How to Use this Resource

We hope the articles below help you understand your rights as a consumer. You can scroll through the titles, or sort by Practice Area or Topic. You can also use the search feature to locate information by keyword.

Flitter Milz represents people with a variety of problems involving consumer credit and collections. If you have a particular question or believe your consumer rights have been violated, Contact Us for a no cost consultation.

Collection Contact After a Debt is Paid

Sometimes collectors contact consumers and ask for payment on a debt that was already satisfied. Whether the collector made calls or sent letters, the consumer may be left confused and uncertain about whether there was a clerical error or if the collection effort is a scam.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines actions that debt collectors can and cannot take. If collectors contact you about a debt that was already paid, you have the right to request proof of the debt and how it was calculated. You can also request confirmation that the collector is permitted to collect the debt.

Check Your Records

Once a debt has been assigned or sold to a collector, the consumer may request information about the debt from the collector, not from the creditor. If you are not sure whether a claimed debt is owed, gather your account statements, bank records, and payment history. It may also be helpful to obtain current credit reports. These documents will assist in determining whether money is still owed. Once you’ve reviewed your papers, write the collector to dispute the debt.  Be sure to enclose documentation with your letter that proves the debt was satisfied.

Request Proof from the Collector

If you do not have proof showing payment of the debt, obtain payment information from the debt collector. You may request that the collector provides account statements from the creditor, which show the period when your last payment was made. Send a letter to the collector asking for verification of the debt and how the claimed balance was calculated.

Document Your Contact

Good record-keeping which shows your account payment history will help any disputes sent to the collector.  Maintain a file of all correspondence with the collector, including documents showing proof of payment – such as cancelled checks, money order receipts, etc.

When collectors contact you by phone, keep a log of the calls noting the date, time of day, caller ID, name of collection agent and agency, phone number where the call was received, and details of any phone conversations, messages, or texts.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of collection calls and letters that you’ve received.  There may have been a violation of your consumer rights.

Stay Calm When Debt Collectors Call

When it comes to debt collection, it’s important to find a balance between looking out for scams and ensuring you pay the debt you actually owe. You should begin by establishing whether or not you owe the debt the collector is contacting you about. Debt negatively affects your credit report and credit score. Make sure you take action to resolve any debts you owe.

Your rights against Abusive Collectors

To verify that the collection contact is legitimate, ask questions to find out the name of the collection agency or collection law firm and where they are located. Also, request details about the debt including the name of the original creditor, the account number, and the balance claimed. You can write to the collector and request a validation and itemized calculation of the debt.

As a consumer, you’re protected against harassment and other unfair practices by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). It’s important to ensure collectors aren’t using unfair tactics against you. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot:

  • Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without permission
  • Continue to call your place of employment after you ask them to stop
  • Contact friends, family or neighbors and disclose information about the debt to them
  • Harass you using threats or profane language
  • Lie about who they are or the debt you owe

Take the Appropriate Action

Once you know whether or not you owe the debt, figure out an action plan. If you owe the debt, you may want to establish a payment plan. You’ll need the collector to provide written documentation showing the total balance owed. Then, figure out how much you can pay each month until the obligation is satisfied. If you enter a payment plan with a collector, be sure to obtain written confirmation of the payment terms, the payment due date, and where your payment should be sent. Keep accurate records of all payments made and when they were applied to your account.

If you’re convinced that you do not owe the debt, write a dispute letter to the collector.  Include any proof that shows the debt was already paid or does not belong to you.  Be sure to keep a copy of your dispute letter for your files.  Request the collector respond to you in writing.

Stop Collection Contact

At any time throughout the process, you can write a Cease and Desist letter to the debt collector that states they need to stop contacting you. This may be be helpful if the debt collector is contacting you at work, during odd hours, or if you feel your consumer rights are being violated. Be sure to send your correspondence to the collector by certified mail with a return receipt. It’s important for you to have proof that your letter was received.

A Cease and Desist letter does not make the debt go away. Often the collector will transfer the debt to another collector or back to the original creditor. Once a Cease and Desist letter is sent to a collector, that collector is not permitted to contact you again or attempt collection. If the collector contacts you after receiving your Cease and Desist letter, reach out to a qualified consumer protection attorney to evaluate whether your rights have been violated.

Seek Free Legal Help 

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

 

How Much Should I Spend on my Credit Card?

Credit cards can give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to your finances. When you get a credit card, you have the freedom to make purchases even when you don’t have any cash on hand. As long as you always spend within your means and make payments on time, your credit accounts can help build a well rounded credit history and reflect positively on your overall financial health.

Most consumers know that every credit account has a spending limit. If you exceed this limit, purchases may be declined. This doesn’t mean that you want to spend just up to your limit every month. If you consistently max out your credit cards, or come close to doing so, it will negatively affect your credit and lenders will see you as a high risk borrower. As well, if balances are not paid off at the end of the month, interest is charged on the remaining balance, plus all new charges.

