How Debt Collection Laws Help Pennsylvanians

Past due bills debt

When you owe money to a debt collection agency, its employees have the right to contact you and try to recoup that debt.

But those rights only go so far. Here in Pennsylvania, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulates what debt collectors, or law firms acting as collectors, can do, and bars them from engaging in deception while trying to recover money that is owed.

Continue reading How Debt Collection Laws Help Pennsylvanians

How to Report a Robocall

You’re at home relaxing after work when your phone rings.

You don’t recognize the number on the caller ID, but your smartphone tells you that it’s someone from your town.

Maybe a neighbor, you think. Or someone from work. It might be important.

Only it’s not a neighbor, it’s someone calling from hundreds – if not thousands – of miles away. And it’s not important, at least not to you. The caller is trying to sell you a product you neither want or need.

Plus, you don’t always get the satisfaction of telling someone “Stop calling me,” because many of these calls are pre-recorded messages, sent out to millions of other phone numbers using auto-dialer technology.

Robo Call Center

Welcome to the world of robocalls.

These calls are a nuisance, so much so that the FCC considers them the agency’s chief priority when it comes to consumer protection.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stop these unwanted calls. It may not be as easy as pushing a “Report Robocall” button on your phone, but it’s still fairly simple.

How to report robocalls

Nearly all automated calls to mobile phones are illegal in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but that hasn’t stopped telemarketers and debt collection companies from using auto-dialers to reach consumers.

In some cases, the caller will deliberately falsify the information sent to your caller ID to mask their identity, a practice known as spoofing.

Caller ID Block

The FCC has taken a variety of actions against these companies, including:

  • Issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in fines
  • Allowing phone companies to block certain kinds of calls that are likely to be illegal before they can get to consumers
  • Giving customers the ability to use call blocking or labeling services
  • Working with phone companies on caller ID authentication

If you believe you’re received and illegal call or text, you can file a report robocall complaint with the FCC here. The commission also offers these tips to stop unwanted robocalls and protect yourself from phone scams:

Unknown Caller
  • Try not to answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize. If you do answer, hang up right away.
  • It may not be obvious right away that the call is spoofed. Remember that a caller ID displaying a local number doesn’t always mean that you’re getting a local call.
  • If you pick up the phone and the voice on the other end – either a person or a recording – tells you to hit a certain button to end the calls, just hang up. Remember, there’s no magic “report robocall” button. Having you press a button during your call is something scammers do to identify future targets.
  • Never give out personal information – your Social Security number, passwords, bank account numbers, etc. – to an unexpected caller (or if you’re just uneasy with the call).
  • If you get a call from someone claiming to represent a company or government agency, hang up and look up a phone number on their website or one of your bills to verify the phone number. Your bank or an organization like the IRS will typically contact you in writing before calling.
  • Set a password for your voicemail. Some voicemail services are set up to let users access their messages by calling their own number. A hacker could spoof your number and get into your voicemail if you haven’t created a password.
  • Be wary of callers who immediately ask for information.
  • Talk to your phone company about their available call block technology. You can download mobile apps that can block unwanted calls.
  • Register your number for the Do Not Call List. Reputable telemarketing companies will review the numbers on this list and take care to avoid them.

And if these steps still haven’t stopped unwanted calls, it might be time to take legal action. The consumer protection attorneys at Flitter Milz are experts on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and have helped several New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents who have been victims of unethical telemarketing practices. Contact us today to find out how we can help you fight for your rights.

How to Report Telemarketers

It’s been a long day, but you’re finally home. Dinner is ready. Work is a distant memory.  That TV show you like is on tonight. Or, your new book is waiting to be read. For the next few hours, you can just relax.  And then —

Your phone rings. And it’s not just any call interrupting your evening. It’s a…telemarketer!

The advent of the Do Not Call registry was supposed to put an end to this, but like cockroaches and horror movie villains, telemarketing calls are surprisingly hard to escape.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  There are ways you can avoid unwanted calls.  Read on to learn how to get yourself off telemarketers’ lists and how to report do no call violations.

Find Out Who is Calling

If you want to get the calls to stop, you’ll have to make contact.  Simply hanging up might be misinterpreted – did a child answer the phone? – or convince the telemarketer to just keep calling back until you answer.

Be polite – as tough as that might be – find out who is calling.  Make a note of the time and date of the call, plus the caller ID.  Having this info will make it easier to file a complaint.  If calls continue after you’ve requested the caller stop, the telemarketer could be in violation of your consumer rights.

