EDIT: Thanks to everyone for asking your questions! I'll try to answer all of them today.

I sue debt collectors, the credit reporting agencies, and banks when they violate the law. Most people don't realize they have rights when they are receiving calls or letters from debt collectors.

I am New York Attorney Subhan Tariq. I defend debt collection lawsuits when they are seeking to collect debts not owed, sue debt collectors when they call you endlessly, and when they violate your privacy by speaking to third-parties in their debt collection efforts. Here's a link to my website -https://www.tariqlaw.com/blog/i-m-a-consumer-lawyer-and-i-m-having-an-ama-on-reddit.

There's a LOT of bad information on the internet about debt, credit, bankruptcy, and financial management. I deal with this stuff every day.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed a rule governing third-party debt collectors. The proposal adds some consumer protections but also weakens the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by undermining its goals of stopping harassment, protecting consumer privacy, and preventing collection against the wrong person or in the wrong amount. Public comments are due September 18, 2019.

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CONFERRED BY THIS AMA.

Comments: 776 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

earthwormjim91954 karma

So we had a doctor that billed the wrong insurance for us. We sent them the correct plan information (they did not update our info in their office after our plan changed over for the new plan year) and the insurance sent them multiple letters asking them to just resubmit the claim and it would be paid, after telling us that we would not be on the hook for any of it as it was all a covered service not subject to deductible or anything (pre-natal well mother visits). Instead of resubmitting it (or even sending us an actual bill) they just sent the whole thing to collections and we started getting calls.

How would we handle something like that? We disputed it with the credit bureau and told the collector to stop contacting us, and it doesn't show on either of our credit reports, but they still will not stop calling us. It has been over a year.

lawyerforconsumers1136 karma

I suggest sending the doctor's office a dispute and validation letter with a cease and desist to prevent them from contacting you about this alleged debt. If a debt collector still contacts you after you've sent them a cease & desist, it is a violation of the FDCPA.

earthwormjim91497 karma

The doctor's office just told us "we got rid of that already, you'll have to deal with the collection agency".

We just told the collection agency to fuck off and blocked their number, but we keep getting voicemails.

SubPsionics396 karma

Use the words cease and desist when speaking with the collection agency, or ask to be on the do not call list. If the debt is taken back and placed with another company, it will remove the “do not call” aspect.

lawyerforconsumers484 karma

Send a letter using the words cease and desist - feel free to contact us for a follow-up if that doesn't work.

lostbutnotgone109 karma

Glad I'm not the only one this has happened to. I spent two hours on a three-way call with my insurance and a super bitchy rep for the company that kept billing it wrong. She claimed she fixed it on the call....still getting letters and calls. Disputed it off my credit, at least, but it's really annoying especially because I'm on medicaid.

lawyerforconsumers107 karma

Part of the issue is that there isn't a federal comprehensive law governing the collection of medical debts in particular. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs third-party debt collectors, but it's not targetted towards medical debts.

mehsin285 karma

I have been getting calls from a check cashing place for the last 3 years, for someone that either had my number before me or just somehow always puts my number down. How do I stop these calls? I've told them multiple times not the right number but it's at least 2 calls a day from different numbers. Is there any recourse I can take for the constant calls? I've tried blocking numbers but they always change. I've tried looking up who they are looking for with no luck either. I would rather not change numbers but if I can take no other action I've considered it.

lawyerforconsumers188 karma

Are they calling you manually or through an autodialer?

mehsin101 karma

Im not sure, what are some signs of autodialer?

Amorfati77190 karma

You’ll get a bit of a delay before a person comes on the line

Source: was a skip tracer over a decade ago. Soul killing job.

lawyerforconsumers180 karma

That's also the sign of an autodialer. Could lead to a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

SubPsionics84 karma

The numbers change because of the dialer system they use. Asking to be on the do not call list prevents them from calling again. You may say wrong number, but they hear that a lot. Often, they can call a “wrong number” again next day as long as they believe that you may have “new information.”

lawyerforconsumers117 karma

This could be a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act - Congress is working on that now. Call your Senator to encourage them!

RdawgExtraordinaire210 karma

I have had my number “taken off the list” several times when I explained that I was not the person they are looking for. My past two phone numbers, in fact, have been used by people in debt. I changed my phone number and got the exact same problem with a different person. They give out my phone number to everyone and I get constant calls from debt collectors. The collectors never stop and just call from a different number. Is there anything I can do about this particular problem?

lawyerforconsumers253 karma

You have to send them written notice to cease calling you as the number has changed. If they continue to call you thereafter, it could be a violation of the FDCPA.

