Miami-Dade State Attorney Warns of Debt Collection Scam


Miami-Dade State Attorney Warns of Debt Collection Scam
Miami-Dade State Attorney Warns of Debt Collection Scam

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is warning residents about a recent e-mail scam filled with legal-sounding jargon – but with notable grammar and spelling mistakes – threatening the arrest of the recipient if they do not send $750 immediately in order to pay off an alleged debt, according to public information officer Ed Griffith on Tuesday.

The bogus e-mails contained a fake court case number, threaten an impending arrest and attempt to acquire valid credit card information from consumers.

“I’m outraged that thieves would hope to use the prosecutor’s office as a tool to get cash from terrified victims,” Fernandez Rundle stated. “We have already spoken to victims who almost fell for this scheme. Only luck and good judgment saved them.”

According to Fernandez Rundle, the scammers use the false identity of “attorney” Joseph Foster from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.   Inclusion of an official agency such as the state attorney’s office and the use of a fake name is a recent revision of e-mail and phone scams that include threats of arrest to collect debt that consumers do not owe.

Preliminary investigation reveals that the false e-mails may have originated in Thailand, making it unlikely that U.S. law enforcement will be able to arrest the scammers or get a return of lost monies, according to the state attorney’s office.

Victims in the Miami-Dade debt collection scam have reported that the fake debt collectors maintained a familiarity with their personal information and have additionally associated themselves with the “Morgan & Associates” law firm.

Return calls to a telephone number contained in the e-mails reveal possible use of VOIP technology.  These phone numbers have since been disconnected.

In similar scams, fake debt collectors speak English with a foreign accent and call themselves “Affidavit Consolidation Services,” “Cash Advance Inc.,” “Criminal Bureau of Identity,” “DNR Recovery,” “U.S. National Bank,” “US Justice Department/Payday Loan Division,” “Federal Investigation Bureau,” “United Legal Processing” and other phony names.

The fake collectors refuse to disclose their real names or addresses and are believed to be operating from homes, automobiles, and foreign countries.  As these scammers have kept themselves well hidden, law enforcement authorities have been unsuccessful in locating or shutting them down.

Fake debt collectors typically pose as lawyers, law enforcement officers, investigators, and bankers while attempting to collect on phony debt.  They threaten consumers with immediate arrest for “bank fraud” or other crimes unless a credit card number is provided or funds wired immediately. They scare and confuse consumers by using meaningless legal phrases such as “We are downloading warrants against you” or “We are filing an affidavit against you.”  Consumers that do not immediately fall for the scam are warned, “Only God can help you now.”

Fake debt collectors almost always call consumers at work – sometimes several times a day – advising their supervisors, “Your employee has committed fraud and is about to be arrested.” Such threats have been unsettling to consumers and employers.  Because the scammers make a special point of calling at work, employers should realize that their employee is an innocent victim of a criminal enterprise and cannot stop the calls voluntarily.

According to Fernandez Rundle, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office never communicates important information via e-mail and would never be involved in a debt collection action.  The office strongly recommends that consumers never electronically respond to situations that demand immediate action with threats of punishment or even open unsolicited e-mails from unfamiliar senders.  Consumers should also ask for documentation that proves an alleged debt exists.

“More potential victims are calling our office now that this scam has become public,” Ed Griffith, public information officer, told Examiner.  “A new twist on an old scam, consumers should be vigilant and not provide personal information or credit card numbers to anyone they haven’t first contacted themselves.”

For more information on this debt collection scam or to report possible fraud, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office can be contacted through their Cyber Crimes Unit at (305) 547-0837.

_____________________

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

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West Virginia AG sues Midland Credit Management over fraudulent practices


West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced Thursday that his office has sued two divisions of Encore Capital Group, claiming the company participated in fraudulent collection practices and used false affidavits in lawsuits.

Midland Credit Management and Midland Funding LLC are both affiliates of Encore Capital, a San Diego-based debt buyer. The lawsuit filed against them alleges the companies obtained default judgments against West Virginia consumers through robo-signed affidavits.

