Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. Proverbs 22:22-23 (NIV)
The Russo Law Firms specializes in personal injury litigation; however, we find great enjoyment in helping and protecting the people of our community from unsavory businesses and credit collection agencies. Established Florida and Federal laws have been created, which greatly protect the consumer from unfair and deceptive business practices. The problem is that most people are unaware of their rights.
Debt Collectors and Collection Agencies
The combination of exorbitant consumer debt, poor lending practices and an increase in internet scams has led to a boom in the credit collection industry. These collection companies buy up unpaid debts for pennies on the dollar and then try to collect the entire amount owed by the person in debt (debtor).
While there are a few reputable collection agencies that actually follow the law, many of these collection agencies use illegal and fraudulent practices to collect from innocent people. These collection agencies will bully and harass debtors in order to try to scare and humiliate the debtor into paying the alleged debt. Such tactics are abusive and illegal. Both Florida and Federal laws have been created to protect debtors from such harassment and abuse. The problem is that most Americans do not know their rights. The collection companies know this and as a result they make millions of dollars by ignoring the state and federal laws.
An example of a deceptive and unfair collection practice is collection harassment. Once you advise a collection agency or representative to stop calling or writing you about a debt that is in dispute and inform the agency or representative that your are represented by an attorney, the collection agency is required to cease all collection activities or are in violation of Florida and Federal law. Depending on the facts and circumstances, certain consumer protection laws actually allow the consumer to sue the collection agency for up to three times the amount of the bill in dispute.
The attorneys at The Russo Law Firm find great enjoyment in protecting their clients from unscrupulous credit collection agencies. It is stressed that you immediately seek out counsel or do your own research to protect yourself. The Laws and Statutes that are set up to protect you often require you to file certain paper work within a limited window of time.
Deceptive and Unfair Salesmen and Businesses
Unfortunately there are a lot of dishonest and deceptive people and businesses trying to make a quick buck at the expense of you, the consumer. The deceptive people and businesses will say or do anything to gain the consumers trust, while having less than honorable intentions.
Before signing anything, it is essential to make sure that you read what you sign. Many of today’s business scams involve door to door salesmen, promising deals which are too good to be true. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure that you read any documentation that these door to door salesmen present to you. Even if the door to door salesman states it is not a binding document, make sure you still read the document thoroughly. Door to door salesmen have been telling consumers that such documentation is not binding, but once the consumer signs the document the salesmen says that it is a binding contract. The too good to be true deal ends up having several expensive and hidden fees and costs which the door to door salesman conveniently forgot to tell the consumer.
Florida Law requires all door to door salesmen to have a home solicitation permit. Always ask to see the solicitation permit and if the salesman does not have one, shut and lock your door and call your local authorities.
Above is just one example of the many deceptive and unfair tactics people and businesses have been using to scam and essentially steal from consumers. In many instances both Florida and Federal law allow the prevailing party to recover attorney’s fees from the losing party. These types of laws greatly help the consumer because if the consumer hires an attorney and the consumer proves that the person or business acted in a deceptive or unfair manner, the person or business will have to pay the consumer’s attorney’s fees.
If you have been scammed or deceived by a person or business, we, at The Russo Law Firm, would be more than happy to represent you in the matter.
How to Stop Debt Collection Letters and Phone Calls from Debt Collectors
First, you will want to check and see if the debt collector has a license to collect debts in Florida. The FCCPA states that in order for a debt collector to attempt to collect a debt, that collector must first register with and obtain a license to collect debts in Florida.
If the third party collector fails to obtain a license and still attempts to collect a debt from you, you may be entitled to $1,000.00 for each violation of the FCCPA.
Second, the FCCPA and the FDCPA includes a large list of debt collection practices the debt collector is prohibited from practicing. For example: A debt collector may only contact you between the hours of 8:00am and 9:00pm and the debt collector cannot use profane, obscene, vulgar or willfully abusive language. The two previous examples are only two of long list of prohibited practices. If the debt collector does use one of the prohibited practices to try to collect a debt from you, then you may be entitled to $1,000.00 each time the debt collector engaged in one of the prohibited practices.
