Category:

How to Stop Debt Collector Robocalls

June 21st, 2017 by

Robocalls are covered under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)which says it is illegal for debt collectors to robocall your cell phone unless you have given them consent. You must revoke consent in writing if you want them to stop calling.

The TCPA is just one of the laws that protect your consumer rights. There are also laws to protect you from unfair lending practices, unfair debt collection practices, and unfair credit reporting practices.

Generally there are 3 steps to protect your consumer financial rights:

  1. Hold entities accountable to the law.
  2. Provide written notices.
  3. Document violations.

In a nutshell, it is illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) for a debt collector to call your cellphone with an autodialer (make a “robocall”) without your consent.

If you withdraw your consent to call your cellphone and they continue to call then it is a violation of the TCPA.

You can continue to answer the calls after you have revoked your consent or not. That is your choice. Keep track of the calls and write down the date and time of each call. If possible record some of the calls. Say the following to the debt collector, “I am recording this phone call. If you continue talking, that means you consent to being recorded.”

Listing the the hundreds of time each month you are called by the same company in a lawsuit is great but imagine the impact if you are able to play one of the calls back in court.

Each call is worth $500 in damages, $1,500 if willful. Those calls can add up and can be resolved in your own private right of action or in a class action lawsuit.

Claimants usually receive less than the full $500 or $1,500 per violation in a class action.

Here are some examples of class action lawsuits.

Cruise Line to Pay up to $76 Million to settle TCPA Violations

Citizens Bank to Pay Over $45 Million to Settle TCPA Suit

Capital One Agrees to $75 Million TCPA Settlement

Judge Approves $32 Million Bank of America TCPA Class Action Settlement

FAQs
How did they get my cell number?
You may have given it to them in the application for credit, or maybe they retained your number if you called them to discuss a payment.
How to I revoke consent?

You could tell them on the phone that you don’t give them consent to call you any more but that is hard to prove if they keep calling. Notify them in writing and keep a copy of the letter and track the mailing.

It is best to send them a letter via Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested (CRR) saying that you revoke consent to call your cellphone – include your phone number so there is no mistake about the number they are not to send robocalls to.
If the calls stop then that is great. (Note: likely the debt collector will contact you via mail. It is wise to deal with the question of the debt and why they are trying to reach you in the first place. Don’t ignore the underlying problem. 
In the meantime if they keep calling you, keep a record of the individual robocalls. This way you have the evidence if you decide to retain a consumer financial rights lawyer to sue the debt collector for TCPA violations. If the phone call is abusive or harassing then it is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
What is considered harassment by a creditor?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says debt collectors can’t harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else they contact. Repetitious phone calls intended to annoy, abuse, or harass you or any person answering the phone.

SUMMARY

The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) help protect your rights to not get harassing phone calls by debt collectors.
Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, it is illegal for debt collectors to do the following:
  1. Contact your employer or neighbors about your debt (they may only contact them to locate you, but may not mention the debt)
  2. Call you late at night or at unreasonable hours. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night unless you agree to it.
  3. Call you at work. Tell collectors not contact you at work.
  4. Call you repeatedly, ie. robocalls

Financial Reform Summit NJCAEF Friday , Oct., 7, 2016 10am-3pm

October 6th, 2016 by

Newark, NJ – On Friday, October 7, 2016 several state leaders will join the New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund’s (NJCAEF) seventh annual financial reform summit.  Financial Reform Summit VII: Consumer Protection and Economic Justice For All, will take place this Friday, October 7th from 10:00AM – 3:00 PM at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ. The summit is free and open to the public and will bring together community leaders, advocates, students, elected officials, financial institutions, small business owners and other stakeholders to hear experts and leaders talk about some of the most pressing economic issues facing New Jerseyans.