According to the lawsuit, Midland frequently used “false” and “unreliable” mass-produced affidavits as alleged “proof” in lawsuits against consumers. They did this in order to obtain judgments against or extract payments from mostly unrepresented consumers, some of whom who had no actual knowledge of an alleged debt.

In some cases, McGraw said, Midland sued consumers simply because they had the same or similar name or address as the real debtor. In other cases, they harassed people for bills previously repaid.

McGraw’s office wants to force Midland to repay money obtained from consumers, as well as to pay $5,000 to the state for each violation of its consumer-protection law. It further wants to stop Encore Capital Group from collecting in West Virginia until the court case is resolved.

According to Collections & Credit Risk, Midland is considered one of the largest debt buyers in the country, having purchased, in recent years, more than $54.7 billion in stale consumer debt.

They typically purchase old credit card debt that has been charged-off by the original creditor for about three cents on the dollar.

In February, Encore Capital Group reported its gross collections reached $761.2 million in 2011, up 26% from the previous year. Its net income totaled $61 million on $467.4 million in revenue.

According to the lawsuit, McGraw alleged that debt buyers like Midland typically acquire only an electronic file about the debt and not actual copies of underlying applications, account statements or charge slips.

“Unfortunately, many consumers are frightened or unaware of their rights when they are sued and fail to respond to these groundless lawsuits, leaving them subject to judgments on debts that cannot be proved,” McGraw stated in a prepared release. “Companies such as Midland rely upon this fear and typically drop their lawsuits if consumers know their rights.”

The National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization, has estimated that approximately 10% of lawsuits filed by debt buyers such as Midland are predicated on false, incorrect, or misleading information.

The West Virginia Attorney General’s office initiated an investigation into Midland after receiving complaints from dozens of consumers that they received repeated telephone calls attempting to collect on debt they did not owe.

Some consumers also complained that they had been sued for accounts they never possessed.

In response to growing complaints about stale debt, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed last month a regulation that would let it examine the books of collectors such as Midland as part of its program to supervise nonbank financial companies.

Despite a phone message left for Encore Capital officials, they were not immediately available for comment on the lawsuit.

How to Beat the Debt Collector with Sample Cease and Desist Letter


Debt collectors are highly motivated to convince debtors to pay the debt because they frequently work on a low base pay plus commission. This business model has created the reputation for bill collection agencies that we know today.

The collector might engage in threatening behavior and harassment. However, like any other business they are governed by laws that prohibit certain abusive practices.

There are three reasons for a debt collector to contact you: your creditor has not received a payment from you within the time frame discussed in the contract; you are a victim of an identity theft meaning someone used your identity to obtain credit and didn’t pay it off; and finally, you might be contacted by collectors who are looking for someone other than you .

When contacted by a collector, take as much information as possible from the caller. Ask for the name of the company, address, the caller name, fax and phone number, amount owned, and the name of the creditor who passed your account to them. Also, tell them you expect to receive a notice in the mail concerning this debt. The last step is very important because you need to have proof of the debt in question in writing.

If you discovered that the debt is not yours, never pay it off simply to get rid of the collector. Also, never ignore the collector either. They will not stop contacting you, and may even file a lawsuit against you. If you are repeatedly being contacted by a collector looking for someone other than you, it may be considered a form of harassment. To stop this you need to send them a letter requesting to cease calls.

If you established that the debt is yours and you don’t feel comfortable dealing with a collector via phone, tell them you want all future correspondence in writing. You need to send this request via a certified mail and request a return receipt. If you want to allow calls only between 5pm and 6pm, tell them about it in the letter. By law collection companies are required to respect your privacy and will have to cease all phone calls to your home, relatives, neighbors, and work.

Once you have their claims in writing it’s easier to seek legal help, and keep records of your correspondence.  Send all your responses to bill collectors via Certified Mail. This way you will have proof of receipt by the addressee.

Remember that the amount they claim you owe is negotiable. You can negotiate the total amount due, number of payments, and the payment deadline. Once you worked out the payment plan, request it in writing.

