Flitter Milz KOs Collection Giant Midland Credit Management

September 24, 2018/Philadelphia, PA

U.S. Court of Appeals precedential ruling impacts consumers nationwide

In an important ruling this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed with Flitter Milz that a collection dun sent to a consumer was deceptive and in violation of the federal law regulating debt collectors.

Midland Credit Management, one of the largest debt-buyers and debt collectors in the United States, sent our client a collection notice stating Midland would “report forgiveness of debt as required by IRS regulations.”  Flitter Milz argued that the debt involved was so small that there is nothing ever to report to the IRS, and the statement about Internal Revenue was just a scare tactic.

The federal appeals court, sitting in Philadelphia, agreed that the consumer might be persuaded into thinking that a settlement may be reportable to the IRS, and this remark is misleading under the consumer laws.  The Court agreed with Flitter Milz, holding that “it is not merely the inclusion of a lie, but also incomplete” language in a collection letter that may violate the consumer laws.The Court has told Midland that ‘half-truths’ to consumers are not good enough.

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm representing consumers in matters against collection agencies and collection law firms for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. “This victory, is not just for our client and firm, but for consumers across the U.S.”, said Cary Flitter and Andy Milz.  

To learn more about this case, Robert A. Schultz, Jr & Donna Schultz v Midland Credit Management, click here .  Consumers with questions about collection contact, calls or letters, from Midland Credit Management, contact us.

Midland Credit Management is a billion dollar purchaser of consumer debt, who collects and files collection lawsuits in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and across the country.  

Are you a Victim of a Solar Panel Scam?

Beware of Forgery. Fraud. Bogus Documents.

Were you visited by a solar salesman, only to find that your credit report was pulled without permission?  Were you put in to a forged contract for solar energy?  If so, you may be a victim of a solar energy scam and your consumer rights may have been violated.

Door-to-door solar power sales is high pressure.  Solar salesmen are usually trained to engage unsuspecting homeowners in conversation and employ tactics to sell items that they may not be ready to buy. 

Often, the consumer may be misled in to believing that the salesman works for her Electric Company.  During the sales pitch, the consumer may be asked to allow an inspection of the roof for a “roof survey”, or told that a review of energy bills is required.  The salesman may try to convince the consumer that energy costs will be lowered because solar energy is free, and with the installation of solar panels the consumer will make money.

To gain access to your property, the salesman may request your signature on a tablet or iPad.  Beware. Your signature may be used to obtain your credit report, or commit you to a long term contract.

The law requires that a company have a permissible purpose to obtain your credit report.  If a company does not have your authorization or consent, the impermissible credit pull could be a violation to your consumer rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Credit Reports Pulled without Consent

Transunion, Experian and Equifax maintain a consumer’s credit history.  Credit reports list private, personal information about payment histories for real estate, loans and credit cards, as well as defaults, late payments, charge-offs, collections and public records.  The consumer must provide permission for his or her credit to be pulled, or to actually apply for credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act offers protections to consumers whose reports were pulled without permission.  Whether a salesman comes to your door to sell solar panels or another product, the consumer must knowingly provide permission for credit reports to be pulled.  Obtaining access to credit reports under false pretenses could be a violation to your consumer rights.

Free Legal Evaluation for violation of Credit Privacy Law

If you were visited by a solar panel salesman from Vivint Solar, or another door-to-door salesman, you should obtain and review your current credit reports.  The credit report inquiry section of the report lists who has accessed your credit information.  If you find that Vivint, Vivint Solar or Solar Mosaic pulled your credit report without your permission and that there is a hard inquiry on your credit report, contact us to discuss a potential violation of your consumer rights.  There is no cost for the legal evaluation, and no cost to pursue a case if your credit reporting rights have been violated.

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm with expertise in credit report law violations and matters involving credit report privacy and accuracy.

Click to contact us if you've been the victim of a solar panel scam

7 Ways Millennials can boost their Credit Scores

Millennials may be aware of the harmful effects of bad credit. Their difficulty is in determining ways to change habits and establish financial discipline that will improve their financial outlook and their credit scores.  The following steps may show useful ways to carve a path to a brighter financial future.

 

1. Use Your Student Loans to Build Credit History

Establish a payment plan with your loan provider that works within your budget. Designate a specific portion of your weekly income for your monthly student loan payment.  Stick to your plan and make your monthly payments in full and on time.