Gail Hillebrand Associate Director of Consumer Education & Engagement at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will deliver a keynote address. New Jersey Citizen Action, (NJCAEF’s sister organization) will release its Consumer Finance Policy Agenda for New Jersey at the Summit. State leaders who will speak briefly to respond to the agenda include:  Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), State Senator Raymond Lesniak, Assemblyman John Wizniewski, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcus Vigil are confirmed guest speakers for the Summit.

“This policy agenda is what state leaders and legislators need to focus on if they intend to help New Jersyans overcome persistent financial hardships in their daily lives and in their efforts to manage their homes, put their children through school and take care of their family’s health,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director at NJCA.

 

WHATFinancial Reform Summit – Panelists will present and discuss:

Regulating Debt Trap Finance

Expanding Access to Capital and Building Financial Stability

Creating Pathways to Affordable Housing & Protecting Homeownership

 

WHERENew Jersey Institute of Technology in the Campus Center Atrium, 150 Bleeker Street, Newark, NJ 0710

WHEN10:00am to 3:00pm on Friday October 7, 2016

###

Beverly Brown Ruggia
New Jersey Citizen Action 
Community Reinvestment (CRA)  Staff
P: 973 643-8800 Ext 239 
Fax: 973-643-8100
[email protected]
744 Broad St.

Newark, NJ 07102

www. njcitizenaction.org

Check out CRA related campaigns & events below:

2016 Financial Reform Summit

Banking and Housing Campaigns

Consumer Protections

#StopTheDebtTrap

CFPB Proposes New Requirement on Debt Collectors

September 13th, 2016 by

CFPB Proposes New Requirement on Debt Collectors Targeted to Educate Consumers of the Risks in Debt Collection Litigation, by Adam Deutsch, Esq.

Adam Deutsch, Esq.

Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB) released a report of proposed rules intended to clarify the scope of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which in part governs the conduct of third party debt collectors.  Buried in among the proposals is a potential game changing disclosure requirement mandating collectors to educate their consumer targets of the consequences that can result from debt collection litigation.

The CFPB cites a now outdated 2010 report from the Federal Trade Commission, showing that as much as 95% of all debt collection lawsuits are not contested by the consumer.  The consequences of these judgments run deep.  ProPublica reported in May 2016 that well over 4 million Americans are subjected to wage garnishmentsresulting from judgments to enforce consumer debts.

The volume of debt collection cases is truly staggering.  The same ProPublica report shows that in New Jersey an astonishing 48% of all civil court judgments in 2011 were entered in debt collection cases.  The numbers continue to go up.

Under the proposed rule, debt collectors would be required to provide a written litigation disclosure in all written and oral communications with the debtor, that set forth the (1) collectors intention to sue, (2) a court could rule against the consumer if they fail to defend a lawsuit, (3) and that additional information about defending collection lawsuits is available on the CFPB website.

These disclosures can be viewed as part of a debtors “bill of rights.”  There is potential for the disclosures to lower the number of uncontested judgments, which is a good thing.  Today, many consumers do not contest debt collection actions because they believe they are in the process of negotiating an out of court settlement with the collector.  A debtor may trust that the collector is working with them, only to later find that no agreement is reached and wages are being garnished.  The disclosures should help combat this problem.

The disclosures could be made stronger however.  For example, the disclosures could (1) advise the debtors that they have a legal right to contest the collection action; (2) that the process of negotiating an agreement with the collector outside of court does not necessarily prevent the collector from simultaneously pursuing a lawsuit or obtaining a judgment; and (3) if a collection lawsuit is successfully defended, the debtor’s legal fees may be paid for by the collector.  The third additional proposal is key.  For many debtors, the belief that legal fees are insurmountable prevents them from making any effort to defend a collection action.  Where a debt collector uses any false information, fails to provide required disclosures to the debtor, or otherwise fails to comply with a section of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the debt collector becomes liable to the debtor for actual damages, a statutory fine of up to $1,000.00 and the debt collector must pay the debtor’s legal fees and court costs.

