Month: July 2016

Stay in control: Being a better consumer by keeping prepared for debt collectors

It is not easy being a consumer sometimes, especially when you owe creditors money and the debt collectors start calling you. Knowing your rights under the law is important, but that is just half the battle. The best debt collectors, and best meaning they collect the most money due, are the ones who have a way of getting you to pay, despite ethics and sound business practices. Many of them completely ignore consumer laws. For some, we often wonder if their business model assumes they will have to pay a few fines here and there when smart consumers catch them doing wrong. When you do know the law, there are additional steps you can take and practice becoming a better defender of your rights. Keeping good records and following the steps in this article can help you bring a case against an unscrupulous collector. When more consumers who stand up for their rights, collectors may take notice. Class action lawsuits particularly affect the bottom line for companies in the business of collecting. The Zamparo Group is advocating for consumers and helping fight back against predators engaging in bad acts.

There are few things you should do to prepare for talking to collectors to best protect yourself.

Wherever you manage consumer business from your home and office, consider creating and managing individual file folders for everyone with whom you enter into financial and credit transactions. Keeping a notebook or notepad and a pen nearby is important so you can take notes of each and every phone call. Always ask for the name or operator identification number of everyone you talk to and note the date and time of the call. It can be helpful and empowering later to tell a supervisor who you spoke with, at what time, and exactly what they said. You may also want to keep a recording device nearby and record the telephone calls, on an app on your phone, for example. Be careful however, when it comes to recording others, as the laws are different in every state when it comes to recording conversations and whether you need consent of the other person to record them. Here is a link to Illinois law on recording conversations. Please feel free to contact us to learn more.

Learn the basics of the consumer laws written to protect consumers from unfair debt collectors.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the federal statute that protects consumers by limiting what a creditor can do when working to collect a debt. It might be helpful to print and keep the FDCPA basics nearby, to use as a reference when on the phone, or when making notes about what you think may be a consumer law violation.

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from:

  • Calling you before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Intentionally annoying or harassing you
  • Calling you at work if your employer does not allow personal office calls
  • Calling or communicating with you after you request them not to in writing
  • Using abusive language or threatening lawsuits they could not legally file or initiate

These are the common violation signs to watch for, and there are additional violations listed in the FDCPA text, published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. If you believe a collector is doing something that violates the law, we can review your notes and information about the communications and determine what action, if any, can be taken against the collector.

How would you know if they are in their rights to file a lawsuit against you?

First, if a debt collector says they are a lawyer and that is not true, there may be a violation. If someone tells you they have a lawsuit ready to file and they are not a law firm, there may be a violation. Another common concern of consumer attorneys are the collectors or law firms calling for a collector about a lawsuit that is barred by the statute of limitations to sue on a debt. Every state has its own set of limitations laws that prohibit a collector from filing a lawsuit to collect on a debt after a certain time. The best practice for a smart consumer is to make notes of any threats or comments about lawsuits when talking to a collector.

Before you pay, get the proof you need to know you actually owe a collector money.

Collection companies frequently buy lists of debts and try to collect. When the collectors are unable to collect, they might make notes on the list and move on to the next consumer. These lists can be bought and sold many times, and all it takes is one instance of human error and you may receive collection calls, years later, when you do not owe any money. If you paid a debt, keep records of the payment, and demand proof that you owe the debt. It is not on our short list above, but the FDCPA requires a debt collector to send you written proof that you owe a debt.

Prepare for phone calls and communications with debt collectors, and refuse to let them anger you.

Why do debt collectors often call during breakfast, lunch and dinner time? They know if you are busy, there is a better chance your guard will be down and they can push you around. It may be a judgment call for another to make if a collector is abusive or harassing, so good notes of what they say can be important later. If you are cooking or working or otherwise busy, feel free to tell the collector it is not a good time to talk and ask when you may return their call when it is convenient. When you call them back or take their original call, it is a good idea to sit at a desk so you can take notes and treat the phone call like an important business call. Remember that they are likely recording your conversation, and it is important to be careful what you say, because it could come back to haunt you later. When preparing for the phone call, try taking some notes of what you want to ask the collector about the debt. This is helpful if you are working with them to negotiate a reasonable payment arrangement.

Remember that any process of collection takes time and so do legal actions. Do not be worried that the collector is going to run to court the same day, obtain a judgment against you and garnish your wages or seize your bank accounts if you do not pay them immediately over the phone. If anyone tells you that, your next call should be to the Zamparo Law Group!

