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Minnesota Consumer Rights Blog

Questions to ask a debt collector who contacts you

It doesn't matter if you're surprised to hear from a debt collector or you were expecting the call, nothing changes the fact that you have legal rights that you need to protect. If you don't know what you should and shouldn't do, it's possible that you'll make a mistake that causes additional stress.

One of the best things you can do is turn the tables on the debt collector by asking a series of questions. Not only does this show them that you are on the ball, but it allows you to gather more information about your situation. Here's where you should start:

  • Where are you calling from? In short, you want to know the name of the debt collection company, as well as their address. Thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the collector is required by law to provide you with this information if you ask.
  • What are the details of the debt? Even if you know which debt they're calling about, ask for additional information. For example, you want to know the name of the original creditor and amount owed.
  • Are there any fees and interest on the account? In addition to the original amount, you may find that the debt collector is attempting to collect for fees and interest, too. Knowing how much is fees and how much is interest is important.
  • How did you calculate the amount of debt? Once again, the collector must be able to provide this information as a protection under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
  • What are my options? If you agree that you owe the debt, learn more about your options for paying it. Don't assume that you have to make a lump sum payment, as there are likely to be other ideas you can consider. A payment plan is a common strategy, as it gives you the opportunity to repay your debt over an extended period of time. If you agree to this, be sure the collector shares the appropriate information with you, in writing, before you start making payments.

How long do creditors get to investigate disputed charge claims?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a piece of federal legislation that aims to protect consumers from unethical creditors. It places a high value on transparency. This is one of the reasons why this piece of legislation gives consumers the right to request a free credit report that they can review once a year. The FCRA can protect you if you identify incorrect information that has been placed on your report. This legislation also gives your creditors a limited amount of time to investigate such claims.

Your right to dispute any information contained on your credit report is protected by FCRA. Creditors are required to report any disputed claims immediately to credit reporting agencies. This may result in the entries on your report being marked as disputed for prospective lenders to see.

What does abusive debt collection look like?

When you're in debt, the last thing you need is someone constantly reminding you of your financial situation. Unfortunately, if your account has been sent to debt collection, you can expect some level of interaction with a debt collector.

But there's something you always need to remember: A debt collector is not permitted to breach your consumer rights as outlined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

When can sales promotions be perceived as deceptive?

You were likely tempted by numerous sales this winter holiday season that just wrapped up. While you may be good at deciding between wants versus needs, there are plenty of other individuals that haven't yet mastered making such decisions. Many advertisers invest significant time and resources in trying to figure out what language they can use in marketing materials to get you to make a purchase. This often results in them engaging in deceptive advertising techniques.

Advertisers spend significant time learning about psychology. They learn what colors, pricing schemes and wording may motivate buyers to make a purchase. Marketers know that you're unlikely to purchase an item if you perceive it to be sold at the manufacturer's suggested retail price. They know that you're likely to have a harder time walking away from it if it's listed as being sold for a percentage off or on a limited-time sale. This is why you'll see signs advertising discounts on just about everything at some stores.

Emailed faxes don't violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Dec. 9 that emailed faxes aren't illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). A spokesperson for the federal agency gave the FCC's reasoning for reaching such a conclusion when announcing their ruling that day.

FCC's spokesperson noted that this nuanced way of sending faxes via electronic mail is very different from ones that were traditionally transmitted using a phone line in the past. The spokesperson pointed out that the way that most individuals send faxes nowadays amounts to nothing more than an email.

What's included in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

Knowing that you owe someone money might bring up feelings of wanting to get them paid off as soon as possible. When the person you owe is a business or agency and you are unable to pay, you might end up having your account sent to a collection agency.

Collection agencies are known for being ruthless when it comes to collecting the debts turned over to them. Some consumers don't realize that there are specific laws that govern the actions and behavior of debt collectors who work for these agencies.

Minnesota's attorney general sues Juul for deceptive advertising

Minnesota's attorney general (AG) filed a lawsuit against the maker of the e-cigarette Juul in Hennepin County District Court on Dec. 4. The head attorney for the state argued that the company engaged in negligence, deceptive advertising and consumer fraud in marketing its product to young users.

In the AG's filing, he detailed how the company purposefully designed and manufactured products that they knew would appeal to a younger demographic. Some of these appealing items included mango- and desert-flavored refill pods. Juul ultimately removed these from the market in October after public outcry and numerous other states filed lawsuits against them.

A Burnsville man is sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for fraud

A 42-year-old Burnsville man was sentenced to 4.5 years in federal prison by a federal judge in Wisconsin earlier this week. The Minnesota resident had been convicted of running a Ponzi scheme leading up to his sentencing. The U.S. Attorney's Office argued that the financial scheme that he devised allowed him to dupe unsuspecting elderly individuals out of $1.2 million over several years.

Court documents spell out how the defendant had originally been running a coin collection business in both Minnesota and Wisconsin up until a few years ago. He'd spent most of his time in the latter up until recently when state lawmakers instituted laws that prohibited ex-felons from operating businesses in this sector.

You shouldn't excuse a lender who wrongfully repossesses your car

If you rely on your car to get to and fro, then it may be an absolute nightmare to think of the prospect of not having access to it. This is what motivates many consumers to continue making timely loan payments. What if you were consistent in making loan payments, but your car was still repossessed though? While this may seem implausible, it does happen.

An unlawful repossession is an instance in which a debtor is timely in making loan payments yet their car is still repossessed. Sadly, this happens more often than you might expect. They are a few common reasons that wrongful repossessions occur.

3 recent rules for robocalls

Robocalls are automated marketing telephone calls. They can be very intrusive to consumers. While they are not illegal in their own right, they do have to follow special rules.

These rules get updated periodically. One of the most recent updates from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established these three rules:

  • Consumers need to have a way to opt out of a robocall. It needs to be presented during every call, and it has to allow them to tell the telemarketer not to contact them again in the future.
  • Before a robocall, a company needs to get written consent to make those calls. This has to come from the consumers themselves. Cold calling them without prior knowledge and consent is illegal.
  • In the past, telemarketers could claim they had an "established business relationship" with a consumer. They then did not need written consent. The recent overhaul of the rules changed this so that they could not use this relationship.

Get Answers To Your Questions

Contact the Consumer Justice Center. Tommy Lyons can speak with you in a free initial consultation arranged at 800-556-6752, toll free, or by email from wherever you are in the U.S.

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