Category: Debt Collection

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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Consumer complaints, rising with with new technologies, help warn the public

Technology and the increased access to consumer complaint information may correlate with recent consumer complaint data collected and summarized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC’s mission is to “prevent business practices that are anti-competitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.” The FTC collects information received about debt collection, identity theft, and improper scams. In response to the analysis of consumer complaints, the FTC compiled a new agency data book, full of state-by-state statistics, as well as they increased enforcement efforts, to take action against companies that violate the laws protecting consumers from illegal debt collection practices and other similar fraudulent behavior. Compared to years past, when consumers were violated and felt alone, today we can easily identify other victims and patterns of negative and abusive behavior, which is increasingly easy to report and fight back through the FTC and attorneys who sue and win individual civil and class action lawsuits.

Frequent consumer complaints about debt collection, tax identity theft and general scams

Reviewing the FTC Annual Summary of Consumer Complaints, one might think debt collection efforts and disputes are at an all time high, rising to the top spot among consumer complaints, with 897,655 recorded FTC complaints, representing 29 percent of the total number of complaints. According to the FTC report, a new mobile app contributed to a significant increase in complaints through mobile devices. The takeaway is when it is easier for consumers to file a complaint, more consumers are likely to do so. When more consumers make complaints, other consumers can find that information and learn to avoid doing business with companies who do not follow consumer laws.

In second and third place, respectively, are consumer complaints about tax identity theft and general scams operated by the typical bad actors. Tax identity theft is particularly threatening because victims usually have no idea there was an identity theft until after the IRS rejects their tax return, telling them they have already filed and received their refund. The FTC report indicates identity theft accounts for 490,220, 16 percent of consumer complaints. To learn more about tax identity fraud and identity theft please refer to our blog article titled, Identity theft awareness, prevent fraudulent use of personal information.

The general, imposter scams make up 11 percent of consumer reports to the FTC, totaling 353,770 complaints in 2015. The FTC publishes consumer information used to spot government imposter scams, where imposters pretend to be government officials as they contact taxpayers and try to get them to pay them directly for taxes or fees they owe. Government imposter scams often target less sophisticated consumers and may involve threats of jail if they do not immediately pay the money the imposter says they owe. When consumers report the details of the scams, the FTC and similar agencies and law firms representing individual clients, are better able to warn the public about the types of scams being used to defraud innocent consumers.

About the new FTC agency data book

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2015 is 104 page PDF resource based on consumer complaints received by more than a dozen state and federal agencies to whom consumers report fraud and bad actors and scammers. These agencies share information through the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database only available to law enforcement. The collection of information started in 1997 and the Consumer Sentinel Network has increased its efforts since its inception and today it receives almost 12 million complaints the FTC sorts into 30 complaint categories. The information in the data book is compelling and worth a review, to become more aware of the typical threats to consumers.

FTC enforcement efforts against unscrupulous companies violating consumer laws

The FTC summary addresses the increased enforcement efforts underway in 2015, involving federal, state and local cooperation in sharing information, investigating and prosecuting defendants engaged in illegal debt collection, and banning those offenders from the industry.

The purpose of the FTC is to enforce consumer rights laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). For more information, please review our blog article group explaining enforcement of the FDCPA. The joint efforts of agencies engaged in FTC enforcement help bring consumer law violators to justice, and face being banned and paying significant penalties. As more summaries of reports of consumer law violations are promoted to the public, there is an increased opportunity for individual consumers to help law enforcement take down individuals and companies who use deceptive, unfair and abusive debt collection practices.

Being vigilant in addressing consumer fraud: Good consumer habits

The attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group frequently advocate for consumers who have been injured by consumer rights violators. Many victims are already cautious consumers, and are still victimized despite their best precautions. The best defense against consumer fraud can be early detection and damage mitigation. Knowing your finances exactly, and having quick access to all your financial information and records is important. Good record keeping of financial statements may also be important in the event your identity is stolen. In the event of FDCPA abuses, early action in following the right legal procedures is important. There are so many formats of consumer fraud abuse, and it if something does not seem right, it is a good idea to say something and ask an attorney to review your situation.

The Zamparo Law Group can help consumers fight for their consumer rights. Being knowledgeable and aware of consumer law is important. When you see something, say something. We fight and win in court, individually and in class action lawsuits.