Pokey_The_Bear200 karma

I've paid off all my student loans but one because it took 5 years to figure out who owned it. Now they're demanding $9000 cash up front, which I refuse to do on principal.

How is this bullshit legal? Both the selling off of the loans without notice, and the demand a full payment after all this nonsense?

lawyerforconsumers237 karma

It depends on who had the student loan, whether the federal government had it or a private company. If it was a federal loan, you may be able to rehabilitate the loan to get on Income-Based Repayment (IBR).

If it's a private student loan, you'll be able to work out a payment arrangement with them.

Your situation does sound a bit sketchy though, you'll want to consult with a consumer law attorney in your area.

reposthaterwithlove155 karma

I have a question dealing with the OPPOSITE of harassment. The debt collector in new Jersey took over my wife's school loans while we were stationed overseas. Now, the debt collector is dinging her credit monthly but refuses to return our calls, answer our emails or give us an opportunity to pay it off. We have had 2 separate financial advisors attempt to get in contact with them and both have been left high and dry. This has been going on for 18 months. We are not sure what we can do now, any suggestions?

Edit: Forgot to mention our realtor's attorney contacted them as well but was restricted to do much because they were in a different state.

lawyerforconsumers185 karma

Send disputes through the credit reporting agencies. This can help clear it up. I'm licensed in NJ as well - feel free to send me a DM and we can walk you through this.

Divine_Storms135 karma

I've heard from multiple sources to never pay debt collectors as the original debt holders are the only people you signed a contract with and once they've sold it off the debt is written off and that contract is now void. Is there validity to this?

lawyerforconsumers238 karma

You can pay debt collectors but you should only pay once you've received written proof of the debt, a written offer of settlement, and request a paid-off letter from the debt collector.

Always request validation from a debt collector prior to making payment as well.

Lester_the_possum126 karma

Someone once told me that even if you do legitimately owe the debt, you can still tell the companies to stop contacting you and they have to by law. Any truth to that, or does all this only apply if you don't actually owe them money?

lawyerforconsumers211 karma

That is true, you can tell collectors via letter to not contact you. That would be a cease and desist letter. That doesn't mean that extinguishes the debt - that simply means they can't call you about it. This may result in you being sued in order to protect their interests in the debt.

miffet80114 karma

Alright I have a weird one! I personally don't have any debt, but for 5+ years now I've been getting debt collection calls for someone else. I don't know the person, and I don't know how these companies got my phone number (my telephone exchange was brand new when I got it, so the number never existed before and no one else has ever had it). It will go on for weeks at a time, getting calls maybe once or twice a week, and every time I tell them they have the wrong goddamn number and to remove it from their file and they either insist they'll take me off the call list (then don't) or just hang up. Once I yell at them enough I'll get radio silence for a few months before it starts up again. It drives me bonkers.

So my question is, is this allowed?? Can debt collectors just keep harassing innocent bystanders because someone made a typo in a phone number field once or something? Is there some kind of legal recourse for dealing with this?

Often when I ask where they're calling from they'll tell me they can't disclose that information because I'm not the intended recipient. No shit, stop calling me then!

If you're out there, Rob Wilson, I hate you

lawyerforconsumers107 karma

Send them a certified letter demanding they stop calling you. If they continue to call you, it could be a violation of the FDCPA.

cheeto4481 karma

You keep saying "send a certified letter" but no mention of how you find out whom to send it to. I have had similar issues where any response other than "yes I am that person" and they hang up the call immediately. I've asked what company they worked for, talk to a manager, etc and get hung up on or learn how to insult my mother in fun new languages.

How do you send a certified letter if you cannot get a destination to send it to?

lawyerforconsumers47 karma

Those people are scams, not much you can do but avoid them, unfortunately.

AManBehindYou109 karma

Are there some rights people think they have that they actually don’t have?

lawyerforconsumers141 karma

Sometimes people think if something is not reporting on your credit report that you don't owe the debt - that is not further from the truth. All because a creditor may not be reporting a debt does not mean it is not valid and enforceable. A creditor can still sue you to collect.

j0manji57 karma

How many calls is considered egregious and worth suing over? I get at least 3-4 a day from humans and robocallers and I’m constantly changing my ringtone so I don’t go insane.

lawyerforconsumers51 karma

It depends. We'll have to see your particular situation.

