Tag: Federal Trade Commission

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

Summary: Fair Debt Collection Practices 2016 Annual Report by the CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published and submitted to Congress, its Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) 2016 Annual Report[i], detailing its activities in protecting consumers and enforcing consumer laws. In the report, the CFPB lists the number and types of consumer complaints it received, its supervision of debt collection activities, enforcement of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other applicable laws, and its efforts in education and outreach. The report begins with a message from CFPB Director, Richard Cordray, who notes that the CFPB “is the only federal government agency dedicated solely to consumer financial protection. Unlawful debt collection practices can cause harm to consumers across virtually all the consumer financial markets we oversee.[ii]” Here at the Zamparo Law Group, advocating for consumers, we frequently publish articles and share resources helping consumers learn the law, be able to spot, and report consumer law violations. We represent victimized consumers, sue, and win against abusive and deceptive business operators who violate consumer law.

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. Click/tap here to read our blog article about the FDCPA, Consumer protection overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Summary of the FDCPA 2016 Annual Report by the CFPB

Consumer complaints

The CFPB, created July 21, 2011, is authorized by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In July 2013, the CFPB started collecting, investigating and responding to consumer complaints of FDCPA violations. The primary issue reported by consumers and the attorneys representing them concerned debt collectors who continued attempting to collect debts that individuals did not owe; representing 40 percent of complaints received during the 2015 calendar year.[iii]

Following continued attempts to collect debt not owed, in the order of frequent complaints, are debt collector communication tactics, failure to disclose verification of debts, taking or threatening illegal actions, making false statements or representations, and the improper contact or sharing of information.

Bureau supervision of debt collection activities

The Dodd-Frank Act gives the CFPB the authority to supervise banks and similar organizations offering consumer financial products and services. Examples of companies under CFPB supervision include residential mortgage companies, payday lenders, and private student lenders. In the regular course of CFPB supervision, a number of violations by debt collectors were discovered[iv] in the following situations:

  • Failure to state that a call is from a debt collector
  • Failure to implement consumer requests regarding communications
  • False, deceptive or misleading representations regarding credit reporting

CFPB and FTC law enforcement actions

The CFPB takes significant action against FDCPA violators, some of whom are chronic offenders. The report lists summaries of numerous CFPB law enforcement actions for improper debt collection, detailing the millions of dollars violators are ordered to pay to swindled consumers in class action lawsuits. The FTC also files debt collection cases seeking money damages in addition, the “Commission obtained preliminary relief that included ex parte temporary restraining orders with asset freezes, immediate access to business premises, and appointment of receivers to run the debt collection business.[v]

A section of the enforcement section of the report addresses a fight against “phantom debt collectors” who engage in unfair, deceptive and abusive conduct, trying to collect debt that either does not exist or is not owed to the phantom debt collector.[vi]

The remaining sections of enforcement data address debt collection via unlawful text messages and email, egregious collection practices, debt brokering and data security, as well as debt collection advocacy, including the CFPB and FTC cooperative efforts in writing amici (friends of the court) briefs in enforcement actions.

Education and outreach initiatives

The CFPB works to educate consumers and help them make sound financial decisions. Certain consumer populations are targeted with education, the ones who are also most likely to be targets themselves: “students, older Americans, service members, veterans and low-income and economically-vulnerable consumers.[vii]”  Online resources are frequently developed and improved to help consumers learn consumer law in plain English and empower them to take action and fight back against consumer rights violations.

As the CFPB continues developing education and outreach initiatives, the Zamparo Law Group will continue advocating for consumers by sharing the important information consumers need to protect themselves and others from unfair, deceptive and abusive business operators who prey on consumers.

