt Collection, a unique “manual” for those who would like protection from debt collectors.

His easy-to-read and comprehensive book exposes an eye-opening array of illegal conduct in the collection industry and tells the reader what to do about it based on years of inside experience working for debt collection agencies.

“You need to know your rights so you can take correct action,” Cardoza says, “right from the very first contact.”

“Companies are being held liable,” he said, “for underhanded and illegal tactics such as threatening debtors with arrest, disclosing the debts to employers and relatives, and saying they would seize their property, or threatening dire consequences from a lawsuit. They are not allowed to say things like this.”

Keep Everything:  Debt Collectors, Debt Buyers, and Creditors run into real legal problems when they say one thing, but do another. Or promise to do something, but then fail to do it. Or just plain violate the law.

Action: Save Your Mail and Your Collection Voicemails.  Save everything you suspect to be a collection notice for at least a year. Save voicemails from Debt Collectors that are aggressive, rude, or which fail to clearly state that they are a communication from a debt collector.  If you’re getting repeated calls to your cell phone from collectors and you didn’t give express permission for them to dial your cell phone, answer those calls so that you can verify who is placing them and so that they will be recorded on your cell phone bill. If you did give consent, then write or call to revoke it – and then watch for subsequent calls. Keep a log of what collectors called from where and when and what they said.

Respond to Lawsuits:  If you are served with legal papers, respond within the proper time frame. Verify the rules in your state through the state Attorney General’s office. Verify which forms you need to fill out in response. Consider hiring an experienced debt defense attorney to advise or represent you. If you do nothing, they win. If you fight, you may win or get a great settlement.

Action:  Get an Attorney & Go to Trial – The burden is on the debt collector to prove they own the debt and that you are the correct person to pay it. The lender does not get to decide how much you owe. Only the court can do that, and only after both sides of the case have been heard. Your attorney will know what cards to play and when and may even find legal violations that entitle YOU to compensation.

Protect your money:  You and the people you love need you to have that money, now and in the future. Don’t leave the back door open. Put money that’s exempt from garnishment or

involuntary seizure pursuant to a legal judgment in your state into a stand-alone bank account and don’t ever mix it with any other money from anywhere else. Close your accounts with the large national banks.

Action: Close every bank account that you ever listed on any application for credit that is currently in default.

“Banks can’t afford to anger people unnecessarily or to look bad in the eyes of the public,” he said. “They collect delinquent consumer debt in order to get the low hanging money from people who want to pay anyway.”

You can win if you understand the difference between a moral obligation and a legal one. The bottom line, Cardoza believes from working both sides of the courtroom, is that the laws – with the help of a good attorney – favor the consumer.

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