What a debt collector CANNOT do:

1.) Use deceptive practices. For example, threaten you with arrest or trick you into paying for collection calls.
2.) Use obscene language.
3.) Call you at work after you tell them that your boss does not approve these calls.
4.) Deny you the right to receive a written notice (within five days after your first phone conversation) that would tell you how much you owe and the name of the creditor that says you owe the money. If you do not receive the notice within five days, call the collection agency and ask for its address and fax number. Then, send a letter to the collector noting its failure to send you the required notice. As a minimum, make a note in your file.
5.) Refuse to give its name and the name of the collection company when asked.
6.) Put a debt on your credit report if you file a dispute. It must validate the debt by obtaining a verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment from the creditor before continuing their collection efforts. The results of the investigation must be mailed to you.

SAMPLE CEASE AND DESIST LETTER

The cease and desist letter has legal stature based upon the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act at section 805. You can read it for yourself here. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to both the agency and to attorneys who collect two or more debts per year. This law does not apply to the original creditor. However many original creditors will honor your request to not be called.

Please note that when a consumer debt collector receives a cease and desist letter they may move the account to legal status. This means that if they intend to sue you, the cease and desist letter will prompt them to bring suit immediately. So if there is an alternative way to stop being bothered by their calls, like using an answering machine, I’d suggest that you try it first. If there is no alternative then send the cease and desist letter.

Send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt request. Keep a copy of the letter for your files. The letter may take a couple of weeks to work its way through the collection agency’s system before your number is taken out of their automated dialers. Even after they receive the letter they are allowed (under law) to contact you one time to notify you of their intent.

The below letter is easily personalized by utilizing a word document program. Although not the cease and desist letter currently utilized by Credit Restoration Consultants, it will serve to notify consumer debt collectors of your intent and purpose.  Although protected by copyright, single user permission is granted to individuals in the self help credit restoration process.

 

My Address
My City State and Zip

December 30, 2001

Acme Collection Agency
12345 West Main Street
Any Town, AL 30311

Dear Sir/Madam:

This letter is forwarded to your collection agency reference account number 123456 and the dunning collection notices/calls recently received. Insofar as your agency is a debt collector pursuant to section 803 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you will be treated like one. Therefore, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – and all of its relevant provisions – will be invoked.

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that this is a disputed debt pursuant to section 809 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The specific content of said dispute was recently stated – verbally – to an individual at your agency who refused to provide their name upon request thereof. Pursuant to the FDCPA, you are prohibited from dunning a debtor when a specific debt is disputed.

YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that this is a disputed debt pursuant to section 623 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It is my belief that your agency has illegally reported this disputed debt to Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. If this is the case, I will most certainly litigate an action against your agency insofar as it has willfully reported a disputed debt. Pursuant to the FCRA, your agency must notify the consumer reporting agencies of any disputed delinquency immediately upon notification thereof. A further cause of action may exist for failure to perform this ministerial task.

YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that I desire no further communication with your agency under section 805 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your agency is to CEASE and DESIST all further communication immediately. Should I receive another piece of dunning correspondence that does not comport with the provisions of the FDCPA, I will immediately initiate litigation against your agency.

Sincerely,

John Q. Public

THIS IS AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE A DEBT COLLECTOR OBEY THE LAW. ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED WILL BE USED FOR THAT PURPOSE. THIS COMMUNICATION IS FROM AN ALLEGED DEBTOR REFERENCE A DISPUTED DEBT.

Beware of Fake Debt Collectors – FDCPA May Not Protect You


Over the last several decades, America has truly transitioned into a debtor society. Despite tough economic times, consumers are more likely to borrow than they are to delay when making a purchase. With consumers having financial obligations to multiple institutions, keeping accurate records and documentation can become a challenge. Opportunistic con artists posing as “fake” debt collectors recognize this as an area of vulnerability and are more than willing to use it to their advantage.

These fake debt collectors speak English with a foreign accent and call themselves “Affidavit Consolidation Services,” Criminal Bureau of Identity,” “U.S. National Bank,” “US Justice Department/Payday Loan Division,” “Federal Investigation Bureau,” “United Legal Processing” and other phony names. They refuse to disclose real names and addresses and are believed to be operating from homes, automobiles, and foreign countries such as India. As these scammers have kept themselves well hidden, law enforcement authorities have been unsuccessful in locating or shutting them down.

