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OVERSHADOWING VIOLATIONS CLASS CERTIFICATION PRELIMINARILY APPROVED

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on December 13, 2016

 

Our law firm recently received preliminary approval for class certification in the case of Capps. v. Law Office of Peter Singer, et al. The opinion can be read by clicking HERE.

The case was filed October 26, 2015, alleging that the Law Office of Peter Singer sent debt collection letters to consumers with language that overshadows and contradicts mandatory disclosures that debt collectors are required to provide to consumers to properly advise them of their rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In particular, 15 U.S.C. 1692g requires third party debt collectors, even law firms that regularly engage in debt collection on behalf of another, must include a notice in their first collection letter that the consumer has 30 days to either dispute the debt, a portion of the debt, or request validation of the debt. If the consumer does provide in writing either a dispute or a request for validation, the debt collector must cease any further efforts to collect the debt until validation is delivered to the consumer. Typically, the validation must involve delivering to the consumer the original creditor’s name and address and/or a copy of a judgment.

This is important, because often-times debts are sold and re-sold between different agencies, and the consumer may not know what the debt pertains to if they do not recognize the current creditor or current collection agency. Providing to the consumer the original creditor’s name and address, at a minimum, should help the consumer to determine whether the debt is validly owed by the consumer, if the debt was actually incurred by someone else and the collector is contacting the wrong person, or if the debt had been paid off in the past and there is a mistake in alleging the debt is still owed. Providing the consumer 30 days to send such a dispute or request for validation provides the consumer with sufficient time to consider his or her choices in how to proceed, and also provides the consumer sufficient time to gather and deliver documents to the debt collector to support a dispute.

Courts have consistently held that any other language in the first collection letter that weakens or confuses this mandatory disclosure amounts to an “overshadowing” violation of the FDCPA.

Plaintiff’s claims in this case are based on the collection letters containing language that attempted to limit the consumers’ rights to take 30 days by urging consumers to pay the debt within 7 days. In particular, the letters claimed that the Law Office of Peter Singer would be entitled to sue the consumers after 7 days if they do not pay the debt or call the debt collector to make payment arrangements. Even though the letters also contained the mandatory 30 day dispute disclosure discussed above, the fact that the letters also contained a threat of lawsuit after merely 7 days of non-payment weakened and overshadowed the consumers’ absolute right to a 30 day dispute period.

On November 21, 2016, the Southern District of California granted the Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval of class settlement. The class settlement will entitle 170 members of the class to receive $66.70 each out of the class fund of $11,606.16. Class members can opt out in order to pursue their own claim on an individual basis. A final fairness hearing will be held March 13, 2017 in order for the Court to determine whether the final payments should be distributed to the class members who have not opted out, and in order to finally dispose of the class action if the Court determines that finalizing the class settlement is fair and meets all legal requirements of Rule 23.

A copy of the motion for class preliminary approval can also be found by clicking HERE.

As always, if you or a loved one are being contacted by a debt collector, you should not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to determine whether your rights have been violated.

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BEEN VICTIMIZED BY A DEFAULT JUDGMENT BASED ON FRAUDULENT PROOF OF SERVICE?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 28, 2016

 

Sadly, we have seen numerous incidents of third party debt collectors obtaining default judgment against a consumer based on a proof of service that the consumer claims is fraudulent. This sometimes occurs when the process server simply claimed that the person was served personally, even though we have been able to obtain proof that the consumer did not reside at the address claimed to have been the place for service on the date claimed. More common, however, is that the process server had claimed that substitute service occurred by serving an unidentified JOHN DOE/JANE DOE, even though we are able to obtain proof that no-one other than the consumer resided at the residence on the date alleged, or that the consumer had actually moved from that residence before the alleged service occurred. We have also seen this occur when the process server claimed to have executed substitute service, but failed to show evidence via affidavit of reasonable diligence to first attempt personal service, which also renders the service invalid and consequently renders the default invalid.