Proposed rules from the CFPB are a great start, but should be strengthened even more.  Too often, the information used by third party debt collectors is inaccurate as to the interest rates, amounts owed or even identity of the debtor.  Yet, because of basic system wide hurdles placed in front of the debtors up to 95% of all collection lawsuits result in uncontested judgments.  In these cases, the Courts not only rubber stamps the debt collector’s request for judgment without analyzing its right to collect, the Court acts as a broker and allows the judgment to be collected by garnishing wages directly from the consumer’s paycheck.  The new rules cannot come soon enough.  The rules to protect consumers are already in place, the new proposals will go a long way to educating consumers of their rights before the long lasting damage of a lawsuit judgment is obtained.

Debt Collector Tactics: Suing Based on An Old Address

June 10th, 2016 by

Adam Deutsch Esq., attorney for the law firm of Denbeaux and Denbeaux, reflects on what he has encountered from the many people contacting the firm over recent months who have been sued by the law firm of Pressler and Pressler.

The specific tactic that has come up is using an old address to file a complaint,and get a judgment. The result is that wages are garnished without the person even knowing that they were sued.

Adam shares some thoughts on his way into Newark District Court. He was at court this day representing a client whose RESPA’s right were violated.

Podcast: Paul Kiel of Pro Publica on Consumer Debt Crisis

May 31st, 2016 by

Paul Kiel, is a journalist with Pro Publica and an authority on the topic of consumer debt in America.

He is author of the ” The Great America Foreclosure Story” on Kindle, how two people’s lives were impacted by the foreclosure crisis and the process of the financial system that created it.

More recently Paul has focused on the inner workings of the debt collection industry and plays a key role in the Pro Publica ongoing series entitled “The Unforgiven: the Long Life of Debt.”

He’s spoken on the subject on NPR – National Public Radio’s “Marketplace” and today he discusses the topic of the consumer debt industry with Adam Deutcsh, Esq on the FCRT.

CFPB Orders Citibank to Provide Relief to Consumers for Illegal Debt Sales and Collection Practices

February 24th, 2016 by

CFPB Compliance Bulletin Reminds Debt Collectors that In Person Collection Attempts Often Violation of Federal Law

By Adam Deutsch

Director, Richard Cordray

Feb 23, 2016 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today took two separate actions against Citibank for illegal debt sales and debt collection practices. In the first action, the CFPB ordered Citibank to provide nearly $5 million in consumer relief and pay a $3 million penalty for selling credit card debt with inflated interest rates and for failing to forward consumer payments promptly to debt buyers. The second action is against both Citibank and two debt collection law firms it used that falsified court documents filed in debt collection cases in New Jersey state courts. The CFPB ordered Citibank and the law firms to comply with a court order that Citibank refund $11 million to consumers and forgo collecting about $34 million from nearly 7,000 consumers.

“Citibank sent inaccurate information to buyers when it sold off credit card debt and it also used law firms that altered court documents,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

“Today’s action provides redress to consumers who were victimized by slipshod practices as part of our ongoing work to fight abuses in the debt collection market.”

Citibank, N.A., is a national bank with headquarters in New York, N.Y., that issues consumer credit cards. From 2010 to 2013, Citibank sold portfolios of charged-off credit card accounts. It typically provided debt buyers with information about the consumer and the debt, including the supposed annual percentage rate (APR). A “charged-off” account is one the bank deems unlikely to be repaid, but may sell to a debt buyer, usually for a fraction of face value. The debt buyer then can try to collect on those accounts.

