Usury and Non-Bank Loans

I have had my hands full lately with the National Banking Act (NBA). Specifically, the question is whether the NBA, which protects national banks from usury claims, applies to debt collectors which buy the debts. It turns out that question has several possible answers.

National Banking Act Allows Usury

Here’s the background: some states have laws limiting the amount of interest lenders can charge. Under the NBA, a bank can issue credit cards that charge high interest in states with usury laws. Yes, it’s a scam (they call it “exporting interest rates”), but they can. What happens if your debt gets sold to a debt collector? The NBA applies to national banks, not other businesses, so you might think a debt collector would be committing usury by trying to collect illegal rates. That would also violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Under Madden, Debt Collectors Don’t Receive NBA License to Commit Usury, Regulation Changes That

The Second Federal Circuit of Appeals found that debt collectors collecting usurious rates was, in fact, illegal in a case called Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC 786 F.3d 246 (2015). Some other circuits, notably the 8th, have tended in the other direction. The Supreme Court denied certiorari (review) of Madden, so it remains in place as law of the 2nd Circuit. Unfortunately, the debt collectors managed to sneak a new regulation through that negates Madden. That regulation is at: 12 C.F.R. part 331, 84 Fed. Reg. 66845.

Possible Outcomes

This leaves us in an odd place. If you are in the 2nd Circuit currently being sued by a debt collector on a card with interest higher than your state allows, you have a powerful defense and a counterclaim probably under the usury law and FDCPA. I think it is still good, though you can expect some fighting on the question of retroactivity of the regulation. What about claims arising in the future, though? What about claims outside of the 2nd Circuit?

Courts are supposed to give “great deference” to regulations duly issued by agencies charged with enforcing specific laws. Without going into details, this regulation would seem to fit that bill and should probably receive that deference. It is not unheard of for the courts to reject such a regulation, but it is rare, and, in my opinion, very unlikely in this situation – even in the Second Circuit. Thus I believe that in the future this defense will not be effective. I do believe it could be raised in good faith however, at present, and that may have some advantage for a pro se defendant. It will be a long shot even in the Second Circuit, however, and longer elsewhere.

What about claims existing now but outside the 2nd Circuit? Will the regulation affect the way the 8th Circuit, for example, reads Madden? It probably should not, but it probably will. The regulation is supposedly based on the FDIC’s reading of an existing statute rather than a new legislative enactment – it will probably be considered an authoritative interpretation of the statute even though, in practical effect it is a new legislative act. But this is not certain, and again, I think the issue may have advantages for pro se litigants to raise, and winning is not out of the question in my opinion.

What if you live in a state with a usury law and a debt collector is trying to collect higher rates – but is not suing you. Can you sue them? I believe the answer is yes – all the foregoing analysis applies to the attempt to collect the debt, not necessarily limited to litigation attempting to collect the debt.

Incidentally, the NBA explicitly extends to all FDIC-insured entities. This question came up in a teleconference relating to loans issued by WebBank, which apparently IS FDIC insured. Our consideration of whether WebBank itself can charge usurious rates, then, must conclude that it can indeed do so.

One might consider that enforcing an explicitly illegal contract (usury) would be void as against public policy under state law. And so it is. However, the federal preemption doctrine that the NBA invokes overrules that – states cannot claim a federal policy is against their public policy.

If you get a loan now and at some point in the future a debt collector tries to collect usurious rates that would have allowed to the original lender, I think you’re out of luck regarding the defenses and counterclaims we’ve discussed here. The new regulation permits it, as I read it. Of course you still have all the usual defenses and attacks we always use against debt collectors, so your chance of winning remains srong.

Usury and Non-Bank Loans

National Banking Act and Debt Law

I have had my hands full lately with the National Banking Act (NBA). Specifically, the question is whether the NBA, which protects national banks from usury claims, applies to debt collectors which buy the debts. It turns out that question has several possible answers.

Some Background

Here’s the background: some states have laws limiting the amount of interest lenders can charge. Under the NBA, a bank can issue credit cards that charge high interest in states with usury laws. Yes, it’s a scam (they call it “exporting interest rates”), but they can. What happens if your debt gets sold to a debt collector? The NBA applies to national banks, not other businesses, so you might think a debt collector would be committing usury by trying to collect illegal rates. That would also violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The Second Federal Circuit of Appeals found that debt collectors collecting usurious rates was, in fact, illegal in a case called Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC 786 F.3d 246 (2015). Some other circuits, notably the 8th, have tended in the other direction. The Supreme Court denied certiorari (review) of Madden, so it remains in place as law of the 2nd Circuit. Unfortunately, the debt collectors managed to sneak a new regulation through that negates Madden. That regulation is at: 12 C.F.R. part 331, 84 Fed. Reg. 66845.

Do you Have a Usury Defense or Attack?

This leaves us in an odd place. If you are in the 2nd Circuit being sued by a debt collector on a card with interest higher than your state allows, you have a powerful defense. I think it is still good, though you can expect some fighting on the question of retroactivity of the regulation. What about claims arising in the future, though? What about claims outside of the 2nd Circuit?

Courts are supposed to give “great deference” to regulations duly issued by agencies charged with enforcing specific laws. Without going into details, this regulation would seem to fit that bill and should probably receive that deference. It is not unheard of for the courts to reject such a regulation, but it is rare, and, in my opinion, very unlikely in this situation – even in the Second Circuit. Thus I believe that in the future this defense will not be effective. I do believe it could be raised in good faith however, at present, and that may have some advantage for a pro se defendant. It will be a long shot even in the Second Circuit, however, and longer elsewhere.