Fake debt collectors typically pose as lawyers, law enforcement officers, investigators, and bankers while attempting to collect on phony debt. They threaten consumers with immediate arrest for “bank fraud” or other crimes unless funds are wired immediately. They scare and confuse consumers by using meaningless legal phrases such as “We are downloading warrants against you” or “We are filing an affidavit against you.” Consumers that do not immediately fall for the scam are warned, “Only God can help you now.”

Fake debt collectors almost always call consumers at work – sometimes several times a day – advising their supervisors, “Your employee has committed bank fraud and is about to be arrested.” Such threats have been unsettling to consumers and employers. Because the scammers make a special point of calling at work, employers should realize that their employee is an innocent victim of a criminal enterprise and cannot stop the calls voluntarily.

“My office works to protect consumers from fraudulent activities by seeking to stop deceptive practices and resolving consumer complaints,” stated Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. “However, a consumer’s best defense is to be aware of the scam so all demands for money can be resisted and personal identification information is not misused.”

In general:

A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, e-mail, telephone, telegram or fax. A collector may not contact you with such frequency that can be considered harassing. A debt collector may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves nor may they contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

A debt collector is required to send written notice within five days of first contact advising the amount due. The notice must also specify the name of the creditor and what action to take if you wish to dispute the debt.

You may stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter ceasing them from communication. Once the agency receives it, they may not make further contact except to advise there will be no further contact or to notify you of a specific action contemplated by the creditor.

A debt collector may not harass or abuse a consumer. A collector may not use threats of violence against a person, property or reputation; use obscene or profane language; advertise the debt; or repeatedly make calls with the intent to harass or abuse the person at the called number.

A debt collector may not use false statements, such as implying they are attorneys; that you have committed a crime; that they operate or work for a credit reporting agency; misrepresent the amount of a debt; or indicate that papers mailed are legal forms when they are not.

A debt collector may not threaten arrest or that they will seize property or garnish wages unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so; or that a lawsuit will be filed when they have no legal right to file or do not intend to file such a suit.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector – real or fake – file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or by visiting their website at www.myfloridalegal.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a consumer collection guide detailing your rights at www.ftc.gov.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune.  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/jun/27/lc-beware-of-fake-debt-collectors/

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Beware of Fake Debt Collectors – FDCPA May Not Protect You


Over the last several decades, America has truly transitioned into a debtor society. Despite tough economic times, consumers are more likely to borrow than they are to delay when making a purchase. With consumers having financial obligations to multiple institutions, keeping accurate records and documentation can become a challenge. Opportunistic con artists posing as “fake” debt collectors recognize this as an area of vulnerability and are more than willing to use it to their advantage.

These fake debt collectors speak English with a foreign accent and call themselves “Affidavit Consolidation Services,” Criminal Bureau of Identity,” “U.S. National Bank,” “US Justice Department/Payday Loan Division,” “Federal Investigation Bureau,” “United Legal Processing” and other phony names. They refuse to disclose real names and addresses and are believed to be operating from homes, automobiles, and foreign countries such as India. As these scammers have kept themselves well hidden, law enforcement authorities have been unsuccessful in locating or shutting them down.

Fake debt collectors typically pose as lawyers, law enforcement officers, investigators, and bankers while attempting to collect on phony debt. They threaten consumers with immediate arrest for “bank fraud” or other crimes unless funds are wired immediately. They scare and confuse consumers by using meaningless legal phrases such as “We are downloading warrants against you” or “We are filing an affidavit against you.” Consumers that do not immediately fall for the scam are warned, “Only God can help you now.”

Fake debt collectors almost always call consumers at work – sometimes several times a day – advising their supervisors, “Your employee has committed bank fraud and is about to be arrested.” Such threats have been unsettling to consumers and employers. Because the scammers make a special point of calling at work, employers should realize that their employee is an innocent victim of a criminal enterprise and cannot stop the calls voluntarily.

“My office works to protect consumers from fraudulent activities by seeking to stop deceptive practices and resolving consumer complaints,” stated Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. “However, a consumer’s best defense is to be aware of the scam so all demands for money can be resisted and personal identification information is not misused.”

