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Archive | Illegal Threats

Debt Collection Letters on Out of Statute Debts

Are you getting debt collection letters on very old debts?  All states have a statute of limitations on the collection of debts.  A statue of limitation is the time period within which you must be sued on a given claim. It is also called a time-barred debt. It is an affirmative defense, in other words, you must raise the defense in your answer to the collection complaint.  If you fail to raise the defense, then you are deemed to waive it. What is the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania? For a typical credit card case it is four (4) years, but maybe as short as three (3) years for Discover Bank and Capital One cards.

So, you get a collection letter on an account that you know is over the statute of limitations. What do you do?  You should keep both the letter and the envelope that it came in.  If the debt collector failed to tell you that it was out of statute or failed to tell you when the last payment was on the account, you may have a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).

The FDCPA is a law that governs the behavior of debt collectors. It is only applicable to consumer debts, not debts that you would have incurred in a business or for a business purpose. It is a remedial statute and will be construed broadly in order to give it the full effect. The Courts interpret the FDCPA not from your individual perspective, but from a much lower standard, the “least sophisticated consumer”. The law states that if the debt collector violates the FDCPA it must pay your reasonable attorney fees and costs and you are entitled to your actual damages and statutory damages.  The FDCPA was written to provide for attorney fees so that it would be enforced by private attorneys.  Without the fee shifting, the FDCPA would only be worth the paper it’s written upon.

A recent court decision helps to clarify that it is a violation of the FDCPA when a debt collector is collecting on a time-barred debt and used the word “settlement” in the letter.  The Court in McMahon v LVNV Funding, LLC, et al. held that even in the absence of a threat of litigation, the use of the word “settlement” would lead the least sophisticated consumer to believe that the debt was legally enforceable or collection litigation might still occur on the time-barred debt.

So, you if you have any collection letters on a debt you know is out of statute within the past one (1) year you should contact our office for a review of the letter.  You may email or fax a copy of the letter to us for a free no obligation review, making sure you have a cover sheet with your contact information.  Attorney Clay Morrow from our office will be glad to review your letter and advise as to the proper course of action.

Posted in Illegal Threats

Can a Collection Agency Garnish Wages?

We often have clients calling us who are scared out of their minds… “the collection agency said that they were going to garnish my wages if I don’t pay them $1000 right now”.  Please don’t fall for this scare tactic.  Despite their threats to do so, a collection agency cannot garnish wages in Pennsylvania.  Wages can be garnished in PA only under very limited circumstances, such as for taxes, some student loans, family/support issues, restitution on certain criminal matters, certain landlord tenant scenarios and for some out of state judgments that are transferred into PA.

Because most people do not understand the legal process, I will explain how it works.  In Pennsylvania, a Plaintiff (the party doing the suing) must first file a lawsuit against the defendant (the person who allegedly owes the money).  The plaintiff must win, obtain a judgment, and then hope that there is no appeal.  At that point, they have a final judgment.  After final judgment, the Plaintiff can commence execution proceedings (possibly garnish a bank account, levy, depositions in aid of execution).  Even in this instance, they CANNOT garnish wages while those funds are in the hands of the employer.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Garnishment, Illegal Threats

Brachfeld Law Group

Have you received a letter from Brachfeld Law Group?  We have come across a few of these recently, and we have discovered that some of their letters violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. We have discovered that their initial letter to alleged debtors fails to include language that is required under 1692(g) of the FDCPA , informing the debtor that any disputes regarding the validity of the debt must be in writing. The failure to include this language is a clear violation of debt collection laws.

If you have such a letter, you must act quickly.  Fax a copy of the letter, front and back and the envelope that it came in to 412-386-3184.  Please be sure to include your contact information (email address, phone number) so that we may get in touch with you.

We never charge upfront fees on FDCPA claims because we simply don’t have to.  The FDCPA has a fee shifting provision that requires the debt collector to pay our reasonable attorney fees when we are prosecuting an FDCPA claim.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Illegal Threats

Suing the Debt Collector

Today, March 30, 2010,  there was a fine article published on MSN money regarding suing  an abusive debt collector.  Founding partner at Morrow & Artim, Clay Morrow, was interviewed for the story.  Clay was able to discuss a recent victory where he sued a debt collector after the collector threatened to show up at our clients place of employment.   See the link here http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Banking/YourCreditRating/sue-your-debt-collector.aspx

Posted in Illegal Threats

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

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.