In any event, however it may occur, many consumers who have reached out to us only first discovered the default judgment after having received notice from his/her employer that a wage garnishment was about to occur by the debt collector serving a writ of execution upon the judgment. Sometimes, a levy is also placed by the debt collector upon the consumer’s bank accounts, which freezes the finances contained therein and allows the debt collector to withdraw some or all of those finances. Clearly, this can be devastating because it can have a direct impact on the consumer’s ability to budget for living expenses and other necessary life expenses.

If this has happened to you or someone you love, then you must not delay in seeking counsel’s representation. California law requires that the consumer seek to set aside the entry of default and default judgment within six months of first discovering they have occurred. We have unfortunately seen people who have waited, thinking it would just magically go away, or that they have contacted the debt collector directly in an attempt to obtain their agreement to set aside after explaining the service was not legit and only to then be taken advantage of by the debt collector. We have also seen people who have filed hardship paperwork with the court without first contesting the default and without contesting the proof of service, which can be argued as an implicit admission that the service was valid. These are not good options….the best option is to promptly call a consumer attorney to discuss the proper course of seeking to set aside the default and default judgment. There are also very technical requirements that must be met in seeking to do this, and a failure to meet every single technical requirement can result in the motion to set aside being denied with prejudice, which means the consumer has now forever lost any ability to ever seek to set them aside.

Again, the best option is to promptly consult a consumer attorney to discuss the proper course on how to pursue the set aside based upon the consumer’s individual circumstances. One example motion to set aside can be found by clicking HERE.

If we are successful in having the entry of default and default judgment set aside, then it is possible for us to file a counter-suit against the debt collector (and possibly the process server) for engaging in unfair and oppressive conduct and misrepresentations. Many federal courts have ruled that it is not possible to file a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act before obtaining the set aside, because such a lawsuit operates as an indirect appeal of the court’s entry of default without actually having taken an appeal through proper channels. So, the best strategy is to first obtain a court ruling setting aside the entry of default/default judgment and then review the case for a counter-suit.

If you or anyone you know is in such a circumstance, please do not hesitate to contact us promptly for a free and confidential consultation to review your particular circumstances.

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SCRIPPS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL VIOLATES WORKER’S COMPENSATION LAWS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 8, 2016

 

Getting hurt on the job can be a very traumatic event. Your life can be changed for the worse—not only are you physically hurt, but you risk not being able to perform your job duties any longer and you possibly risk losing your job completely. Depending on the injury, you may not be able to work in your industry at all any more. The lack of ability to provide for yourself and your family leads to emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of self-doubt and loss of self-worth. The loss of income possibly results in losing your home to foreclosure due to an inability to pay your mortgage, which could also in turn result in strife within the marriage. All of your dreams and plans for the future are crushed.

Now add to all of these problems the fact that the medical provider has been relentlessly attempting to collect money from you for the medical services that were provided as a direct result of the workplace injury, even though you are struggling financially due to your loss of normal stream of income. Your worker’s compensation attorney sends the medical provider a letter informing them that their exclusive remedy is to file a claim for services with the worker’s compensation board and participate in that process. Your attorney also informs the medical provider that they are not to attempt to contact you directly anymore, because California Labor Code 3751(b) specifically prohibits them from collecting the bill for services from you directly.

Their responses to your attorney’s letter, however, is to retain an outside collection agency who then proceeds to continue collection efforts from you personally. They call you repeatedly at all hours of the day; they send you letters with ominous threatening language. They claim the debt is increasing because of interest and costs and fees, and they threaten that the debt is going to be a negative mark on your consumer credit report. All of this adds to your stress, anxiety, and depression because you thought you were protected and you thought they were going to faithfully comply with your attorney’s instructions to file a claim with the worker’s compensation board.

You lose sleep; you lose faith in the worker’s compensation process; you lose faith and trust in your attorney; you worry about how these bills are going to get paid; you worry about how you will be able to move forward with negative items on your credit report that you are not supposed to be responsible for….

Thankfully, you can go after these unscrupulous companies who are so quick to degrade you and ignore your rights!!