This is why the CFPB's Proposed Rule is so concerning - there is no specified limit on the number of texts, emails, or direct messages. Combined with high call limits, the total communications from collectors may be overwhelming.

Check out the great work the National Association of Consumer Advocates is doing on-point - The NACA comment portal: https://consumeradvocates.salsalabs.org/debtcollectioncomments

toxicroach34 karma

Generally do these places just settle once sued? I'm always worried that my clients often muddled version of events won't hold up in court.

lawyerforconsumers40 karma

Depends on the circumstances. We find that if the collectors understand they have liability, they'll seek to settle relatively quickly. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a fee-shifting statute, so the collectors have to pay for a consumer's reasonable attorney's fees.

Arcfaelen34 karma

I have had minor surgery back in 2017 in Virginia, I now live in Arkansas, and noticed almost a year and half later that I have medical bills in collections . I have not received any letter from any debt collectors or the hospital. Should I try to wait out the 7 years for it to drop off my credit or contact the debt collectors that's listed on credit karma?

lawyerforconsumers16 karma

That is up to you. You can reach out to work out a payment arrangement.

krakenkrakenkraken31 karma

Would a debt collector calling a residence where a person used to but no longer live and leaving automated voice mails detailing the debt that is owned be considered some sort of violation? It starts by saying “this message is for John Smith, if this is not you do not listen further...” or something along those lines.

lawyerforconsumers42 karma

Currently, the FDCPA does not allow this.

This is why the CFPB's rule is so concerning - Collectors could make up to seven attempted calls per debt per week, either to the consumer or to friends and family to ask for the consumer’s contact information. A consumer with 8 medical debts could receive 56 attempted calls per week.

The rule would allow for collectors to be able to call third-parties to leave messages about your debt.

N1GH7MARE24 karma

Hello! I was just wondering if you had any experience or advice to give with a similar situation?

A few months ago, a friend of mine was nabbed by a speed camera in a small town in Ohio. He never paid the ticket, and apparently the town/department sent the "debt" to collections. After a few conversations with the collections agency, he let them know that the ticket was a debt that he never agreed to, and they left him alone.

He has not heard anything since, and the collection was removed from his credit report. Given the theme of the thread, I figured that this may be useful to mention here, as well as get your input.

lawyerforconsumers60 karma

That is not how this works. Of course, you wouldn't agree to a ticket being a debt.

Government-backed debts are exempt from the FDCPA - they'll be coming after him.

RookAroundYou24 karma

I have a small debt of $484 from a medical bill when I turned 18 (no insurance at the time). It has been 9 years and I still get notifications that a different company has pulled up the debt. Does this stay on my credit forever or does it expire? I have never once received a letter just a phone call from a robot every now and then and hits to my credit score. Just confused about what to do.

lawyerforconsumers42 karma

An item can only stay on your credit report for 7 years from the date of last payment. It should be off your report now.

CosbyQuaalude18 karma

I just got the first ever collection notice for a hospital bill from January of 2014 I never received. I called the original creditor to try to find out why it took so long and they didn't have an answer. I debated proof of the debt from the collection agency and they sent a super fake-looking "itemized invoice" attached to a letter that basically said "this paper says you owe the money."

How do I know this is legitimate at all? Do I just have to take their word for it?

lawyerforconsumers24 karma

You can continue to dispute it and not pay it. If they put it on your credit report, you can dispute it through the CRAs to have it removed or can file suit against them.

We would have to see the letter to see if it's valid.

stoneymcstone42014 karma

I was a little short on my car payment last month, and it took me a couple weeks to pay the rest off. Since the day after my payment was due I’ve been receiving dozens, and I mean dozens, of calls from all sorts of numbers. I ignored them at first, then eventually caved and picked up only to say “do not contact me again” and hung up. Then the numbers started changing, and the amount of calls increased, almost entirely from recorded voices talking about a life insurance policy, and other total bullshit. I blocked every number I could but they keep coming. Is it legal for my lender to give out my phone number to robocall scammers like that? It seems like that’s the only logical way I could have started being harassed immediately after being $60 short on a payment.

EDIT: forgot to mention, they also called my place of work and asked my boss if I was available, claiming to be from a local college that I never attended

lawyerforconsumers12 karma

Can you prove it was the car company?

stoneymcstone42012 karma

The first call from the original number immediately asked me to confirm my name and my social, which I refused to do before they told me who was calling, and they wouldn’t so I hung up. Googled the phone number, results said it was the car company. I don’t know how I would prove they were the ones giving my number to robocallers, but the scam calls didn’t happen until after a couple days of ignoring my car company.

lawyerforconsumers14 karma

Sounds like a scam.

wish_theyd_done_it12 karma

Are debt collectors allowed to charge additional collection fees?