Illegal Debt Sales Practices

Citibank broke the law when, from February 2010 until June 2013, it provided inaccurate and inflated APR information for almost 130,000 credit card accounts it sold to debt buyers. These buyers then used the exaggerated APR in debt collection attempts. Citibank also failed to promptly forward to debt buyers approximately 14,000 customer payments totaling almost $1 million. The CFPB found that Citibank violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act. Specifically, Citibank:

  • Overstated the annual percentage rate in accounts sold to debt buyers:Between February 2010 and June 2013, Citibank overstated the APR for 128,809 accounts it sold to 16 different debt buyers. For some accounts, Citibank claimed the APR was 29 percent when it was actually 0 percent. Consumers paid about $4.89 million to debt buyers who used an APR inflated by more than 1 percent in collection efforts.
  • Delayed sending consumer payments to debt buyers: From 2010 to 2013, Citibank delayed forwarding to debt buyers nearly 14,000 payments made by consumers, totaling almost $1 million. This delayed the updating of account balances and subjected consumers to collection efforts from debt buyers after they had already, in reality, paid off their account.

Enforcement action

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions or individuals engaged in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. Under the CFPB’s order addressing illegal debt sales practices, Citibank must:

  • Refund an estimated $4.89 million to roughly 2,100 consumers:Citibank must refund all payments consumers made from Feb. 1, 2010 to Nov. 14, 2013 to debt buyers that referenced an inflated APR provided by Citibank in their collection efforts where the discrepancy was more than 1 percent.
  • Accurately document the debt it sells: Citibank must provide certain account documents when it sells debt, such as the credit agreement and recent account statements.
  • Stop selling debt it cannot verify: Citibank cannot sell debts if it cannot provide documentation, if the consumers notified Citibank of identity theft or unauthorized use, if consumers allege in writing that they do not owe the amount claimed, or if the account is within 150 days of the end of the statute of limitations.
  • Include certain protections in debt sales contracts: Citibank must include provisions in its debt sales contracts prohibiting the debt buyer from reselling the debt.
  • Provide consumers with basic information about the debt: When it sells a debt, Citibank must give consumers information about the debt, such as the name of the original creditor, the credit agreement, and recent account statements.
  • Pay civil money penalties: Citibank must pay a $3 million penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

The full text of the CFPB’s consent order on debt sales is found at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201602_cfpb_consent-order-citibank-na.pdf

Altered Affidavits

Separately, the CFPB is taking action today against Citibank, two of its affiliates – Department Stores National Bank and CitiFinancial Servicing, LLC – and two debt collection law firms for altering affidavits filed in debt collection lawsuits. Citibank retained Faloni & Associates, LLC, of Fairfield, N.J., and Solomon & Solomon, P.C., of Albany, N.Y. to collect credit card debt on its behalf in New Jersey state courts.

Citibank filed sworn statements attesting to the accuracy of the debt allegedly owed. Citibank then provided the affidavits to their attorneys to file with New Jersey courts. The two firms retained by Citibank altered the dates of the affidavits, the amount of the debt allegedly owed, or both, after the affidavits were executed. This violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

In May 2011, Citibank learned that one of its law firms had altered affidavits and stopped referring new credit card accounts to it. At Citibank’s request, a New Jersey court dismissed actions pending as of Sept. 12, 2011 that Citibank identified as involving altered affidavits or incorrect information.

The CFPB’s order requires Citibank to comply with the New Jersey state court order, in which Citibank had to refund $11 million collected from consumers and stop collection of an additional $34 million in debts, both of which Citibank has done. Solomon & Solomon, P.C., must pay a $65,000 penalty to the Bureau’s Civil Penalty Fund. Faloni & Associates, LLC, must pay $15,000. Consistent with the Bureau’s Responsible Business Conduct bulletin, the CFPB did not impose civil money penalties on Citibank for this violation, especially in light of its efforts to recompense harmed consumers.