In general:

A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, e-mail, telephone, telegram or fax. A collector may not contact you with such frequency that can be considered harassing. A debt collector may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves nor may they contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

A debt collector is required to send written notice within five days of first contact advising the amount due. The notice must also specify the name of the creditor and what action to take if you wish to dispute the debt.

You may stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter ceasing them from communication. Once the agency receives it, they may not make further contact except to advise there will be no further contact or to notify you of a specific action contemplated by the creditor.

A debt collector may not harass or abuse a consumer. A collector may not use threats of violence against a person, property or reputation; use obscene or profane language; advertise the debt; or repeatedly make calls with the intent to harass or abuse the person at the called number.

A debt collector may not use false statements, such as implying they are attorneys; that you have committed a crime; that they operate or work for a credit reporting agency; misrepresent the amount of a debt; or indicate that papers mailed are legal forms when they are not.

A debt collector may not threaten arrest or that they will seize property or garnish wages unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so; or that a lawsuit will be filed when they have no legal right to file or do not intend to file such a suit.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector – real or fake – file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or by visiting their website at www.myfloridalegal.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a consumer collection guide detailing your rights at www.ftc.gov.

 

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Guide to Credit Reports, Credit Scores


Attention is focused on new financial regulations enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission announced final rules requiring creditors to provide consumers’ with a “risk-based pricing notice” when granting credit on less favorable terms than it provides other consumers.

To assist consumer understanding of these new rules, the U.S. Federal Reserve has unveiled an online guide to credit reports.

This straight-forward guide includes information on credit reports and credit scores, how they are utilized in credit granting decisions, unsolicited credit offers, credit repair and how to protect your personal information from fraud.

Released on Wednesday, the “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” is meant to complement consumer-protection laws that Congress enacted several years ago.

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, lenders – starting in January – will be required to tell consumers when adverse information on their credit reports is going to result in higher rates and fees for mortgages, credit cards and other loans.

In today’s tough economy, a strong FICO (Fair Isaac) credit score is more important than ever. Studies show that approximately 78 percent of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness.

As creditors tend to offer favorable terms to consumers with good credit histories and more costly credit to those with poor credit histories, the guide is intended to assist them in disputing negative and/or inaccurate information prior to making an application for credit or employment.

Under the “risk-based pricing” rules, consumers hit with the less favorable credit terms can also obtain a free credit report to check its accuracy.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances.

If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com.

Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

Consumer advocates say additional work is needed to address concerns about credit reports and credit scores. “The main problem is really with credit reports – they’re just plagued with inaccuracies,” said National Consumer Law Center attorney Lauren Saunders. “It’s a nightmare for consumers to get anything fixed.”

Saunders said she is expecting the FTC and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first agency to be charged with protecting consumers from abusive financial products, to take more action in addressing consumer concerns about credit reports.

Acting as a primer to the uneducated individual, the “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” advises what they should do if they find errors. In a three-step process, ordering credit reports and reviewing them for errors or inaccuracies; contacting the credit reporting agencies to enter a formal dispute; and, waiting for a response from the CRA’s and/or creditors is explained.

To learn more about the Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores, visit www.federalreserve.gov/creditreports. To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit www.williamlewis.us.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune – Media General Group.  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/nov/14/guide-credit-reports-credit-scores/

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Debt Collector


Debt collectors can no longer claim ignorance of the law as an excuse for violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) while attempting to collect a debt.

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling that severely restricts the “bona fide error” defense under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for debt collectors that send erroneous collection notices.

In a 7-2 ruling, the high court ruled that collection law firms could not use misinterpretations of the law in a “bona fide error” defense under the FDCPA.

In the matter of Jerman v. Carlisle, McNellie, Rini, Kramer & Ulrich, Karen Jerman sued an Ohio law firm for violating the FDCPA when it attempted to foreclose on her home following payment on the mortgage. In its initial collection notice, the law firm sought written proof that Jerman paid her Countrywide Home Loans mortgage. Absent proof of payment or a written dispute within 30 days, the debt would be presumed valid. Jerman hired an attorney to meet the written requirement, although the FDCPA does not explicitly require consumers to submit disputes in writing.