How much credit do I have?

The easiest way to see your credit limit is to log in to your online account or check the monthly statements that you receive in the mail. You should see the available credit on the account clearly listed.

How much credit should I use?

Keep your credit utilization ratio low to continue making the most of your credit accounts. Ideally, you don’t want to spend more than 30% of your available credit. This means that if your account has a $1,000 credit limit, you should avoid spending more than $300 each month.

If your available credit is fairly low and you’re having a difficult time keeping your spending below 30%, consider making multiple payments per month to keep your balance down. Credit companies typically report balances to the bureaus at the end of the month. When it’s reported, you want your usage to be above 0%, but below 30%. This shows that you’re a responsible borrower.

Can I increase the amount of credit that I have?

If you regularly use more than 30% of your available credit, it might be a good idea to see if the creditor is willing to increase your limit. The creditor will probably need to perform a hard inquiry to assess your creditworthiness. Hard inquiries temporarily have a negative effect on your credit.

Creditors are often willing to increase your limit if you make payments on time and in full each month, or if you’ve had an increase in income.

You could also consider opening another credit card. Each individual account has its own set limit, so opening a new account will give you an additional 30% of the new account’s limit. Keep in mind that opening another account also requires a hard inquiry on behalf of the creditor. For this reason, it’s best to choose between opening a new account or requesting that an existing creditor increase your limit. This way, you avoid two hard inquiries.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of contact that collectors have made with you.

Do You Actually Owe a Debt?

When a debt collector contacts you to collect payment on an account, it can be scary and overwhelming, especially if the debt in question is unfamiliar to you. Collectors may contact you from an agency you’ve never heard of, and some may even threaten legal action against you.

It’s possible that you don’t recognize the debt because the original creditor assigned it to a collection agency or sold it to a debt buyer. Collection lawyers may also try to collect on debts in certain situations. However, it’s also possible that you don’t recognize the debt because you don’t owe it.

What to do when you’re contacted by a debt collector

Whenever you receive any debt collection contact, the collector is required to mail a letter within five days that tells you the amount of the debt and the original creditor. This letter should also explain your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). If you don’t receive this letter, it could be a sign that the collector may not be legitimate.

If you receive this letter and still don’t recognize the debt, write to the collector and request proof of the debt and how they’ve calculated the amount claimed. If you have proof the debt was paid, include these documents with your dispute letter.  Always keep a copy of any correspondence with the collector.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection contact.  Contact Us for a free legal evaluation of collection calls or letters that have been sent to you.

Debt Collection Against Military Personnel

When an account goes into collection, it’s stressful and overwhelming for anyone. But debt collection can be especially troublesome for military service members. Financial trouble could result in negative consequences like loss or denial of security clearance.

Frequent moves and relocations can make it difficult for service members to keep up with bills and collection notices. Set up automatic payments when you can and always make sure to update your address to avoid missing bill payments.

If an account does go into collection, debt collectors often use shady tactics to try and collect payments. However, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors from threatening to reduce a service member’s rank or security clearance. They are also not allowed to threaten to contact chain of command. Learn more about what debt collectors can’t do under the FDCPA.

Military personnel are also protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This legislation provides some protections against car repossession for those in the military.

Make sure to educate yourself on how to manage your finances and learn about the laws that exist to protect you. Learn how to get a free copy of your credit report, and how to dispute errors in your credit history.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive debt collection tactics, credit reporting privacy and accuracy issues and wrongful vehicle repossessions.  Contact Us for a free legal consultation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

7 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Finances

Many people view a new year as a chance for a fresh start. It’s a great time to evaluate your financial health and set some goals for improvement. When you make resolutions, it’s important to set realistic, achievable goals so that you don’t get discouraged. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Create a budget and stick to it

Budgeting, or analyzing spending habits, is the best thing you can do for your finances. When you see how much money is spent on mandatory expenses, such as mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries, or loans, versus non-essential expenses, such as dining out, parties, gifts or vacations, you may find a way to reorganize expenses to make spending cuts, begin saving and start to pay off debt.

Once you’ve determined how much you spend on the necessities, compare what’s left over to your monthly income. Avoid setting budgets that are unrealistic.  You want to establish a budget that you will stick to and be able to feel success.

Grow your savings account

The amount of savings you have ultimately depends on your financial situation, but most experts say you should have enough to cover six to nine months of living expenses. Unless you already have a substantial amount saved, it isn’t realistic to make this your goal for the year. Instead, work on small progress over time. Refer back to your budget and determine how much you can save each month. Ideally, you should save at least 10% every month. By the end of the year, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy savings account.

