Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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Help – the Debt Collectors are at My Door!

 

  Have you ever gotten a call from a debt collection company?  Remember that last month’s cable bill that you and your roommates disputed in college – ten years ago?  You know that it never got paid and it keeps cropping back up again in a generally unpleasant manner.  Perhaps you’ve lost a job or had an illness and just got behind on your bills.  Whatever the reason, life happens!  When life happens, sometimes it leaves unpaid bills along the way and this can result in an unpleasant interaction with debt collectors.

 

  Fortunately, the law provides some protection to keep consumers from being abused by aggressive creditors.  In order to take advantage of these protections, however, you need to know what your rights are.  The collection of debts is regulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Because this is a federal law, the law is the same anywhere in the United States.  Whether a debt collector is pursuing you here in Maryland, or elsewhere, there are certain protections to which you are entitled.

 

  The FDCPA applies to both debt collectors who are collecting on others accounts as well as creditors who use any type of alias when collecting on their own accounts.  It does not apply to creditors who are collecting on their own accounts under their own names. 

 

  The FDCPA limits the information that a debt collector can provide to any third person about the collection of a debt.  First, the debt collector may only identify his employer if expressly requested by the person he has called.  Second, the collector may not disclose to a third party that a debt is owed.  Third, the collector may, under most circumstances, only contact a third party about the debt one time.  Fourth, the debt collector may not communicate by post card.  Fifth, the debt collector may not use any indication on the outside envelope that the communication is in connection with a debt collection.  Finally, if the debt collector knows that the person is represented by an attorney, the debt collector may not communicate with any third person other than the attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the debt collector.

 

  The FDCPA states that a debt collector may only communicate with the debtor/consumer in certain ways and at certain times.  The debtor is the individual who owes or is alleged to owe the debt.  A collector cannot communicate with a consumer at an unusual time or place, or in a manner which the collector knows or should know to be inconvenient to the consumer.  Unless the collector has knowledge to the contrary, the collector may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.  The collector may not communication with a consumer directly when the collectors knows that the consumer is represented by an attorney, unless the attorney gives consent to direct contact, or if the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time.  Finally, the collector cannot contact a consumer while the consumer is at work, if the collector knows that the employer prohibits that type of communication.

 

  A collector may not communicate with third parties about a debt.  Exceptions exist which cover the debtor’s attorney, credit reporting agencies and the creditor’s own attorney.  A debtor can make the collector stop communication by requesting in writing that the creditor do so.  If the debtor stops communication, the creditor may contact the consumer thereafter only to notify the consumer that it is stopping collection activity, that it may or will invoke a specific remedy.

 

  A debt collector may not harass a consumer.  The collector may not threaten violence or any other action that would be a criminal offense against the consumer.  The collector may not use obscene or profane language when communicating with the consumer.  It may not publish the identity of consumers who refuse to pay except to a consumer reporting agency.  It may not advertise the sale of the debt in an effort to enforce payment.  It may not cause the telephone of the debtor to ring repeatedly in order to annoy, abuse or harass anyone at that number. 

 

  A debt collector is prohibited from providing false or misleading information in connection with the collection of a debt.  A collector may not falsely state or imply that they are an agent of the state or federal government.  They may not misrepresent the character, legal status or amount of any debt.  They may not misstate the compensation they are entitled to receive for collecting the debt.  A debt collector may not impersonate an attorney.  They cannot threaten that the debtor will be arrested, imprisoned, or that property will be seized, garnished, attached, or that a person’s wages will be garnished unless such action is lawful and the debt collector intends to take that action.

 

  A debt collector may not threaten any action that cannot be taken, or is not intended to be taken.  They may not state or imply that the sale or transfer of debt will cause the consumer to lose a claim or defense in connection with the debt or that the consumer will be subject to an action which is prohibited under the law. 

 

  They debt collector may not falsely state or imply that the consumer has committed a crime or other conduct to disgrace the consumer.  The collector may not communicate or threaten to communicate information about the debt that is false, including failure to communicate that the debt is disputed.

 

  The debt collector may not use written communication that is designed to falsely imply that it comes from any court, state, or federal agency.  They cannot use any false or deceptive means to contact a consumer. 

 

  The debt collector must identify itself a debt collector in the initial communication and must inform the consumer that any information collected will be used for the collection of the debt. 

  The debt collector cannot collect a fee from the consumer as part of the collection, unless the consumer has previously agreed to pay such a fee.  The debt collector is limited in how and under what circumstances that post-dated checks may be accepted from the consumer. 

 

  Within five days after its initial communication, the debt collector is required to provide the consumer with certain information about the debt.  This information includes the amount of the debt;  the name of the creditor to whom it is owed;  a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion of the debt, that the collector will assume the debt is valid; a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing, within the thirty-day period, that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt, or a copy of a judgment against the consumer, and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and a statement that upon the consumer’s written request, within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

 

  If the consumer notifies the debt collector that the debt is disputed, following the initial communication, the debt collector may not engage in further collection activity on the debt until it receives and provides the consumer with verification of the debt from the original creditor. 

 

  If a consumer owes multiple debts, a collector may not apply any payment on an undisputed debt to one that is in dispute, and where applicable, must following the directions of the consumer in applying the payment.

 

  If a debt collection brings a legal action, i.e., sues, a consumer, to enforce a security interest in real property, the action must be brought in the jurisdiction where that property is located.  Otherwise, the debt collector may only sue the consumer where the consumer signed the contract being sued upon or where the consumer resides.

 

  Under most circumstances, a debt-collector cannot garnish your wages, garnish you bank account, put a lien on your home, or otherwise seize any asset without first obtaining a court judgment.  There are some exceptions.  The most common are where the creditor has a security interest in the property by way of a lien or a contract.  In addition, if you owe tax debt, you may be subject to an attachment without a judgment.

 

  The attorneys at Baldwin & Briscoe have the experience to get the debt collectors off of your back.  Whether or not the debt is disputed, we can assist you in resolving a debt-collection matter.  You don’t have to wait until you are sued to retain an attorney.  Often, retaining an attorney will allow you to work out a solution that can avoid a lawsuit altogether.

 

  If you are sued, the debt collector, under most circumstances, must obtain a judgment before it can take any property.  Depending on the amount of the suit, and the court in which it is brought, this can take anywhere from approximately two-months to a year.  You can negotiate a resolution of the debt while the suit is pending that may be able to avoid a judgment being entered against you.

 

  If you are facing a debt-collection situation, contact the attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz to understand your rights and responsibilities and discuss a plan for resolving the situation.

 

  The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you are facing a debt collector.  Call today to schedule a consultation. 

 

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

  

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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