If you receive a call from Eastern Capital, at 1-866-254-7556, be very careful. I recommend you a) ask them for their mailing address, b) take detailed notes about what they say, and c) that you talk to a lawyer familiar with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) before you send them any money.
It is very easy for scam artists to buy lists of people who are in debt. The criminals then call and try to scare them into paying money they do not owe or that the fraudster has no right to collect.
Here are some ways to protect yourself when dealing with debt collectors:
- NEVER wire them money.
- NEVER allow them to withdraw money right out of your bank account.
- Always ask them for a mailing address.
- Always ask them to mail, not fax or e-mail, you proof you owe the debt.
- After you receive the proof in the mail, mail them a Bank Check or US Postal Service Money Order.
Eastern Capital Debt Collectors
I do not know if Eastern Capital is a scam. But I do know that they are not licensed to collect debts in Rhode Island even though they tried to collect one from a person in Warwick, Rhode Island. They used the phone number (866) 254-7556. They may also be calling people in Fall River or New Bedford, Massachusetts.
John Longo recently appeared on the Legal Tips with Attorney Stephen Linder program on WPRO radio in East Providence, Rhode Island. The topic was how to deal with debts and abusive debt collectors. John talked about how debts get collected, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and his experience suing collectors who harass and abuse people.
Steve Linder’s program has been on the air since 1988. He practices personal injury law and family law from an office in Providence.
I was the guest on Attorney Stephen Linder’s “Legal Tips” radio show on January 22nd. The topic was dealing with abusive debt collectors. Several of the callers were being harassed for debts they did not owe -– one was being called for his daughter’s debt, one had the phone number that used to belong to someone who owed lots of debts, and one was receiving calls for someone with a similar name. They (the people who did not owe the debt) all had rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
If you are being harassed for a debt you don’t owe:
1. Answer the calls — it is usually the quickest way to get them to stop.
2. Tell the person, “This phone number belongs to me — not the person you are looking for. I will never give you any information about that person. Please never call my number again.” If they keep asking you questions, just repeat it and then hang up.
3. After you hang up, write down the details about the call including the date and time, the name and number that appears on your caller ID, the name of the person who called, what you told them, and what they said in response.
Keep the notes; if the collection agency ever calls again, tell them the same thing, and then contact a lawyer who handles FDCPA cases. (You might get calls from multiple collection agencies so be sure to write down the name and number that appears on your caller ID so you can keep track of them.)
Collection agencies that break the law can be ordered to pay you $1,000 plus all your attorney fees.
If you are being harassed for debt you don’t owe and you live in MA or RI, contact me at Citadel for assistance.
That was the title of a recent Wall Street Journal investigation of a sleazy corner of the the debt collection industry that specializes in collecting the debts of people who have died. The author, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, exposed the psychological techniques the collectors use to bully grieving family members into paying money they don’t owe. The problem is so widespread that in July the Federal Trade Commission issued rules to reign in the industry’s abuses. (Thank you to Ryan Chittum at the Columbia Journalism Review for calling attention to the article.)
Are you responsible for your deceased relative’s bills?
No. When a person dies, some of their assets can be used to pay their debts and whatever is left over can go to their relatives and heirs. Those relatives and heirs are NOT responsible for paying the deceased person’s bills. So wives are not automatically responsible for paying their husbands debts and children are not responsible for paying their parents debts. If a debt collector tells you otherwise, they are lying and you should get legal advice.
Don’t be afraid to talk to a lawyer if you have any questions about what to do after a relative dies. Very often the deceased person’s affairs can be wrapped up informally or through a simple filing with a probate court. If you do need to get an attorney involved, many probate cases can be resolves with less than 6 hours of his or her time.
For More Information:
Read this FTC Consumer Alert “Paying the Debts of a Deceased Relative: Who Is Responsible?”
Marketplace, a news program produced by American Public Media, wants to hear about people’s experiences dealing with debt collectors. They will keep your story anonymous or, if you approve, they may include you in a news story.
Help clean up the debt collection industry by exposing them in the media!
Remember the kid in first grade your teacher caught lying? He learned it was wrong to lie but the people who run GC Financial Services, a debt collection agency based in Texas and Illinois, apparently never did.
GC Services is calling consumers in Rhode Island but, rather than displaying its true name and out-of-state phone number on caller ID, it is manipulating the system and displaying a local number: (401) 227-1008 Citadel believes that bit of deception violates the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, specifically 15 USC 1692e (10), and it is preparing to sue them for lying.
If GC Services fooled you into thinking someone local was calling you, let us know so we can teach them it is wrong to lie. And check out these complaints about the debt collector GC Services:
If GC Services lied to you, or harassed you, contact Citadel or an attorney who handles FDCPA cases. Help finding one is available through the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Susan Carroll, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, helps Citadel research issues like this.
A debt collection industry insider has launched this campaign to reform the abuses he sees in his industry. He even accuses many collectors of being criminals.
Predictably, the collection industry is outraged he is spilling the beans.
After Hollywood Video went bankrupt, the lawyers liquidating its assets hired a collection agency to chase millions of the chain’s former customers for late fees they allegedly owed. The agency reported the debts to credit bureaus which drove down the customers’ credit scores. The problem was many of the people did not owe Hollywood Video anything.
In a victory for consumers, Hollywood’s lawyers have agreed to change their collection tactics and obey the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The lawyers will even refund money to customers who gave into the agency’s strong-arm tactics and paid money they did not owe.
I previously blogged about fake debt collectors here, here, here and here. They are criminals who gather bits of information about you – possibly from the resume you posted on-line or from the on-line loan application you filled out – and then try to trick you into paying them for a non-existent debt. Now you can listen to an actual call from one of them by clicking on this link: Fake Debt Collection Call MP3
The criminal in this call said he was from “Financial Crimes & Investigations” at phone number (347) 408-1751. He threatened to send an investigator to the recipient’s door and to call his employer. The call was a complete fraud.
Debt collectors lie to elderly and disabled people all the time by telling them they are going to garnish their Social Security benefits. But federal law prohibits creditors from levying, attaching or garnishing Social Security, SSDI, and SSI payments. The law is crystal clear and you can read it yourself here: 42 USC 407
Your benefits cannot be taken to pay:
- Bank Overdraft Fees
- Payday Loans (Even if you gave them a check or access to your bank account.)
- Credit Cards Bills
- Utility Bills
- Phone Bills
There are are a few exceptions; if you owe federal taxes, child support or alimony, or if you owe a debt to a federal court or federal agency, your benefits may be at risk. But even then, you generally will be able to keep $9,000 of benefits each year. (31 USC 3716)
If a debt collector lies to you, you can sue them for violating the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They might even have to pay you! Contact Citadel if you would like to discuss your rights.