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Archive | Collection Agencies

A Courtroom Victory!

Ms. W was sued by Atlantic Credit and Finance for approximately $9000.00 in Dauphin County.  Ms. W hired our firm to defend and we noticed right away that the lawsuit was defective. With a defective lawsuit in Pennsylvania, the proper response is typically to file Preliminary Objections. We won the first round of arguments on the objections, forcing Atlantic Credit to cure the defects that were present in the complaint.  I guess that I should say that we forced them to “try” to cure the defects. Atlantic filed an Amended Complaint and it was still very defective.  We responded with another set of Objections to the Complaint and after Argument, the judge threw the case out for failing to cure the defects.  The lawsuit was lacking in many areas.  It failed to include a signed application, a cardmember agreement, or any of the monthly account statements.

In a rare occurrence, the judge issued a written opinion on the case, which was reported by the courts. Typically, judges simply issue brief orders that either dismiss the case or move the case forward to trial.  The written opinion is issued where an issue continues to re-occur and the court wants to set a standard for all similar cases.  We are proud to have helped Ms. W and we are also very proud to have had a written opinion issued in our favor.  Until another opinion changes the law, our case is the standard for credit card cases in Dauphin County.

Posted in Atlantic Credit, Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

Defective Notice on a Default Judgment

We recently had the pleasure of representing Virginia H on an Allegheny County credit card lawsuit.  Virginia was sued by Arrow Financial earlier this year.  She failed to respond to the lawsuit in time, and a default judgment was entered against her.  She called our office and after a quick review of the docket, we noticed that the Important Notice that was sent to her was defective in that it contained additional language.  (An Important Notice must be sent by the debt collector if you fail to respond to the lawsuit within 20 days.  This notice affords you an additional 10 days to respond).  We immediately filed a Motion to Strike the Judgment and argument was held before the Honorable Stanton R. Wettick.  Our argument was that the additional language that the debt collector added to the Important Notice was deceiving in that Virginia thought that a judgment had already been entered against her.  Judge Wettick agreed and struck the judgment.  Shortly thereafter,  the judge scheduled an Arbitration hearing and of course, we won as usual.  The reported opinion can be found at the Pittsburgh Legal Journal

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

“But I owe the money”

We hear this one all the time at our office. People call my office because they have been sued by collection agencies or junk debt buyers on old credit card accounts. I tell them that we can defend the case and most likely win. They often say “But, I owe the money” 

My response to that is no, you certainly don’t.  Most people do not realize this, but here’s how it works with a credit card account. You obtain a credit card from the original creditor.  Something happens and you lose your ability to pay so you go into default status. The original creditor waits up to 180 days and then charges off the account. (A charge off is simply an accounting term, it DOES NOT mean that you do not owe the money any longer). At this point, the original creditor has 2 choices.  The first is to try to collect from you by filing a lawsuit; The second is to sell the debt to a junk debt buyer or collection agency.  Often times, the original creditor chooses option 2.

When a credit card account is sold, it is sold not as an individual account, but rather, as part of a group of block of delinquent accounts. Typically, these accounts are sold for mere pennies on the dollar. A group of “good” bad debt (good defined as recently defaulted) may sell for 5 cents on the dollar. It can get sold again and again, each time at lower rates. We have seen instances where $1000 of debt has sold for .25. 

So the purchasing junk debt buyer or collection agency then files a lawsuit against you. This is where “but I owe the money” comes into play.  From my standpoint, you may owe the money to the original creditor at the time that you default. If they lend you money or extend credit to you, you do have an obligation to pay it back so you do “owe the money”. However, once you go into default and they charge it off, they have a choice to make. They can sue you or sell the account to a collection agency. If they sue, then maybe you do “owe  the money”.  But if they sell your account, then I don’t believe that you “owe the money” any longer.

Here is my reasoning. You have a credit account and are extended credit. You certainly owe the original creditor something at that point.  Once you go into default, you still “owe the money” to that creditor. I believe, however, that if they sell the account, then you no longer “owe the money” because they have received adequate compensation for you default. When they sell your account they are saying that they no longer want to deal with you and they would like to be compensated for the default. Collection Agency X comes along and gives the original creditor money for your account.  At that point, the original creditor is out of the picture. They have received what they deemed to be adequate and fair compensation for your default.  They would not have sold it otherwise, right?  So if the original creditor is adequately compensated, then you no longer “owe the money” in my opinion.

This isn’t to say that a legal interest such as a credit card account cannot be bought and sold.  Those transactions are certainly legal. I am simply looking at this from a debtor’s standpoint. If you pay anything to that collection agency, if you believe that you “owe the money” , you are simply paying pure profit to that collection agency. After all, they paid only pennies on the dollar for your account. After the first $30 or so, any money that you pay to them is pure profit.  Do you really “owe the money”?

