Debt collectors make most of their money by scaring, or tricking, people into forfeiting their rights to defend themselves. That’s far, far cheaper and faster than actually litigating. So debt collectors spend a great deal of time and effort learning how to make people give up. They’re good at that, but if you fight back anyway, you have an excellent chance to win.
Remember that most of what debt collectors are doing with their petition is trying to scare you into giving up. They’re trying to make things scary and inconvenient for you so you won’t protect your rights. Here are some of their more common tricks and some things you can do about them.
One of the most common complaints I hear from people pursued by debt collections is that debt collectors have deceived them into not going to court.Then they get a default judgment and start collecting. Don’t let that happen to you!
Here’s how to spot this one coming– and what to do about it if it’s already happened to you.
The way it comes up is that the defendant (person being sued) receives the summons and petition only a relatively few days before the date given on the summons for showing up to court. The person being sued panics either because the date set is extremely inconvenient or because they do not have the resources to fight the suit regardless of which day is set for court.
They Trick You into Staying away from Court
So you call the debt collection law firm and asks to speak to the lawyer suing you. The lawyer will not speak to you (normally), and so you are forced to speak to some clerk, actually a skilled collection agent. The law firm then plays a “good cop, bad cop” routine, where the person speaking to you takes a message and agrees to get back to the defendant with the words of the lawyer. Or they play “tough but fair” and outright refuse to agree to move the court date.
They routinely move court dates for lawyers.
Either way, they want you to be maximally inconvenienced because they really, really, really don’t want you to show up or defend yourself! They say they will, however, agree to come to an “arrangement” that makes going to court “unnecessary.” Isn’t that nice
Then they either create an agreement and send it to you—or not. But if you think that going to court is unnecessary and don’t go, then the debt collector often “calls for default” (asks the court to give them a default judgment) whether you have an agreement or not.
But the agreement is usually a complete giving up anyway.
NO NO NO NO!
Don’t let this happen to you. If you can’t go to court on the date specified on the petition, think about filing an answer denying the allegations of their suit–and add a counterclaim for unfair debt collection by refusing to “move” (it’s called “continue”) the court date for you when they would do so for a lawyer.
Then you might file a “motion to continue” your court date with the court, telling it that you tried to work out the continuance with the other side but that it would not cooperate. Ask the court’s clerk for the “continuance date” and put that into your motion.
See, courts will almost ALWAYS continue a case if a lawyer asks for it. And if you file an answer first and then your request to continue, they’ll do it for you, too.
If the debt collector has already tricked you and gotten a default judgment, all is not lost. But you must act quickly. You should know that the law does not “favor” default judgments. This means that they lean against allowing them to stand if you make a decent argument against them.
The way you would do that would be to start with a motion to vacate the judgment.