What about claims existing now but outside the 2nd Circuit? Will the regulation affect the way the 8th Circuit, for example, reads Madden? It probably should not, but it probably will. The regulation is supposedly the FDIC’s reading of an existing statute rather than a new legislative enactment – it will probably be considered an authoritative interpretation of the statute even though, in practical effect it is a new legislative act. But this is not certain, and again, I think the issue may have advantages for pro se litigants to raise, and winning is not out of the question in my opinion.

What if you live in a state with a usury law and a debt collector is trying to collect higher rates – but is not suing you. Can you sue them? I believe the answer is yes – all the foregoing analysis applies to the attempt to collect the debt, not necessarily litigation attempting to collect the debt.

Application to WebBank

Incidentally, the NBA explicitly extends to all FDIC-insured entities. This question came up in a teleconference relating to loans issued by WebBank, which apparently IS FDIC insured. Our consideration of whether WebBank can charge usurious rates, then, must conclude that it can indeed do so.

Public Policy

One might consider that enforcing an explicitly illegal contract (usury) would be void as against public policy under state law. And so it is. However, the federal preemption doctrine that the NBA invokes overrules that – states cannot claim a federal policy is against their public policy. In a very real sense, it is to exploit this facet of the law that the NBA exists in the first place

Why It’s Hard to Find a Good Debt Lawyer you can Afford

Why it’s so Hard to Find a Good Debt Lawyer you Can Afford

For a copy of this article in pdf form, click here: hiring debt lawyers

What Lawyers Need to Charge for Debt Defense Work

In this article we talk about what lawyers need to get in debt cases and why you probably can do better by defending yourself.

I hear lots of different numbers from members who have tried to get a lawyer to represent them in debt cases – there’s no telling exactly what number you’ll hear if you talk to a lawyer regarding your specific case. Probably big. That isn’t necessarily wrong or a rip off in any way – it just reflects some underlying financial realities.

Law is a Business

Most debt lawyers who represent defendants are in it for ideological reasons – this is a type of law where the lawyers choose sides and pretty much stay on them. And as you should know, it pays much, much better to be on the side of big rich corporations than it does to represent the people they’re after. There may be some firms that have managed to automate and mechanize the defense process to such an extent that they can do a good job and make a bundle, but I haven’t seen or heard of them.

As far as I’ve ever seen, representing debt defendants is a very tough business. How does that translate into daily reality?

Daily Realities

First, an established lawyer needs to bill about $150 – $200 per hour. I know that seems like a lot,
and it is a lot, but you don’t just get a lawyer for that money – you get an office and a staff. Or to put it slightly differently, the lawyer has to hire those people and pay for those things out of what she charges you.

When a lawyer takes a case, and “appears” on your behalf in court, it often isn’t easy to “withdraw” from it later if, for example, you don’t pay your bills or if the case goes in unexpected or disastrous ways.

That means the lawyer, as a practical matter, has to charge you up front at least enough to make the case pay, taking his best guess where that case may go. And then hope for the best regarding whatever else you may come to owe. Hence a high retainer – often particularly high in debt cases because… let’s face it… you’re being sued because someone says you didn’t pay your bills.

Uncertainty

Then there’s the uncertainty regarding how much time the case will take – good lawyers often have lots to do, and lots of choices. Taking one case can mean NOT taking another one. A debt case, with relatively low amounts at stake, can be low on the totem pole of priorities.

The Duty to Make Fees Reasonable

The amount at stake – no matter how much you think your case is big – is small for most lawyers, and that raises an ethical issue. Lawyers are supposed to keep their fees somewhat in line with the results obtained.

Does saving you from a $25,000 debt justify a $10,000 bill? Maybe – although if you could afford the $10,000 you probably wouldn’t be being sued. What about a $7,500 debt though? How much fee is justified there?

The average lawyer is caught between a rock and a hard spot in debt cases, because doing a good job takes time. If it’s a big debt, it might allow more time, but getting the fee could get tough. If it’s a small debt, it won’t justify the fee.

And then there’s the learning curve. Most lawyers don’t know debt law, and they don’t know how much they don’t know. The good ones know it could take some time to catch up, but how do they charge you for that? That’s easy to do in a corporate merger involving millions of dollars, not so easy in a debt case where you’re sweating bullets over ten thousand in possible liability.

The bad ones don’t worry about catching up. But you’ll obviously pay for it one way or another, right?

Leverage

We just came out with a product – the First Response Kit – that includes an Answer and a first set of discovery – interrogatories, requests for documents, and requests for admissions. That took about ten hours to create.

Your Lawyer Works One Case at a Time

A lawyer working on your case would probably charge, or want to charge, around $1,500 – $2,000 for doing that. Or would have to do a less thorough job. And that’s just one small example of the way the business works. Every time someone has to show up for your case or do any work on it, someone has to pay.

Or Maybe a Little More

If the lawyer can take a large number of cases, he or she can achieve some economy of scale – that is, can divide the cost of showing up among all the clients who need it on a given day. But it’s tough, and very rare, for anyone to manage this.

The Debt Collector’s Lawyer Works a Hundred Cases at a Time

The lawyer suing you shows up on a hundred cases at a time. That’s because he filed those suits, and it doesn’t matter whether the people being sued want to show up or not – they’re in the case because he put them there. The debt defense lawyer, on the other hand, is representing only voluntary clients. When I was practicing law, I’d send people letters suggesting, more or less, that they hire me. I got a 3–5% call-back rate. That is, only 3-5% of the people I sent letters to even discussed the suit with me.