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

FDCPA – Instant Success Story

Bob and Mary (fictitiuous names, of course) had a delinquent account with a major credit card company. The credit card company hired a collection agency to assist in collection of the debt.  The collection agency placed a few calls to Bob and Mary, who chose not to speak with them. Undeterred, the collection agency called Bob and Mary’s neighbor and asked them to hand deliver a note to Bob and Mary.  The collector asked the neighbors to write down the  following message : ” This is Joe from XYZ colleciton agency.  I am troubled to hear that you do not want to take my calls. We really need to settle this debt so call me back right away”.  The neighbor handed the note to Bob and Mary, who fortunately called our office right away.

It is illegal for any debt collector to contact a friend, neighbor, family member or anyone at your place of employment to discuss your debt with them. (They may contact one of these third parties only to locate you, if they have made reasonable efforts at finding you that were not successful). The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) sets forth many rights that consumer or debtors have in regards to delinquent accounts and collection activities that take place as a result thereof.

My partner, Clay Morrow, contacted the collection agency right away and advised them of our representation of Bob and Mary. Clay advised that the activities were illegal and that we would be bringing a claim against them.  The collection agency knew that their actions were illegal so there wasn’t much of a fight. They do these things because they know that 1) these tactics are often successful and 2) that most people will not bother to consult an attorney.

Within a matter of 10 days, Clay was able to obtain the full amount of the statutory damages ($1000) plus attorney fees for Bob and Mary.  Clay was also able to settle the underlying debt with the original credit card company for a small fraction of the actual debt.  Great job Clay!

Posted in CC Companies, Collection Agencies, Illegal Threats

Illegal Debt Collection Threats

You had better pay this debt you deadbeat! We’re gonna garnish your wages… We’ll press fraud charges against you for failing to pay this debt!

These are some of the more common threats that we see in the credit card cases lawsuits that we defend.  ALL of these threats are illegal. There is a federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short) that makes these sorts of threats illegal. The FDCPA sets forth that these threats, and others just like them, are against the law AND it also gives you the right to sue the debt collector! Each threat or violation is a possible $1000 fine that you can recover from the collection agency AND you also can obtain your reasonable attorney fees in prosecuting the claim.

In that regard, our firm does not charge an up-front retainer when we take on FDCPA violation cases. We simply handle the case, we have the collection agency pay your claim, and we have them pay our fees as well. 

If a collection agency or debt collector makes any sort of threat to you that sounds illegal, or just plain wrong, then it probably is.  Contact our office for a free, no obligation review of your potential case.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Illegal Threats, Lawsuits

Apothaker and Associates

Have you been sued by Attorney Apothaker and Associates?  Join the club.  I deal with Attorney Apothaker’s lawsuits on a daily basis, whether its filing a response or simply reviewing the lawsuit to give a potential client some advice.   The Attorneys at Apothaker’s office are well versed in the law, they know what they are doing, they are serious collection attorneys, no doubt about that. For the most part though, the lawsuits filed by this office are defective (when they are representing junk debt buyers).  The lawsuits are simple, cookie cutter forms that often lack the proper information that is required by a Pennsylvania court to move forward.  Our typical response to these lawsuits is to file what are called “Preliminary Objections” which are, in a nutshell, an objection to the numerous legal defects contained in the lawsuit.

Without fail, the courts will agree with us as to our allegation of defects in these lawsuits.  The courts generally will give Attorney Apothaker’s office the opportunity to “cure” the defects in the lawsuit, but in my experience, his office generally has difficulty in curing the problems.  To be fair once again, it is not necessarily his office that has the problem, its the clients that he often represents.  These collection agencies, or junk debt buyers, simply do not have enough information to prevail against you in a court of law in most cases.

There are certain documents that are necessary to prevail in a credit card lawsuit, including the terms and conditions, the monthly statements, the contracts, and the assignments.  These debt buyers often have a very difficult time in obtaining all of the proper documents for these cases.

If you have been sued by Apothaker and Associates, you need to have a knowledgeable consumer attorney review the lawsuit, whether its my office or another consumer attorney.  Again, these lawsuits are generally defective, and there is a very strong possibility that they can be thrown out of court without you having to pay anything other than a small attorney fee.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

The Garnishment Threat

The collection agency calls and says that you better pay up.  If you don’t pay, then we’ll garnish your wages.  Believe it or not, that can be a great phone call to receive if you live in Pennsylvania.

This is a common threat that is issued by the collection agencies and junk debt buyers.  It works very well for them because nobody wants their wages to be garnished.  Unfortunately, it is also an illegal threat.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that do not allow creditors to  garnish wages.  If you live in PA and you work in PA, there is no exception, at least not when a collection agency or credit card company is involved.  The only time that a creditor can garnish wages on a credit card claim in Pennsylvania is when they’ve properly sued you in another state and obtained a proper judgment, then transferred that judgment in to PA.

Regarding the threat, as I said above, it is illegal.  There is a federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short) that protect consumers.  One of the main components of this law is that a debt collector cannot make a threat that it cannot follow through on, or it can’t make a threat that is illegal.  Since wage garnishment is not permissible, by law, in Pennsylvania, making such a threat is illegal.

