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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.

Debt Collectors Must Play by the Rules

Debt collection harassment affects millions of Americans. Did you know that debt collectors have to follow certain laws when they contact you, whether or not you owe the debt?

What is the FDCPA?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the main federal law that governs debt collection practices. This law prohibits debt collection companies or law firms from using abusive, harassing, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect debt from consumers.

The law covers personal, family, and household debt, including money owed on a personal credit card account, a medical or utility bill, or a loan. Commercial debts, or debts incurred as a business or commercial transaction, are not covered under this law.

Whether a debt is owed or not, collectors are not allowed to intimidate, harass, threaten, or abuse you. You may be able to sue the collector for violations of the FDCPA at no cost.

When Can Collectors Contact Me?

Collectors can contact you by phone between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless you inform the collector that they are permitted to contact you outside those hours. For example, some people work shifts that would make it inconvenient to receive calls during those hours. You can request that the collector contact you during certain hours which are convenient to you. It is important to document collection calls with date, time of day, name of collector, caller ID, and details of a phone conversation or message.

Collectors may call you at work if you give them permission. If your employer does not permit you to have personal calls at work, you can inform the collector to stop calling during work hours.

Can the Collector Contact Me if I’m Represented by an Attorney?

After engaging an attorney to assist with your debt, you should inform the collector by sending a letter stating your attorney’s name and contact information. At this point, the collector is no longer permitted to contact you directly. If you continue to receive collection calls or letters, your consumer rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may have been violated.

Can the Collector Contact Someone Else About My Debt?

Collectors are not allowed to contact anyone other than yourself about your debt, unless it is to get contact information. Many times we hear that relatives, neighbors, co-workers, or friends have received contact from debt collectors about someone else’s debt.  Often the collector shares details about the debt, such as payment history and amounts owed. In these situations, it is very important to  create a document stating the date, time of day, name of caller, name of collector, Caller ID and details of the conversation or phone message.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of a debt collector’s abusive tactics.  Contact Us for a free legal evaluation.

8 Things that could Harm Your Credit Score

Your credit history plays an important role in your financial health. A lower credit score and negative credit report listings make it more difficult to obtain approval for a loan application when you are trying to finance a home, purchase a car, obtain a credit card or a personal loan. Equally, these items can make it more difficult to secure a job or an apartment.

It takes time and discipline to build healthy credit. Here are eight situations to avoid as you establish your credit.

Late Payments

Late payments will harm your credit score. Pay in full and on time to improve your score.

Loan Defaults

A loan can default immediately after a missed payment, or several months after missed payments, or for other reasons, such as allowing insurance on your vehicle to lapse. This will depend upon the terms in the loan agreement. If you are struggling to make payments, contact the lender before you default. You may be able to defer payments until you are more financially stable. A deferral will appear on your credit report as well, but it will not harm your credit as much as a default.

Car Repossession

Failing to make auto loan payments can result in repossession of the vehicle. A car repossession can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. If you can’t make a scheduled payment, contact your lender to see if you can defer payments and avoid a repossession.

Charged-off Accounts

A charged-off account occurs when payments are delinquent and the bank writes the debt off as uncollectable. This generally happens after months without payment. Charged-off accounts have a very negative impact on credit and should be avoided at all costs.

Maxed Out Credit Limit

Each account has a credit limit that should not be exceeded. Strive to use 30% or less of your available credit to keep your credit score healthy.

Bankruptcy

Many consumers view bankruptcy as an opportunity to start anew, but filing for bankruptcy will negatively affect your credit score and can remain on your credit report for many years. Seek alternatives before filing. Certain consumer protection laws may protect you without having to file for bankruptcy. 

Lack of Credit History

A lack of credit history can also hurt you. Creditors will have no way to know your creditworthiness and whether or not you will be a risk. Young adults should open an account and pay off the balance in full and on time each month to build a healthy credit score over time.

Long Periods of Unemployment

A long lapse in employment and a high debt to income ratio can also hurt your credit.  

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents people that have become victim of inaccurate credit reporting, unfair debt collection practices, unlawful vehicle repossessions and “robocalls” from lenders, telemarketers and debt collectors. Contact Us to discuss your legal rights whether you have fallen behind on obligations or not.

 

Can I be sent to jail if I owe money?