Callers are required by law to tell you if they are making a sales call or are calling from a charity.  They also need to explain what they are selling or if they want a donation. If the caller won’t answer your questions, you might be dealing with a scam.  In that case, you should report the calls to government agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General.  So, before hanging up, be sure to document the call in the event that you need to submit a complaint.

Ask to be placed on their “Do Not Call” list

Every telemarketing organization is required by law to have an in-house “do not call” list.  Tell them – politely but firmly – that you want to go on that list:  “Please put me on your internal do not call list.”

Keep insisting.  If the caller won’t comply, ask to speak to his or her supervisor.  Don’t relent until you get a chance to speak with someone in authority that will honor your request.

Ask if they’re working on behalf of another company.  If so, find out the name and location of that company and ask to be placed on their do not call list as well.  Find out how long it will take to have your name added, as some companies don’t always update the lists right away.  In addition, you should write the company and request removal of your name from their call list. Be sure to keep a copy of your dated letter.

How to Report Do Not Call Violations

Once you’ve been placed on the do not call list, companies have the right to call you one more time. If this happens, make a note of the time and date of the call and the name of the caller.

Tell the caller you’re on the do not call list and let them know that any new calls you receive from them in the next 12 months may give you the right to file suit against them.

If you’re still getting unwanted calls, there are some steps you can take:

  • File a complaint with the National Do Not Call Registry, which you can find at: www.donotcall.gov, or call: 888-382-1222.  This registry is managed by the Federal Trade Commission.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission by calling: 888-225-5322
  • File a complaint with your state Attorneys General.

Remember, never give out personal or financial information to a telemarketer.

If you’ve taken all these steps on how to report do not call violations and the unwanted calls haven’t stopped, or you’re getting auto-dialed “robo” calls to your mobile phone that you’ve never consented to, it may be time to take legal action.

The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act allows consumers to recover $500 to $1500 for every call they received after asking to be removed from a company’s list.

The attorneys at Flitter Milz are experts on TCPA law and have helped several Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents who have gotten unwanted calls or been the victim of unscrupulous telemarketers.

If you’re one of these consumers, contact us today to discuss your legal rights.

 

Toll Free:  888-668-1225        Email:  consumers@consumerslaw.com

Class Action: Lucero v. Solarcity Corporation

SolarCity TCPA Settlement

This lawsuit alleges violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) for unsolicited, auto-dialed marketing calls that were placed to consumers between November 6, 2011 and October 16, 2017, by or on behalf of SolarCity Corporation for the purpose of offering SolarCity products to consumers.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act provides protections for consumers from receiving unwanted auto-dialed telemarketing calls.  The law allows between $500 – $1500 per violating call.

What are your options?  Contact Us.

OPT OUT of the Class Action

Class members may choose to exclude themselves from the lawsuit and explore whether to pursue an individual matter against SolarCity for telemarketing calls they received.  If a class member Opts Out of the class action, he or she will not be bound by the terms of the Settlement and the Court’s orders.

OPT OUT Letters must be postmarked no later than December 15, 2017. 

To OPT OUT of the class action, class members must send a letter to the claims administrator stating clearly their desire to be excluded from the Settlement. The letter must include full name, address, the phone number that received the call(s), and signature.

Opt Out letters must be sent no later than December 15, 2017 to: 

  • Lucero v. SolarCity TCPA Settlement
  • P.O. Box 4655
  • Portland, OR 97208

Remain in the Class Action

Class members that choose to remain in the class action must fill out a valid claim form.  The form requires a list of phone number(s) where the class member received telemarketing calls from SolarCity.

Class members that submit valid claim forms, and the claim is approved, will receive a single payment from the Settlement fund, which will be divided equally among all participating class members.

All claims to remain in the class must be submitted online or postmarked by April 16, 2018.

For more information about Lucero v. SolarCity Corp: https://www.sctcpasettlement.com/

 

 

Class Action Lawsuit: Collecto, Inc TCPA Litigation

Collecto, Inc. TCPA Litigation 

Case No. 14-md-2513-RGS (D. Mass.)

This lawsuit alleges that Collecto, Inc., a collection agency, violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) for placing collection calls to consumers that never had an agreement with the creditor for who Collecto sought to collect the debt.  The calls were placed to consumer’s cell phones by use of an auto-dialer between July 23, 2009 and June 30, 2014.  