California Labor Code Sections 4600, 5300, 5304, and 5955 provide the basis that the worker’s compensation board has exclusive jurisdiction to handle payment of medical debts that are the subject of a workers’ compensation claim. In order for the medical provider and/or debt collector to seek reimbursement for their medical services, they must submit a claim to the workers’ compensation board so that the board can determine the appropriate amount of pay for the employer and/or employer’s insurance company to provide to the medical providers. If the medical provider and/or debt collector is not satisfied with the board’s ruling, then their sole remedy is to file a petition for reconsideration pursuant to California Labor Code § 5900 and then appellate review pursuant to California Labor Code § 5950.

However, California Labor Code § 3751(b) provides that medical providers shall not collect money directly from the employee for services to cure or relieve the effect of the injury for which a claim form, pursuant to Cal. Lab. Code § 5401, was filed, unless the medical provider has received written notice that liability for the injury has been rejected by the employer and the medical provider has provided a copy of this notice to the patient. Any medical provider who violates Cal. Lab. Code § 3751(b) shall be liable for three times the amount unlawfully collected, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Semnar & Hartman, LLP regularly ties such unlawful debt collection tactics into a claim for either or both of the Federal or Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Acts, since those laws prohibit any attempt to collect an unauthorized amount in connection with consumer debts. Click HERE to review a complaint recently filed against Scripps Memorial Hospital and Progressive Management Systems for contacting the employee directly several times in complete disregard of a letter sent by the employee’s worker’s compensation attorney.

If you or a loved one are proceeding through a workers’ compensation board claim, but are still receiving debt collection bills and/or phone calls, please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible for a free, confidential consultation about your rights.

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BEING HARASSED BY CITY TITLE LOAN, LLC?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 1, 2016

 

Our law firm is investigating suspected internal policies of telephone harassment by City Title Loan, LLC and are looking for anyone who has received collection calls or letters by them for free and confidential consultations.

A lawsuit filed earlier this year alleges that City Title Loan employees used automatic dialing equipment to place a large volume of calls (in excess of 90 calls) to one of their customers over a period of just a few weeks in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Even though the customer repeatedly asked that the calls cease and asked for routine billing statements as proof of exactly what is owed (which are disclosures that federal law makes mandatory), the business not only refused to comply but also belittled him when threatening that the calls would continue.

The company also proceeded to call the customer’s elderly mother who is living with Parkinson’s disease and uttered threats of collection against her (even though she was only listed as a reference and not a co-obligor), and also threatened to the mother that they were looking to arrest the customer if he did not make a payment (which is false because failing to make a payment is only a breach of contract and is not subject to criminal charges). A copy of the complaint can be read by clicking HERE

Please rest assured, you do have rights! If you are facing collection efforts by City Title Loan (or any other title loan lender, payday lender, bank, creditor, or debt collector), please do not hesitate to contact us a free and confidential consultation to discuss whether your rights have been violated.

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WELLS FARGO RECEIVES MASSIVE $190 MILL. FINE FOR FRAUDULENTLY OPENING 1.5 MILL. FAKE ACCOUNTS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on September 19, 2016

 

Just recently Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement with government agencies (The office of the Comptroller of Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Los Angeles City Attorney) to pay a civil penalty of $190 million over its disturbing history of opening fake accounts in customers’ names without the customers’ consent or authorization.

Government investigations have revealed that Wells Fargo pushed its branches to meet high sales quotas, and that a rampant scheme amongst several managers and employees resulted in accounts and credit cards being opened in customers’ names in order for the branches to meet the high quotas. A Wall Street Journal article that describes this history of this disturbing issue can be read by clicking HERE .

In May 2015, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed a lawsuit suit against Wells Fargo, alleging the bank pressured its employees to commit fraudulent acts, including opening accounts for people that don’t exist. The City Attorney filed its lawsuit under the California Unfair Business Practices Act and Unfair Competition Laws.

The CFPB and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also opened investigations and found that bank employees illegally transferred money from legitimate accounts into unauthorized ones opened for customers without their approval.