Specializing in real estate and foreclosure law, Carlisle admitted that its initial validation notice intended dispute claims to be submitted in writing. After Jerman sued, the firm argued that it should not be held liable under the FDCPA because the violation was an unintentional or “bona fide error.” Carlisle defended the matter asserting a “safe harbor protection” stating they were unaware that “written” disputes were not required under the FDCPA.

Although consumers are often instructed by debt collectors to submit written disputes, no such language exists under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In this instance, Carlisle argued that said “bona fide error” was the result of a clerical mistake.

The lower court sided with Jerman, noting that while Carlisle had violated the FDCPA, it was not liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for damages as the violation was unintentional or a “bona fide error.” An appeals court decision affirmed that ruling, sending the case to the United States Supreme Court.

In an opinion written for the 7-2 majority by Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the high court stated that “ignorance of the law will not excuse any person, either civilly or criminally.” Carlisle had argued that misinterpretations of the law were written into the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Sotomayor and the majority disagreed, noting that ignorance of the law was not explicitly written into the FDCPA.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito Jr., said the high court’s decision “aligns the judicial system with those who would use litigation to enrich themselves at the expense of attorneys who strictly follow and adhere to professional and ethical standards.”But Sotomayor spoke directly to that objection in the majority opinion, writing, “We do not foresee that our decision today will place unmanageable burdens on lawyers practicing in the debt collection industry.”

“Debt collectors should be treated like anyone else when violating a federal statute,” said Scott Kleiman, a foreclosure defense attorney with Kalis & Kleiman. “The Supreme Court decision keeps intact an important reason for debt collectors to abide by the law. While strong financial incentives encourage the collection of delinquent debts, continued unlawful behavior will not be excused and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

The case originated when Carlisle – acting as a debt collector – sent a notice and foreclosure complaint to Jerman, requiring her to submit any dispute “in writing” within 30 days. The “in writing” language was included in the notice based upon legal authority from other jurisdictions. 

Although Countrywide Home Loans subsequently dismissed the foreclosure action, Jerman turned to the Icove Legal Group, a Cleveland-based public interest law firm that filed a class-action suit on behalf of her and other homeowners who received the erroneous notice. “This case will have a far-reaching impact within the debt collection industry as consumer laws in a number of states have ‘bona fide error’ statutes identical to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” stated attorney Ed Icove, in applauding the 7-2 majority decision.

The entire United States Supreme Court opinion can be read at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1200…

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune. http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/apr/25/us-supreme-court-rules-against-debt-collector/columns-welewisjr/

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Stop Annoying or Harassing Phone Calls


Are you receiving annoying or harassing phone calls from telemarketers or debt collectors? In these tough economic times, your telephone seems to ring more often. There are actions you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive. First, you must determine whether the caller is a telemarketer attempting to solicit a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a past due bill.

To stop most telemarketers from calling your home or cell phone, you must sign up through the Do Not Call Registry offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Registration can be made online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222 from the number in which you seek to block.

The national Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to restrict most telemarketing calls received on your home or cell number. Once you register, telemarketers covered by registry rules have up to 31 days to remove your phone number from their calling lists. Should the telemarketing calls continue, you have a right to file a complaint with the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission says that “because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request.”

Distinguished from the telemarketer, is the debt collector. If you owe a past-due bill, debt collectors have the right to call you – but not harass you. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

There are many types of debts covered by the FDCPA. Personal, family, household debts, auto loans, medical bills, and even your mortgage are all protected under the law. The FDCPA, however, does not cover debts incurred to run or operate a business.

Some of the most common questions about debt collectors and consumer rights can be answered by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov. Although the FTC will not normally intercede on behalf of an individual consumer, they act as a clearing house for complaints and have been known to initiate legal action against the most abusive collectors in the industry.

Should a Florida resident have a complaint about abusive debt collection tactics, they can file a complaint through the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), the state agency in charge of debt collectors, at www.flofr.com. In this instance, the OFR will open a file and forward the complaint to the offending agency.

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can take legal action.

“You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated,” the FTC said. “If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.”

Whether you receive an annoying or harassing call from a telemarketer soliciting a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a debt, you can stop your phone from ringing by simply learning your rights.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/21/lc-stop-annoying-or-harassing-phone-calls/columns-welewisjr/