 

2. Get that First Credit Card

You have to have credit to build credit. Often, obtaining approval for a credit card may be difficult for young people.  Credit issuers usually require a strong credit payment history and a good credit score.  Without the track record, millennials may consider building their credit through a secured credit card which requires a deposit, generally equal to or less than the card’s credit limit. Payments must be made by the due date, as full regular payments factor in to most credit scores.  Secured credit card issuers may “graduate” card holders with good payment histories to unsecured cards.

 

3. Check for Mistakes on Your Credit Report

If you’ve never checked your credit report before, now is the time. Consumers may obtain one free credit report from Transunion, Experian and Equifax every twelve months. You may notice a debt or payment was misreported or you’ve been a victim of fraud; either of which can be damaging to your score. By checking your report for mistakes, you can take the proper action to correct them.

 

4. Become an Authorized User

You may have the privilege of becoming  an authorized user on a family member or friend’s card. However, the privilege has consequences. You must remember to make your payments in full and on time.  If payments are not made timely, the credit card may be jeopardized, as well as the card holder’s credit reports and score.

 

5. Improve Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Lenders evaluate loan applications by an applicant’s credit utilization ratio.  A major risk indicator for lenders is where credit card balances are compared to credit card limits.  When balances reach the card limit, lenders perceive risk. To lower your utilization you may increase your available credit by paying down debt, getting another credit card or raising your current card’s limit; all of which improve the ratio between how much is available to you verses how much you’re actually using.

 

6. Don’t Close Old Credit Accounts

If you have an old credit card you no longer use or have already paid off, don’t be too quick to close the account. As long as it doesn’t have an annual fee, your unused credit line can help lower your credit utilization ratio and lengthen your credit history. Even just the smallest amount of activity can strengthen your credit as long as you remember to make the payments in full and on time.

 

7. Set Up Automatic Bill Pay Whether it’s for utility bills, insurance payments or a store credit card, sign up for automatic bill pay to ensure you’re making all payments by their due dates. You should still keep an eye on your accounts to ensure that payments have been applied timely and accurately.

 

If you have questions about your credit score, or errors on your credit reports, contact us to learn more about steps you need to take.

Who Can See Your Credit Report

Your credit report contains quite a bit of information about your financial history. It includes personal information, all of your open credit accounts and whether or not they are in good standing, and any negative marks, such as accounts in default or vehicle repossessions. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, not just anyone can see a copy of your credit report. 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act

Accuracy

Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act to protect consumers from unauthorized access to credit reports and incorrect or incomplete information. If you find an error on your credit report, you have the right to dispute the information with the credit bureau and have it corrected.

Privacy

The FCRA sets clear laws on who can access your credit report and what they can use it for. Common individuals and businesses that can access your report include landlords, current or prospective employers, lenders, and utility companies. Although they are allowed to access your report, there are certain requirements and guidelines that must be followed when they do so. Most important, the consumer must provide written permission for someone to access reports from the credit bureaus. 

For full details on who can pull your credit report and when, read this article on impermissible credit use from Nolo. 

If you think your rights were violated

If you believe an unauthorized person or business pulled your credit report, or the circumstance in which they did so was inappropriate, you may be able to take legal action. Often the consumer may be misled in to believing that someone, or a company, has the right to obtain their private, personal information.  

Contact a qualified consumer rights attorney with expertise in credit report law for review of potential violation of your rights.
 

What Auto Lenders Check on Your Credit Report

When you apply for an auto loan, lenders will perform a credit check on you. Your credit affects whether or not you’ll be approved for the loan and the interest rate of the loan. The interest rate and terms of the loan have a major impact on how much you will end up paying overall, so it’s important that you know where your credit stands before you apply for an auto loan. When you apply, lenders will look at the following components of your credit file. 

Payment History

Before they approve you for a loan, lenders want to be sure that you have a history of making payments in full and on time. This is a reflection on whether or not you’ll make your auto loan payments on time. If you have a history of late payments, it may be more difficult for you to get a loan. 

Status of Accounts

Your credit report also lists the status of each of your open accounts. If one or more of your accounts is late or in default, it can signal to a lender that you may be experiencing financial hardship and won’t be able to make timely payments on a new line of credit. 

Credit Utilization

Many people don’t realize that the amount of credit they use on a monthly basis has a significant impact on their credit. Not only should you avoid maxing out your credit, you should strive to only use 30 percent of your credit limit. This means that if your credit limit is $1,000, you shouldn’t spend more than $300 each month. Credit utilization is an indicator of how responsible you are with your credit. 