More information about the investigation can be read in this CNN Money article, by clicking HERE

Per the Press Release issued by the CFPB:

“Spurred by sales targets and compensation incentives, employees boosted sales figures by covertly opening accounts and funding them by transferring funds from consumers’ authorized accounts without their knowledge or consent, often racking up fees or other charges. According to the bank’s own analysis, employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers.”

“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,’ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed. Today’s action should serve notice to the entire industry that financial incentive programs, if not monitored carefully, carry serious risks that can have serious legal consequences.”

A copy of the CFPB consent order can be read HERE

Wells Fargo now claims that it will eliminate all sales goals for credit cards, checking accounts, and other retail products starting January 1, 2016 as a measure of addressing these concerns. Additionally, approximately 5,300 employees have been fired over this rampant scheme of fraud. A Los Angeles Times article on Wells Fargo’s recent response can be read HERE.

However, despite the fine and employee terminations and promises of eliminating the aggressive sales tactics that resulted in the widespread scheme of fraud, some people are still outraged that no criminal proceedings are on the forefront. Newsman Ben Swann recently conducted a piece on this issue on his show Reality Check. Watch the video below:

We at Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in handling these very issues on behalf of consumers. When an account is opened in a customers’ name without their consent or authorization, it is without a doubt an illegal account. And when that illegal account accrues fees and costs, but when those fees/costs are not paid because the customer is not aware of the account having been opened, there will inevitably be negative credit reporting and debt collection efforts.

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam deserves justice. We can help.

If you or a loved one have had this unfortunate experience, please do not hesitate to call us for a free and confidential consultation.

Please note, nothing herein is to be construed as legal advice, and is instead hyperbolic opinions on an issue of public concern. Proper legal advice can only be given after a full, and confidential, consultation takes place after a review of all of the client’s circumstances.

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HARD VS. SOFT INQUIRIES ON CONSUMER CREDIT REPORTS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on September 2, 2016

 

Recently, we have had numerous calls by individuals who are confused as to the difference between “soft” inquiries vs. “hard” inquiries on their consumer credit reports.

As a general rule, an inquiry is created when your credit report is accessed by a third party. Typically, these third parties are potential creditors—such as a credit card company, an auto dealership, or a home mortgage loan officer—but are also sometimes debt collection agencies, repossession agencies, insurance companies, and even potential employers. When consumers apply for a car loan, for example, the lender who is being asked to provide the loan will request a credit report for the consumer, which is generally obtained from either Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. The fact that your credit information was used by these third parties will be noted on the consumer’s credit report, along with the date it was requested, the name of the third party that requested it, and the type of inquiry.

Before we discuss specifics, it is important to note that inquiries remain on the consumer’s credit reports for two years. Soft inquiries will have less of an effect on the consumer’s credit score than hard ones. So what’s the difference?

Hard inquiries are inquiries that can significantly affect a consumer’s credit score. They suggest to potential creditors that the consumer is actively trying to obtain credit, whether it be for a car, a credit card, a home mortgage loan, or simply a student loan. Numerous hard inquiries in a short period of time creates red flags, because it appears as if the consumer is trying to obtain more credit than s/he typically carries, and therefore might not be able to repay, which results in more of a negative impact upon the consumers’ credit score than individual hard inquiries spread out over a longer period of time.

Soft inquiries, on the other hand, are generally not the result of a consumer who is shopping for credit. They can occur due to a consumer who requests their own credit report, or a lender who sends a consumer a preapproved credit offer. Such inquiries are not the result of active credit requests by the consumer, and therefore they do not generally result in the consumer’s credit score being negatively impacted. Other soft inquiries may include a request generated by a potential employer or an insurance company whose purpose is not to provide “credit” to the consumer.

How to Avoid Unintentional Hard Inquiries?

