Debt collectors usually contact consumers by phone or by mail, but recently debt collectors started to take new approaches to contacting consumers...
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active duty military personnel and other deployed service members from losing their home and other assets while they are serving active duty, temporarily stationed somewhere else, or permanently relocated...
Figuring out how to pay off your holiday debt or other credit card debt can be a daunting, challenging task. Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. has created a list of tips and tricks to help you eliminate your debts, become debt free, and avoid receiving calls from debt collectors...
Can a debt collector call you during the holidays? It Depends
Getting a phone call from a debt collector during the holiday season can ruin your holiday spirit. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) restricts the actions of debt collectors, protects consumers, and punishes debt collectors with unruly, bad behavior. Troy Doucet, the firm principal here at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A., shares advice regarding the FDCPA and how to deal with unruly debt collectors during the holiday season in the article “Can a Debt Collector call you during the holidays?” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The FDCPA punishes debt collectors who contact consumers with repetitive, harassing behavior and restricts them from calling consumers at inconvenient times. Calling in the middle of the night or calling a consumer at work are typical examples of an inconvenient time, but holidays may also be arguable inconvenient and a violation of the FDCPA.
Under the FDCPA, consumers are allowed to send a written letter asking a debt collector to stop calling. After, the debt collector may contact the consumer one more time to inform them they plan to take legal action. If the debt collector continues to contact the consumer after the letter, then a consumer litigation lawyer at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can help determine if the FDCPA has been violated. Once a consumer has legal representation, the debt collector cannot contact the consumer directly without permission of the lawyer.
In Ohio, lawsuits dealing with the FDCPA allow fee shifting. This means if the lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can help you win a lawsuit against a debt collector for bad and unruly behaviors, the debt collector will have to pay all of our attorney fees for you. Contact an experienced lawyer at (614)944-5219 for your consultation today.
Do You Want to Improve Your Credit Score?
Experian estimated Columbus, Ohio’s average credit score to be 666 in 2015. That is only three points below the 669 national average. If your credit score falls below these averages, there are steps you can take as a consumer to gain some points. The lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can also offer advice about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and how to correct problems on your credit report.
Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
1.You should first check your credit report for errors using at least one of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Your credit score may differ a little on each report based on resources the agency used to develop your score. If there is an error on your credit report, the FCRA says you can send a letter to the credit reporting agency asking for the error to be corrected. If the credit reporting agency fails to correct the error, you can contact Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. for help on correcting your report or read more about the FCRA on our website by clicking here and they may have to pay our fees. Correcting the errors on your credit report can improve your credit score.
2.Get a credit card. Having a credit card shows that a creditor can trust you to pay back borrowed money. If you use the credit card correctly without developing debt, then you can increase your credit score.
3.Pay off your credit card debt. Some people cannot pay off all their debt in one payment. If that is the situation for you, stop using your credit cards and focus on minimizing your debt by making the required minimum payments every month.
4.Pay your bills on time. This includes all bills such as credit card bills, utility bills, medical bills and student bills. Failure to pay bills on time lowers your credit score.
5.Ask for a raise on your credit card limit. Getting a raise does not mean you have to spend more on your credit card, but shows that your creditors trust you more.
6.Get involved in paying off different types of loans, whether it is all at the same time or separately. Your credit score can be improved if you have history of accurately paying off a credit card, an auto loan, student loans and a home mortgage loan. If you encounter problems paying off a home mortgage loan the lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. have experience helping homeowners secure loan modifications and fighting foreclosure lawsuits.
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. Wins Lawsuit Against a Debt Collector
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. won a lawsuit against Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC for debt collection harassment and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Our clients sought out our assistance after Portfolio continued to notify them about their debts after they had legal representation and failed to show proper verification.
In 2015, Student Legal Services, Inc. helped our clients by sending a letter asking for verification for some of the debts Portfolio notified them about. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector cannot contact a consumer without permission once they have a lawyer involved.
Portfolio responded by sending a letter directly to our clients verifying another debt, not the debts requested. Portfolio continued to contact our clients by mail and eventually phone about various debts. Portfolio violated the FDCPA by continuing to contact our client’s after they had legal representation.
