Tag Archive | collection agency

Go It Alone? Bad Move on a Credit Card Lawsuit

I had a conversation with a gentleman yesterday that I have had numerous times with other potential clients.  The caller asks for a case review, which we are always glad to offer.  He was being sued by Portfolio Recovery Associates for about $7000, which is alot of money.  I discussed the claim in detail, explaining what needed to be done and what we could do for him.  Based upon what we discussed, I was nearly certain that I would win the case if hired.

At the end of the phone call, the man said that he was going to file his own answer. Even though I hear this all the time, I am still very shocked each time it happens. I explained to him that filing an answer was the wrong move, that he was making a very large, possibly fatal mistake, and he said that was still what he was going to do.  I explained to him that filing objections on his case would be the proper move, and he said that he would add the objections to his answer and that he was confident that the court would honor them.

The first question that I have, that remains unanswered, is why did you call an attorney if you are going to ignore their advice?  The second question that I have is why would you risk so much money when you have a guaranteed winner if you hire a consumer attorney?  The third question that I have is why do you think that you can learn what I know by spending an hour or two on google?  Obviously, I will never receive answers to my questions…. This gentleman kept insisting that he was making the right move, that he knew all about “standing” and other legal concepts.  I did ask him why he called my office if he had no intentions of hiring an attorney and he clearly felt that he knew more about the law than I did, and his response was that he just wanted to see what an expert would say.  Well, the expert spoke and the expert says that he is going to lose, GUARANTEED.  It is inevitable that in 3-4 months this gentleman will call me up and ask me how much it costs to file an appeal because he got crushed at the arbitration hearing.  Well, sir, the fee is much higher to handle an appeal than it would be to handle the original case, because now I have to try to correct the mistakes that you made, and that will require extra court appearances…

Look, I know my job and I know credit card law. I know every case and I know how most counties handle these matters.  I know the proper response and the proper defenses.  I know how to defend you  and protect your rights and interests.  You may be smarter than me, obviously there are many people who are smarter than me, but there are very very few, if any, who know Pennsylvania Credit Card Law better than me.  You cannot go onto google for an hour or two and think that you are prepared to defend your case, especially when its for $7000.

You don’t want to represent yourself on these cases for many reasons.  You don’t know the proper response to the lawsuit.  Even if you did know what it was called, you don’t know how to draft and present it.  You don’t know how each collection agency or attorney handles things, what their procedures and tendencies are.  We craft defenses based in part on what is in the complaint and on which law firm is representing the debt buyer.  Each debt buyer has different attachments that they place in the lawsuit, that require different responses.  Most importantly, you should not personally be involved in the defense of the lawsuit, at least at the onset, because you are a liability.  That’s right, you are a danger to your own case.  You can be cross examined and your testimony can be used against you.  Bet they didn’t tell you that in the internet chat room that you visited when drafting your own answer…

If you call my office, I am glad to give a consultation, even if you are not going to hire me or my firm.  That being said, if you don’t hire us, and you don’t hire someone else who does what we do, you are setting yourself up to lose a case that you would almost otherwise be guaranteed to win.

Posted in Lawsuits

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

Equable Ascent

We’ve come across a new debt buyer by the name of Equable Ascent.  They have been buying a large amount of defaulted accounts recently as we have noticed their name on the court docket many times recently.  We’ve had several cases with them over the last few months and we’ve noticed that they have been able to come up with some of the necessary documentation on the cases.  They haven’t yet come up with enough to beat us at trial, but, it does appear that they are making a strong effort to be a “higher class” debt buyer than some of the other companies.  Our guess is that they are paying slightly higher for the debt that they buy, thereby allowing them to procure some of the necessary documentation.

We’ve noticed that they have been using at least two law firms to handle their claims, Sklar Markind and Nudelman, Klemm and Golub.  Both of these firms are very reputable with fine attorneys at each firm, yet another piece of evidence to show that Equable wants to make its mark.  If you receive a notice or a lawsuit from Equable, please contact our firm at 412-823-8003 for a free case review.  We are very confident that we can beat them in a court of law any day of the week.

Posted in Collection Agencies

District Justice Lawsuits

There has been a growing trend with the collection agencies towards filing their credit card lawsuits at the local magistrate or district justice.  My belief is that this is a cost savings measure on their part.  Statistics show that approximately 85% of the people who are sued by collection agencies on credit card debt do not defend themselves.  The cost savings for the collection agencies works like this:  At the DJ level, there is no hearing unless the defendant notifies the court that they intend to defend the case and would like a hearing.  In other words, if the plaintiff (collection agency) files a lawsuit at the local DJ, and the defendant fails to respond, then the DJ automatically enters judgment against the Defendant, without even having a hearing.  The plaintiff company does not need to send a representative/attorney to court in this instance.