A union-paid lawyer I knew offered all union employees being sued for debt free representation. And under his circumstances, he could tell them he’d get them off every time. He got a 1% return on his letters.

That meant the debt collector’s lawyer could work 100 times more efficiently at the early stage of a lawsuit.  As the suit wore on, some of that advantage went away, but they never lost it all. And that advantage translated into every document created, every argument made, and every appearance at court throughout the lawsuit.

And that’s why it’s so hard for you to get a good debt lawyer at a price you can afford. Your lawyer is always fighting against a lawyer who can charge less to do more for his or her clients.

There Is a Happy Ending

As uneven as the process is in terms of hiring a lawyer, there is another way. You can represent yourself.

Sure, you have challenges, from scheduling for hearings to learning a bunch of new stuff. But you don’t have to make $200 per hour or worry about cutting corners to justify what you charge. You get the full value of your work, and it is often worth much more than $200 per hour.

And when you make the other side work, you know you’re making them worry because someone is paying their lawyer that $200 per hour.

Of course you want to do a good job, but because the case is worth the full value to you, you can take the time to do a good job. If the time comes when you decide it isn’t worth fighting anymore, you can stop. You’ll lose the case if you do, mind you, but it’s your choice, while a lawyer representing you wouldn’t have that choice and thus must charge you to prepare for the possibility of being stuck in a case.

All you need is a little help doing some of the new stuff that you don’t understand, and you can get that help from us.

Your Legal Leg Up

Your Legal Leg Up is a website and business dedicated to helping people defend themselves from debt lawsuits without having to hire a lawyer. As you can see below, we have a number of products as well as memberships that should help you wherever you are in the process. In addition to that, our website is a resource for all. Many of the articles and materials are reserved for members, but many are available to everyone.

Finding Resources

Our website is both a business and a public resource, and you can use it to find information on a wide variety of debt law-related topics. While many of our resources are restricted to members, of course, many more are free to the public. Please feel free to use it. Every page has a site search button in both the header and footer. It’s a little magnifying glass icon that looks like this:

Click on the magnifying glass icon, and a small window opens. Put in a key word – a word you think relates to what you’re looking for – and enter. You will get a page of results.

Don’t be a “Verification Sucker” – When You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

When a debt collector sues you as the first thing you hear from it (they can do that), this does not give you a right to dispute and require verification. Your rights are through the legal process, and you must answer the petition or you will be defaulted. Sometimes debt collectors use people’s confusion over their rights and do things which suggest you could dispute the debt. This video discusses your rights.

You would be amazed how often people ask me whether they should “just send a verification letter” to the company or law firm when they get served with a debt lawsuit. Or as one person put it, “now that I’ve called the court to tell them I object, should I just send a verification letter? Or was that enough?”

No. It wasn’t enough – it wasn’t even anything at all.

Dispute and Verification

Click here for a copy of this article in pdf form: Don’t be Verification Sucker

Let’s take a quick step back here and review some facts and some rights.

When a debt collector first contacts you regarding a debt it is attempting to collect, it is required by law to provide you certain information. If the contact is not in writing, it must send you a notice in writing. If the contact is in writing, that contact must contain a notice. That notice must inform you of the debt collector’s identity, the nature and amount of the debt in question, and your right to dispute the debt and require verification. People often refer to this notice as the “verification letter,” although more properly it’s a notice of the right to dispute the debt. If you dispute, they must verify the debt before attempting to collect again, and you have thirty days to dispute the debt.

If they don’t want to attempt to collect again, they don’t need to dispute. It’s a law supposed to prevent continued attempts to collect on an unverified debt.

A Lawsuit is NOT a First Contact

If you’ve never heard from a debt collector, can they sue you for a past due debt? And if they do, must they give you notice of your right to dispute? Yes. And no. They can sue you without first bugging you for money. If they do sue you, the lawsuit is NOT a contact that triggers your right to dispute and verification. That’s what the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says, and the reason for that is simple: you’re in the court system and play by court rules once a lawsuit gets filed.

You Must Answer

And the court rules are that once you get served with a lawsuit you must file an Answer (or other “responsive filing” – a motion to dismiss, for example) or you will be in default. Put another way, if you don’t respond in court with an Answer denying liability or a motion to change or get rid of the lawsuit, you will lose. The lawsuit changes the rules, and you “aren’t in Kansas anymore.” [That’s what Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz when all the weird things start happening.]

Don’t be a Verification Sucker

The debt lawyers know the rules very well, and one would like to think that it’s only an “excess of caution” that causes them sometimes to print the FDCPA language on their lawsuit. But given the fact that so many people have sent dispute letters instead of answers, and the fact that the debt collectors KNOW this, that might be naïve.

What I’m here to tell you is that whether or not such language is on your lawsuit, YOU MUST ANSWER THE SUIT or face a default judgment. Don’t be a sucker – file an Answer or other responsive document within the time allowed by the rules of civil procedure. You must defend yourself in court – you’re not in Kansas anymore, and the FDCPA no longer applies.

A Little Window, Maybe

Litigation does not technically rule out the FDCPA entirely, just the “first contact” rule. It may be that the debt collector’s attachment of the notice to a lawsuit is itself a violation of the FDCPA, as it may be an attempt to sucker you into seeking verification instead of answering the lawsuit. It might be an unfair attempt to get a default judgment. I have argued as much before. That might give you a counterclaim to their lawsuit.

And if you have sought verification rather than answering, and they got a default judgment, you should certainly consider moving to vacate that judgment either on the basis of that deception or your own confusion. The courts favor judgments on the merits rather than technicalities, so there’s a very good chance such a motion to vacate, if filed in time, would work.