The full text of the CFPB’s consent order against Citibank, N.A., Department Stores National Bank, and CitiFinancial Servicing, LLC, related to the altered affidavits matters is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201602_cfpb_consent-order-citibank-na-department-stores-national-bank-and-citifinancial-servicing-llc.pdf

The full text of the CFPB’s consent order against Faloni & Associates relating to the altered affidavits matters is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201602_cfpb_consent-order-faloni-and-associates-llc.pdf

The full text of the CFPB’s consent order against Solomon & Solomon relating to the altered affidavits matters is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201602_cfpb_consent-order-solomon-and-solomon-pc.pdf

###
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.

United States District Court Judge: Legal Counsel Is Liable Under FDCPA For False Representations of Their Clients in Court Filings

January 5th, 2016 by

United States District Court Judge:  Legal Counsel Is Liable Under FDCPA For False Representations of Their Clients in Court Filing

NJ firm Denbeaux & Denbeaux earns major victory using FDCPA for national consumers victimized by  false information presented by law counsels at the bidding of their clients.

Westwood, NJ, January 5, 2016:   No longer can legal counsel evade liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by claiming false information provided to a court or debtor was supplied by their client.  This is the conclusion of a groundbreaking judicial opinion according to Westwood, NJ financial consumer rights law firm Denbeaux & Denbeaux.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares denied a debt collection law firm’s motion to dismiss in Steven Psaros vs Green Tree Servicing, LLC.  According to Judge Linares’ 16-page opinion, Psaros successfully alleged that New Jersey law firm Stern Lavinthal & Frankenberg violated FDCPA laws by charging and attempting to collect improper fees of $10,974.37 for property insurance outlays to Psaros’ home mortgage debt.  The fees were improper because Psaros had paid all taxes/insurance, and his mortgage loan contained an escrow waiver.  In response Psaros sued both Green Tree Servicing, LLC and Stern Lavinthal & Frankenburg.   Stern Lavinthal & Frankenburg argued that they were not liable for the false representations of the debt owed by Psaros because the false information was generated by their client Green Tree

Servicing, LLC.  Justice Linares rejected their defense, ruling that “Stem Lavinthal cannot evade its responsibilities as a debt collector by blaming its client for providing it with factually inaccurate information used in the process of collecting a debt.” Green Tree Servicing, LLC did not move for dismissal of the claims.

Judge Linares’ December 21 opinion is significant for Mr. Psaros and will prove meaningful to scores of other consumers facingdebt collection litigation.  It is unfortunate how often lawyers choosing to make a living collecting debts do so based-upon false information provided by their clients.  Green Tree Servicing, LLC was notified by Mr. Psaros of the error, and they still directed Stern Lavinthal & Frankenberg, LLC to collect funds not owed.  Industry wide, there is evidence that debt collectors and their attorneys regularly engage in this conduct unchecked.

The Court’s words are perfectly concise: ‘A plain reading of the statute leads to the conclusion that a violation has occurred,’” said Denbeaux & Denbeaux Partner Joshua Denbeaux.  “Systematic flaws in the state judicial process have resulted in an increased level of arrogance and greed among debt collectors as evidenced in this case.  It was not enough for the debt collection law firm and loan servicer to seek recovery of the debt owed, instead they inflated the sum by thousands of dollars and assumed with confidence they would get away without anyone noticing.  Had Mr. Psaros not been diligent to seek the assistance of an attorney, the collectors would have successfully stolen this money.”

Click here to read the entirety of Judge Linares’ decisionhttp://denbeauxlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Steven-Psaros-vs-Green-Tree-Servicing-LLC-Civil-Action-No15-4277-1.pdf

The law firm of Denbeaux and Denbeaux is located at 366 Kinderkamack Road Westwood New Jersey 07675. Tel: 201-664-8855 or email pr(at)denbeauxlaw(dot)com.Denbeaux and Denbeaux is a family operated law firm with a tradition of excellence in consumer rights and family law. Formed in 1989, Denbeaux & Denbeaux is a law firm dedicated to providing top level legal representation to its clients. The partners, Marcia Denbeaux and Joshua Denbeaux, represent individuals and businesses in New Jersey State and Federal Trial and Appellate Courts. The firm primarily practices civil litigation, with a concentration in mortgage foreclosure, consumer fraud, commercial litigation, matrimonial law, business, insurance coverage litigation.