As indicated above, a consumer who reviews their credit report will: 1) not cause a hard inquiry on their own credit report, and 2) can see if others are making hard inquires on their credit report. It is important to know that generating an inquiry (hard or soft) without a “permissible purpose” is a violation of the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

If you don’t know where to get a free credit report, or what to look for, Semnar & Hartman, LLP can help. We provide a free, no strings attached confidential consultation, where we sit down with any potential client and review their credit reports with them. If there is an error, or an inquiry that should not be there, we can help with disputing the information. If it is not removed with a simple dispute letter, then we may be able take pursue a lawsuit on your behalf, without any fee being charged to you. The FCRA provides for the consumer to obtain his/her attorneys’ fees from those who violate the Act. Moreover, they provide for statutory damages for the consumer for willful violations, even if the consumer has not suffered any actual harm.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE – Please call us to schedule a Free Consultation, whereby you may receive legal advice tailored for your specific situation.

So, feel free to come see us at 400 South Melrose Drive, Suite 209, Vista, California, or simply call us at (619) 500-4187 to schedule a phone consultation to ensure your credit report is free of any unwanted or unauthorized inquires. You can also obtain more information at our website: www.SanDiegoConsumerAttorneys.com

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WELLS FARGO PENALIZED OVER UNLAWFUL STUDENT LOAN SERVICING PRACTICES

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on August 28, 2016

 

On August 22, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) entered into a consent order with Wells Fargo over the manner in which Wells Fargo has been unlawfully handling its student loan servicing practices. The CFPB is a federal government agency that is tasked with investigating unlawful and unfair practices that creditors, banks, and debt collectors engage in with respect towards consumers. If violations are discovered and alleged, the CFPB has the power to issue a wide array of penalties that could include ordering a business to close its operations. Needless to say, when the CFPB sets its targets on a financial entity, the company should be in fear.

On August 22, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) entered into a consent order with Wells Fargo over the manner in which Wells Fargo has been unlawfully handling its student loan servicing practices. The CFPB is a federal government agency that is tasked with investigating unlawful and unfair practices that creditors, banks, and debt collectors engage in with respect towards consumers. If violations are discovered and alleged, the CFPB has the power to issue a wide array of penalties that could include ordering a business to close its operations. Needless to say, when the CFPB sets its targets on a financial entity, the company should be in fear.

Before we discuss specifics, it is important to note that inquiries remain on the consumer’s credit reports for two years. Soft inquiries will have less of an effect on the consumer’s credit score than hard ones. So what’s the difference?

  • Processing payments in a way that maximized fees owed by consumers. Specifically, if a borrower made a payment that was not enough to cover the total amount due for all loans in an account, Wells Fargo divided that payment across the loans in a way that maximized late fees rather than satisfying payments for some of the loans. The bank failed to adequately disclose to consumers how it allocated payments across multiple loans, and that consumers have the ability to provide instructions for how to allocate payments to the loans in their account. As a result, consumers were unable to effectively manage their student loan accounts and minimize costs and fees.
  • Billing statements misrepresenting to consumers that paying less than the full amount due in a billing cycle would not satisfy any obligation on an account. In reality, for accounts with multiple loans, partial payments may satisfy at least one loan payment in an account. This misinformation could have deterred borrowers from making partial payments that would have satisfied at least one of the loans in their account, allowing them to avoid certain late fees or delinquency.
  • Illegally charging late fees even though timely payments had been made. Specifically, charging illegal late fees to payments made on the last day of their grace periods, and also charging illegal late fees to certain students who elected to pay their monthly amount due through multiple partial payments instead of one single payment.
  • Failing to update and correct inaccurate, negative information reported to credit reporting agencies about certain borrowers who have made partial payments or overpayments.

For these unlawful practices, Wells Fargo must pay at least $410,000.00 to consumers as compensation for illegal collection fees and late fees, and must allocate partial payments made by a borrower in a manner that satisfies the amount due for as many of the loans as possible, unless the borrower directs otherwise. Wells Fargo must also provide consumers with improved disclosures in billing statements, which must explain how the bank applies and allocates payments and how borrowers can direct payments to any of the loans in their student loan account. Wells Fargo must also remove any negative student loan information that has been inaccurately or incompletely provided to a consumer reporting agency. Wells Fargo must also pay a $3.6 million penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

The CFPB’s consent order can be ready by clicking HERE.