But these are not exceptions to the rule that you must respond to the lawsuit in court. If you get sued, the FDCPA no longer applies in that way. You must respond or they will get a default judgment against you, and the next you will hear about it will be when they garnish your wages or bank accounts. Don’t let that happen.

Disputing and demanding verification would be much easier, no doubt, but it doesn’t work at this point.

Don’t look for the “easy” way. Look for the RIGHT way.

 

Why Defend Yourself from Debt Collectors

Why you Should Defend against Debt Collectors, and Why you Can Do it Yourself

Get a copy of this article in PDF format by clicking here: why defend yourself

When you are sued by a debt collector, you are presented with two questions that often merge into one because of money.

  • Should you defend yourself (at all) from the lawsuit?
  • And if you do defend, do you have to have a lawyer?

A lot of people answer the second question first. They decide they need to have a lawyer in order to get anything done, and then they decide they cannot afford a lawyer, so they fail to defend themselves at all. This is a mistake.

First: Should you defend yourself?

Our answer to this question is absolutely “Yes.”

There is a tendency for people to think that lawsuits (filed against them) are only filed because the lawsuit is “good,” and that the plaintiff will or should win. That isn’t really true of any kind of lawsuit. In most kinds of law, however, the plaintiff’s lawyer will have done some research into the law and facts and will have some confidence that it’s a winner. After all, in most kinds of lawsuit, one expects a defense – the lawyer anticipates spending a considerable amount of time and money on the case before collecting anything significant.

And most plaintiffs are at least somewhat reluctant to start a lawsuit because of time and expense; often they are extremely reluctant, and with good reason.

Debt Law is Different

These things are simply not true of debt cases. In debt cases, a debt purchaser buys hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of supposed debt and files suit without ever doing ANY research into the validity of the debt at all. When they file suit, very few debt collectors have any idea at all of whether they have a right to the money, and they have little, if any, evidence of the debt. They think they might be able to get some if they have to, but they file suit expecting not to need any evidence at all. And they’re usually right.

They Expect you to Give Up

They design their cases to cause people to give up without fighting. Since most people, in fact, do give up one way or another, the whole debt collection business is based on not spending money or time on a case.  As soon as you do anything at all to defend, you cause the company to diverge from its business model. Of course, they know some people won’t just give up – they know people hate them, after all. So even though you have stepped out of their business model by resisting, you haven’t really challenged them yet. To challenge them, you must make them spend time and money on your case alone. We’ll discuss that below.

What if you Don’t Want to Fight?

Actually, NO ONE really wants to fight. It takes time and involves various uncomfortable feelings, from insecurity to anger, to frustration. You will at some point need to weigh these lifestyle questions, but the appropriate place to start is with the legal questions. And our answer to those is that it makes sense, always, to fight the debt collector.

Regarding the more practical questions, it is also usually true that fighting the debt collector will pay off very well. For example, if they’re suing you for $5,000, it’s a fair bet that they have already damaged your credit, and they are obviously trying to get at least $5,000 from you. If you defend yourself, you can save the $5,000 and repair your credit: what hourly rate would that be if it took you 50 hours of your time? $100/hour.

And the amount at stake is often much more than $5,000, and the time required to defend often much less than 50 hours, but you will have to make your own estimates of these things.

What if you Really Think you Owe the Money?

We get this question a lot because for most people, debt lawsuits are not “lightning from a clear blue sky,” as the saying goes. They know they haven’t been paying some bill, and people have often been bugging them about it. So should you still fight?

Yes, absolutely.

And this is because although you think you owe money, you might not owe the person suing you the money, and you might not owe what they’re suing you for. On top of that, and behind our legal system, is that you only “owe” what they can prove you owe – and most debt collectors cannot prove you owe anything. So even if you think you owe, you should fight to make sure you’re dealing with the right person for the right amount – and that they can prove it.

What if you Want to Settle?

If you hope to settle, you still need to start out by fighting – people only settle lawsuits when they think doing so is the best outcome for them. In other words, they’ll settle if you persuade them that they’ll make more money by settling than by not settling. You do that by fighting – nothing makes them think the case is going to take money to win than by making them spend money. That’s just common sense, right?

Do You Need a Lawyer to Defend You?

The answer to the question of whether to fight or not is almost always “yes.” And if you doubt that, consider how many times corporations simply roll over when people sue them – it almost never, ever happens. You know that, right? But even if you decide you should fight, you have to decide HOW to fight. Do you need a lawyer? or can you do this by yourself?

Remember what we said about “most” lawsuits – the lawyers do back up work and have a pretty good idea they deserve to win. Additionally, they typically expect to, and do, spend quite a bit of time and money to make sure they do win. For these reasons, and others, you might not want to handle a typical lawsuit pro se.

Debt law is not like that at all.

Debt Law is Different

We discuss this question in great detail in a lot of places, and therefore we will only touch on it lightly here, but debt law is not like other forms of litigation. It will almost always come down to a dispute about whether certain records should be allowed as evidence. And of course you need not to admit or do things that will hurt you. You almost certainly will not need witnesses, and they probably won’t have any, either. Thus debt law is relatively simple, and people can defend themselves without a lawyer.

We can help you do that in a lot of ways.

You will find a lot of help on many topics related to debt law on this site by using our search button at the top of the page or in the footer. And you can sign up for free information by going to this link and signing up. Sign up for Free Information.

 

 

 

 

What to Do if Sued

Sued for Debt

So You’re Being Sued for Debt

You have learned, one way or another, that you are being sued for a debt. If so, you are in a club containing many millions of people, but you probably feel all alone. What do you do? And how do you do it? Where do you turn, and who can help?

