Dealing With Debt Collectors

If you are being harassed by debt collectors, it’s important to know your rights and understand your situation.

The following video is the first in a series on Debt Defense created by the National Association of Consumer Advocates. It explains consumer rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and reviews common defenses against debt collectors.

 

 

NH Consumer Protection

Along with the protections offered under the FDCPA, New Hampshire offers additional protections for consumers/debtors under the NH Consumer Protection Act.  Visit the website of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, at the NH Attorney General’s Office for more information or to file a consumer complaint.

The NH Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) can refer you to competent and insured consumer law attorneys in your area. Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online. LRS is a non-profit public service of the NH Bar Association.

 

 

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Missed Mortgage Payments – Avoiding Foreclosure

Mary Stewart, a contract attorney for the Foreclosure Relief Project at the NH Bar Association, explains what to do when you fall behind on your mortgage payments.
 
 

 

First off, New Hampshire is a non-judicial foreclosure state.  This means that if you fall behind on your payments, your mortgage company can foreclose without having to go to court, and it can happen quickly! If you fall behind on your monthly payments or even if you anticipate that you may fall behind, it is important to seek out help sooner rather than later.  Ignoring the problem most definitely will not make it go away.  The sooner you act, the more options will be available to you.

Second, don’t go it alone.  In New Hampshire, there are free Home Ownership Counselors available throughout the state.   Home Ownership Counselors are familiar with all the options that may be available to you, including modification and forbearance. They will help you assemble the vast amounts of paperwork needed when working with your lender and take care of transmitting the paperwork to the right person at your mortgage company for review.  Best of all, this service is completely free.

Home Ownership Counselors work all day, every day with people who are in the same situation that you are facing.

Third, if you already have a foreclosure scheduled, it is not too late to get help. However, it is important to act before the foreclosure auction.  The first step is to stop the foreclosure from happening.  This can be done by either filing a complaint in the NH Superior Court or by filing for personal bankruptcy protection.  There are private attorneys throughout the state as part of the Foreclosure Relief Project who will help you with this process. You can meet with an attorney FOR FREE at a Home Retention Clinic, and you may qualify for additional free or reduced fee legal services, depending on your income.

Lastly, no matter what, please don’t be afraid to get help.   Everyone has financial ups and downs.  You are not alone!  For information and guidance on the next step for you, please call the NH Bar Association Foreclosure Relief Project at 603-715-3255.

The NH Bar Association’s Foreclosure Relief Project is supported by funding from the National Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association partners with the Foreclosure Relief Project by providing referrals for distressed homeowners to attorneys who are specifically trained in foreclosure-related legal matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Online Reviews – Can you believe them?

Many people look up online reviews before making a large purchase, hiring a contractor, or going on vacation.  Finding out what other people have experienced makes it feel like an informed choice before shelling out hard-earned money.

This video from the Federal Trade Commission illustrates that you can’t always believe what you read in online reviews.  Some people are actually paid to write good things about a company, product or service in a review.

 

If you believe you are a victim of a consumer scam, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent and insured Consumer Law Attorneys to assist you.  Call (603) 229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

 

Time-barred Debts

Some debts may be too old for a debt collector to make you pay, according to an article by Cristina Miranda, Consumer Education Specialist at the Federal Trade Commission.

Debt collectors can contact you about time-barred debts at any time. If you get a call from a debt collector, they might come right out and say they can’t take you to court to make you pay a time-barred debt. If a debt collector doesn’t tell you this, ask for the date when you made your most recent payment. Then, ask for a validation notice – a legally required letter detailing the amount owed, and the creditor name. Once you receive the notice, send a letter back within 30 days explaining that you are ‘disputing’ the debt and that you want to ‘verify’ it. Debt collectors must stop trying to collect until they give you verification.

To find out what to do if you are sued, and if you have to pay the debt, read the entire article.