Clearly, this is not a light slap on the wrist that banks typically believe they should get, and this strong action by the CFPB should hopefully send a clear message to Wells and other financial institutions that they must take consumer rights very seriously and respect consumers as human beings instead of just another financial account on the books.

If you or a loved one have concerns over any account being serviced or owned by Wells Fargo, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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THE DEBT BUYING INDUSTRY

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on August 20, 2016

 

Dealing with a debt buyer can often be a frustrating and stressful experience. In general, debt buyers purchase old debts for a small percentage of how much is owed, and then aggressively pursue collection efforts upon the balance (or large percentage thereof) in order to maximize their ability to profit upon the debt as much as possible. Many debt buyers give their collection agents bonuses and commission based upon the amount they collect, which gives the collection agent incentive to put significant pressure upon the consumer to pay. While this industry is a legitimate and legal industry, the manner in which they operate can easily violate consumer protection laws through misrepresentations about how much is owed, whether interest and collection costs can rightfully be added onto the principle, misrepresentations about potential lawsuits, and in the most extreme cases verbal abuse and personal attacks upon the consumer.

On June 5, 2016, John Oliver highlighted this industry and its flaws in his HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, which can be viewed here:

his episode of Oliver’s show explains how easy it is for mistakes to be made, because the typical manner in which the debts are sold and bought is simply through Excel spreadsheets with just basic information about the consumer and how much is owed, which might not provide the debt buyer with sufficient information as to whether the debt is legally enforceable, is actually collectible, if prior payments had been made, and whether any legal stipulations had been included in the original loan agreement. Obviously, the debt buyer who purchases the debt for pennies on the dollar would want to engage in as little review of the account as possible, because the more effort that is put into review before collection means there is less profit to be made when compared to the effort being conducted. In short, quickly collecting as much as possible with as little effort as possible yields the most profitable return in favor of the debt buyer.

Oliver also highlights some of the more extreme and disturbing examples of how the debt buyers in this industry can harm consumers through harassment and oppressive conduct. At 7:02 of his episode, Oliver plays recordings of voicemails left by debt collection agents uttering threats of violence, threats of harassment, and even suggesting that one consumer should commit suicide because she/he is a loser. At 7:46, an undercover video is shown where a debt collection agent laughs and jokes about how he likes to call consumers’ employers at the employers’ home in order to put pressure upon the consumer to pay the debt by harassing the consumers’ employer.

Our law firm routinely pursues lawsuits for legal violations committed by debt buyers and debt collection agencies. If a debt collector is contacting you or a loved one, there is a very realistic possibility that they have already violated your rights. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights!

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DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST ASSISTED CREDIT SERVICES, INC. FOR $30,784.65 FOR MALICIOUS CREDIT REPORTING VIOLATION AND ATTEMPTING TO COLLECT A PAID DEBT

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on July 20, 2016

 

Default Judgment against Assisted Credit Services, Inc. for $30,784.65 for Malicious Credit Reporting Violation and Attempting to Collect a Paid Debt amount, even though the client’s insurance company had already paid more than half of the full debt and the client owed much less than what Assisted Credit was attempting to collect. Luckily, the client was smart enough to raise some red flags instead of just being tricked into blindly paying the full amount. Because the client did not trust Assisted Credit to be honest and ethical, she then paid the balance that she did owe directly to the medical provider. Assisted Credit then got upset and argued with her for depriving them of the ability to keep a portion for their collection “services” for not paying the debt through them.

Thereafter, Assisted Credit furnished an update to the client’s credit report with the false information that she still owed a balance on the alleged debt, even despite their irrefutable knowledge that the client had already paid the balance on the debt directly to the medical provider. Therefore, it was believed that Assisted Credit submitted the derogatory credit reporting information maliciously with the intention of causing damage to the client’s credit score because she paid the balance to the medical provider directly.