Debt Collection Harassment

Debt collection contact can be stressful and intimidating, especially iwhen you feel threatened. Debt collectors sometimes use abusive tactics, like threatening a lawsuit when none is intended, or threatening IRS reporting or tax consequences.

Collectors may also tell you that you can go to jail for owing money. This is a tactic that is used to intimidate, and has no legal standing. You can’t go to jail for owing money.

The Law is on your side

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the main federal law that governs debt collection practices. It prohibits debt collection companies, or law firm collectors, from using abusive, harassing, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect debt from consumers. Whether you owe the debt or not, collectors are never allowed to intimidate, harass, threaten, or abuse you.

Cease & Desist Collection

If abusive collectors continue to contact you, send a Cease and Desist letter and request that collection calls and letters stop.  The collector is not permitted to contact you after receipt of this letter.  However, this does not mean the debt goes away.  Typically, the debt is assigned to a new collection agency, or possibly a law firm collector, to begin a new collection effort.

Attorney Representation

If you are represented by an attorney that is handling your debts, the collector is not permitted to contact you. You must notify the collector of your attorney’s name and contact information and request that any contact about your debt be made directly with your attorney.

Third Party Contact

Collectors may not contact anyone but you about your debt.  If family member, co-workers, neighbors or friends are contacted by a collector about your debt, your consumer rights may 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 contact from debt collectors.

 

How do I know if the Debt Collector is Legitimate?

Calls from debt collectors are worrisome, especially if the collection agency or law firm collector name is unfamiliar to you. You may be told misleading or false information about a debt they claim you owe.  Or, you may be threatened with an action if you don’t pay. Here are a few signs that may indicate that the collector isn’t legitimate.

You Don’t Recognize the Debt

If the debt in question is completely unfamiliar to you, it could be a scam. Ask that the collector provide a validation of the debt and a detailed itemization of any amount they claim is owed.

If you don’t recognize the collection firm, keep in mind that creditors will often assign past due balances to a collection agency or law firm collector. You may begin to receive collection calls or letters demanding payment from this third party collector years after defaulting on credit cards, loans, medical bills, etc.

You are not provided with details

If you are unfamiliar with the collection agency, ask the collector for the name of the firm, where it’s located – address and phone – and the collection agent’s name.   Also, ask the name of the underlying creditor, account number and balance claimed.  A collector who won’t provide any of this information is worthy of suspicion.

You are asked to provide personal
identifying information

Never provide or confirm personal identifying information, such as social security number, birth date or bank account numbers, over the phone. Request that the collector send you a letter detailing the name of the creditor, account number and amount owed.

If you do not like the way you’ve been treated by the collector, you may write and request they Cease & Desist all contact with you.

You are Threatened by the Collector

Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors can’t threaten to take an action they don’t intend to take.  For example, they can’t say, “We’ll sue you if you don’t pay,” when they have no intention of filing a lawsuit.  If you are threatened with a lawsuit or possibly arrest, your consumer rights may 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 legal evaluation for violation of your consumer rights – whether you owe the debt or not!

Co-signing a Loan: All Risk, Little Reward

Co-signers lend their names and good credit histories to the primary borrower, usually when the other borrower cannot obtain credit on his or her own.  For example, a parent may co-sign for a child who does not yet have a credit history. Or, someone may be asked to co-sign by a friend or relative whose credit is tarnished, has negative marks in their credit history, or a low credit score.

Co-signing a loan does not mean that you are serving as a character reference for someone else. Here’s what you should know before you co-sign a loan.

You’re Liable

When you agree to co-sign on a loan, you are liable for payment of the loan. You risk having to repay any missed payments immediately, or having to pay the full loan balance if your co-borrower defaults.

If the co-borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can use the same collection methods against the co-signer, such as demanding repayment of the entire loan, filing a lawsuit, and garnishing bank accounts after a judgment.

Credit scores may be impacted negatively by any late payments or defaults by either co-borrower. If the primary borrower dies, loses a job, goes through divorce, files bankruptcy, or otherwise fails to make payments, all responsibility for meeting the terms of the account generally transfers to the co-signer.

In some cases, the person who thought they were merely a co-borrower or guarantor was really listed in auto finance documents as the primary borrower. Be aware that if your co-borrower is primarily irresponsible for timely monthly payments, your credit score could suffer if he or she pays late, even if the lender did not give you a timely notification of the missed payment.