New Credit

Lenders will also look at any new accounts you’ve opened. Multiple new lines of credit may be a red flag to a lender. It’s also worth noting that each time a lender pulls your credit, it’s considered a hard inquiry, which temporarily lowers your credit score. 

Length of Credit History

Lenders will also look at the length of your credit history. If you don’t have a well established credit history, it may make it more difficult for you to get approved for a loan, or you may be approved at a higher interest rate. 

How to Check Your Credit Report  

Determine how your credit stacks up by checking your report regularly. When you’re familiar with what’s on your credit report, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you apply for an auto loan. 

You can request a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – every 12 months. Get a sample request letter and mail it to one of the bureaus.

Shop Around 

Before you sign on a loan, shop around to find the best terms and interest rate. Certain lenders may offer lower interest rates, which can mean paying less in the long run.
 

Get to Know Your Credit Report

Checking your credit report regularly helps you understand where you stand when it comes to your finances. Many organizations, especially lenders, use credit reports as a way to get to know a consumer’s spending habits. They can be used to determine whether or not to approve someone for a new line of credit, a home loan, or a rental property. Although credit reports do include a significant amount of information about you, there are certain things that will not be included. 

What’s On Your Report

Credit reports contain the following information:

  1. Identifying information, including your name, address, social security number, employment information, and birthdate.
  2. All credit accounts you’ve opened, such as credit cards and loans. This section includes both open and closed accounts and provides details on each account, such as the type of account, date it was opened, credit limit, account balance, and all past payments made.
  3. All inquiries regarding your report from the past two years. Inquiries often come from lenders checking your credit before approving you for a loan or line of credit.
  4. Negative information, such as late payments, car repossessions, foreclosures, defaults, tax liens, collection accounts, judgments and bankruptcies.

You can use this article to learn how to interpret each section and what to look out for.

What’s Not On Your Report

While credit reports have a majority of your financial information included, there are certain items that will not appear. 

For example, credit reports list your employers but do not contain further information regarding your employment status or salary.

While information regarding lines of credit are listed, bank account balances, retirement accounts, 401k, and investment or brokerage account information is not included. 

Also, your credit report will not be affected by marriage. After you’re married, your credit report and credit score remains independent of your spouse’s. Marriage will only affect your credit for accounts you and your spouse open together. 

How to Obtain Your Credit Report

The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to provide one free credit report to consumers every 12 months. In order to obtain these reports, write a letter to the bureaus and request your report. Be sure to include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill, with your letter.  You should receive your report within approximately two weeks.

Monitor Your Report Regularly

Credit reports are an effective way to determine if you’ve been a victim of fraud or if any mistakes have been made regarding your credit history. You should carefully review your credit file and report any suspicious listings. If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, you should take steps by notifying the police, the credit bureaus and the creditors. If you have disputed errors and the credit bureau has not corrected your report, you can contact an attorney to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated. Checking your report regularly is a good idea so that you can dispute errors as soon as possible. 

Why It Matters

Credit reports are essentially a compilation of your credit activity. They allow lenders and other organizations to get to know you. When you learn how to read and interpret your credit reports, you will become confident to dispute any inaccuracies, and handle the errors in a timely fashion.  Viewing your reports regularly, helps to eliminate any surprises when you apply for loans or other lines of credit, apply for a job, or attempt to rent an apartment.  

Want Better Credit Score Check Your Credit Reports

Why You Should Check Your Credit Reports 

Credit reports don’t just exist to provide lenders with an overview of your credit history. They also provide a means for you to assess your own financial health and determine where you can make improvements. Finances can be a significant contributor to stress if you don’t know how to manage them, and knowing what’s on your credit report is the first step to staying on track. 

Your credit report will list all of your open accounts and show you where they stand – whether you are up to date with payments or if you’ve fallen behind. Late payments will hurt your credit while consistent, on time payments will help you. 

Credit reports also aren’t always accurate. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people have flawed credit reports. There are a number of factors that can contribute to errors, such as fraud, someone else’s information on your report, or inaccurate reporting of accounts. Regardless of the cause, errors can sometimes negatively affect your credit. You should always review your report for inaccurate information and dispute any errors with the reporting bureau. Review your personal information and make sure you recognize all of the open accounts. Checking your report regularly is a great way to make sure you aren’t a victim of identity theft or fraud. 

Learn how to check and understand your credit report to get started. 

Set Goals to Improve 

When you check your reports regularly, you gain insight into some of your financial habits. If you regularly max out credit cards, it’s a sign that you need to create stricter budgets to avoid overspending. If you’re forgetful when it comes to making timely bill payments, look into automatic payments or set reminders to keep you on track. Knowing exactly what’s on your credit report allows you to set responsible goals to improve your financial health. 