Since you’re here, you know that WE can help. We help people beat the debt collectors and protect what’s theirs.

Fight

We don’t make any bones about it – we think that if you’re sued by a debt collector you have a great chance of winning. And if you lose, it hardly ever costs you anything more than not fighting would have done. If you want to settle, you always start by fighting because debt collectors never settle to make YOUR life easier, they only settle make themselves more profit, and if you fight you instantly drive the value of the suit down in their eyes. Thus you have everything to gain and little to lose in most situations. You should fight.

Lawyer or Not?

We’ve addressed this question many times in various posts, and we do in our First Response Kit, too. But for this article we’re just going to talk about the cost of a lawyer. For most of our members, the cost of a lawyer is the most important thing, and they are expensive.

The average lawyer in a city tries to make $200 per hour these days. They’re running a business, have a staff, and need to make a profit. In debt defense, they also know that not everyone is able to pay. Thus, those who do pay, have to pay more.

With $200 per hour as a target, the lawyer either has to charge you that as an hourly rate or create a flat fee that will, she hopes, bring that average return. Through it all, most people discussing legal fees with us say that lawyers are trying to get them to pay at least $2,500 for their cases. For most people, this is simply too much, and the lawyer will want much of that up-front. So lawyers are simply out of reach for most people in debt trouble.

But here’s the thing: debt law, unlike most kinds of law, is well-suited to pro se (self-representation) defense. And with a little help from us, you’ll know more than most lawyers you talk to will know about this kind of law anyway.

Debt Law is Good for Pro Se Defense

There are a few reasons debt law is good for pro se defense. First, debt law is mostly about rules of evidence. They’re going to want to get some records into evidence, and you’re going to want to stop them from doing that. If you can keep those records out and avoid a few basic mistakes, you should win. This is not the kind of law that involves extensive testimony or cross-examination – you won’t need to be brilliant. You will need to do basic things that you can learn – we can teach you.

The other main reason debt law is good for self-representation is economic. They want to make $200 per hour, but you don’t have to get that much. And the debt collector/lawyer is trying to get that from half of what he can collect from you (the debt buyer gets the other half), while you’re saving 100 percent of what you can save. Thus you can spend more time on the case. It’s your life, and it matters more to you than anyone else. Every time you do something to defend yourself the lawyer on the other side will be worried about whether she’ll get paid for working on your case – this is a big, big advantage.

What to Do?

Your defense will start with an answer or a motion. Our First Response Kit will guide you through that. We also suggest that you get right onto the process of discovery, and the First Response Kit will do as much to help make that easy for you as possible. It includes samples of all the documents you’ll probably need. You’ll have to do SOME work for sure, but it doesn’t get any easier for you than this.

Our First Response Kit

A great place to start your defense is our First Response Kit. It helps you consider your chances of winning (vs. not fighting at all) and whether to fight, whether to get a lawyer, and if you’re going to represent yourself, how to do that. We get you started with a sample Answer and sample discovery that you can modify to fit your situation. This is as easy a way to get started with your defense as is possible. Read about it here.

Debt Collector Dirty Tricks

The Debt Collection Business

For a free copy of this article in pdf form, click here: Debt Collector Dirty Tricks

Debt Collectors

At its best, debt collection is a hard business. They’re trying to force people who are already making tough choices to make different choices. To make a person give up food or insurance to pay a bill for something that’s already come and gone is hard to do. And even when the choice isn’t quite that stark, there’s always the challenge of making someone give up what they want NOW for what they used to want THEN.

On the other hand, most people do want to pay their bills, and they feel guilty and embarrassed when they don’t. The debt collectors know and use those facts regularly. You might consider efforts to trigger those feelings “dirty tricks,” but we won’t discuss them other than in certain extreme ways the debt collectors play their cards.

Debtors

People who owe money also usually feel, and are, vulnerable to various bad things, and many of the dirtiest tricks use this fact against them. From a slightly different angle, one of the things that get people into debt trouble in the first place is hope or optimism – they overestimate what they can or will do or they look for an easy way out. This can make them easy suckers for scams, from get-rich-quick scams to get-out-of-debt scams. But what concerns us most for purposes of this article is that it causes them to overestimate what they can pay or for how long they can do it. Thus there’s a tendency for people to make agreements they can’t keep.

In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the tricks the debt collectors play to use the weaknesses of people in debt against them so that you can recognize and prepare for them. We also have a report that you can get for free that has many more of the worst of the tricks.

I have found that a lot of people come to us after doing some things that hurt their rights. Part of our mission is to protect some of those rights before they get lost or damaged. We want to catch people earlier in the debt cycle, in other words. If you give the wrong person money, it’s almost impossible to get it back.

A Few Preliminary Words

There are a few things I will say before getting into the scams and tricks. First, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes almost all of the tricks we discuss here illegal. But some of them are not, as we will discuss.

The FDCPA generally requires fair-dealing and honesty of the debt collectors, and it makes deception and “misleading” behaviors illegal. It also gives them certain affirmative requirements. But it applies only to “debt collectors” as that term is defined, and there is currently a lot of uncertainty about exactly what the term means and just who is a debt collector even among legitimate operators, and there are a lot of crooks out there, too.

What there is really no doubt about at all is that debt collectors, whether they are within the definition of the FDCPA or not, will do almost anything to get your money. You know that. We can only list and describe a relatively few of their tricks, but you need to develop the habit of extreme caution and skepticism towards anybody who’s trying to get you to give them some money. You need PROOF of every aspect of what they’re saying, because, as we all know, paying the wrong person a bill we really owe doesn’t do any good at all – it just means we’re going to double-pay.

