Tag Archives: debt collectors

Lawmakers to Question Executive of New Jersey’s Controversial Student Loan Agency

A ProPublica and New York Times investigation has prompted a state Senate hearing on aggressive collection practices by the state loan program.

The New Jersey State Senate has announced it will hold a hearing to examine the state’s student loan agency, which administers the largest state-based loan program in the country and one that employs aggressive and unforgiving collection practices.

A ProPublica and New York Times investigation has shown that New Jersey’s loan program charges higher interest rates than similar federal programs, and that its officials, armed with the power of the state, have garnished wages, rescinded tax refunds, and even sought repayment from families whose children have died. The state’s student loans now total $1.9 billion.

The hearing, set for Aug. 8, will be led by New Jersey state Sen. Robert Gordon, chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee, and New Jersey state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee.

“We need to be sure we are properly advising prospective borrowers and not aggressively targeting students and families that are having financial difficulties,” Gordon said in an emailed release. “The state should be supporting students and young workers in particular, not putting up additional barriers to their future success.”

Read on.

Debt Collectors’ Harassment Tactics Are Put On Notice For First Time In 40 Years

Debt collectors, either in-house or third-party entities in the business of trying to get people to pay up debts that they owe for things like student loans or medical bills, have become notorious for their often harassing tactics. Consumers have complained of debt collectors calling them endlessly while threatening violence, lying, and using profane language in trying to cajole them into paying, sometimes for debts they don’t even owe.

But on Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the watchdog created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, released new proposed rules to rein in the industry, the first time a federal regulator is cracking down on the industry in nearly four decades. It wants to limit how many times a collector can contact a consumer, require them to have better information about the debts they try to collect, and make it easier for consumers to fight debts they say they don’t actually owe.

Congress passed a law in 1977 that was meant to get rid of abusive debt collection practices by imposing restrictions on their activities as well as disclosure requirements. But until the CFPB came along, there was no federal agency that could issue regulations to make sure that the law was being implemented.

In that time, the industry has grown such that a huge share of Americans are touched by it. As of 2014, about 77 million Americans, or about a third of people with a credit file, had a debt that was in collection. The CFPB found in a recent study that about a third of all consumers had been contacted by a collector in the last year.

Read on.

Can a Debt Collector Restart the Clock on My Old Debt?

You have a very pleasant phone call with a debt collector. The person begs you to send in a just a small sum, say $10, to settle the payment and promises to never bother you again. Suddenly, you get a new bill with the date of the collection account reset to the current date. Is it legal?

Yes, most likely.

“You send in that $10, and that starts the statute of limitations all over again,” said Margot Saunders, counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. “Their promise is not enforceable.”

The statute of limitations on debt — how long a collector can sue you over a debt — varies by state. But that ticking clock can reset from the moment you pay part of it, or even if you say the wrong thing over the phone.

In some states, if debt collector calls the consumer and asks, “Do you admit that you owe this debt and you’re just refusing to pay it?” and the consumer says “Yes, I can’t pay it, but I agree I owe it.” That can count as a reaffirmation of the debt, which in some states restarts the statute all over again.

What should a consumer say?

“‘I don’t agree I owe it,'” said Saunders. “There’s no reason to ever have a friendly conversation with a debt collector. You don’t need to be rude, but you also don’t need to give them any information, whatsoever.”

One of our readers commenting on our site may have been caught in such a technicality:

I have a collection on an account from 2010. It has been dated at 2015 by the debt collection company. This is illegal or re-aging, isn’t it? What can I do? I live in Alabama and 6 years is the max from original date of the contract.

Read on.

In Bill, Lawmakers Propose New Limits for Seizing Workers’ Pay Over Old Debts

For the first time in nearly 50 years, a new federal bill seeks to lower how much lenders and collectors can seize from debtors through the courts, revisiting caps set in 1968 by the landmark Consumer Credit Protection Act.

The Wage and Garnishment Equity (WAGE) Act of 2016, sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., would substantially reform protections for debtors by exempting many lower-income workers from garnishment and reducing what collectors can take from the paychecks and bank accounts of others.

As ProPublica has reported in a series of articles over the past three years, consumer debts such as medical or credit card bills result in millions of garnishments every year. But the scale of the seizures and their consequences for the poor have largely been ignored by lawmakers, in part because no one tracks how often they happen.

In their press release announcing the legislation, Cummings and Merkley cited ProPublica and NPR’s reporting that 4 million workers had wages taken for consumer debts in 2013. The garnishments hit low-income workers most frequently: Nearly 5 percent of those earning between $25,000 and $40,000 per year had a portion of their wages diverted to pay down consumer debts in 2013.

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So Sue Them: What We’ve Learned About the Debt Collection Lawsuit Machine

ProPublica spent years gathering data to shed light on how debt collectors use the courts. Today, we run through the most important lessons we learned about a tactic that affects millions.

Millions of Americans live with the possibility that, at any moment, their wages or the cash in their bank accounts could be seized over an old debt. It’s an easily ignored part of America’s financial system, in part due to a common attitude that people who don’t pay their debts deserve what’s coming to them.

A couple of years ago, we set out to find out more about the growing use of the courts to collect consumer debts. How many lawsuits are filed? Who is filing them? Who is getting sued?

The suits are filed in state and local courts, and many states rely on antiquated systems or only keep data at the county level. We ultimately collected what details we could from a variety of states and large, urban counties. Then, we wrote a series of stories sharing what we found:

But there’s a lot more to understand about the rise of this legal tactic — one that continues to alarm judges who see it firsthand.

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Debt collection practices received the most complaints not mortgages in March

The Consumer Financial Protections Bureau’s monthly consumer complaint report listed debt collection as receiving the most complaints from consumers in March, instead of mortgages.

This is the first time mortgages have not been No. 1 since the Bureau began accepting complaints in July 2011.

These numbers, however, are national, and some state still claim mortgages as the top complaint. In Florida, for example, it is the most complained about product, and produces about 30% of total complaints, according to the report.

For some, this is not surprising, as Florida is a judicial foreclosure state. Foreclosure processes take longer and even slow the market down in its recovery process in states that require judicial foreclosures, according to Pro Teck.

March’s trends show that the most common debt collection claim is collectors attempting to collect on debt that the consumer does not believe they owe, according to the report. As of March 1 2016, the bureau has handled 834,400 complaints across all products. Of those, about 219,200 have been debt collection complaints.

“Today’s report shows that inaccurate information about debts continues to be a source of frustration for many consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We will continue to hold debt collectors accountable for ensuring that they are collecting the right amount from the right person.”

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CFPB orders Citibank to pay customers over debt and collections practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said on Tuesday it ordered Citibank to pay $5 million (£3.5 million) back to customers and $3 million in penalties over its debt sales and collection practices.

In a statement, the agency said it took action against the financial services company for selling credit card debt with inflated interest rates and for not forwarding consumer payments promptly to debt buyers.

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