The Zamparo Law Group helps men and women fight back against the individuals and organizations that target them in consumer fraud and ignore the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 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 FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

[i] CFPB Fair Debt Collection Practices Act 2016 Annual Report

[ii] See Annual Report (HNi) above at page 2

[iii] See Annual Report (HNi) above at page 18

[iv] See Annual Report (HNi) above at page 23-26

[v] See Annual Report (HNi) above at page 39

[vi] See Annual Report (HNi) above at page 43

[vii] See Annual Report (HNi) above at page 89

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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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Fighting identity theft and making identity theft victims whole

White-collar crime is not victimless crime; victims of identity theft suffer significant losses and hardships. Advances in technology and Internet commerce are helping safeguard our private information but thieves and hackers are learning advanced methods to steal identities. Damage suffered by identity theft victims can be extensive and lead to long-term problems. Unfortunately, most people will not know their identity is stolen until after damage is done. The identify thief may have obtained a drivers license, insurance, bank accounts, credit cards and bought a new car, all in your name. What happens when the identity thief does not pay the bills that are in your name and affect your credit? What happens with the identity thief is arrested for DUI with their license in your name? What happens when a police officer comes to your house and arrests you for a crime you did not commit?

We say, “It won’t happen to me, I’m safe and cautious with my personal information.”

Imagine you never use credit or debit cards online or over the phone; you shred all mail with your personal information and pick up your mail the minute the post office delivers it to your home. Identity thieves will get your information if they want it. Whether they hack into systems, where your private information is kept or they buy illegal lists of identities and private information on the black market, there is little anyone can do to stop a thief. Another target for identity theft may be a company, such as an insurance provider, that failed to adequately secure your information from thieves. On a local scale, the family law firm down the street may have client files, full of private information, and an unscrupulous night cleaning crew who hit the identity theft jackpot. In many cases, the thieves simply sell your identity on the black market, to domestic and foreign buyers.

Identity theft can be a disaster for victims, left with a damaged life and reputation.

Cancelling and ordering new credit cards is one thing. Proving you did not commit a hit and run collision causing death is quite another. An identity thief could feasibly obtain all necessary information to register a stolen vehicle in your name and even insure it with your driver’s license number. If the thief causes a collision while pretending to be you, they can simply abandon the assumed identity, move along to the next victim, and become them. Along the way, your credit could be ruined and the work it takes to restore your credit rating is extensive. Tax identity theft is also on the rise. Thieves use tax filing websites to file phony returns in your name, have tax refunds deposited into phony accounts they open in your name, and when you file your actual tax return the IRS rejects your return, and audits everything tied to your name and social security number.

There are state and federal criminal and civil penalties for thieves, and remedies for victims.

In Illinois, a person commits identity theft, “uses any personal identifying information or personal identification document of another person to fraudulently obtain credit, money, goods, services, or other property.[i]” Illinois law classifies identity theft as a felony with increasing severity and penalties as the value of the theft of goods or services increases:

  1. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property not exceeding $300 in value is a Class 4 felony.
  2. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $300 and not exceeding $2,000 in value is a Class 3 felony.
  3. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $2,000 and not exceeding $10,000 in value is a Class 2 felony.
  4. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $10,000 and not exceeding $100,000 in value is a Class 1 felony.

Under federal law, possession and transfer of private information to create or use a false identity is punishable by fines and prison terms of not more than five to 30 years.[ii]

Individual victims of identity theft may have a cause of action and file a lawsuit against the identity thieves, if they catch them and can collect damages if the thief is caught and illegally obtained assets are available for sale and recovery by a victim. A much more likely scenario is a lawsuit against a company who was negligent with your information and the identity theft occurred as a result of that negligence. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a source of federal law providing remedies for consumer victims of identity theft.[iii] Victims can recover money for violations of the FCRA when your information was mishandled, and recovery can include actual damages, statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

To learn more about the FCRA and its enforcement, read our blog article, The Fair Credit Reporting Act, responsibilities and remedies for consumer reporting violations.

Cleaning up the damage: What else we can do to remedy your negative effects

If you are an identity theft victim, the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can assist and advise you about the process of contacting all the contacts on your accounts with banks, credit agencies, driver’s license facilities, the Social Security office, and with making proper reports of identity theft crime to the proper state and federal agencies. The paperwork involved can be extensive and there may be a specific order in the process of restoring your proper identity and canceling your bogus version of you.