Pay down your debt

You already know that the sooner you can pay off your debt, the better. You’ll end up paying less overall by avoiding extra interest accrual.

If you’re able to, set a goal to aggressively pay down your debt this year. Pay more than the minimum amount due to see progress more quickly. Try to trim extra expenses from other budget categories so you can prioritize your debt.

Pay on time

If you’ve struggled with timely bill payments in the past, make it your goal this year to always pay on time. Set up automatic payments if you can, or create recurring reminders on your calendar or in your phone. You’ll save money because you won’t be hit with late payment fees, and your credit will improve.

Check your credit regularly

The best way to know where you stand financially is to regularly check your credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every 12 months. Your report has information about your current credit account standing and payment history. It also includes any negative occurrences, like car repossessions or accounts in default. Check your report regularly to make sure the information is accurate and up to date.

Improve your credit score

If your credit score is on the lower end, set a goal to improve it this year. Pay any overdue bill payments, and make sure you make all payments on time moving forward. Keep credit usage below 30% of your available credit. This means you shouldn’t spend more than $300 on a card with a limit of $1,000.

Keep in mind that if you apply for new credit this year, whether it’s an auto loan or a credit card, the lender will most likely perform a hard inquiry, which could lower your score.

Become more financially literate

Are there certain aspects of your finances that you struggle to understand? Take the time this year to learn more. Whether you want to do research into different ways to invest your money, or you want to have a better understanding of how interest accrues on your loans, having a solid understanding paves the way for healthier financial well being.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting problems, those that have received contact from abusive debt collectors, and have had vehicles wrongfully repossessed.  Contact us for a free consultation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

What Debt Collectors Don’t Want You Know

It can be scary and overwhelming when a debt collector starts contacting you about unpaid bills. With household debt at $12.7 trillion in the United States, this is a reality that many Americans have to face every day. However, there are certain things that debt collectors don’t want you to know about their collection tactics. Learn more about what they can and can’t do so you’re better prepared when they contact you.

Collectors must follow the law

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from unfair debt collection practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the act, which prohibits collectors from using abusive or deceptive tactics to get you to pay. They can’t threaten you, make false statements, or misrepresent how much you owe.

Request the collector stop contacting you

If a collector is relentlessly contacting you, you can ask them to stop. Send a Certified letter to the collector and request they cease and desist contact with you.  The collector must stop contacting you. However, this doesn’t make the debt go away. The debt will most likely be reassigned to a new agency or law firm to attempt collection.

If calls are disruptive, you can also ask that the collector only contact you during certain hours of the day.

Collectors may not contact anyone but you

In some cases, debt collectors will contact family members, neighbors or friends to get your contact information. While this is acceptable, the collector is not allowed to share details about your debt. If they do so, it could be a violation of your consumer rights.

If a family member, neighbor or friend has been contacted about your debt, ask that person to write a statement with details about the contact. They should include the date, time of day, name of the collector, and details about any phone conversation or messages left. Have this statement reviewed by a qualified consumer protection attorney.

You’re entitled to a debt validation

Under the FDCPA, you should receive a letter in the mail within five days after a collector contacts you. The letter should state the amount of the debt and the name of the original creditor. If you don’t dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving this letter, the collector can assume the debt is valid.

If you dispute the debt, you can write the collector and request validation of the debt and an itemization that shows how the balance was calculated.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of call and letters that you’ve received from collection agencies or law firm collectors.

6 Common Questions About Debt

Many people find themselves in debt at some point in their lives, whether it’s from student loans, credit cards, medical expenses, divorce, personal loans, or other types of accounts. Here are some common questions you may have about debt.

Will my debt ever go away?

An unpaid debt never truly goes away. After seven years, it will no longer appear on your credit report, meaning you may see an improvement in your overall credit standing. Negative marks are removed from your report after seven years while accounts that are in good standing remain forever.

Collectors can continue to collect on debts even after the listing has been removed from the credit report. Some states have a statute of limitations on debt collection. If the statute of limitation has passed, the creditor can no longer get a judgment against you. However, an unpaid debt is always owed until it’s paid in full.

What if I can’t afford the minimum payments?

Many people have difficulty making bill payments at some point or another. If you can’t afford the minimum payment on your account, don’t just skip the payment that month. Skipping a payment will make it even more difficult to catch up the following month. Creditors can also report late or missing payments to the credit bureaus, meaning your credit will take a hit.

If you can’t afford to pay your bill, contact your creditor to see what your options are. Some creditors may extend the due date or waive the late fee. If you can’t work something out with the creditor, do your best to make up the missed payment as soon as possible, including any late fees.

Can the creditor repossess my belongings if I’m in debt?