The FDCPA gives you the right to file a lawsuit against a debt collector that makes this sort of illegal threat.  There is a statutory $1000 damage penalty, along with an imposition of reasonable attorney fees.  In that regard, your attorney is free.

Call our office if you have been threatened with wage garnishment in Pennsylvania.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Garnishment, Lawsuits

Strike a Deal?

An individual sent me an email today asking whether they should still respond to a lawsuit filed by a collection agency.  The individual explained that they had reached an agreement with the collection agency on a payment plan.

My first response was to  tell the individual that they had made a huge mistake in agreeing to pay the collection agency anything.  Typically, as you will see from any of myother posts, a collection agency has a difficult time in proving a  case against you in a court of law in Pennsylvania. 

My second response was that if they are going to continue on with the proposed settlement, making their mistake even larger, then they should absolutely file a written response to the lawsuit.  An agreement with a collection agency is pretty meaningless unless you have it spelled out specifically inwriting.  I would never trust an oral agreement with a collection agency, ever.  If you fail to file your response to the lawsuit, the agency most likely will simply enter a default judgment against you for the full amount of the alleged debt, often with an inclusion of their attorney fees.  If you do “strike a deal” with a collection agency, (which again is a huge mistake) then at least get it in writing.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

Debt Negotiation in Pennsylvania

I get  many inquiries from potential clients who want me to assist them with debt negotiation.  I will only negotiate a debt under very limited circumstances. 

The first circumstance where I will negotiate a debt is when the Plaintiff (the company that is suing you) is an original creditor.  An original creditor is the finance company that you established your credit account with.  Capital One files alot of their own lawsuits in Pennsylvania, so most times  I am open to negotiation for a client on a Capital One case. 

Negotiation really works best when you have a lump sum of money to offer as a settlement.  For instance, if you owe an alleged $10,000 debt, if you can offer $5000 or $6000 as a lump sum, then you have a shot at obtaining a settlement.  On the other hand, if you can only afford to pay $100 per month, a negotiation is not going to get much of a reduction for you, if any.

I also would consider negotiating with a collection agency on a very small case, perhaps under $1,000.  While my steadfast rule is to never negotiate with collection agencies, there is a reason that I would negotiate on this small amount.  Quite frankly, its more cost effective for the client to pay me an hour’s worth of fees to negotiate a settlement on a small case rather than to hire me to defend it in court for several hours of time.  

On larger claims, let’s say $1000 and up, I would almost never negotiate with a collection agency in Pennsylvania.  Hire me to defend the lawsuit, or, hire another attorney if that’s your choosing, but it would be money well spent.  A knowledgeable consumer attorney can defeat a collecton agency about 85% of the time, perhaps better, so you really should take your chances in court.

If you have any questions about debt negotiation, credit card accounts, collection agencies, or any other consumer matter, please contact my office at 412-823-8003 or 1-888-536-6644 for a free,  no obligation consultation.

Posted in CC Companies, Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

Can a Collection Agency legally buy my account?

I get asked this question alot and the truth of the matter is Yes, a collection agency can buy a delinquent account from a credit card company.  An account, of any sort, is a “legal interest” in something.  Any legal interest can be sold at any time, for any price.

It’s actually a good thing when your account is sold to a junk debt buyer.  Generally, the only things that the debt buyer acquires are your name, phone number, account number and the amount that is alleged due and owing.  That’s it!  How can they prove a case against you in a Pennsylvania court of law when they don’t have the documentation to back it up?  Most times, they can’t (as long as you file the proper response to the lawsuit and have the right legal representation). 

In further discussing the purchase of an account, there is a burden on the collection agency to prove that they actually purchased your specific account.  This purchase is often called an assignment.  Without this proof, the collecton agency does not have standing to move forward with a lawsuit.  Standing is generally defined as the legal right to sue someone. 

These agencies often have difficulty in establishing standing in these matters because they purchase so many accounts at one time.  I have never seen a collection agency purchase an individual creditor’s account one at a time.  Instead, they purchase these account in bulk, by blocks of money.  For example, maybe they purchase $2,000,000 of delinquent accounts for $40,000.  There could be 10,000 accounts in that sale, and its not feasible for the collection agency to include that list in every lawsuit that it files.  Our argument, which has been successful, is that they cannot prove standing without providing that list. 

If you would like a free, no obligation consultation on a credit card or collection agency matter, please call my office at 412-823-8003 or 1-888-536-6644.

Posted in Collection Agencies

Credit Card Lawsuits

If you are faced with a credit card lawsuit, whether its an original creditor or a junk debt buyer, contact my office at 412-823-8003 right away. We offer a free, no obligation review of any credit card based lawsuit that is filed in PA.

FDCPA Attorneys

Many Debt Collectors threaten people, that's a fact. Threats of wage garnishment, jail, fraud charges and contacting employers, friends and relatives happens every day to people just like you. The truth is that most of these threats are illegal. If a debt collector is threatening you, contact our office at 412-823-8003 for a free initial consultation.