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 Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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Federal law requires debt collectors to provide validation notices to consumers

When debt collectors call and attempt to collect a debt they claim you owe them, you have a right to ask for proof of the debt they claim you owe. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act[i] (FDCPA), the debt collector has an obligation to provide written verification of the debt. In fact, within five days of contacting you, every collector must send you a written “validation notice” including the name of the collector, the amount they claim you owe, and your options to dispute the debt if you believe it is not believe you owe the money.[ii] If you want the collector to stop calling you, they must cease their debt collection efforts if you send them a letter indicating that you dispute any portion or the entire amount of the debt.[iii] Despite the clear and well-stated collection practice rules stated in the FDCPA, debt collectors violate Federal law and consumers can sue them and win in court.

Suzanne Husted’s story: fighting back against bad debt collectors

Like many people who experience a cash flow crisis from time to time, Suzanne Husted chose to take out two payday loans, each for $300, and paid them back within a few months. Husted took and repaid the payday loans about 10 years ago. One day recently, Husted started receiving phone calls from two different debt collection companies claiming she still owed $2,400 in principal and interest for the payday loans. She was threatened with being sued and hauled into court if she did not pay.

Assuming the collectors had bad information upon which they relied, Husted asked them to verify when she took out the payday loans. They responded and said she took the loans in 2010 and 2011, half a decade after Husted actually obtained and repaid the loans. Shockingly, when Husted asked for written verification of the loans, she was told she would only see that information when they file lawsuits against her. Husted started sending payments, in fear of being sued, for money she did not owe.[iv]

Consumers have a right to receive a debt validation notice from a creditor.

Federal consumer law is very clear, “Every collector must send you a written ‘validation notice’ telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice must also include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.[v]” If a creditor asks you for money and you do not think their records are correct, ask for the validation notice. There is a good reason a third party collector might not cooperate in sending you validation notice – they have no documentable proof you owe the debt!

Buying and selling lists of debts is big business in the debt collection industry. One of the top consumer complaints about debt collection practices is that debt collectors are trying to collect money the consumer either paid or no longer owe, or debts the consumer never incurred in the first place. An innocent consumer might find it shocking that debt collectors might knowingly try to collect on debts they cannot prove, but it is an unfortunately common practice.

Most common complaints against debt collectors
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Thousands of consumers complain and fight back when collectors refuse to provide debt validations.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) receives tens of thousands of complaints about deceptive and fraudulent debt collection efforts. The failure to provide debt verification is a top complaint among consumers and their lawyers who file individual and class action lawsuits against bad debt collectors who violate consumer laws such as the FDCPA. To learn more and read about the worst offenders, read our recent blog article, Report Summary: The most reported abusive and deceptive debt collection companies on the Zamparo Law Blog.

If you receive a suspicious debt collection call, keep a good record. Always make a note of the date and time of a collection call and ask the caller for their name or operator identification number. Ask detailed questions about the debt they claim you owe, and ask for verification. Your time and damage from harassment are compensable by law. You may be entitled to sue for individual damages as well as statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Fraudulent and deceptive collectors are counting on you not to do anything to stop them. Prove them wrong, and let them know consumers will fight for their rights. The Zamparo Law Group can help.

Zamparo ImageThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect.

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] The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p

[ii] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Debt Collection.

[iii] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Debt Collection.

[iv] Los Angeles Times, Business Column, When collectors call, demand proof of your debt, by David Lazarus, Jan 26, 2016.

[v] The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §1692g, Validation of Debts.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforces rules for mortgage settlement and servicing.

Arbitration clauses prevent consumers from suing in court, but might not end the fight

Consumers are often victims of unfair practices of which they are previously unaware, and when they learn about subjects like arbitration clauses in contracts, it may be too late and the damage is done. Arbitration clauses buried in the fine print of consumer contracts limit a consumer’s access to the courts to individually sue or participate in a class action lawsuit against a creditor who wrongs them. In too many cases the companies suing consumers either sue the wrong person or do not have any real documentation that someone actually owes a debt. Binding arbitration clauses can prevent a wronged consumer from suing a bad-acting company in court. While it may seem like there is no hope, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) can fine companies who break the law and consumer rights attorneys are advocating for consumers and fighting back.

By the time consumers find out they agreed to arbitration, it often too late to sue in court.

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution procedure in which a panel of arbitrators, often lawyers and retired judges, are presented with the arguments of both sides of a dispute. Based on the local rules for arbitration, where it takes place, the parties can state their claims, defenses, and present evidence supporting their claims. Arbitration however, is not the same as a court of law, and if the arbitration clause is a “binding,” the parties must accept the decision of the arbitrators and that is the end of the line, and there is no returning to the civil courts. To have a dispute settled in arbitration requires both the parties to voluntarily agree to arbitration. However, that agreement to be limited to arbitration is often included in the fine print of consumer agreements, and the consumers accepting those terms often have no idea that they are giving up their right to sue in traditional civil courts.