There are limits as to what a creditor can and can’t repossess when you’re behind on your payments. In some loan agreements, property or possessions are listed as collateral in the terms of the loan. This means that the creditor can repossess the property or possession if you don’t meet the loan agreement’s requirements. The most common types of collateral are vehicles in auto loan agreements or homes in mortgage agreements.

If you have credit card debt, the creditor can’t repossess the items that you purchased with credit. However, a creditor can sue you to recover money if there is no collateral listed in the agreement.

Am I responsible for my partner’s debt after we get married?

Whether or not you’re responsible for your spouse’s debt depends on the state you live in. In community property states, both spouses are responsible if the debt occurs during the marriage. In common law states, each individual spouse is generally responsible for his or her own debt.

What happens to debt when someone passes away?

Everything a person owns at the time of his or her death is referred to as their estate. The assets of the estate are used to pay off any debts. If the assets of the estate aren’t enough to cover the debts, a family member may become financially responsible depending on the type of debt.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact us for a free legal evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

How to Prepare Your Credit Accounts During the Holidays

It’s the season for gift giving, and that means extra spending. Credit cards can be a convenient way to purchase gifts for family and friends, but it’s important to stay organized and make sure you have a plan to pay them off. Take these steps before you do your shopping to ensure that you’re prepared.

Check Your Credit Report

Your credit report provides the best summary of your overall financial standing. Your report will list all of your credit accounts, loans, and credit inquiries and will also list any delinquencies. To get a copy of your credit report, write to the credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax – and include two forms of identification such as a current driver’s license and utility bill. You can get a free copy of your report from each of the bureaus every 12 months.

You may also want to check your credit score. This information will give you an idea of your overall financial standing and will alert you to any areas that could be improved. If your score is lower due to late payments or a lot of spending on credit accounts, you may choose to adjust your spending to fit your budget.

Keep an Eye on Credit Utilization

Now that you know the credit limits on each of your accounts, try to avoid spending more than 30% of your available credit on each of them. For example, if you have a credit card with a limit of $1,000, you should do your best to avoid spending more than $300. Your credit utilization factors into your credit score, so spending more than 30% of your available credit could lower your score.

Set a budget for each of your cards to avoid overspending. This will also make it easier and more manageable when it comes time to pay them off.

Pay Your Balances in Full and On Time

Set reminders to pay off credit accounts in full and on time. Carrying a balance in to the next month will mean paying more in interest fees. Your budgets will help you stay on track and help ensure that you’re always able to make your bill payments.

Taking the time to prepare your credit accounts for holiday spending will allow you to enjoy the season without extra financial stress and will set you up for success in the new year.

Seek the Help from a Consumer Protection Lawyer

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers who have been contacted by debt collectors, or that have issues with listings that appear on credit reports.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

6 Tips for Holiday Shopping

The holidays are a busy time of year. Many people have difficulty staying on track with spending or forget that scammers may take advantage of the busy season. Follow these tips to stay financially responsible and to avoid common shopping scams that occur this time of year.

Create a Budget for Holiday Gifts

It can be easy to overspend when you’re buying gifts for others during the holiday season. Before you make your shopping list, create a budget for how much you can afford to spend this year and do your best to stick to it. If your budget is tight, consider gifts like baked goods or homemade items.

Pay off Credit Cards in Full and on Time

If you plan to use a credit card for your holiday spending, make sure to pay off your balance in full and on time. Carrying a balance over from month to month means that you’ll end up paying more for all of your gifts because of the interest that accrues on your account.

Use Secure Passwords when Shopping Online

If you shop online, use different passwords for each of your accounts and make sure they’re strong and secure. Use a password storing tool so that you don’t have to worry about remembering them all. These accounts include your credit card information and billing information, so it’s important to keep them safe.

Watch for Scams Online

Unfortunately, the holidays are a popular time for new scams to pop up. Scammers take advantage of the busy season and use the opportunity to create fake products or to steal identities. If the price of an online item seems too good to be true, it probably is. You should always verify that you’re purchasing from a valid website and that the payment portal is secure before you buy anything.

Don’t Leave Personal Information in Plain Sight

It’s important to remember not to leave personal documents or identifying information in easily accessible places or in plain sight in your vehicle, especially when parked in a busy shopping lot. Criminals could use this opportunity to steal your information. You also shouldn’t carry personal information, like your social security card, in your wallet or purse.

Keep an Eye on Your Belongings

Always keep your belongings, like shopping bags, purse, or wallet, on your person when you’re holiday shopping. Busy stores or restaurants can provide an opportunity for someone to take your things unnoticed. Keep shopping bags in the trunk of your vehicle so they’re hidden from view.

Seek Legal Help

Identity theft victims may need help from a consumer lawyer when collectors begin to call, or there are listings on credit reports that are a result of the theft.  Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers against debt collectors and the credit bureaus.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of whether your consumer rights were violated.