Portfolio admitted liability through an offer of judgement and paid our clients $2,001 in statutory damages due to collection harassment and violations of the FDCPA. In Ohio, FDCPA lawsuits that create statutes are also violations for a Consumer Sales Practice Act (CSPA) lawsuit and both allow fee shifting. Therefore, Portfolio is required to pay Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. reasonable attorney fees, rather than our client.
Police Arrest People In India Involved in IRS Scam
Police caught more than 700 people in Mumbai, India call centers posing as United States Tax Officials who scammed Americans into paying money for fake tax related debts. At least 70 people have been arrested so far. These calls violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. helps people enforce.
Authorities estimate the call centers made an average of $150,000 a day, or over $50 million a year. The scammers demanded payments over the phone through money transfer wiring services and gift cards. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started the Robocall Strike Force in August to battle unwanted, illegal robocalls such as the IRS scam and to find the source. Consumers who get these calls can receive up to $1500 per call under the TCPA, which Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. has extensive experience litigating.
The scam utilized a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to make the Indian telephone numbers imitate US numbers. Scammers also received training to learn how to speak in an American accent. First the scammers would introduce themselves and detailing a purpose for the call. Then the scammers harassed victims to make immediate payments and threatened local police forces will get involved when victims refused.
Call centers in India have an unfortunate history of scamming Americans. Scammers have attempted to sell consumers fake virus and malware software and a variety of other computer tech support. Authorities in India also noticed a rise in India based call center scams targeting residents in their own country.
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. are lawyers who can help stop unwanted robocalls, junk faxes and debt collection harassment. Contact us at (614)944-5219 today for assistance.
Mistakenly Charged Off
A bank charging off a person’s bank account is harmful to a consumer credit report. Sometimes charge-offs can mistakenly continue after a consumer has paid off their debt. Troy Doucet, the firm principal at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A., shares his legal advice on what a consumer can do to protect their credit report from a false charge off in Help! The Bank Charged Off My Debt – After I Paid It.
A charge-off is when the bank writes off the consumers loan on its accounting financial statements. Usually this action will appear on a credit report as a charge-off and can lower a consumer’s credit score. There are ways to correct a false charge-off appearing on a consumer bank statement and credit report.
A consumer should notify the bank when seeing an invalid charge-off on a bank statement. The consumer should question if money is still owed on a previous debt and the reason for the charge-off if it is disputed. A consumer who discovers a false charge-off on a credit report has the right to correct the problem under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The FCRA protects consumer right to have an accurate credit report distributed to lenders. A consumer can send a letter to a credit reporting agency such as TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian to request a change in false information. A consumer should provide all documents possible to support why the information is false. A credit reporting agency must then re investigate the credit report and verify with the consumer that the information was corrected. A false charge off on a credit report can substantially affect a consumers ability to receive a loan and low interest rates.
More information about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) can be found in 23 Legal Defenses to Foreclosure: How to Beat the Bank by Troy Doucet.
Check out some of our related articles about credit report errors:
Beware of the IRS Lawsuit Scam
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants taxpayers to be aware of a phone scam claiming affiliation with the IRS. The criminal phone scam is contacting taxpayers with a message indicating that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you and that immediate payment can prevent it.
The scammers are asking taxpayers to provide payment over the phone to help cancel the lawsuit and pay off debt. The scammers can modify their telephone numbers on caller ID to resemble numbers of the IRS so do not call back after receiving a voicemail. Hanging up on a related phone scam is advised.
Taxpayers may receive multiple calls from scammers posing as the IRS officials. Scams with repetitive actions are considered illegal robocalls. Any scam phone call can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Access the FTC Complaint Assistant by clicking here.
The scammers are violating traditional practices of the IRS. The real IRS will never demand immediate payment without notifying the taxpayer by mail first. Also the IRS never asks for credit or debit card information over the phone and never refuses other forms of payment. Taxpayers have the right to appeal and question the real IRS if an amount owed seems false.
The fraudulent IRS officials are bullying taxpayers into making payments over the phone. Do not feel frightened or threatened by scammers detailing law enforcement groups are going to get involved and possibly make an arrest. The real IRS does not authorize officials the ability to have taxpayers arrested over the phone.
Double Jeopardy in the World of Debt Collecting
Is it illegal for a debt collector to seize your paycheck if another collector already has? Troy Doucet, the firm principal here at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A., shares advice and legal knowledge regarding the issue in the article Can a Debt Collector Come After Me if My Wages Are Already Being Garnished on Credit.com.