You Could Be Sued if Payments Aren’t Made

Failure to pay on the loan (or another breach of the loan agreement, like not keeping up the car insurance) means the lender can come after you for the entire balance. The co-signer often gets sued first because their credit is stronger and the bank believes they’re more likely to repay the debt.

It’s Difficult to Remove Your Name from the Loan

Once the account is opened, it’s very tough to remove a co-signer from the loan. We often hear stories of car buyers being told by the salesman to return after four to six months, at which time the dealer will supposedly remove one of the borrowers from the paperwork. This is not true, but rather a tactic to sell cars. Both the primary borrower and co-signer need to satisfy the loan in order to terminate the loan agreement, or obtain the lender’s express permission to remove one of two co-borrowers.

Tax Consequences of Settled or Unpaid Debt

The lender might not want to go through the trouble of suing you, so they agree to settle a post-repo deficiency balance for less than the balance owed. This means that you could have tax liability for the difference.

For example, if you owe $10,000 and settle for $4,000, you may have to report the remaining $6,000 as “debt forgiveness income” on your tax returns and pay tax on it. Settling on the account for less than the full sum may also leave a negative mark on your credit report. You may need to seek professional tax advice on this.

Co-signing Could Make it More Difficult for You to Get a Loan

Before you co-sign for someone, think about whether or not you’ll need to use your credit for your own needs. A lender may deny a credit application if there is too much credit in your name or the balances are too high relative to your income.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm representing people in matters against lenders, debt collectors and the credit bureaus.  Whether you or the co-borrower has fallen behind on payments or not, Contact Us for a FREE evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

6 Ways to Handle Pushy Debt Collectors

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the federal law that offers protections to consumers from aggressive debt collectors.  Whether the debt is owed or not, collectors may not harass or abuse the consumer, and they can not misrepresent the debt.  If a collector violates the FDCPA, the consumer may pursue a lawsuit against the collector, and the collector will be responsible for paying the legal fees.

Continue reading 6 Ways to Handle Pushy Debt Collectors

Beware of Charged-Off Debts

Most people look for ways to pay their debts and get out of a financial hole. Whether it’s by taking a second job, reorganizing payment schedules with creditors, or possibly deferring payments to the end of the loan, there are steps that can be taken to resolve delinquent accounts.

If the creditor is unsuccessful in collecting with no payment by the borrower, the creditor may designate the debt as “charged-off”.

What is a Charge-Off?
Uncollectible “charged-off” debt is an internal accounting function and means that the creditor may choose to collect at a later date, or assign the collection to a third party collector, such as a collection agency or law firm collector. Charged-off debt does not disappear.  These debts may continue to be collected and probably be assigned or sold to a new debt collector.

Debt Collectors may collect Charged-Off debt
If the debt moves to a collector, the consumer may begin to receive calls or letters from the debt collector about the underlying debt.  Whether the consumer owes the debt or not, the collector must follow the law called The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Credit Reports list Charged-Off Accounts
The creditor is required to report charged-off debt to the credit bureaus. The creditor’s listing on the report will note the status as “Charged-Off” and can remain on the report for seven and a half years. This status carries negative weight and may impact the consumer’s ability to obtain credit.

Tips to negotiate charged off accounts
-Request an itemized calculation of the debt
-Only agree to payment terms you are able to manage
-Remain in control of your checking account
-Get the payment agreement in writing

Seek Help from a Consumer Lawyer

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that pursues cases against debt collectors that have violated a consumer’s rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  If you have received contact from a collection agency or collection law firm, Contact Us for a free consultation:  888-668-1225.

 

8 Tips for Dealing with Debt Collectors

As we go through life it is difficult not to incur debt. Whether it is from credit card bills, student loans, medical bills, or other financial obligations, debt can be a serious obstacle for consumers.

The general consensus among debt counselors, debt collectors, and state regulators warns that ignoring debt collection letters, phone calls, or court documents is the wrong way to address scary debt situations. When in debt, it is best to confront the fear and deal with the circumstances. Otherwise, dealing with collection agencies will only make matters worse.

The best option is to avoid debt collectors altogether. If you see financial trouble coming, try to form an agreement with the original creditor and work out a reasonable payment plan before the debt is sold to a third-party debt collector.