The TCPA provides protections for consumers from receiving unwanted auto-dialed calls on their cell phone.  The law allows between $500 – $1500 per violating collection call.

What are your options?  Contact Us.

Class members may choose to exclude themselves from the lawsuit and explore whether to pursue an individual matter against Collecto for collection calls that were placed to them. Class members that Opt Out will not be bound by the terms of the Class Settlement and the Court’s orders.

Opt Out of the Class Action by Monday, November 27, 2017

To Opt Out of the class action, a letter must be mailed to the claims administrator stating that you “want to OPT OUT of the  In re: Collecto, Inc. TCPA Litigation.”  Be sure to include your full name, address, telephone number and your signature.  The letter must be postmarked no later than Monday, November 27, 2017.

Opt Out letters must be mailed to:

  • In re: Collecto, Inc. TCPA Litigation
  • Settlement Administrator
  • c/o ILYM Group, Inc.
  • P.O. Box 2031
  • Tustin, CA  92781

Remain in the Class Action

Class members that choose to remain in the class must fill out a Claim Form and submit it to the claims administrator no later than November 27, 2017.  Claim Forms can be found online at: www.collectoclassaction.com.

For More information about the Collecto, Inc TCPA Litigation.

How Do Telemarketers Get My Number?

Everyone has received a call from a robo dialer or telemarketer at some point. According to the Federal Communications Commission, there are just about 2.4 billion robocalls made every month to consumers. These unwanted calls are annoying, disruptive, and always seem to occur at the most inopportune times. 

Where do they get my information?

You may be wondering how these callers get your phone number in the first place. Telemarketers and robo dialing companies can get this information from a variety of sources.   

Applications like those for credit cards, contest entries, or a signup form for an online service may contain language that allows the company to sell this information to solicitors. The Terms of Use on smartphone apps that many people skim or skip over entirely may also contain information about who will get access to your personal information. 

Unfortunately, some charities trade or sell donor contact information as another revenue method. After donating, you may start to receive contact from other groups that you’re not familiar with.  

Sometimes the process for number retrieval is completely automated and random. Certain technology can rapidly dial numbers to determine all of the possible combinations currently in use, including those that are unlisted. 

How can I get calls to stop?

Register your phone number with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. Not all telemarketers abide by this list, but it should help reduce the number of calls you receive. 

You can also download an app for your smartphone that alerts you when a caller is suspected spam. This should help you weed out some of the calls.

Robo dialers and telemarketers are becoming increasingly tech savvy. Not only do they engage in caller ID spoofing where they mask the actual number with one from your area code, they have also begun to engage in ringless voicemail. Ringless voicemail means that your cell phone will suddenly have a voicemail message without it ever ringing. This tactic renders the spam alert apps useless, and has become a partisan issue as Democrats and Republicans dispute over whether or not the Telephone Consumer Protection Act covers this type of contact. You can contact your representatives to let them know that you’re opposed to the use of ringless voicemail. 

Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), lenders, telemarketers, and debt collectors need your permission before they can contact you on your cell phone. In some agreements, you may unknowingly agree to this type of contact, but you can always revoke your consent. Send a letter to the caller stating that they no longer have permission to contact you. If the calls continue, keep a call log and get in touch with a consumer protection attorney. The TCPA allows consumers to recover between $500-$1500 for each violating call or text. 

Be careful with personal information

In the future, think twice about where you share your information online and on forms and applications. Always read the fine print so that you know what you’re agreeing to before you sign.  
 

What You Need Know About Ringless Voicemails

Telemarketers, debt collectors, and other companies that engage in mass telephone outreach are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, finding new ways to reach consumers as quickly and efficiently as possible. 
 
Companies that began with robocalling, or auto-dialer technology that enables businesses to program computers to place millions of calls at a low cost, have now adopted a new strategy with ringless voicemails. Consumers who receive this type of contact will find a voicemail on their phone without their phone ever actually ringing. 
 
Where does this new tactic fit in with existing regulations of automatic dialing systems? 

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act 

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, was signed into law in 1991 as a means of governing the use of automatic dialing systems, pre-recorded messages, text messages, and fax machines. It also requires that the caller identify himself and get permission from consumers prior to contacting them.
 