The Zamparo Law Group is advocating for consumers and sharing information about protecting against unethical and abusive debt collectors who violate the law. When more people stand up for their rights, consumers can win. Together we can protect one another from the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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Avoid buying a stolen car or truck, but what happens if you do?

Internet and social media technology opened the door to new marketplaces where consumers can buy just about everything, including cars and trucks. There are popular Facebook groups where people buy and sell new and used vehicles. There are cost benefits to buying directly from individual sellers, such as avoiding dealership fees and higher prices. Buyers with experience purchasing used cars and trucks may ask the seller if they can take the car to a local mechanic or have one come by and inspect the vehicle before they buy it. An experienced mechanic can inspect and offer their opinion on the condition of a car or truck, but they may not be able to know anything about its ownership history, much less knowing whether it was stolen. An advantage to buying from a reputable auto dealership may be their offer of a Carfax Report, which lists the known vehicle history. Despite the appearance of safely knowing what you are buying, even from a well-known dealership, they could mislead you, right into the front seat of a stolen car or truck.

Who steals and sells stolen cars and trucks?

From individuals looking to make a hot profit to organized crime rings, there are countless people involved in the illegal theft and sale of automobiles. Cars and trucks may disappear and quickly be shipped out of state or overseas. Likewise, stolen vehicles can be smuggled into the U.S. and end up for sale anywhere from big dealerships to local neighborhood car lots and the guy across town offering an amazing deal on the car or truck you really want.

While many of us think about the expensive import and sports cars as being the most likely to be stolen, that is not the case. The most stolen cars are also the most common vehicles you might see in average middle-class American driveways; they are easier to steal, have more valuable parts and higher resale values.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is a not-for-profit working with insurance companies to track, report and offer education about fighting fraud and crime. In its recent report, “Hot Wheels,” the NICB identified a list of the 10 most-stolen cars and trucks in the U.S. in the year 2014[i]:

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Ford Full Size Pickup
  4. Chevrolet Full Size Pickup
  5. Toyota Camry
  6. Dodge Full Size Pickup
  7. Dodge Caravan
  8. Nissan Altima
  9. Acura Integra
  10. Nissan Maxima

What can you do to prevent accidentally buying a stolen vehicle?

The NCIB offers a free vehicle identification number (VIN) check. Using the website https://www.nicb.org/vincheck you can enter the VIN of any vehicle you are considering purchasing and research the vehicle history. Specifically, the VINCheck database will tell you whether the VIN is reported as stolen, and whether the vehicle was listed as a total loss, following an insurance claim. So if the vehicle was reported stolen, its VIN should be on the NCIB database. However, if for some reason the vehicle was not reported as stolen, it may appear that the vehicle was legitimately acquired and offered for sale, despite the possibility it was stolen.

The CARFAX reporting system should have the information on every vehicle registered and on the road. If http://www.carfax.com/ does not have a report on the vehicle, you could either start asking questions or move onto another vehicle. You can purchase individual Carfax reports for $39, or for $49 you can get up to 5 reports, and for $54 you can obtain unlimited VIN reports for up to 60 days.

Despite your best consumer efforts, you still end up with the stolen vehicle, now what?

A few years back a Chicago area woman was more than surprised when local police and a tow truck arrived at her house to seize her Lexus SUV. The woman had absolutely no idea it had been stolen from another state, and its VIN switched out from another Lexus that was totaled in a junk yard. To add insult to injury, the woman stilled owed money to the lender who financed her purchase of a stolen car.

If you knowingly purchase a stolen vehicle you can be charged criminally. Most people do not know and have no reason to suspect the car is stolen, except for when the price is shockingly different from the fair market value of the vehicle, or the VIN is noticeably not the original, for example.

The day you become aware that you own a stolen vehicle, your first call should be to an experienced consumer law firm. The Zamparo Law Group, for example, can advise you of your rights and what recourse may be possible. If you bought the vehicle from a large dealership or local car company, their insurance may pay your claim for reimbursement for the money you paid in a fraudulent car purchase. If they don’t pay, a lawsuit may be filed and settled out of court or proceed to a court judgment. If you purchased the car from an individual seller, they could be long gone, and not likely to answer your calls or correspondence.

The Zamparo Law Group is advocating for consumers and sharing information about how to be more vigilant when buying a new vehicle, avoiding the stolen cars and trucks that might be sitting on the lot down the street or a neighbor’s driveway.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

 

[i] NCIB’s Hot Wheels: America’s 10 Most Stolen Vehicles, published Aug. 31, 2015

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