I once had a doctor's office send me to collections for a $20 co-pay, and the collection agency added a $49 collection fee. When I balked at the fee they said that I had agreed to it when I filled out patient forms at the doctor's office. Of course, neither the doctors office nor the collection agency would actually produce the form I'd supposedly signed.

I did tell ask them in writing for proof of the original debt, and they called me saying that there was another $49 fee for that.

I paid the $20 co-pay, but the agency still reported an unpaid $69 debt to the credit bureau, then charged me an additional $150 to have it removed from my credit report.

$20 missed co-pay.
$49 collections fee.
$150 fee to remove item from my credit report.
2x$19.99 payment processing fees.

$260 for a missed $20 co-pay. How is that even legal?

lawyerforconsumers11 karma

Sounds like all kinds of wrong and illegal stuff - see a consumer lawyer near you. You can find one through the National Association of Consumer Advocates - consumeradvocates.org

pyncheon12 karma

My parents had an old defaulted car payment debt bought up years later as a "zombie debt". The had moved and were no longer at the address on the record, the collectors found my number and called me even though I hadn't lived with them in years. They called trying to sound like they were law enforcement, referring to themselves as detective, demanding and repeating questions about the location of the car ect, and making threats of legal trouble/ arrest if I lied.

If you get someone calling you and threatening you like that for a debt you have nothing to do with can you take legal action against them? Is there a good phrase to use in response before hanging up?

lawyerforconsumers11 karma

That sounds scary! Consult with a consumer lawyer in your area, it sounds like a potential violation.

Its_just_jeff9 karma

Here's something I've heard before and always wanted to know if it were true. I unfortunately had some debt on credit cards and also had fell on hard times (laid off). I found work but it didn't pay much. So when a collection agency called me I told them I can't pay what your asking, but I would be willing to pay $20/month. They said they couldn't accept my offer. Is it true that if they turn down my effort to pay then that's on them for not accepting it?

lawyerforconsumers15 karma

They are allowed to refuse to accept a payment as being too low. Let's say you owe them $10k but can only pay $20/month - they can say no, because it would take you 41.67 years to pay it off.

IsFullOfIt7 karma

I have had one calling me for about 6 months now. He always sounds like a robocall and he won’t say anything to me about what it’s regarding until I “verify my social security number”. Any sane person would just hang up on a random stranger asking for your SSN.

However I think it might be legit because I have a small student loan that I thought was part of my consolidation but turns out it is still outstanding when I called the school, they said the agency will contact me and that the collection fees are now more than the principal balance.

Is this somehow part of the hustle that they use? Making their process so horrible that anyone would ignore them, and then using that as an excuse to jack up the fees?

lawyerforconsumers8 karma

Sounds like a scam! Beware!

LeviPerson6 karma

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed a rule governing third-party debt collectors. The proposal adds some consumer protections but also weakens the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by undermining its goals of stopping harassment, protecting consumer privacy, and preventing collection against the wrong person or in the wrong amount.

This is the first I'm hearing about it. Could you elaborate? What's so bad about the rule?

lawyerforconsumers16 karma

No specified limits on the number of texts, emails, or direct messages. Combined with high call limits, the total communications from collectors may be overwhelming.

Collectors will be able to send you valuable disclosures through hyperlinks. This is a way for debt collectors to hide required disclosures from consumers. Clicking hyperlinks through sketchy emails will leave consumers vulnerable to hackers.

A notice could be provided orally. Despite increasing the amount of information that must be provided, collectors would not be required to provide anything to the consumer in writing for reference.

To find out you can help - check the National Association of Consumer Advocates petition: https://www.change.org/p/the-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-must-protect-consumers-from-abusive-debt-collectors

HHYHL6 karma

I receive fairly constant calls from debt collectors (probably 2-3 a month) looking for someone who isn't me. Is it worth taking any action? I've told them to blacklist my number which they say they will do but they inevitably end up calling again.

lawyerforconsumers12 karma

Send them letters via certified mail demanding they cease all communication to your phone number (make sure to list the number). If they continue to call you, it could be a violation of the FDCPA.