The TCPA has protected consumers from annoying, inconvenient, and unwanted calls and has created an avenue for consumer legal action when companies don’t comply. Under the law, recipients of frequent unwanted calls can receive between $500 to $1500 per violating call. Consumers have also turned to the Do Not Call registry to seek relief from this type of contact, although some news outlets note that the registry’s effectiveness has started to dwindle in recent years. 
 
Lawmakers are now debating whether new ringless voicemail technology falls under the jurisdiction of the TCPA, or if this type of contact is protected by First Amendment rights. 

Partisan Issue

Many Republicans have taken the stance that ringless voicemails should be legal under the First Amendment. The Republican National Committee (RNC) argued that it has a First Amendment right to use ringless voicemails to solicit donations and to inform voters about certain issues relating to politics and government. 
 
Democrats disagree. Democratic Senators from various states recently signed a petition addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in part stating the following:

“While technology has changed, that key goal has not. Whether by robocall, by robotext, or by ringless voicemail, consumers should have meaningful control over who can and cannot contact their mobile device.”

Write to Your Representatives

What do you think about the use of ringless voicemails? Write to your representatives to express your opinion and explain how you would be affected if they are not considered applicable under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
 
Find your Congress Representatives
Find your Senators
 

Stop Unwanted Calls: 4 Apps that May Help

As technology becomes more advanced, so do robocalling tactics. Consumers have been reporting an increase in unwanted calls to cell phones, and a number of news outlets have reported that the Do Not Call registry has become less effective in recent years. This is largely due to new technologies that allow robocalls to get smarter with their strategy. For example, callers may use a different number with the same area code as yours to trick you into answering. 
 
With a less effective Do Not Call list, consumers have turned to downloadable apps for their smartphones to seek relief from scams and robocalls. Here are four apps that may help you weed out illegitimate callers and finally put a stop to unwanted calls.

RoboKiller

For $1.99 a month, RoboKiller claims it will reduce robocalls by 85% within 30 days. Rather than simply alerting you that an incoming call is spam, the app will actually prevent your phone from ringing. You can also curate your own personal blacklist of numbers in case there are specific people or companies that you don’t want to receive calls from. 
 
The app was the winner of the FTC’s Robocalls Content in 2015 and has a 4.5 star rating in the App Store.

NomoRobo

With Nomorobo, you can choose whether to display robocalls on the incoming call screen, or to have them sent directly to voicemail. It also won’t block important calls, like those that alert you to school closings, weather updates, or appointment reminders.  
 
Nomorobo is free for landlines and costs $1.99 per month on iPhone. It’s not available for Android phones yet.

Hiya Caller ID & Block

Hiya claims that it protects tens of millions of users from robocalls across the globe. It’s available for both Android and iPhone, is free to download, and will alert you when a caller is suspected to be spam.  
 
Their site also provides some helpful information on the most frequently used robocall area codes and phone numbers and the type of caller. 

Call Blocker

Call Blocker has more than 2 million numbers in its database of spam callers. You can also add your own numbers to the blocking list. Downloading the app is free, but subscribing to the database requires a yearly subscription fee of $9.99.

Know the TCPA

Smartphone apps aside, there are existing federal regulations against robocalls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was established to limit the use of these automatic dialing systems and to require these callers to receive consent from the consumer. If you continue to receive these calls after asking that they stop, you may be able to receive $500-$1500 per violating call. 

 

This post should not be considered as an endorsement of any of the above companies.

 

How to Stop Persistent Unwanted Calls And Texts to your Cell Phone

More and more people are getting robocalls to their cell phones

The Federal Communications Commission states that there are nearly 2.4 billion robocalls made every month to consumers. A recent USA Today article offers steps you can take if you’re one of these consumers. 

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was passed by the United States Congress to limit the use of automatic dialing systems that are often used for these calls.

Lenders, telemarketers, and debt collectors need your permission to contact you on your cell phone. This permission is usually obtained when you fill out an application for credit. You’re generally asked to provide personal information along with your name, address, and phone number.  

The Court ruled that you can revoke consent

Even when you provide your cell phone number on an application, you can cancel the permission for them to contact you. 

Flitter Milz brought the first case of its kind, Gager v. Dell Financial Services, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court agreed that consumers can block annoying robocalls to their cell phones, and revoke any consent that was implied when they applied for credit.

Send a letter to the caller stating that they no longer have permission to call your cell phone. If the bank or lender, telemarketer, or debt collector continues to call after being told to stop, those calls could be a violation to the TCPA, which means you could recover between $500 – $1500 for each violating call or text.