Arbitration clauses are found in more agreements than consumers may realize.

Arbitration clauses are frequently used in consumer contracts for utility services, credit cards and consumer loans for homes, businesses and automobiles. Even if a consumer is aware of arbitration and they seek to avoid being bound by a binding arbitration clause, the fine print in a disclosure that comes with the monthly bill is easily overlooked. Moreover, consumers transacting their business online might fail to read a click through agreement containing a modification to their agreement with the lender or provider in which they accept the new terms by clicking to proceed to make an online payment, for example.

Clifford Cain Jr., a retired electrician, in his West Baltimore home. Courtesy of NY Times, Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back. http://nyti.ms/1OmTE6w
Clifford Cain Jr., a retired electrician, in his West Baltimore home. Courtesy of NY Times, Sued Over Old Debt, and
Blocked From Suing Back. http://nyti.ms/1OmTE6w

To big to be held accountable? Suing consumers who do not even owe a debt? How is this possible?

The big companies who use arbitration clauses in their consumer agreements assume that the majority of consumers will ignore or not challenge the arbitration clause because they need the services or money borrowed from lenders. In the example of a utility company, there may be no other viable option for services and the consumer has little choice other than to accept the terms of the agreement, including the arbitration clause. In many cases, the consumer pays their bills on time and satisfies their duties in the agreement. However, in other cases, things go horribly wrong and the consumer suffers the harsh reality of the arbitration agreement, barring their access to the courts when they want to sue the lender or service provider.

One individual in Maryland, living on a fixed social security income, found out about arbitration clauses the hard way. Mr. Clifford Cain, Jr., a retired electrician in Baltimore[i], one day discovered his bank account was drained because a utility obtained a judgment against him and seized his funds. Incredibly, the debt was not a current and owing debt and the suit to collect was wholly improper. Even when Midland Funding, the party collecting against Mr. Cain, was unable to produce a copy of any arbitration agreement applying to Mr. Cain, the court allowed an example of another similar customer and their arbitration agreement, to satisfy the Court.

Abusive collectors and loan servicers have business models assuming many people cannot fight back.

Big companies buy and sell bundles of debt and collection companies seek to collect on what they assume are proper owing debts. In most cases, these collectors do not have any of the original documentation of an agreement, the individuals names just appear on a list with an amount owed. People who have never had any transactions with some companies are sued in court and judgments are entered against them. Individuals who want to challenge an arbitration clause that blocks them from court have an uphill battle. Class action lawsuits representing a significant number of consumers have a better chance of making it through litigation, and some cases return large jury verdicts against big companies engaged in deceptive and harmful debt collection practices.

The Courts too often take the position of the plaintiff companies and uphold the arbitration clauses.

Courts are often ruling that arbitration clauses are binding and enforceable, even despite clear and reasonable arguments about their enforceability, and are blocking class action lawsuits. Justice is failing. The CFPB that protects consumers from harmful business and debt collection practices. The CFPB can issue fines against companies bullying consumers, and the CFPB is not barred by any arbitration clause because the CFPB is not a court of law, rather an administrative agency with the teeth necessary to take a bite out of bad business practices.

Advocating for consumers is all the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group do, and they do it well.

The attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group, advocating for consumers, file complaints with the CFPB and file individual and class action lawsuits against abusive companies, bullying consumers with arbitration clauses and bogus claims. Many people do not realize that there are consumer protection laws the Zamparo Law Group attorneys fight to be enforced. Unfortunately, too many people give up and accept an unfair fate, some eventually filing for bankruptcy protection to avoid the burden of being bullied by abusive companies. If you think you are a victim of unfair business practices and need someone advocating for you, call the Zamparo Law Group.

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 Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] NYTimes, Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Fighting Back, by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, Dec. 22, 2015.

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Stopping scam and spam phone calls and text messages

Do you receive unwanted phone calls and text messages from strange numbers, day and night? Have you added your number to the National Do Not Call Registry but receive calls anyways? Advances in communication technology and software make it easier than ever for scammers and spammers to inundate you with sales pitches and offers you did not solicit. Many telemarketers use computerized autodialing systems that do not check to see whether your number appears on the National Do Not Call Registry. Being aware of your consumer rights is important. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Zamparo Law Group can help protect and enforce your rights.