Our best advise, obviously, is to have a consumer attorney representing your interests even at the district justice level, whether its our firm or another firm.  As we have mentioned in previous posts, collection agencies are rarely prepared to do battle at the district justice level and our chances of success are extremely high.  If you are facing a collection agency or credit card lawsuit, please contact our office at 412-823-8003 or 1-888-536-6644 for a free case review.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits, Other

What a week!

This was a very good week for our firm.  We obtained 4 non-jury verdicts this week on credit card cases.  All of the cases commenced at the Arbitration level of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. We won all of the hearings at the Arbitration level, and the debt collectors filed appeals on all of the cases. The hearings on these appeals were heard this week and we won every single case! 

To be fair, its really not a suprise when we win a case, it happens so often, but 4 in one week is pretty good!

Posted in 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

Fair Debt Collection under the FDCPA

We hear about unsavory collection agencies on a daily basis. They either make illegal threats, such as wage garnishment, pressing fraud charges or jail time, or, they harass you by calling you names like deadbeat, ignorant, loser and so forth.  Then, they contact your family and friends to try to get them to pay the debt for you, or, they contact your neighbors and employer with questions about the debt. 

All of the above actions are illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDPCA for short) is a federal law that governs what a debt collector may do or say when it is attempting to collect a debt.

A debt collector may not threaten to take any action that is illegal, period. In the above examples, wage garnishment is a big one that we see quite often. To be clear, a debt collector may not garnish your wages in Pennsylvania for a credit card debt. There are no ifs, ands or buts to that statement. Therefore, if a debt collector makes such a threat, it is illegal and you may have a claim against them for their unfair practices.

Again, referring to the above examples, we hear of debt collectors who contact family, friends, employers and neighbors about outstanding debt. This type of activity is usually illegal, but not always.

To explain, generally, a debt collector may not speak with or contact anyone else about your debts. For the most part, an employer may never be contacted about a credit card debt. With regards to friends, family and neighbors, the same is true but with one general exception.

If a debt collector cannot find you, they may contact others to ascertain your location and contact information.  Again, they have this permission only if they cannot find you. They may not speak with others about the nature of their business, they may not tell anyone that you allegedly owe a debt.  Their sole purpose in contacting a friend, neighbor or family member can be only to locate you.  If the debt collector has a valid address and phone number for you, they have no reason or right to contact anyone else about your alleged debt.  Such an action would be illegal.

If one of the above examples should happen to you, please know that you have rights under the FDCPA. Our firm, specifically through my partner, Clay Morrow, can bring a claim against the debt collector for its illegal activities. Generally, you are entitled to a statutory damage amount $1000 AND you receive your reasonable attorney fees for prosecution of the claim. In that regard, we do not charge an up-front fee to pursue these claims on your behalf.

If a debt collector has threatened you, or discussed your alleged debt with someone else, please contact our office right away so that we can begin a claim for you.

Posted in Other

I filed my own response to the lawsuit

I am amazed at the number of phone calls and emails that I have been receiving regarding this topic.  Many people, perhaps in an effort to save money, have decided that they can file their own response to a credit card or collection agency lawsuit. In almost every case, this is a mistake.

In Pennsylvania, you have 20 days to respond to a lawsuit after it has been served upon you. Your initial response is of the utmost importance, because it determines which defenses you intend to set forth.

There are two choices, either an Answer, which is generally a denial of the factual allegations, or, Objections,which in plain terms allege that the credit card lawsuit is legally defective.  In most instances, Objections are the proper response to a Pennsylvania Credit Card Lawsuit. 

For the most part, Objections are waived if you do not raise them at the proper time.  (Waive means that you lose them). When a person files their own response, it is almost always an Answer, meaning that they have waived various defenses that would be afforded to them if they had filed Objections. This mistake may or may not be fatal to your case, but is that really a chance worth taking? For the most part, legal fees on credit card cases are not as high as you might think.  Generally, depending upon your location, the amount of the lawsuit, who the plaintiff is and who is representing them, your legal fees should only amount to a few hundred dollars.  When you are faced with a $10,000 credit card lawsuit, the fee is always worth the price…

Posted in Lawsuits

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.