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Bothered by Debt Collectors

Debt – both a personal problem and a social issue

We know that if you are facing any kind of debt problems – and most definitely if you are being sued or threatened with suit – you have a situation facing you, personally, that is extremely important. We take that very seriously, and most of our efforts are designed to help you solve the problem on a personal basis. If you’re being sued, for example, that means we want you to win – and then to repair your credit report so that it doesn’t hurt you anymore.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors or have a negative credit report already, we want to help you fix those things at the personal level. Thus we are strong and committed advocates for you. We’re on your side all the way.

There’s also a social justice issue here which is worth keeping in mind. You will not always find the courts sympathetic to you or willing to listen – or to do their job at all, frankly. We believe that this reflects a larger issue where the powers that be seem to think it is perfectly fine to rob from the poor and give to the rich. In this area, we think that the more people who represent themselves in cases like this, and the stronger and better you are at standing up for yourself… the better everybody else will be. And the more who do it, the better for everyone. So we are also strong social advocates.

In other words, sometimes the courts may seem unwilling to listen to you or actually hostile. If you persist, though, you will still have an excellent chance to win.

Stand up for yourself in every way. Don’t let the debt collectors rip you off – which they will certainly do if you give them the chance. Fight back! Even if you used the credit card or borrowed the money, you have to defend yourself to make sure they don’t get any more than they should and don’t do any more harm than they’re entitled to. And in reality, you have a really great chance to win. Completely.

The law is an adversary system, and the up-side to the fact that if you don’t take care of yourself the debt collectors will rip you off is that if you do take care of yourself you will probably be in better shape than you can even imagine possible right now.

Cease-Communication Letters

Debt collectors often try to wear down the resistance of consumers by repeatedly calling and harassing them. If this is happening, you can easily make it stop. Here’s how.

Debt Collection Strategies

Debt collection is a huge and growing industry in the United States, and collectors are notorious for some of the strategies they use to force and intimidate consumers into payment.

They’re Trying to Harass You

Debt collectors know that they people they are calling do not have much money-their purpose is to move themselves to the head of the line. The way they do this is by attempting to inflict more pain or annoyance on the consumer than other bill collectors. In other words, debt collectors know you only have so much money to pay your bills – they’re competing with each other. The company that harasses you the most “wins.” Sometimes individual debt collectors claim not to engage in abusive behavior, but rather to be the victims of it. I leave the reader to decide how much sympathy these debt collectors deserve, but my point is that, in general, the debt collectors seek emotional engagement – and, also in general – the best thing you can do is avoid it.

You Can Make them Stop Bugging You

The collectors are not concerned with your priorities or well-being, but you should be, and it is hard to keep a clear head amidst all the noise and all the people trying to use you. Luckily the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) offers some help. Under the FDCPA, 15 U.S. Code Section 1692(c)c, “if a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer wishes [it] to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further…with respect to such debt.”

However, the collector may inform the consumer that it’s efforts are being terminated, or notify the consumer that it “may or will invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked” (i.e., suing or reporting to the credit agencies). Many people fear that by invoking this rule they will cause the debt collectors to sue them – but this fear is probably misplaced (it is according to my experience). The debt collectors have their own guidelines based on what they expect to collect. If anything, writing a cease communication letter may reduce your chance of being sued because it keeps the debt collector from gathering more information about you.

What to Do to Make Debt Collectors Stop Harassing You

Crucially, if the notification is made by U.S. mail, the communication is complete “upon receipt.” In other words, to make sure the debt collector is forced to cease communications, it makes sense (although it is not required by the law) to send the letter by certified mail. That way you have proof that the debt collector received the letter. Any further communication would be in violation of the FDCPA.

When the phones stop ringing off the hook, you will be freer to make decisions according to your own best interests and priorities.

For More Help

Our Debt Collections Pack can give you a sample cease-communications letter and the guidance you need to keep the debt collectors off your back.

How Debt Troubles Start

Life History of a Debt

This continues the series of videos for people being harassed or sued for debt, and in this video we’ll look at the way debts evolve – from bills you can pay without problem, to bills you do have problems paying (or don’t want to pay), through the “charge-off” and sale of the debt to the debt collector.

Tomorrow we’ll lok at the “moral” duty to pay debts, and then we’ll move on to possible solutions to debt troubles.

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Debt Buyers vs Debt Collectors

“Debt Collectors” and “Debt Buyers”

I often talk about debt collectors, but many, and perhaps most people being sued for debt are being sued by people (or companies, usually) that have purchased the debt from someone else and are suing to collect the money for themselves. These are sometimes called “junk debt buyers.”

So What is the difference between a “debt collector” and a “debt-buyer?”

There are some companies that collect debts for other companies, taking a percentage of the collections as their fees, and most people think of these companies when they think about “debt collectors.” But the term “debt collectors,” in its legal sense, is broader than that. There are also debt buyers, who buy the debt from the original creditors and collect on their own behalf, and these companies can also be “debt collectors” in the law.

If a company’s “principle business” is the collection of debts, it is a “debt collector” whether it is a debt buyer or (just) a collector. So the company that bugs you on behalf of the original creditor is a debt collector, and so is the company that bought the debt and began harassing you in an attempt to collect for itself. And so, usually, are the lawyers suing you and their firms. All must obey the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

“Debt collector” used to be more conveniently determined as a matter of when a company purchased a debt – if it buys a debt that isn’t being paid solely for the purpose of collecting it, it is obviously functioning simply as a debt collector. But our distinguished Supreme Court – distinguished mostly based on its hostility to working people and its favor to the rich – sees otherwise. It ruled against common sense in 2017. So now one must look to the status of the company – what its “principle business” may be – rather than its actions.

One problem with using the “principle business” standard is that the term has rarely, if ever, been actually quantified. That is, no one really knows what percentage of a company’s business needs to be a certain thing before that thing is its principle business. More fundamentally, all the debt buyers are doing is changing the name of the person allegedly owed. They make exactly the same amount of money they ever did (or they can if the deal is structured that way because there is no real risk of ownership), and their business is exactly what a third person debt collector’s is: they collect money owed to someone else. This should not be changed if the company incidentally happens to have some other operations that are other than collecting debts.

For example, a law firm that buys debts and sues on them (as many do) will almost certainly no longer be a debt collector, whereas Congress has been pretty clear that it wanted them to be. And the standard wrongly seems to focus on the overall business of the business rather than the nature of its operations vis a vis the debt in question.

Nevertheless, to prove a debt buyer is a debt collector under the FDCPA, you will now have to prove that is it’s principle business, and that will make bringing a counterclaim more difficult.

However, for purposes of defense this will not make any difference. The important thing about debt buyers, from our perspective, is that they are suing on a debt which they did not generate. This means they probably won’t have, and won’t be able to get, the records that would legitimately support the debt at trial. You should be able to beat any debt collector or debt buyer in court.

Our materials work on both debt collectors and original creditors.

 

What to Do If You’ve Got Debt Troubles

If your bills are adding up and the bill collectors are beginning to bug you, you need to start taking action to protect yourself.

This video goes through the reasons you should win if you get sued for debt and begins the discussion on how to send the right signals to the debt collectors to leave you alone.