Consumer protection laws generally allow certain types of non-sales phone calls where your permission is not required:

  1. Political subject matter;
  2. Fundraising by charitable organizations;
  3. Individuals and organizations with general information;
  4. Debtors to whom you may owe money;
  5. Surveys from research and business groups;
  6. Individuals and organizations with whom and which you do business.

Keeping track of incoming phone calls is useful when you work to protect the privacy of your phone numbers. Some people pay a surcharge to their phone providers to keep their numbers unlisted. An unlisted phone number however is only as private as you keep it, and by listing that number on websites and social media can open the door to a private number landing on an autodialing call list.

To avoid the risk of more communications, it is a good idea not to return a call to an unwanted spam call made by a live caller or a “robocaller.” Instead, make a record of the call and report a violation to the FTC. You may notice phone numbers that appear many times, and the Zamparo Law Group attorneys may be able to help you take legal action against violators of your consumer rights.

Register with the National Do Not Call Registry and submit complaints of violating sales calls.

It is quick and easy to add your home and cell phone numbers to the Do Not Call Registry by either visiting donotcall.gov or calling 1-888-382-1222. From the website, click the registration link to add your home and mobile numbers to the Registry. You can add three numbers at a time, and your email address, where a verification email will be sent and contain a link to click and finish the process. After 31 days of your numbers being added to the National Do Not Call Registry, you may submit a complaint with the FTC.

Landline and cell phone numbers are added to the Registry quickly and you can use this verification link to make sure your numbers are included. You may also review the Registry to find yours and other phone numbers that may not be called and texted by sellers and telemarketers (note: you will have to register and create a profile to access the Registry).

What to do about unwanted text messages from numbers you do not recognize.

Not everyone has unlimited text messaging and many people pay per text message. It is generally illegal for companies to send you text messages without your permission. However, there are exceptions and it is lawful for an individual or company to send you text messages if you (1) have a prior existing business relationship, or (2) the text is a non-commercial survey or fundraising message.

The FTC recommends you delete unwanted texts, do not engage or respond, do not give out personal information via text, place your cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Additionally, if you use AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile or Bell, you may forward the unwanted text, free of charge to 7726 (SPAM ). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also publishes information about unwanted text and email communications as well as a link to file a complaint online.

Are Debt Collectors are calling you and violating your consumer rights?

This short video by the FTC explains your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). A debt collector may only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., and when they do, they may not curse, insult or lie to you, or demand more money than you owe. They also may not claim the paperwork they send you are legal forms if they are not. Debt collectors may not invent consequences for not paying your debt. If your employer does not allow you to receive collection calls at work, the collectors may not contact you there. If you want to exercise your right to stop debt collectors from calling you, you can, and it can be done by sending them a letter.

Attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can help you fight for your consumer rights and collect damages.

Whether there are statutory damages allowed by law or there is a class action lawsuit you might be able to join, the consumer rights attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can tell you how they may be able to help you collect damages where the law allows.

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 Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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Automatic telephone dialers, consent, business relationships and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991[i] (TCPA) restricts telemarketers engaging in telephone solicitations, limiting the use of automatic dialer systems, pre-recorded or computer voice messages, SMS text messages and fax machines. More than 20 years ago when the TCPA was written, our technology did not include smart phones and text messaging features like the ones available today. Over time and recent years the courts have expanded language in the TCPA to consider the use of auto-dialer software in connection with mobile phone and communication technology.

Cell phones are becoming more common as primary phone numbers over land line phones. Telemarketers are able to reach consumers on cell phones much easier than calling them at home on their land line just before dinner. Text messaging to cell phones is also an attractive way to connect with a consumer, when many reports suggest that 90 percent of text messages are read. Today the TCPA protects consumers from telemarketers, collectors, creditors and anyone engaged in sales and marketing from calling and sending us text messages without our consent or being in a existing business relationship.

Consent and existing business relationships are considerations in determining violations of the TCPA.

The law requires a company using automatic dialing software to call or send text messages to have prior written consent, often an element of an existing business relationship with the customer. For example, your cell phone carrier’s service agreements include language where you, the customer gives the cell phone carrier consent to call or text you on your phone. The same language may include an “opt out” provision where you, the customer can withdraw the consent to be contacted. If the cell phone company otherwise did not have your consent, they would violate federal law, the TCPA, by contacting you using an auto-dialer device.