Neurotek5 karma

I had a car leasing company recently send me a bill for almost $600 that was for yearly taxes of a car that's lease ended last year (registration/license ended 2 weeks later). I called the state and they reduced the cost to about $50 for the 1 month I actually owed them instead of the entire year. The leasing company states I owe them the full $600 (despite me having official documentation from the government that it was reduced to $50), and they would refund me when the state refunded them. I told them I would pay them, what the state was owed and wouldn't pay more. They said that they would then send the rest to a collections agency. Can they do that? Can I just pay what is owed and then wait until the leasing company gets its refund then then nullify the amount owed to the collections agency or am I legally supposed to pay the full amount the leasing company paid?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

I suggest consulting with a consumer lawyer in your area. You'll want to show the documentation you received from the state.

Wedemboiz43 karma

I've heard you said to request for written proof of the debt, but what exactly would suffice as written proof? Would the collector have the actual contract you signed with the creditor?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

The instrument that created the debt.

chapynuts3 karma

My SO signed up for a vacation club several years ago. She requested a cancellation back in 2015 and was told by a representative this would be taken care of (this is confirmable via emails). Apparently the agent was supposed to submit a ticket for legal docs to be drafted and sent to my SO to sign and officially close the account. The ticket was never created, and thus the docs were never signed. She didn’t hear from them again until December of 2018 where they had racked up thousands of “late fees” along with renewal charges for the past 3 years. We have gone back and forth with them several times explaining that we will not be paying the late fees bc someone on their end dropped the ball. They have told us they are looking into wiping the late fees and just having us pay the renewals, but nothing is being done and we keep getting contacted to pay the whole thing, only to explain the situation all over again and start from scratch. They refuse to respond to our emails and will only talk over the phone and demand money. Her credit score hasn’t been affected yet. Where do we go from here ?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

Is it in collections? If not, refuse to pay and fight them tooth and nail. If you have confirmation of the cancellation via email, you should not be on the hook for it.

Jaugust953 karma

Are there any important rules of thumb about debts/debt collection I should know?

lawyerforconsumers6 karma

Always request verification of a debt.

connaught_plac32 karma

I get calls for debt collectors looking for contact info for my brother. Mostly robo-calls, but occasionally a live person.

Is it worth my time to call the number they leave and ask them to stop calling me? Or will they keep doing it anyway?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

When the person answers the phone, tell them to stop calling you and demand they remove you from the list. You can send it to them in writing to get confirmation. If a third-party debt collector calls you for your brother's debt, it is a violation of the FDCPA.

throwWay111272qmsns2 karma

What is considered a valid proof of debt ?

I went to legal aid and they said my payment history is valid proof that I accepted ownership of debt.

Does the firm need to produce my original signed contract obtaining the credit card/ loan?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

Generally speaking, payment history is sufficient to establish the validity of a debt, unless you dispute the payments or the account itself.

huracanEVO2 karma

[deleted]

lawyerforconsumers12 karma

EZ-Pass and other government-backed debt are exempt from the FDCPA unfortunately.

NotTheGuacamole2 karma

What brought you into debt collection law? I’m considering going to law school with hopes of becoming a lawyer, what about debt collection intrigues you the most?

lawyerforconsumers4 karma

I believe in economic justice more than social justice. Being a lawyer gives me the ability to focus on that kind of change and justice.

I want to help people exercise their rights - after all, what's the point of having rights if you don't know about them or exercise them?

UterusTim2 karma

My debt collectors simply stopped trying to contact me, why?

lawyerforconsumers4 karma

This can happen for many reasons. It could be they gave up, it could be they sold it to another debt collector, it could be that the statute of limitations expired, or that they're getting ready to sue you.

Scoob19782 karma

What color do you want your cape?

lawyerforconsumers5 karma

Blue & Orange - unfortunately, the Mets and Knicks suck.

tthatfreak1 karma

How about on the opposite side? What is the best (for all parties) way to get someone to pay a judgement when simply asking nicely isn't working?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

Explore your legal remedies. I am not a collection attorney.

Qeldroma3111 karma

Can medical bills hurt your credit score? I've read that the bills themselves can't unless they are sent to collections. Then if you go past due on the collections bills that can hurt your credit score.

lawyerforconsumers2 karma

Medical debts can be reported to the credit reporting agencies.

ackme1 karma

I live in Maryland, and a creditor hired a law firm to collect a debt I owe. The creditor is now also charging me for the lawyer's fees: this is the first time I've had this happen. Is that legal?

lawyerforconsumers2 karma

It depends on whether the contract that created the debt allows for the collection of fees associated with the collection.

tfauthor1 karma

What's your favorite color?

lawyerforconsumers3 karma

Gray or Grey?