Third, the FDCPA allows you to send a dispute validation letter. If drafted properly, once the third party collector receives the dispute letter, then the debt collector is prohibited from contacting you. If the debt collector does contact you after it had received a proper dispute validation letter, then you may be entitled to $1,000.00 for each time the debt collector improperly contacted you.
Fourth, the best way to prevent a debt collector from contacting you is to retain an attorney. Once the debt collector receives a letter from your attorney, both the FDCPA and the FCCPA prohibit the debt collector from further contacting you directly. At this point you probably know what happens if the debt collector does contact you once the debt collector is put on notice that you are represented by an attorney. If debt collector improperly contacts you after proper notice that you are represented by an attorney, then may you be entitled to $1,000.00 for each time the debt collector contacts you.
The Russo Law Firm can assist you in this process. If you allow the Russo Law Firm to represent you and if The Russo Law Firm takes your case, you would not be responsible to pay any out of pocket fees or costs to The Russo Law Firm.
You may now be wondering how we get paid for our time and work and since we are offering legal representation at no cost to you. If we successfully prosecute your claim, the collector will actually have to pay our firm’s attorney’s fees and costs. To explain further, the FDCPA and FCCPA have specific provisions which protect citizens and state that if the collector violates either statute mentioned above, the debt collector has to pay both attorney’s fees and costs. The theory behind these laws is that consumer rights are so important, the legislature wanted to ensure that the consumer had a method to obtain legal representation to protect themselves.
Therefore, if you are receiving debt collection phone calls or letters follow the above stated steps. If you want FREE legal representation for this matter, then contact us. We would be more than happy to set up a meeting with you and discuss your options.
How to Defend A Debt Collection Lawsuit
If you are reading this section it is likely that you have been sued by a debt collector. This firm highly recommends that you find a local consumer protection attorney to help you in your defense of the debt collection lawsuit. Depending on the type of case, this firm would be able to defend you free of charge. Typically, this firm is able to force the debt collector to pay our costs and fees because there often is a prevailing party provision in the contract you entered into with the original creditor or the debt collector fails to dismiss or amend their complaint within the Fla. Stat. 57.105 safe harbor period. If you do choose to defend yourself, it is important that you thoroughly read the complaint and determine whether the complaint has been filed in small claims court, county court or circuit court. Once you determine which court the complaint was filed, make sure you follow the procedural rules for that court. If your lawsuit was filed in small claims court, it is likely that you will have to attend a pre-trial hearing. If this is the case, then make sure you show up on time, otherwise the judge may enter a default judgment against you and you may not have the chance to defend yourself. If your lawsuit was filed in county or circuit court, it is likely you will have to file an answer to the debt collector’s complaint. Make sure you file the answer within twenty days from the date you receive the complaint. If you fail to file an answer the debt collector may move the court to enter a default judgment against you. There are several defenses you may want to consider if you have been sued by a third party debt collector, which are as follows:
Was there proper service?
If the process server came to you directly and served you directly with the lawsuit, then you were properly served. However, if a house sitter or someone who does not have authority under Florida Statute to accept service on your behalf is served your lawsuit, your lawsuit can be dismissed because of improper service.
Has the Statute of Limitations Run or Expired?
The Statutes of Limitations is the amount of time the debt collector can legally file a lawsuit against you. The Statute of Limitations varies depending on what has been claimed in the complaint. If the statute of limitations has expired, file a motion to dismiss with the court and the Court will likely dismiss your case.
Has the Debt Collector Attached The Necessary Documents to The Complaint?
Depending on what has been claimed in the complaint, there are certain documents that must be attached to the complaint. For instance, if the debt collector claimed a breach of a written contact, the written contract has to be attached to the complaint. If the debt collector claims an “account stated,” then some evidence of the account stated must be attached to the complaint. If the essential documents are not attached to the complaint, file a motion to dismiss with the court.
Can the Debt Collector Prove a Complete Chain Assignment?
The burden is on the debt collector to prove he or she has the right to collect the debt. The collector has to show through evidence that there has been a proper chain of assignment. If the collector is unable to show a proper chain of assignment, then file a motion for summary judgment.
- Complex Legal Defenses
There are also additional complex legal defenses, which a consumer protection attorney can allege on your behalf if you so choose. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call our office and set up a free consultation.