There is a difference between prior express consent and express written consent, which is a higher standard and requirement imposed on marketing firms who want to use an auto-dialer to contact potential customers with offers. Sometimes an auto-dialing system includes the use of a pre-recorded voice message that starts playing when you answer the phone. The TCPA requires an interactive option to opt out of being included on a call list within the first two seconds of a pre-recorded auto-dialed phone call. The next time the phone rings and the voice of a pop culture icon or politician tells you to hold the line for some amazing information, it might be smart to write down the date, time and number that called you and whether you gave anyone consent.

Consumers are encouraged to keep telephone logs and make note of unauthorized robo-calls.  

Habitually writing down or keeping a going record of incoming phone calls is a good practice, especially if you want to help catch and stop companies from violating your rights to not be called and messaged on your cell phone or at home on your land line phones. Companies make large profits engaging in telesales and credit collection firms rely on auto-dialers and technology to try and call and reach as many targeted people as possible. If these companies fail to follow the law our phones could be ringing off the hook and being “blown up” by text messages all day and night long. Many times the plaintiffs in TCPA violation cases are part of a larger class of wronged people, and the class action lawsuits with huge jury verdicts matter.

Violations of the TCPA, when auto-dialers are used to contact people without prior required consent are $500 per call, and if and when the violations are willful, the damages may be trebled to $1,500 per call. If a large company buys or otherwise has a list of phone numbers, imagine a seemingly infinite list, an auto-dialer can generate so many phone calls that TCPA damages for violations can be in the billions of dollars. Where there is large profit to be made there is large exposure to liability for not following federal law, the TCPA.

Do you get calls on your phone for other people, or was your number recycled? The TCPA applies to situations in which you might not even realize the caller is violating federal law.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of the TCPA and federal and state consumer protection laws. Teaching consumers how to spot consumer rights violations is important because informed consumers can stand up to those who violate the law. If you have been receiving calls or messages from individuals to whom you did not give consent to contact you, it is possible there is a violation of the TCPA and the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group are available to talk to you.

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 Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 277

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Consumer protection overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Consumers and debt collectors are the primary parties considered in the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA), (the Act), written to protect consumers from unfair business practices by third party debt collectors. The FDCPA protects consumers of goods in the marketplace for personal consumer use, where a debt is due, and a debt collector attempts to collect the amount due. The FDCPA only applies to the actions of debt collectors who are third parties with right to collect the debts of another. The FDCPA does not apply to original creditors collecting debts originally owed to them. Third parties, usually credit references, are referred to by the Act and there are limitations to how a debt collector can make contact with a third party of the debtor, when attempting to collect a debt.

There are three main legislative objectives of the FDCPA:

  1. Stopping, preventing and remedying unfair consumer debt collection practices;
  2. Protecting legitimate and rule abiding debt collectors from competitors with unfair debt collection practices; and
  3. Establishing a congressionally enacted uniform body of law controlling the legal collection of consumer debts with statutory standard practices.

There FDCPA contains multiple requirements debt collectors must follow exactly or be in violation of the Act, triggering remedial penalties.

Violations of the FDCPA include several prohibited actions that are abusive or harassing, false and/or deceptive, and unfair and unconscionable acts. These violations of these congressional prohibitions can lead to financial and marital instability, bankruptcies, loss of work and invasions of individual privacy. When a debt collector breaks one of the following consumer debt collection rules, they are subject to the legal penalties and fines and attorneys fees when a lawsuit is filed in the local federal court within one year of the date of violation.

Abusive or Harassing Acts by a debt collector, Violating the FDCPA are generally prohibited.[i] Acts or threats of violence or criminal activity violate the Act. Using obscene, profane or racially motivated language is a violation of the Act. Publishing or advertising a list of bad debtors, or threatening to put a consumer debtor on such a list is an Act violation. Debt collectors making excessive telephone calls to a debtor, or third party, or making their phone ring repeatedly to harass them are violators of the Act. A violation of the Act also occurs if the debt collector makes phone calls to the consumer debtor and fails to make meaningful disclosures of their identity.

False and/or Deceptive Acts by a debt collector, Violating the FDCPA are generally prohibited.[ii] If a debt collector falsely represents himself or herself as a lawyer, there is a violation of the Act. Debt collectors are prohibited from threatening criminal prosecution for nonpayment, or they violate the Act. Debt collectors also may not threaten lawsuits, garnishments or property seizures if they have no real legal ability to do so, for example, when the debt is old and past the statute of limitations to collect on the debt, and if the debt collectors do make those threats, there is an Act violation. Threatening to report false credit information is also prohibited and a debt collector violates the Act in making that credit reporting theft.