No legitimate debt collector will require you to act immediately the first time you hear from them. Don’t let them hurry you into lowering your standards of proof – that’s the key to all of their other tricks.

A Few of Their Tricks

The tricks here are only a few of what they have come up with, and they will constantly be coming up with more. These are merely examples. The tricks don’t all have formal names, but I have given them names to make them easier to remember.

Asking for Post-dated Checks

Sometimes a debt collector will urge you to send a post-dated check. That is, a check with a date on it that’s different than the actual date. You think the money will be there in a week, so you write the check for next week.

Debt collectors love to get you to do this. Why?

There are some legitimate reasons, and this isn’t always a scam or dirty trick. It is a fact that people get busy, have second thoughts, or simply change their minds – especially when it comes to paying money for something that doesn’t bring them pleasure. A debt collector has a legitimate interest, assuming the debt is valid and the collector is honest (which you should almost never do), in getting your money before any of that happens. He or she has talked you into doing something, and he doesn’t want it to come undone as soon as you hang up. A post-dated check is a good way to make your intention stick.

The problem is that you cannot trust the debt collector, yourself, or the world around you with this.

You can’t trust the debt collector because most debt collectors will say anything that comes to mind to get you to do what they want. They are under intense pressure to perform, and to perform quickly. Therefore, chances are good that the debt collector will not remember – and not even try to remember – that your check is post-dated check. That will be forgotten before you hang up.

So even if by chance your check goes to the debt collector who called you, she will put the check in the pile to go to the bank immediately. And it isn’t likely the person who called you will see the check – it will automatically go out for payment when it arrives in the office.

And you can’t even trust yourself on this. If you were just trying to get the debt collector to go away, or if you made a slight miscalculation, or if something unforeseen happens – as so often happens – you will be in trouble.

Attempt to Collect from Relatives of the Dead

With few exceptions, a parent or spouse’s debts do NOT transfer to anyone else. A deceased’s debts are claims against the decedent’s estate. That means, if there’s a will, that any claimants will have to make a claim against the estate in probate. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, then in some situations the “residuary” beneficiary of the will might be liable.

If the will says, “I leave $100 to Mary and the rest to John,” John is the residuary beneficiary, and John might under some circumstances be liable for a debt. But of course it almost never happens because the creditor would have to prove a variety of things that aren’t easy to prove. Most debt collectors want nothing to do with that. They’d rather try to get you to pay.

All you need to know is that if a debt collector is asking you to pay someone else’s bills it’s probably a scam.

Debt collectors know most people do not know the law and have never thought they might owe someone else’s bills.  People who are grieving are less likely to question or oppose someone who asserts that they owe something. In other words, this scam requires catching you at a vulnerable time and taking advantage of it.

The FBI’s After You

In this scam, someone calls you up “from Washington” (or wherever) to let you know you’ve been implicated in some vague crime or misdeed. They’ve tried this one on me a couple of times, as a matter of fact, only the person was supposedly calling from the Social Security Administration to tell me my account had been “frozen” because someone was using the number to launder money.

The agent spoke fast and had a number to call for verification, but things were close to a boiling point. I was supposed to act quickly or expect the FBI to show up within the next day, or possibly hours. Of course the first thing I had to do was verify a few numbers for them…

This is obviously a criminal scam, with only the barest pretense at being debt collection when there is one – sometimes the threat is that agents are on the way to pick you up for non-payment of some debt, or whatever. The critical features are the urgency, the authority, and the threat.

The people doing this one are clearly not legitimate debt collectors, they’re criminals, but it may show up as a debt collection, and chances are good you’ve been targeted because of some perceived vulnerability. Tell these guys to take a hike.

There’s more in the report

You will find many more examples of debt collector dirty tricks in our free Bestiary of Debt Collector Dirty Tricks. You can find that by clicking here: https://yourlegallegup.com/blog/debt-collector-dirty-tricks/.

 






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Diamond Memberships

Why you Should Join us as a Diamond Member

Diamond Membership is our best deal for people with a lot of curiosity, more than one lawsuit, or who are coaching or helping others in their cases. That’s because a main goal of Diamond membership is to go beyond the usual questions presented by debt law and the debt industry. We look at the politics and economics driving our country. And we look deeply at the law.

As anyone knows who has read our materials, most of debt law is what we call “factory work.” It’s routine and standardized, and this is simply because debt is bought and sold in gigantic deals (called “tranches”). So the average debt collector buys a hundred or a thousand (or many, many more) accounts that supposedly owe money from the same company (usually a credit card-issuing bank) and then, completely relying on the records the bank provides, harasses the people involved to collect as much as possible. And eventually they file many, many lawsuits that look almost exactly the same.

So for most of our purposes, we can simply deal with that large body of identical suits and create responses to them. They’re doing factory work, and we do something very similar.

Going Deeper and Further

But there can be more. While debt collection is generally pretty standardized, there are things that can come up that either present special challenges or issues. And in fact, for all of its routine, most debt lawsuits CAN veer out of the normal. There are always angles in every case, which can sometimes make a difference, and often make things more interesting.

You’ll get a 50% discount off all of our motions packs and other materials. We highly recommend the First Response Kit as a way to simplify your first several steps in this litigation, and you’ll get a 50% discount off the cost for that.

And some of our members like to help others. For these – for people helping others, and for those who want to know a LOT about the law – our Diamond Membership is great.