Be Patient

Good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately, your credit score won’t skyrocket overnight once you start taking steps to improve it. The amount of time it takes to improve your score will depend on the factors that are bringing it down. 

Negative listings, such as a loan default or car repossession, remain on your report for up to seven years. Improving your report after events like these will require some patience and discipline. 

If an error is negatively affecting your credit, you’ll likely see an improvement to your score once it’s resolved.

Take Action Now

The bottom line is, you shouldn’t avoid checking your credit reports. You may request one free report from each bureau every twelve months. It is important for you to see that the information on your report is accurate. And if it’s not, take steps to correct it. 
 

What to Do When You’re Contacted About a Paid Debt

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.

When Collection Contact Continues

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 Validation and Itemization letter to the collector asking for verification of the debt and how the claimed balance was calculated.

Document Your Contact

Maintain documentation of all correspondence with the collector, including letters sent and received, and proof of payments. Good record-keeping, the ability to show account history, and proof of collection disputes and responses become helpful in evaluating whether there is a claim against the collector for violating your consumer rights.

If collectors contact you by phone, keep a call log. Note 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. This information may be useful in determining whether the collector failed to comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Seek Legal Help

A qualified consumer protection attorney can help evaluate whether the debt collector has violated your consumer rights. Once you’ve hired an attorney, you may inform the collector with your attorney’s name and contact information. If the collector continues to contact you after you obtain legal representation, your consumer rights may have been violated under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

 

Service Members: Strengthen Your Credit

Military life is one of frequent transitions. Each deployment, promotion, and change in duty status brings the need to make money-related decisions. These financial decisions can have long-term effects on family life, mission readiness, and security clearance.

Service members often run into trouble because of the irregularities in their daily life. They may tend to overspend and receive contact from debt collectors, fall for financial scams and become victims of identity theft, be denied loans because of credit report errors, or have a vehicle repossessed. Learning more about consumer credit and how to build a strong credit history can help veterans improve their financial health.

Take Advantage of Free Credit Reports

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re allowed one free credit report within a twelve month period from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. Send a letter to one of the bureaus and request your reports. Review them carefully to ensure that there are no errors and that you recognize all of the listed accounts. 

Credit Accuracy

Credit reports include personal information, credit history, credit inquiries, and public records. Your credit cards, mortgage, and any loans you have are all listed along with their payment status. If you fall behind on payments or default on a loan, your credit report will list this negatively. Negative entries may make it more difficult for you to open a new line of credit, be approved for a new loan, or receive a promotion or security clearance. It may also mean higher interest rates on loans where you have been approved. 

Credit Privacy

Regular credit report checks help you monitor your accounts and determine whether someone has accessed your credit report without your permission or opened accounts in your name. If you notice suspicious activity, information that does not belong to you, or believe you have become a victim of identity theft, follow these steps

Know How Much You Spend

A budget helps you see where you can cut back on spending and create a workable plan to pay off debt.Take the time to set a budget. Divide your regular expenses into categories and determine how much you can afford to spend on each category every month. Use a spreadsheet or online tool to keep track of all of your accounts and expenses. 

Be Aware of Scams

Follow your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Unfortunately, service members are frequent targets for various scams. Companies or organizations could call and claim to belong to a veterans group or another legitimate sounding organization. Be sure to research the organization; find out where they’re located, see if there is a complaint board online, and investigate whether the company is reputable. 

Be cautious. Do not provide any personal identifying information, such as your social security number or date of birth, or access to bank accounts or credit and debit cards.  

Financial Guidance for Service Members

Remember, you’re not alone. There are many services offered through the Department of Defense and veterans organizations to help service members keep their finances on track. Do your research and make a financial plan that is right for you.

Navigating the Military Financial Lifecycle

Key Financial Issues that Affect Military Consumers

Achieving Financial Security

 

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.

Know How You’re Protected

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 or family members about the debt or disclose information to them 
  • Harass you using threats or profane language
  • Lie about who they are or the debt you owe

Knowing your rights before taking any action makes a potentially frustrating situation easier to handle.

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 and include any proof that shows the debt was already paid or does not belong to you. 

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.   

Free Legal Help – Whether You Owe the Debt or Not

Whether you owe the debt or not, a consumer protection attorney will evaluate any communications, including calls or letters, received from a debt collector. If your consumer rights were violated, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the collector at no cost to you.