Their work has been featured in major media sources throughout the country including CNN, MSNBC, NPR, C-SPAN, CBS Evening News, the Associated Press, The Star Ledger, and The Record.

For media inquiries contact: Donald Tremblay |  Phone 718-664-3405 | [email protected]

NJ Consumer Protection Attorney’s Review of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act CFPB Annual Report 2015

November 18th, 2015 by

CFPB Annual Report 2015

On March 26, 2015 the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) published its fourth annual report to Congress summarizing Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) consumer complaints and enforcement actions.

The report addresses CFPB activities during the 2014 calendar year.  This year’s report demonstrates problems in the industry, progress in enforcement areas, and leaves open much room for improvement.  The ultimate goal should be for the CFPB to work in tandem with consumers pursuing private rights of action.  Only then will the full breadth of the FDCPA be respected and consumer rights protected in the area of debt collection.

As usual, the report begins with an analysis of market statistics which are staggering.  According to the report, “Consumer credit, excluding mortgages is $615 billion higher than pre-2008 levels,” and 77 million or 35% of adults with credit files have at least one debt in default collections.  This has lead the debt collection industry to experience substantial growth and as the report highlights, substantial consolidation of larger third party collection entities.

In 2014 37% of the 88,300 consumer complaints filed with the FDCPA related to allegations that a debt collector was seeking to collect on a debt that was not owed or was miscalculated.  An additional 20% of complaints related to phone calls from debt collectors often made at inconvenient times or worse, to a person’s place of business.  Another common complaint from debtors is the allegation that collectors failed to issue validation of debt letters within 5 days of their initial communication with the debtor as required by 15 U.S.C. 1692g.

The report highlights a potential problem with the CFPB data.  When a consumer files a complaint with the CFPB they are required to authorize that the complaint will be forwarded to the offending company for a response.  Consumers may be fearful of retribution or of undermining a separate civil litigation matter if they file a complaint with the regulatory agency.  This may be a cause of underreported offenses.  To correct this potential problem, the CFPB should allow consumers to submit complaints with proofs and elect not to have their information disclosed to the offending company.  If the CFPB notices a pattern of problems from a particular collection company they could contact the complainant and seek their permission to pursue the action and disclose the debtor’s information.

This past year, the CFPB expanded its research initiative and conducted a study determining that an astonishing 70% of all debt collection court actions were dismissed once the consumer filed a contesting answer.  In these lawsuits, the collector was unable to furnish necessary documentation to prove its case.  The CFPB suggests in its report that such activity is a misleading representation that violates the FDCPA because the collector made representations and threats to collect the debt based on false information and/or an intention not to actually pursue if challenged.

Finally, the report addresses successes of the CFPB’s affirmative enforcement activities.  In 2014 the CFPB successfully obtained $570 million in relief for consumers in five key actions against large scale offenders.  These results are to be hailed as a major success.  That said, it remains a drop in the bucket and highlights that individual civil actions remain a significant policing mechanism for the industry that continues to grow annually.  The CFPB has demonstrated its support for such civil actions by contributing friend of the court Amicus briefs in several circuit court cases.  Most notably, in 2014 the CFPB has advocated finding that efforts to collect a statutorily time barred debt is actionable under the FDCPA.

Entering its fifth year, the CFPB continues to grow in effectiveness.  The agency has done a particularly good job of increasing public awareness of its efforts which will continue to result in a blossoming partnership between the public and governmental agency in policing the often unscrupulous debt collection industry.

Link to the report: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201503_cfpb-fair-debt-collection-practices-act.pdf

Discussion of Eighth Circuit Reversal of Class Certification of FDCPA Suit Against Debt Collector And Its In-House Attorneys

February 11th, 2015 by

Reversal of District of Nebraska’s order granting class certification of action alleging violations of the FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act