Special Tactics

When you take on debt negotiation, debt litigation and credit repair at the same time, you discover that some of the tools work for more than one thing. For example, if a debt collector is bugging you AND has damaged your credit, you can dispute the collector’s action both through the Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These two acts have different purposes (as laws) and requirements. Verification under the two acts is different, and verification under the Credit Reporting Act is more difficult and rigorous for the debt collector – and the CRA also gives you a way to attack the original creditor as well if it is reporting you.

And you can, of course, you can use any and all the information you get through either the FDCPA and CRA (also called the FCRA, for “Fair Credit Reporting Act”) in litigation if they sue you. And you can use any information you get in a lawsuit they – or you – file, in attacking their responses under the FDCPA or FCRA. In other words, knowing all three sets of rules can sometimes be very, very helpful. Our Platinum Membership opens some of those ways up to you.

Other Benefits

As with each of the Gold Memberships, you will receive special reports and offers. As a Diamond Member, though, you get them all. This includes:

  • The Three Weaknesses Almost All Debt Collectors Have
  • Take Control of Your Life and Debt; and
  • a discount off the prepaid legal program we offer our members;
  • all the situation products (like motions packs and the other products like that).

Diamond Benefits

In addition to everything the Gold and Platinum members get, Diamond members get a lot more information. They get, basically, all of our reports and books as well as ecourses. This includes our reports like Got Debt? and What if I (think I) Really Owe, Do You Need a Lawyer, and all the rest. And it also includes our book – now being revised – called Special Issues in Debt Litigation. This book was originally about a 250 page book, but it is being revised into several smaller volumes now. Diamond Members will get them, free.

Coaching

In addition to the written materials, Diamond members will get their own teleconferences when the situation calls for it. As we approach our membership goals, the Diamond members will need to discuss things in greater depth and at greater length – they’ll get that opportunity. And there will be other materials, currently in the works, to help them organize, promote, analyze, and all the other things they’re likely to need.

How You Purchase

You buy by clicking on “Register” under “About Memberships” in the main menu and choosing the level of membership you want.

Diamond membership costs $25.00 per month with a $150 sign-up fee.

Platinum Memberships

Platinum Memberships combine all three of the Gold Memberships into one package.

As we often say, debt problems generally travel in crowds – that is, if one debt collector is suing you, others are probably harassing and getting ready to sue you – and still others are messing up your credit report. It’s tempting to try to focus on just one of these things at a time, and that can work. But a more effective way of dealing with debt problems is to take them all on at the same time. So even while you’re beating the debt collector that’s suing you, you’re negotiating with another one to keep it from suing you.

And you’re beginning the process of repairing your credit from ALL of them.

If that makes sense to you, then you should consider our Platinum Membership.

Benefits of Platinum Membership

With our Platinum Membership you get three manuals: the Debt Litigation Manual, the Debt Negotiation and Settlement Manual, and the Credit Repair and Restoration Manual.

You also get access to our complete member-only area, so that you can reduce the amount of repetitive paperwork you have to do in taking care of all these problems, and you get access to all our member-only articles and videos on all topics.

And you can be part of all of our teleconferences.

Special Tactics

When you take on debt negotiation, debt litigation and credit repair at the same time, you discover that some of the tools work for more than one thing. For example, if a debt collector is bugging you AND has damaged your credit, you can dispute the collector’s action both through the Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These two acts have different purposes (as laws) and requirements. Verification under the two acts is different, and verification under the Credit Reporting Act is more difficult and rigorous for the debt collector – and the CRA also gives you a way to attack the original creditor as well if it is reporting you.

And you can, of course, you can use any and all the information you get through either the FDCPA and CRA (also called the FCRA, for “Fair Credit Reporting Act”) in litigation if they sue you. And you can use any information you get in a lawsuit they – or you – file, in attacking their responses under the FDCPA or FCRA. In other words, knowing all three sets of rules can sometimes be very, very helpful. Our Platinum Membership opens some of those ways up to you.

Other Benefits

As with each of the Gold Memberships, you will receive special reports and offers. As a Platinum Member, though, you get them all. This includes:

  • The Three Weaknesses Almost All Debt Collectors Have
  • Take Control of Your Life and Debt; and
  • a discount off the prepaid legal program we offer our members.

10,000 Member Drive

As I point out in our materials on Gold Membership, a key strategy in our debt litigation program is to recognize that debt collectors take a “factory” approach. They file huge numbers of cases and work very little on them because most people either default immediately or give up quickly. So they file a hundred cases, work on none of them, get judgments on 98 percent of the cases they get served, and let a few people get away. Our program helps you be among those who get away “through the cracks.”

But what if everybody defended and fought back?

If that happened, the debt collectors would have to change completely, and until they did, pretty much EVERYBODY would get away from them. Our 10,000 member drive is about making that happen. If everybody fought back, it would shut down the debt collectors and push the judges to stop being mere cogs in the debt collection industry’s machine. With that many people fighting back, learning, watching the courts, and pushing back, it would change the nature of the debt industry completely. I think that would be a good thing.

And so I have begun a 10,000 member drive.

How You Purchase

You buy by clicking on “Register” under “About Memberships” in the main menu and choosing the level of membership you want. Platinum membership costs $20 a month with a $120 sign-up fee.

 

Do Our Materials Work against Original Creditors

Do Your Materials Work for Cases against Original Creditors?

Yes. When I represented clients in these cases, there used to be a more significant difference between original creditors and junk debt buyers. We’ve written a lot about the differences between original creditors and debt buyers. They boil down into two things: you are more likely to have a counterclaim against a “debt collector” (which all debt buyers used to be considered); and debt buyers are less likely to have the documents they need to beat you. These differences are still there, but they are less important now than they used to be.