The Zamparo Law Group can help consumers fight identity theft and companies who fail to safeguard your private information. 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 FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

 

[i] 720 ILCS 5/16-30

[ii] 18 U.S. Code § 1028

[iii] Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681

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Image Source: Consumer Affairs, Fed Action Halts Debt Relief Marketing Operation. http://bit.ly/1mKzYA2

Debt relief companies posing as law firms, leader of fraud faces 20 years

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Consumer Protection Branch frequently announces news and alerts to warn consumers of fraudulent business operations. Investigations and prosecutions of wrongdoers can involve federal, state and local agencies working together to share information and bring individuals to justice. In consumer fraud cases there may be criminal and civil penalties and fines imposed on organizations and their owners who make false promises to consumers and take their money, often without providing any services, or certainly not what was offered to the consumer. Certain consumers are specifically targeted based on their age, race, and income bracket. When something seems too good to be true, it may be. Spotting and reporting consumer fraud is an important first step in stopping scammers and preventing others from trying defraud consumers.

Scammers masquerading as debt relief companies are common, and this one falsely claimed to be a law firms and companies run by lawyers.

A California man recently pleaded guilty to allegations of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the operation of companies, Nelson Gamble & Associates and Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight LLP. The DOJ press release reports that, “Nelson and his employees portrayed the debt relief companies as law firms and attorney-based companies that would negotiate favorable settlements with creditors. Clients made monthly payments expecting the money to go toward settlements. Nelson and his co-conspirators instead took at least 15 percent of the total debt as company fees, within the first six months of payments going almost entirely toward undisclosed up-front fees.[i]

The DOJ and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service[ii] (USPIS) spokespersons commented on their efforts to protect consumers against fraud schemes: “This scheme victimized people already in financial distress…the Justice Department is committed to protecting consumers, particularly those who are vulnerable to fraud schemes designed to prey upon people already in perilous economic conditions,” stated U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker; “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to vigorously pursue those who use our nation’s mail system to commit fraud or other illegal activity,” said Acting Inspector in Charge Daniel Brubaker.[iii]

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed its civil case against Nelson and his companies in September 2012 and the case was settled by agreement in August 2013. Information obtained in investigations showed Nelson operated his scheme from February 2010 through September 2012, for which he faces a potential 20-year prison sentence.[iv] While the DOJ and FTC news releases do not mention any privately filed civil complaints against Nelson, there may be several consumer protection laws he and his group violated, for which the individuals filing private lawsuits can collect actual damages, statutory damages and private attorney’s fees.

Make note of common telemarketing and sales pitches with amazing claims.

In its consumer protection news report, the FTC discussed how Nelson and his group robo-called phone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry in attempting to sell their debt relief services. The FTC complaint cites language in a website operated by Nelson, “Nelson Gamble works with the utmost diligence to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients, with over $90 million of debt settled in the past 12 months – and over $800 million since our inception,” using “proven tactical methods to settle debt by 50% to 80%…in three years or less.[v]” Nelson and his cohorts likely assumed that most of the consumers they were targeting would have access or ideas on how to research the claims made by these companies.

Make the call to report potential crimes and consumer protection violations to stop the scammers.

If you receive an offer from a company that sounds too good to be true, do some research. If a debt relief company is able to knock out 50 to 80 percent of your debt, are all bankruptcy lawyers going out of business? If you believe you are communicating with a potentially fraudulent company trying to swindle you, tell someone. The next person they call could be your elderly mother or another family member, friend or neighbor; there is no telling who is on the robo-call list.

The Zamparo Law Group receives phone calls and emails from consumers who believe their rights and the laws were violated by telemarketers and debt-relief-type companies that make claims that sound too good to be true. The attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can tell you whether you have a legal right of action and whether higher federal, state or local authorities and agencies may be appropriate to contact. If you have a case, the Zamparo Law Group can get to work advocating for your consumer rights.

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] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, California Man Operating Phone Room in Debt Relief Scam Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Consumers, Release Date Feb. 1, 2016.

[ii] The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigates the use of the mail system to commit fraud or other illegal activities (the U.S. mail was used in connection with this fraud).

[iii] See DOJ press release, HNi above.

[iv] Federal Trade Commission, Cases and Proceedings, Nelson Gamble & Associates LLC, et al.

[v] See HNiv above.

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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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