My colleague Matt Hughson, a bankruptcy and real estate attorney with the Ziff Law Firm, recently posted a guest posts on his blog, the NY Bankruptcy Law Blog, by Sergei Lemberg, a Stamford, Connecticut, attorney and consumer advocate.
I wanted to share Sergei’s post on the NY Injury Law Blog as well, because although it may seem to be off-topic, dealing with medical debt is a serious problem for many of injury victims. They may be facing huge hospital bills at the same time they are unable to work because of an accident.
Sergei is best known for helping his clients get fair and just treatment from debt collectors and for protecting the rights of his clients under the Lemon Law. Here’s Sergei’s take on debt collection and how you can get relief from hounding by collectors:
“Debt collection calls usually make people mad, frustrated, and sometimes even hopeless. Debt collection agencies are known for socking it to people when they’re down, and will use any number of tactics to take advantage of vulnerabilities in an attempt to get people to pay.
Most people don’t know that there is a very strict federal law that regulates what collectors can and cannot do when they’re attempting to collect a debt. It’s called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If a debt collection agency violates the FDCPA, it can be sued in federal court. You, as a consumer, can receive up to $1,000, any actual damages, and payment of your attorney fees.
But how do you know when a debt collector crosses the line?
Here are the TOP FIVE five transgressions that Debt Collectors TRY to GET AWAY WITH:
1. Embarrassing you. Embarrassment can take a number of forms, but the FDCPA is very clear that shaming you is against the law. For example, it’s illegal for a debt collector to send you a postcard in the mail, or an envelope with writing on the outside that indicates the letter is an attempt to collect a debt. Similarly, an agency can’t publish your name or tell others that you owe money.
2. Sending fake documentation. Debt collection agencies often send mailings that look as though they’re official court or government documents. This is against the law. This is a favorite tactic because unsuspecting consumers often respond to what they perceive as official mail.
3. Calling you at all hours of the day and night. The FDCPA says a debt collector can’t call you early in the morning, late at night, or at work – unless you’ve indicated that you’d like to be called at those times. In addition, debt collection agencies can’t repeatedly call and hang up, or call to the point of harassment.
4. Charging you more than you owe. Third party debt collectors will often try to get every penny they can, and will try to tack on a “collection fee” or extra interest charge. This is illegal.
5. Misusing postdated checks. In an attempt to make the harassment stop, consumers will often send a debt collection agency a series of postdated checks. All too often, the collector will deposit those checks early, leading the consumer into even more hot water as he or she racks up bank overdraft charges. The FDCPA prohibits this practice, and requires that debt collectors send you written notice of their intent to deposit your check.
Difficult to believe that people in business – even the business of collecting debts – try to get away with these tactics. Unfortunately, if you don’t know your legal rights, that’s just what they’ll do: Get away with it.
Check out Sergei’s Web site, StopCollector.com, for more information about your rights if you’re in debt.
Thanks for reading,
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
E-mail me at FreeReports@zifflaw.com for two free books:
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