Unfair and Unconscionable Acts by a debt collector, Violating the FDCPA are generally prohibited.[iii] Debt collectors may not collect any monies from consumer debtors except for the amounts authorized by law, and extra fees and charges for payments of full or partial amounts cannot be charged to the consumer debtor or there is a violation of the Act. Post-dated checks also have special rules if they are accepted by debt collectors. First, is a debt collector agrees to accept a post-dated check, they must give the consumer debtor a minimum of three days written notice before endorsing and depositing the check for collection. Second, a debt collector may not ask for or accept a post-dated check under the debt collectors’ threat of criminal prosecution.

In addition to several bad debt collector acts that lead to Act violations there are FDCPA regulations and duties to comply with the rules for communication among debt collectors and consumer debtors.

The FDCPA regulates how a debt collector must communicate with a consumer owing a debt. The original communication in which the debt collector makes contact, they must specifically speak or state the language: “This communication is from a debt collector in an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” All subsequent communications must include a spoken or written statement, “This communication is from a debt collector,” or “This is an attempt to collect a debt.” [iv] In addition, there are five-day notice requirements a debt collector must satisfy to legally inform a consumer debtor of the nature of details of the debt they seek to collect.

Enforcement of the FDCPA rights and remedies for consumers involves damages, fines and the compensation for actual and statutory attorney fees where applicable.

Within one year of an act by a debt collector in violation of the Act, the consumer debtor, or third party receiving an abusive amount of phone calls, for example may file a lawsuit against the debt collector in a federal district court.

The remedies for violations of the Act include the following:

  1. A court’s award of actual damages suffered by the consumer debtor;
  2. Statutory damages allowed by the Act, up to $1,000; and
  3. Actual amounts of attorneys fees incurred and/or allowed by the Act.

In some cases, a violation of the FDCPA can be used as leverage in settlement efforts where debt collector may agree to accept less money than originally sought if the consumer debtor agrees to not file a lawsuit for violations of the Act.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect. 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 Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

[i] 15 USC § 1692d

[ii] 15 USC § 1692e

[iii] 15 USC § 1692f

[iv] 15 USC § 1692e(11)

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Roger Zamparo Jr. Attorney

Consumer Protection Podcast: Roger Zamparo walks us through an issue spotting exercise in a variety of consumer protection laws, state and federal.

Roger Zamparo recently presented an overview of consumer protection law and litigation on the podcast hosted by the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants. The program titled, Spotting consumer protection issues and litigation with Roger Zamparo, highlights sources of consumer protection law and several examples of how unfair and deceptive business practices affect consumers.

Zamparo Law Group

The Zamparo Law Group defends consumers from deceptive and unfair business practices, abusive collection tactics, identity theft, and a host of other anti-consumer behaviors.

Topics covered in this podcast interviewclick here to listen now!

  • What is consumer protection law and how do attorneys help you recover from harm?
  • Does an injured victim pay attorneys fees or collect at the end, like in personal injury law?
  • What are the sources of law identifying conduct resulting in a consumer protection violation?
  • A brief overview of fair debt collection laws and what types of wrongs to watch for.
  • How the fair credit rules work and what the credit reporting agencies should do to protect you.
  • About the Driver Privacy Protection Act and concern about motor vehicle records.
  • What the Telephone Consumer Protection Act requires of telemarketers.

Roger Zamparo received a B.A. from Ohio University and his J.D. from The John Marshall Law School (where he is currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees). In his 35-year litigation practice, he has represented individuals and corporations in both state and federal courts. He has concentrated on several areas, including consumer law and legal malpractice. Please contact the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants at (224) 847-3202 to be connected with Roger Zamparo if you have a consumer protection question or need to consult on your legal matter.

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Debt Collection

The collection of old debt has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States and many consumers are subject to unfair and abusive collection tactics at all stages in the collection process.

The consumer protection attorneys of Zamparo Law Group, P.C. can advise you of your rights when you are involved in debt collection and can help you protect yourself from harassment.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors, use this Collection Communications Log to keep track of when and how you are being contacted. It is one of the best ways to build a case for debt collection harassment.

Contact Us Today If You Have…

  • Received harassing phones calls about debt.
  • Been contacted about a debt discharged in bankruptcy.
  • Received countless phone calls at inconvenient hours of the day and night.
  • Received summons for a lawsuit.
  • Had your bank account frozen.
  • Had your wages garnished.
  • Been contacted by a collector at work.
  • Been contacted by a collector on your cell phone.

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