This video from the FTC provides additional information:  Dealing with Debt Collectors

If you are sued over a time-barred debt (or any debt), don’t ignore it. The Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney who can assist you with defending your debt collection rights.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Consumer Protection Overview

No Credit Needed signNew Hampshire’s primary consumer protection law, “Regulation of Business Practices for Consumer Protection,” is commonly known as the Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A).   The New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of any unfair or deceptive act or practice or any unfair method of competition in trade or commerce in New Hampshire. The state law specifically identifies the following practices as unfair or deceptive:

  • Claiming that goods are new or original when they are used, secondhand, deteriorated, reconditioned or altered.
  • Claiming that goods or services have certain characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or qualities, or certain sponsorship or approval when they really do not have such, or that a person has a certain sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he or she really does not have.
  • Falsifying the place of origin of goods or services.
  • Passing off goods or services as someone else’s.
  • Disparaging another business’ goods or services by false or misleading statements.
  • Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised or failing to have a reasonable supply of goods or services provided on hand (unless the advertisement specifically says that quantities are limited).
  • Making false or misleading statements about the existence of, reasons for, or amount of price reductions.
  • Conducting “going out of business sales” which last more than 60 days or which are held more than once every two years by the same owners of the business.
  • Selling gift certificates for $100.00 or less that have expiration dates. (This does not apply to gift certificates or coupons that are given away.)
  • Dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges that have the effect of reducing the total amount for which the holder may redeem a gift certificate are prohibited. (Does not apply to season passes.)

The above list provides examples of deceptive acts and is not an exhaustive list. In addition, some entities are “exempt” from the jurisdiction of the state court regarding consumer protection statutes violations so complaints must be filed with the entities regulating agency. For example, mortgage servicers are regulated by the NH Banking Department, so any complaint against a mortgage servicer regarding violation of NH Consumer Protection statute must be filed with the NH Banking Department.

How to file a Complaint in NH Courts

If you feel a business has violated the Consumer Protection Act, you may file a lawsuit seeking damages in NH state courts. If the court finds a violation, you may be entitled to an award for actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000 and payment of your attorney’s fees. If the court finds a violation was willful, you may be entitled to double or treble damages.

How to file a Complaint with Attorney General’s Office

Alternatively, or in addition to a state court complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Complaints are read and reviewed in the order in which they are received by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau. The bureau responds to complaints as quickly as possible. Information about how to file a complaint and the complaint review process can be found here.  If the bureau initiates an action against the business, it initiates the investigation and complaint on its own behalf and not as your attorney.

Additional Information

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office provides a Consumer Sourcebook as a comprehensive guide with useful links to the following:

  • General information about the laws that apply to a variety of consumer transactions.
  • Examples of how the law might apply to a situation.
  • Points to keep in mind if you find yourself in a variety of circumstances.
  • Ideas for where to turn for more help.

NH Debt Collection Law

Debt collection practices in New Hampshire are governed by both state statute and federal law: The New Hampshire’s Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (RSA 358-C); and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692-1695.)

Both are designed to instruct debt collectors as well as consumers as to the limits of collection practices, while protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices. The laws are also in place to provide consumers an avenue for recourse in disputing a claim.

Both the state statute and federal act provide illustrative examples, and expressly allow consumers to sue debt collectors for violations of pertinent statutory provisions.

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must always:

  • Identify themselves and notify the consumer that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
  • Give the name and address of the original creditor
  • Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt
  • Provide verification of the debt within 30 days of request

If you believe your rights have been violated under any of these laws, consulting with an attorney who regularly handles Consumer Protection cases can make all the difference.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to the right one, at no cost to you.  Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online request form.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commonsfrankieleon

May Is National Moving Month – Don’t Get Scammed!

May is National Moving Month – the busiest time of the year for people changing residences.  It’s also a busy time of the year for unlicensed movers and scammers.  For tips on how to spot con-artists and avoid scams, check out this video by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).

 

 
If you have been scammed by an unscrupulous moving company, contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association for a referral to a licensed and insured attorney who represents consumers.  Call (603) 229-0002 or request an online referral.

 
 

LawLine: Free Legal Advice – 800-868-1212

Do you have a BRIEF LEGAL QUESTION? LawLine, the NH Bar Association’s free legal hotline is held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 6 – 8 pm.

Volunteer New Hampshire attorneys will take calls from the public and will give brief legal information and advice. This is a FREE public service. Call 1-800-868-1212.

Do you have more than a brief legal question and suspect you may need an attorney to represent you?  The NH Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to a competent local  attorney who handles your type of legal matter.  Call (603) 229-0002 today or fill out the Lawyer Referral Service request form at:  https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.

