By: Robert J. Nahoum
Does any of this sound familiar – you lost your job and have fallen behind on bills; or maybe you got sick or hurt and your insurance doesn’t cover all of your medical expenses -the doctors and hospital bills are piling up; or perhaps you just graduated from college and can’t find a job so you have been living on your credit cards or even defaulted on your student loans.
No matter what brought you to this point, adding insult to injury, when you can’t pay your bills you are going to hear from the debt collectors.
Understandably, anyone who has dealt with debt collectors feels abused, harassed and bullied. This is due in large part to the heavy-handed tactics used by many debt collectors. Most debt collection agents are paid partially on a commission basis. The more they can get from you – the more they can earn.
Fortunately, most of us carry in our pockets a tool to help fight back on abusive and illegal debt collection practices.
Federal debt collection laws, known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short), regulates the conduct of third party debt collectors (collecting someone else’s debt). The FDCPA generally prohibits debt collectors from using false, misleading and abusive debt collection tactics.
How can a smartphone protect you from these illegal debt collection tactics? The answer is by helping you to gather evidence of the illegal tactics for use in a lawsuit against the debt collector.
The FDCPA includes a private right of action under which a consumer may sue a debt collector for FDCPA violations. If a debt collector is found to have violated the FDCPA, the consumer may recover up to $1,000.00 in statutory damages, plus actual damages (for example pain and suffering) and most importantly, your reasonable attorneys’ fees. Like many other consumer protection laws, the FDCPA is what is called “fee shifting” – meaning that the obligation to pay the consumers attorneys’ fees shifts to the debt collector. The FDCPA empowers the consumer to swing the pendulum in the other direction and sue the debt collector for its wrongful conduct.
It is abusive for debt collectors to call consumers before 8 am or after 9 pm or to call “unreasonable number of times”. You can use the call log on your smart phone as proof that a debt collector called during prohibited hours.
Another FDCPA violation is when a debt collector has been notified that a consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with. If a debt collector calls ignores a cease and desist demand and calls a consumer, you can use the call log on your smart phone to show that the call came after the cease and desist demand was made.
The “notes” app on your smart phone is a great tool for taking contemporaneous notes of communications with debt collectors. Make note of the time of the call, the person with whom you spoke and content and statements made in the call.
Another great app is your camera – use your smartphone’s camera app to take pictures of debt collection letters received or to even take video of phone calls.
Your smartphone’s calendar can be used to log deadlines and to schedule follow phone calls or letters.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
If a debt collector has engaged in what you to believe to be abusive conduct, contact a consumer protection attorney familiar with the FDCPA. Your case will be much stronger if you can show your lawyer objective evidence of the debt collector’s violations of the FDCPA. Your smartphone is a perfect tool to gather and organize this evidence.
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you. With office located in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Rockland County, the Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum defends consumers in debt collection cases throughout the Tristate area including New Jersey.