Everyday Law

December 16, 2009

I filed bankruptcy and got a discharge– why are collectors still calling me?

Well there are probably many answers to this question, but let us go to the two big ones.

First answer — that debt was not discharged, or in other words, not “in” the bankruptcy.  Debt that was not included in your bankruptcy includes:

(1) Student loans

(2) Many tax debts

(3) Debt arising from fraud or similar

(4)  Debt arising AFTER YOU FILED the bankruptcy.

Second answer — if the debt being collected after discharge WAS included in the bankruptcy and was discharged – -just an ordinary credit card or personal loan, for example, then the debt collector is breaking the law.

WHAT do you do to stop a collector who is unafraid to break the law?

(1)  Send them a copy of your bankruptcy discharge notice — whatever paperwork you got saying you had a discharge, send to the creditor — certified mail — and explain this debt was covered.   Tell them on the phone as well – -giving your bankruptcy case number may be enough.

(2)  If (1) does not work, call a consumer attorney (find one at http://www.naca.net – -which is NOT the mortgage help website, it is for legitimate consumer attorneys of all types) or call a bankruptcy attorney, including your former one.

You submitted yourself to the bankruptcy system, with all its punishments and benefits, and the main benefit is your fresh start.  If collectors are calling and your polite notice “Hey, I filed bankruptcy and here is the proof” does not stop them from trying to get you to pay this discharged debt, you can enforce your rights in either bankruptcy or state or federal court — hire an attorney and tell those bullies to leave you alone!!

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April 23, 2009

My mortgage and auto lender are calling me monthly and I’m not overdue!

Filed under: Banking,Debt,Debt Collection,Debt Collection Harassment,Housing — Amy Kleinpeter @ 9:41 pm

If your bank has targetted you as a high risk loan — it may be because you have had some late payments, because of your debt:income ratio, or because of some totally random characteristic having NOTHING to do with your character or payment history, you may be getting monthly reminder calls.  “Remember to pay your mortgage!”

These calls may be from an autodialer or even real people (!) and if there are multiple calls, especially multiple in a day, they can really become annoying.  However, in most circumstances, these calls fall into the “crappy customer service” category and not debt collection harassment.   I am not sure what can be done to stop the calls (change your number?) but you could try sending a letter requesting you only be contacted by mail.

April 20, 2009

Student Loan Collectors are not allowed to harass you!

Filed under: Debt,Debt Collection Harassment,Student loans — Amy Kleinpeter @ 4:38 pm

The law is different for Student Loans then for many loans like credit cards, car notes, or personal loans.  For example, student loans can sometimes lead to garnishment — money taken out of your paycheck — without a court judgment!

However, student loan collectors are not allowed to harass you any more than any other collector.  Many times student loan collections are done by the original creditor, but in states like California and Texas, harassment is illegal no matter if it is done by outside collections or the original owner of the loan.

Some things that student loan collectors are not allowed to do include:  talking to people at your job or family members about your debt (although they can talk to co-signers), calling you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and speaking or yelling at you in a derogatory fashion, either by calling you names or telling you how you are a bad person for not being able to pay your debts.

Student loan collections are serious business — for many people, student loans are the largest debts they have and they can not get discharged in bankruptcy.  If you have outstanding student loans you are unable to pay, there are progams to help you.  However, harassment is not part of the program.  If you are being harassed by a collector, be it a student loan collector or otherwise, contact your local consumer attorney for help!

December 15, 2008

Debt Collection –Why do I keep getting calls but no messages?

Filed under: Debt Collection Harassment — Amy Kleinpeter @ 3:13 pm
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“Calls, I got calls!  But they always hang up the phone!”

Whenever a client calls to inquire about bankruptcy, or because she was sued in a collection action, I always ask — have you been getting calls?

There is no need to explain what I am talking about — everyone who has been unable to pay their bills, or even has been paying bills late — everyone knows about the CALLS.  Most start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 9:00 p.m., but the sheer number of calls can make using the phone almost impossible!  Plus there is the fact that if you are getting calls, you do not want to EVER answer your phone., so you let it go to voicemail, where, pretty often, the debt collector will hang up.

I have clients complain about this — No one ever leaves a message!  They all just hang up!

Yes, most debt collectors hang up and do not leave a message.  Why?  Because that is what they are SUPPOSED to do by law!

Why?  Because a debt collector must, by law, always identify themselves and the nature of the call — those “This is Amy calling from Amy Collections, I am trying to collect a debt…”  That message must be left with ALL communications.  HOWEVER — debt collectors are not allowed to leave information in a phone message which, if heard by anyone other then the person being called, would effectively broadcast “This person has an unpaid debt!”

Imagine that I have an answering machine, or I share voicemail with a family member,  and a debt collector leaves me message “Amy, this is ACK Collections, and I am calling to collect a debt.  Call me back about paying your overdue Citibank card!”  If that message is heard by anyone else, that person immediately knows my business!  It is illegal for a debt collector to tell others about my debt or anyone’s debt — they do not have the right to broadcast your business like that!

Sooooo..let’s recap:  Any message from a debt collector that does not have their identifying information is illegal.  Any message which an outside person could hear and learn about your debt is illegal.  THEREFOR — all messages left by debt collectors are illegal.

So, quit complaining about the hang-ups on your voicemail – – at least do not complain about the fact that the collector hung up.

AND — start saving and recording every message that IS left by a debt collector, because it very likely is illegal.  You can sue the debt collector for these illegal messages and help put a stop to their illegal tactics.

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