Nassau County, Long Island Consumer Services Attorneys
Consumer Services is the division of Roman & Piccinnini, PLLC that provides effective, caring legal assistance to our clients as they make their way through financial matters, not only by helping them to obtaining mortgages and other loans, but by providing them with protection against debt collection harassment and credit card lawsuits. If you are distressed because you are being bullied by large, powerful companies that seem intent on taking your money and your sanity, Roman & Piccinnini is the law practice to come to.
We pride ourselves on tailoring our plans to your unique situation and taking as much of the stress you are experiencing off your shoulders as we possibly can. We are aware of the financial and emotional turmoil such matters can cause you and your family and are determined to help level the playing field between you and the companies that are making your life miserable.
Though you probably feel very vulnerable when being harassed by debt collectors, it should calm you to know that you have legal rights in such situations and that our knowledgeable attorneys are able to help you negotiate, and, if necessary, litigate to preserve those rights.
Rights Under Federal Law
The prime federal law that governs the means by which collectors are able to do business is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and is designed to prohibit debt collectors from using unfair, abusive or deceptive tactics. Debt collectors have to fulfill certain legal obligations when collecting debts, such as:
- Sending written notification of your debt
- Stopping collection efforts until they have mailed you verification of your debt
- Not contacting you at work unless you give them permission to do so
- Not calling you at times or places you tell them are inconvenient
- Not threatening you with legal action that they cannot or will not take
These regulations apply not only to the debt collectors themselves, but to collection agencies, and lawyers who routinely perform debt collection. They cover collection of debts involving mortgages, credit cards, medical, personal, family debts, but do not apply to business-related debts.
Rights Under State Law
As in many matters, states each have their own laws that govern debt collection practices. In New York State, in addition to the federal statutes protecting the debtor that have been mentioned, the state makes it illegal for your creditor to attempt to collect more than you actually owe or to contact your employer before they have actually obtained a judgment against you.
You should be aware that even when we get the debtor to stop harassing you, your debt can remain on your credit report, where negative information is allowed for remain for 7 years. State law also determines the statute of limitations (deadline for legal action) on different types of debt. In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a debt collection lawsuit is 6 years from the “date of the default,” meaning about 30 days after you last made a payment.
There are also usury laws in most states. In New York State, the law prohibits creditors from charging “excessive” rates of interest (over 16 percent) on your debt. This cap will not hold up for you, however, if you agreed to pay a higher rate of interest when you originally signed up for the credit card in question.
Reasons to Dispute a Debt
In some cases, the debt a company is trying to collect is open to dispute. In such cases, our skilled attorneys can help you prove that the debt is not valid because it is:
- The result of identity theft
- A medical debt that should have been paid by Medicaid, Medicare, or another insurer
- The amount of the debt is incorrectly stated
- The debt has already been paid or settled
- The debt has been enlarged by illegally high fees and penalties amounting to usury
- The debt is too old to be collected — beyond the statute of limitations
We always advise our clients to keep copies of any written communications between themselves and debt collectors, including email responses, fax confirmations, or return receipts for certified mail. You should never ignore written notices of debt collection. Once you contact our offices, we will advise you about how to proceed.
Debt Collection Scams
You have to be wary because not all attempts at debt collection are legitimate. “Phantom” debts may be in the categories mentioned above or may even have been entirely fabricated. As with other scams, such attempts to collect money that is not owed tend to target the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly.
It is best to contact your attorney if you are unsure whether you are being scammed in this way since, apart from attempting to empty your pockets, such scammers are phishing for personal information in order to steal your identity. Red flags that you are being scammed are that the “collector” does not already have your personal information, including the last four digits of your Social Security number, that the person calling you threatens you, curses at you, or attempts to have you wire money immediately. You should always insist on having everything in writing. Any valid written document should have the name, address, and phone number of the corresponding company so that you can check them out.
Caution: the fact that words shown on your phone seem reputable, or even governmental, doesn’t mean they are. Unfortunately, technology now allows callers to disguise themselves.
When Legal Action Is Taken Against You
Once you are sued by a debt collector, it is essential that you have a capable lawyer at your side. Our attorneys have strong negotiating skills and are well aware that debt collectors would prefer to receive at least some of what they are owed without going to court. Our professionals will be able to make the best possible arrangement for you, frequently involving a settlement, meaning that you will be able to pay somewhat less than you owe and still satisfy the collector.
We will easily be able to assess whether you are dealing with the original collector (the company you owe money to) or a “debt buyer,” who has purchased the unpaid debt for a much smaller amount and is now charged with collecting as much of the debt as possible. Debt buyers are frequently more flexible, willing to accept lower payments or to settle for a smaller percentage of the original debt.
How Our Consumer Services Can Be of Help
At Roman & Piccinnini, PLLC, we are available to assist you with all types of debt problems. We realize the difficulty substantial debts can cause. Apart from creditor or collection agency harassment that interferes with your quality of life, your financial security may be in jeopardy. You may find yourself with a poor credit score or greatly restricted credit lines, either or both of which will impede your purchasing power, interfere with employment, or tarnish your reputation. Our keen attorneys will help you to cease creditor collection efforts, organize or discharge debts, negotiate settlements, and, if it becomes necessary, fight vigorously for you in a court of law. If filing bankruptcy becomes necessary, we are well-equipped to handle that as well. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.