Doucet advises that a consumer lawyer should be contacted to help you when a debt collector is trying to seize your wages for something your wages have already been seized for. You as the consumer have the right to a hearing if you are being put at a disadvantage by two sources simultaneously for the same reason. Debt collectors do not always communicate with each other so there is a possibility this could happen. If the collectors are targeting you for different debts though, your possessions could also be at risk.
Debt collection laws vary state to state. In Ohio, a debt collector cannot take your wages or possessions without suing you and being awarded the right to first. Debt collection harassment is also a difficult action for a consumer to deal with. If you feel you are being targeted for debt that is not yours, a letter sent through the mail is the proper way to end this harassment. If you send a letter and are at fault for the debt then the collector may contact you one last time to inform you that they intend to take legal action. You can access more information on doucet.law regarding how to send the letter and what to include in the letter by clicking here.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers federally from debt collectors. The FDCPA protects consumers from being contacted in the workplace and ensures a written letter is the correct way to end collection harassment. The FDCPA also helps collect damages from debt collectors at fault and helps enforce that the debt collector will cover the charges for your attorney fees in the end if the collector is found at fault.
Ohio Attorney General Special Counsel Now Subject to FDCPA: Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A Jones, LLC
In May, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined in Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A. Jones, LLC, No. 14-3836, that attorneys working as contracted debt collectors for the Ohio Attorney General are subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Attorney General’s office, which is responsible for collecting debts owed to the State, often contracts attorneys to act as debt collectors under the title of “special counsel.” Along with this special counsel title came the letterhead of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which was used when collecting consumer debt on behalf of the State. It is now likely a deceptive act under the FDCPA to use that letterhead, and thus a violation of federal law.
The FDCPA was passed in 1977 to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Congress found that debt collection agencies often operated with the mentality that debt was to be collected at any cost, creating incentives to mislead, or sometimes bully consumers into paying their debts. However, in passing the act, Congress made exemptions for employees and officers of the State when collecting debts owed to the government. Whether or not Ohio Attorney General special counsel was protected under these exemptions was a fundamental issue that the Sixth Circuit Court had to decide.
The plaintiffs, Pamela Gillie and Hazel Meadows, filed a lawsuit against several law firms acting as special counsel for the Ohio Attorney General. They argued that the use of the Attorney General’s letterhead was intentionally misleading, and therefore a violation of the FDCPA. After a lower district court ruled in favor of the defendants, the decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court. The court determined that whether or not the special counsel debt collection letters were misleading was a matter best left for a jury, but held the FDCPA did apply to special counsel acting for the Ohio Attorney General when collecting medical debts for the State.
The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel was in no way considered to either be employees or officers of the State of Ohio, despite their use of the Attorney General letterhead. Because of their nature as contractors for the State, the court determined that any special counsel attempting to collect consumer debt for the Ohio Attorney General was subject to the FDCPA. In this case, special counsel was acting to collect past due OSU medical debts.
The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel is subject to the FDCPA when attempting to collect consumer debts for the State, due to the nature of their relationship with the Ohio Attorney General. Because they were contracted by the Attorney General, and not hired or appointed, they are not protected under the exemptions they claimed. This firm believes that the letters will likely be determined to violate the law, and that the consumer/debtors will recover under the FDCPA. If you think that you may have been affected by this practice, then please call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219.
How to Stop Debt Collection Calls
Debt collection agencies use a wide range of tactics to collect on past-due accounts. Many are illegal, including:
• Threatening arrest or jail time; • Calling employers about the debt; • Robocalling or texting a cell phone; • Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; • Saying liens will be placed on income; • Threatening violence; • Telling a lie, misstating the debt; and • Mailing a letter with false information in it.
Consumer lawyer Troy Doucet of the Dublin-based law firm Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. says consumers have the right to stop collection calls and letters. He explains that the most straightforward method is to write a letter to the collector asking it to stop calling. Collectors must comply with any written demand. Thus, Doucet recommends you make a copy and send it certified mail. Debt collectors are not required to stop calling if the request is only over the phone – the cease and desist demand must be in writing.