After being served with the lawsuit, Assisted Credit hired an attorney, but then for whatever reason fired that attorney and failed to participate in the lawsuit. Because a company or other organization cannot represent itself in court and must appear through an attorney (Rowland v. Cal. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 201–02 (1993), the Court graciously gave a deadline to Assisted Credit to retain a new attorney or face default judgment. When Assisted Credit failed to comply, the Court entered default of Assisted Credit. Recently, on July 19, 2016, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $30,784.65 for the violations alleged.

The Court acknowledge that “Actual damages for credit reporting violations under either statute can include emotional distress and humiliation. See Guimond v. Trans Union Credit Info. Co., 45 F.3d 1329, 1332–33 (9th Cir. 1995) (holding that “emotional distress, manifested by sleeplessness, nervousness, frustration, and mental anguish resulting from the incorrect information in her credit report” can be properly compensated). The Court agreed that the requested damages were appropriate for this client, because she “suffered frustration, anxiety, lack of focus on her livelihood, and feelings of hopelessness” and because her “consumer credit score took a hit after Assisted Credit reported the already-paid debt—a hit that Plaintiff acutely felt, as she had worked hard to rebuild her credit after a prior bankruptcy.” Further, the Court agreed that the credit reporting violations were willful: “evidence of Assisted Credit’s willful conduct in reporting a $120 debt when Assisted Credit affirmatively knew that the debt had been paid warrants punitive damages.” The Court’s well-reasoned and articulate ruling can be read by simply clicking HERE.

This represents a nice opinion confirming that the law and the Courts will protect consumers being harassed by malicious debt collectors who flagrantly violate the law. If you or a loved one are being harassed, lied to, treated unfairly, or notice inaccurate information on your credit report, you should not feel alone and helpless. The law firm of Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in protecting consumers and individuals in these situations. Consultations are always free and confidential, and can be done over the phone to reduce the burden on the client who may just need some questions answered. Do not hesitate to call and discuss your rights!

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BEEN HARASSED BY LVNV FUNDING, LLC OR ITS COLLECTION AGENTS?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on May 23, 2016

 

LVNV Funding, LLC is a Las Vegas based “debt buyer”—an entity that regularly purchases defaulted (and often charged-off) debts from other entities, and then either attempts to collect the debt itself or retains an outside servicing agent to collect on their behalf. The circumstances under which LVNV operates renders them subject to mandatory compliance with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Recently, a jury in Baltimore returned a verdict and damages award of $38 million dollars on a class action alleging that LVNV Funding violated the laws by filing lawsuits, obtaining judgments, and garnishing consumers’ wages in Maryland even though it was not licensed to operate as a debt collector under Maryland law. The damages award also encompasses the profits that LVNV Funding received from the illicitly obtained money by investing the money in other avenues and reaping profits therefrom. A news story and interview of the plaintiffs’ lawyer can be found here: http://www.wbaltv.com/money/jury-hits-debt-collector-with-38m-judgment/39657226.

Also, the law firm of Semnar & Hartman, LLP has teamed up with Mashiri Law Firm to file a proposed class action against LVNV Funding and its servicing debt collector J.C. Christensen & Associates, Inc. based on the deceptive manner the two have been attempting to collect debts from California consumers on debts that are so old they cannot be sued upon. The allegation is that LVNV and J.C. Christensen tells the consumers in their letters that the debt is so old they won’t be sued, but also offers three “settlement options” for the consumer to agree to pay the outstanding debt for less than the full balance. But the deception occurs because the debt collectors are not informing the consumers that, under California law, accepting any of the three “settlement options” creates a new contract with a new statute of limitations for them to sue the consumer upon if the consumer fails to pay the “settlement option” in full as agreed. Therefore, the consumer would actually be in a worse position than they would already be in if they agree to any of the “settlement options” but cannot actually pay the agreed amount in full. The complaint can be read by clicking HERE.

If you or a loved one have been contacted by either LVNV Funding, LLC or any of its debt collectors, please do not hesitate to contact us immediately for a free and confidential consultation to discuss whether your rights have been violated.