We will discuss both defense and possible counterclaims.

Defense

The main reason our materials work against both original creditors and others is practical. That is, it is because of the way law is actually practiced and the way people dispose of lawsuits. As we have often pointed out, parties settle cases only because they think a particular settlement offer is the best overall result they can obtain. It has nothing to do with what might be good, or nice, or anything else, for the other side. As a practical matter, you look for what is best for you and don’t try to help the other side, right?

Debt lawyers consider three things in this analysis: the risk of losing, the price of winning, and the chance of collection. These three things are very different.

Risk of Losing

The risk of losing is the chance that you will lose. It’s obviously never quite zero, but the people suing you pretty much ignore this risk – they think they will win, and the few times they don’t, don’t hurt. At the beginning of a lawsuit, therefore, this risk might as well be zero in the minds of the debt collectors. Our materials are designed to help you see whether they have any weaknesses, and if so, to build on them to create doubt in their minds. For pro se defendants, that’s pretty much all you will ever accomplish.

Price of Winning

The price of winning is very different. That is MUCH more of a consideration for the people suing you. Given (they think) that they will win, what will it cost to get the thing to trial and get the judgment? At the beginning of the case, the people suing you also ignore this issue because most people don’t put up much or any fight. The debt collectors expect their judgment easily and quickly – probably by default without any work at all.

And they get it most of the time. Our materials help you change their perception of this factor. Everything you do will cost them money, and the more you have done, the more they expect you to do. In other words, as you defend, the pile of costs grows, and the pile of expected costs grows even more. Whether they are debt buyers or original creditors, this radically changes the equation in their heads. It raises the likelihood that they will lose money whether they win the case or not.  Frankly, this is why most of them settle for a reasonable amount.

Chance of Collection

The other factor is the chance of collection: given that they will win, can they get money from you. Debt collectors and original creditors both understand that most people want to pay their bills, and the reason some don’t is that they have money problems. They know they can’t get money from you if you don’t have it, and they think you probably don’t have it.

This factor is very much a part of their thinking at all stages of the case, and it’s why most debt collectors will probably give you a discount on the case before you do anything – if you ask. It won’t be much of a discount, but it will be more if you offer a lump sum (eliminating the risk of collecting the rest) than if you offer payments. Does that make sense?

Factors Work Together

Notice how these factors work together. If you don’t give the other side information about your assets, and you do conduct discovery, you (slightly, in their minds) increase their chances of losing and drastically increase the costs of suit. You also delay the judgment they had expected to get quickly – and that reduces their chances of collection if they win.

The two most important factors, cost and delay, are the same for original creditors and debt collectors. Risk of losing goes up more for debt collectors than original creditors, but this factor is never important for either debt collectors or original creditors.

Thus our materials help you drive the value of the case down in the same way for both groups. If the other side regards your case as less valuable, it is more likely to offer you an actually good settlement, or to walk away from the litigation eventually. But what if it doesn’t? How do our materials work then?

Remember that law is a contest with very specific rules. It has always been our belief that either debt collectors or original creditors COULD win their case against you. To do so, however, they have to get the stuff they need and follow through with it, and these are expensive to do.

When we started Your Legal Leg Up, we knew that debt collectors almost never had what they needed to win if the case went to trial, and we were satisfied that they could not get it in a cost-effective and timely way. But we believed original creditors did have the necessary evidence or could easily get it. We have discovered that this is not true.

We are unaware of any reason why this is so. From our perspective, it would seem to be a simple process to retain the necessary records and do what is necessary to “authenticate” them as evidence (make them admissible in court). Nevertheless it is an observable fact that they often do not obtain or use appropriate evidence, and therefore there must be some reason for it. Perhaps it is the same for original creditors as it is for debt collectors – either they don’t think it’s worth it given the collection risk, or they are set up in a way where getting the information would clog up their systems and increase costs in general. In any event, you can find out if they have the evidence and the will to use them correctly by doing only one thing: fighting their case and conducting discovery. We believe there’s a good chance you will win if you do this.

Counterclaims

The other side of debt defense is using a counterclaim to take control of the lawsuit. We do still regard this as an important thing, if you can do it. That’s because if you can hold the debt collector in the suit with a counterclaim, you can make them dismiss the case “with prejudice,” which prevents anyone else from suing you on the debt. It will also help you repair your credit if you destroy the claim against you.

You will probably never have a good counterclaim against an original creditor, whereas you might get one against a debt collector. Some claims do exist – notably defamation or, for extreme acts, something called the “tort of outrageous infliction of emotional distress,” but the courts have historically been amazingly tolerant of original creditors. Much less so of debt collectors.

But again, as a practical matter, these things have turned out to be less important than they might have been. If you win the suit against another party (without prejudice), they are unlikely ever to sue you again even if they could. And if they sell the debt, the person buying the claim would have little chance against you in court. It also appears to be true that after dropping a suit against you the other side would have less energy and desire to prevent you from credit repair. It isn’t that they like you or couldn’t make trouble, it’s just that they have no financial interest in doing so. This appears to cause a lot of them to take no steps to prevent your efforts to remove their credit references.

Most people being sued by debt collectors just want the suit to go away and are not interested in trying to make the other side pay. This reduces the importance of the other side’s status as debt collector or not.

Conclusion

Therefore all things considered, our materials are about equally effective against debt collectors and original creditors. If the matter goes all the way to trial, you might have a somewhat larger chance of losing to an original creditor, but fighting intelligently will give you your best chance of preventing that from happening. The actual court processes are the same in either case, so you will be prepared to fight.