Another way to stop the collection agency from calling is to retain a lawyer. The moment a collection agency is aware of legal representation it must immediately stop calling and instead work directly with the debtor’s attorney. There is no written requirement here – merely telling the collector you are represented by counsel ends their ability to contact you further. However, Doucet notes that you must tell them your attorney’s name and phone number when asked.
The federal law governing debt collectors is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The law has considerable teeth, and the damages available to people under the law include requiring the collector to pay all attorneys’ fees and expenses. The law is designed so that any single violation of the law – including calling after a cease and desist letter is sent – triggers the law’s full protection and damages. Doucet recommends that anyone being harassed by a debt collector seek out legal representation. As he puts it, “going through a tough time in life does not give a debt collector the right to walk all over you.”
Law Firm Writing Off $928,000 in Client Bills
Columbus, Ohio – The law firm of Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. is writing off $928,507 in client debt this year to help its clients afford other living expenses. The law firm primarily helps people facing foreclosure and consumers taken advantage of by businesses. The large write-off is part of the firm’s philosophy about ensuring the “little guy” can hire top quality legal representation without going bankrupt. The firm writes off portions of clients’ bills at the end of most cases so that its clients can move on with their lives without having to worry about a lawyer’s final bill.
Most of Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A.’s clients are unable to pay the firm’s full hourly rate each month, so the firm asks clients to pay a monthly minimum payment against their bill. That charge can range between $20 and $800 per month, depending on the case and the client’s ability to pay. Even if the firm wins or settles the case, it regularly writes off a portion of the remaining bill so their clients can find peace rather than face a lingering attorney’s bill.
The firm’s write-off this year includes work done by the firm’s dedicated pro bono attorney. The firm’s owner, Troy Doucet, hired this attorney after reflecting last Christmas on how the firm could do more good this year. The pro bono attorney is dedicated to helping the poor for free (or at a minimal cost based on income), and has worked closely with The Legal Aid Society of Columbus. The lawyer primarily helps tenants facing eviction from abusive landlords. Mr. Doucet indicates the pro bono position has been a tremendous success serving the poor, and that the firm will continue to fund the position indefinitely into the future.
In summing up his philosophy, Mr. Doucet explains, “We work very hard to protect people from being taken advantage of by others, and I would rather see a home saved from foreclosure than one of our clients risk losing it again because of our bill.” He says he is very proud of his firm’s substantial write-off, indicating his feeling that too many people chase making money rather than focusing on doing good. “This is a terrific time of year to reflect on how we help the less fortunate in our daily lives, and a great time to think about what we can do next year to help even more.” He hopes others find ways to do a little more good in the world, even if that means earning a little less.
Those in Ohio who need help with a legal issue, even if they cannot afford a lawyer, can reach the law firm at (614) 944-5219 or send us a message online.
What is the difference between bankruptcy and a loan modification?
Bankruptcy is a section of federal law that enables people who owe money from having to pay it back. Bankruptcy is actually mentioned in the Constitution, and is recognized as a way for people to obtain fresh starts, usually after some catastrophic life event caused them to acquire significant amounts of debt. Studies have consistently shown the leading cause of bankruptcy is due to significant medical bills, job loss, business failure, or family turmoil.
Bankruptcy is the process of having your debts organized and either discharged (legally forgiven), or having them repaid in an organized way over time, or a mixture of both.
In the foreclosure context, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the tool that enables homeowners to force their mortgage company to accept repayment and causes their loan to become current over time. You basically begin making your normal mortgage payment immediately, plus an extra amount to pay back the accumulated arrears. You will make these payments pursuant to a formal plan overseen by the bankruptcy court, over a period of several years. Once you complete all your payments, the plan is done and your loan is current. You then continue with just your normal mortgage payments.
On the flip side, a loan modification is where you and your mortgage company agree privately to terms that enable you to begin repaying the loan. The process is not part of any formal bankruptcy filing, nor is it overseen by a judge. Instead, a loan modification usually comes from your mortgage company realizing you are facing financial hardship and thus deciding to offer you (or is forced to offer you by the government) a lower interest rate or longer repayment period, which lowers your payment. Alternatively, a loan modification could mean you pay a higher payment for a period of time to repay any arrearages. It could be any combination of a series of terms and is only limited to everyone’s imagination and the existing consumer laws.
In any event, a loan modification is the result of an agreement reached directly between you and your mortgage company, rather than a bankruptcy filing, which is overseen by the bankruptcy court system.