Can the Debt Collector or Collection Agency threaten me?
The threats that I hear on credit card cases really throw me for a loop. Just the other day, a lady called my office telling me that she was threatened by a major credit card company. She advised that her husband had a credit card in his name only and he passed away. This nice lady then called the credit card company to advise them of his passing and they told her to pay the debt. She advised that she was disabled and did not have any disposable income. They asked her what the husband charged on his credit card and her reply was that he bought her a motorized wheelchair.
Unbelievably, the credit card company told her to sell the wheelchair and give them the money from the sale. The woman became scared and told them that the wheelchair was not operational as it needed a new battery. The credit card company actually tried to order her to buy a new battery, make sure that the wheelchair was operational, sell it, and then give them the proceeds!
Fortunately, the lady called our office where I advised her that the threats were illegal. I further advised the lady that she could likely file a lawsuit against the company for unfair debt collection practices. There is a federal law that protects individuals from debt collector abuse and its called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short).
The really big threat that we see on most of these cases is the threat of wage garnishment. If you haven’t read it elsewhere on this site, wage garnishment for credit card debt is not legal in Pennsylvania in most instances (it is a possibility where a valid out of state judgment is properly transferred into PA). A debt collector cannot even make a threat of wage garnishment as it violates the fair debt collection laws. (Pennsylvania is one of only 4 states that outlaws wage garnishment for credit card cases). If you have received such a threat, please contact our office for a free, no obligation consultation at your first opportunity. We can discuss your rights and see if the collection agency has violated them.
We see other debt collector threats from time to time, “We’re going to throw you in jail” or “We’re going to sell your house”. Neither of those things are going to happen. Jail time is not a possibility in a credit card case in just about any circumstance. Debtor’s jail was abolished in the 1800’s. There isn’t a law anywhere in the United States that allows a person to go to jail for non-payment of a credit card debt.
As far as selling a house? I just do not believe that can occur except under an exceptional circumstance. ( please note that nothing can be sold, executed on or levied until the collector sues you and wins…and if you hire a good consumer attorney that likely is not going to happen). The average credit card case that I see is for a debt of between $5000 and $10000. Even if the credit card company or collection agency wins the case, that simply is not a large enough amount to have your home sold to pay off the judgment. (A lien can be placed, though, that would have to be paid upon sale of the house).
From time to time, we see other threats including physical threats, threats to have you arrested, threats to have you fired from your job, threats to tell your employer/family/friends that you don’t pay your bills, and some others, but these threats are usually only made by the really shady collectors. These threats shouldn’t concern you because they’re not going to follow up on any of them. The reason that these threats are made is because they are effective. There are many people in your position, facing the same circumstances, and most do not know their rights. Statistics that we have seen show that 90% of the people who are contacted by a debt collector do not consult with an attorney and then they either make payments to the debt collector or “put their head in the sand” and do nothing. Debt collectors know this for a fact… they know that the scare tactics work and they know that most people are not going to consult a consumer attorney. They get paid when you make a payment, so its in their best interests to use everything that they can to make you pay, whether its legal or not. Call us before you call them. Whether you hire us or not, the information that you receive will at least give you some piece of mind.
If you have are facing debt collector threats from a credit card company or a collection agency, whether its on a credit card, student loan, personal loan, auto loan or other, please contact my office at 412-823-8003 or send an email to Attorney Greg Artim