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. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulates what debt collectors, or law firms acting as collectors, can do when contacting Pennsylvania consumers, and bars them from engaging in deception while trying to recover money that is owed.

Continue reading How Debt Collection Laws Help Pennsylvanians

How does a “Charge-Off” affect the consumer?

When payments on your account go unpaid, the creditor may stop you from making additional charges and list your account as a charge-off.  But even if the creditor stops trying to collect on your account, you still could be responsible for the debt.

Continue reading How does a “Charge-Off” affect the consumer?

Midland Credit Management KO’d in Flitter Milz Lawsuit

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 in Philadelphia, PA 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.

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.

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.