Sometimes that’s just not possible or it may be too late. Here are some tips to stay sane when dealing with debt collection agencies:

1. Educate yourself about your rights

Learn about your consumer rights and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. You can visit your state’s Attorney General’s Office website for information about debt collection laws. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a federal agency established under the Obama administration. It offers a wealth of information about debt collection practices and what to do when dealing with harassing debt collectors.

2. Don’t ignore letters or phone calls about debts or court notices about collection lawsuits

Open lines of communication are best in these types of situations. You should actively write to the collector and get a written verification of the debt to make sure the debt belongs to you and the information is accurate. If you receive a court summons, do NOT ignore this! If you do not respond to the notice or show up in court at the hearing, the judge will enter a default judgment against you. Judgments are dangerous and can enable the creditor to attach bank accounts, place liens on property, and in some states, garnish wages.

3. Keep copies of everything

Keeping complete records for all of your open accounts is the best way to track progress and prove accuracy when necessary.  File account statements and keep accurate records of when payments were made, the method of payment and when the payment was applied towards your account.

4. Safeguard your bank accounts

Debt collectors can file suit against a consumer for not making payments on a debt. If a judgment is entered, the collector may freeze savings or checking accounts, which can be very problematic for families on a budget.  Some financial experts suggest keeping separate bank accounts for funds, such as Social Security or disability checks, which cannot be used as a source of a court-ordered judgment. Debt collection can also be halted if you have declared bankruptcy.

5. Be smart about payment methods

You may want to avoid giving debt collectors your personal banking information. If you use money orders or another third-party payment service, you will have proof of payment and avoid providing personal account information. You should also avoid allowing debt collectors to make direct electronic or automated withdrawals from your bank accounts.

6. Get everything in writing!

Any payment agreements with a debt collector must be confirmed in writing and signed by a representative of the debt collection agency before sending in any payments. This will help avoid misunderstandings.

7. Certify your mail

Sending documents and correspondence to a collector via certified mail provides proof that your letter or payment was received. You can also request a return receipt for proof  that your letter was received.

8. 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 case review.  Whether you fell behind on payments or not, the debt collector must follow the law.

How Medical Debt Impacts Your Credit Score

Medical emergencies occur as we go through life. Often, health issues are unexpected and can end up costing thousands of dollars in medical bills. With the lapse in time from when you are billed by a medical provider to the time your health insurance company pays, very quickly accounts can be turned over to third party debt collectors, and frequently, become listings on your credit report.

Even when the medical bills are paid, the time spent in collection status may negatively impact credit reports and lower credit scores.  The result could make it more difficult to get approved for a loan, purchase a car, rent an apartment, or even get a job.

How to Manage your Credit Score

Your credit score is a three-digit number that’s used by lenders to predict the likelihood that you’ll pay your credit obligations on time.  Scores range from 300 – 850 and are calculated based on credit history information listed on credit reports. Make sure that information listed on your credit report is accurate.  Incorrect listings may contribute to lower credit scores.  Take these steps to make sure your credit score is an accurate reflection of your credit history.

Obtain Current Credit Reports
Every twelve months you are entitled to obtain new credit reports for free from each Transunion, Experian and Equifax. There may be a fee from the credit bureaus if you need to request reports more often.

Review your Credit Reports for Accuracy
The bureaus list not only personal information, such as your name, birth date, social security number, addresses and employment history, but also list account payment information, liens, judgments and bankruptcies.  Learn to read your credit report .  If there are errors that could bring your credit score down, take steps to get them corrected.

Dispute Errors on your Credit Reports
If there are errors on your reports, send written disputes to the credit bureaus.  Your dispute letter should be concise and provide documents illustrating why the listing is incorrect.  Send your dispute to the bureau by Certified Mail, Return Receipt, so that you have proof your dispute was received. Be sure to keep copies of your complete dispute. The credit bureau has 30 days to respond to your dispute.

Collection contact over Medical Debt
Once a medical provider assigns the collection of a medical debt to a collection agency or law firm collector, the consumer has rights against a collector’s abusive collection practices. Whether you have been unable to pay or dispute the amount, the collector must follow the law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognizedconsumer protection law firm that represents victims with problems involving credit reporting errors and abusive collection practices.  Whether you owe the debt or not, our firm will evaluate whether your consumer rights have been violated.  Contact us today for a free legal review.