Identity Thieves May File And Receive Your Tax Return

Waiting until April to file your tax return may allow identity thieves to beat you to it.  These crooks file fake returns using stolen names and Social Security numbers, along with false wage information, generating large fraudulent refunds.

“Our cases have increased by about 650 percent since 2008,” says Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, kind of the internal watchdog at the IRS. People go to her when they have a problem with their returns.

The IRS itself says the number of cases has doubled each year in recent years. And a lot of the fraud is coming out of South Florida.

It catches on like fire. It spreads like a virus. Friends tell their friends,” says Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

He calls this crime an epidemic. Fraudsters come from all walks of life: hospital workers, former Marines, white collar professionals and former gang members who have switched from street violence to tax fraud.

Read entire article at NPR.org.

Video Tips from the IRS

If you are a victim of this type of identity theft, contact your Local Taxpayer Advocate.

If you are still not able to resolve your issue, a lawyer  may be able to assist you.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who are skilled at handling identity theft legal issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

For other tax related matters, contact the Low-Income Taxpayer Project of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

 

 

 

 

Sports Fans Permitted to Pursue Lawsuit

Sports fans have received the OK from a U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin to pursue a lawsuit against the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and several other networks, claiming antitrust violations in how the games are packaged for broadcast on television or the internet.

The case arose from what the subscribers said were anticompetitive “blackout” agreements between service providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, sports networks and the leagues.

These subscribers contended that if they wanted to watch games from outside their home markets, they were required to buy packages that included all out-of-market games, even if they were interested only in one or a few nonlocal teams.

For example, a New York Yankees fan living in Colorado could not pay simply for access to that team’s games, but had to buy a product such as the MLB Extra Innings television package.

The subscribers sought damages and a halt to arrangements that they said resulted in “reduced output, diminished product quality, diminished choice and suppressed price competition.”

The defendants include Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, several teams in both sports, cable TV company Comcast Corp, satellite TV provider DirecTV, Madison Square Garden Co and some regional sports networks.

Read the entire story by Jonathan Stempel at Thomson Reuters.

Photo by Dan4th at Flickr Commons

 

Consumer Alert: Deed Retrieval Services Solicitations

NEWS RELEASE

Released By      Michael A. Delaney, Attorney General

Subject:              Consumer Advisory About Deed Retrieval Services Solicitations

                     

Date:                      August 3, 2012

Release Time:       Immediate

Contact:        Senior Assistant Attorney General James T. Boffetti

                            Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau

                            (603) 271-0302

                            james.boffetti@doj.nh.gov   

CONSUMER ALERT

Attorney General Michael A. Delaney issued the following consumer alert to all New Hampshire property owners:

Consumers should be aware of mailings being sent to property owners throughout the state from companies using the names:

 SECURED DOCUMENT SERVICES, and DEED RETRIEVAL SERVICES

The mailings appear to be official government notices recommending, “that all United States [or New Hampshire] homeowners obtain a copy of their current grant deed” and further indicate that, for a fee of $86.00 or $87.00, these companies will provide the property owner with a copy of their Grant Deed and a Property Profile.

The Attorney General advises that these companies are providing a service of questionable value and the information advertised in these solicitations can be obtained from any of the State’s Registers of Deeds for significantly less money. With deeds so easily and inexpensively attainable, the existence of these companies depends greatly on the public’s unfamiliarity with the county registers of deeds offices.

 Attorney General Delaney stated, “The real lesson for an educated consumer is to know what you are paying for, which in the case of these deed retrieval companies is virtually nothing more than a homeowner can acquire for far less cost.  Don’t be fooled by a company whose name sounds ‘official’ or by an ‘official’ looking notice designed to confuse and mislead you.  If you would like a copy of your deed, you can obtain it yourself for nominal cost and time, or contact your county’s Register of Deeds, who would be glad to assist you.”

Under New Hampshire’s Consumer Protection Act, N.H. RSA 358-A, it is unlawful for any person to use any unfair or deceptive act or practice in the conduct of any trade or commerce within this state. Anyone who feels they have been the victim of any unfair or deceptive act should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau hotline at (603) 271-3641 or 1-888-468-4454.  For more information on consumer fraud you can also visit the Bureau’s website at www.doj.nh.gov/consumer.

If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to licensed and insured attorneys who handle consumer protection matters in your area.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.