Fast Answers to Your Most Pressing Debt Collection and Credit Reporting Questions
Can a collection company call multiple times per day? Can a creditor really increase your interest rate if you cannot pay your bills? If you have a question about debt collection, credit reporting, or any other issues related to consumer law, our FAQ section might provide the answer you need right now. If it doesn't, contact us using the contact form or the toll-free number and we'll answer it for you within 24 hours!
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Do I need to file a police report if I am filing an identity theft report with the FTC?
If someone has stolen your identity and taken out a loan or opened a credit card in your name, you have work to do. There’s no way around the fact that identity theft is a major pain, but if you don’t take the necessary steps to undo as much of the damage as you can right now, the pain could get even bigger. The first thing you should do to protect yourself from the problems the thief is going to cause in your name is to tell the authorities what has happened.
Report Identity Theft To The FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acts as a kind of clearinghouse for identity theft reports. When you go to their website at www.identitytheft.gov, you will be guided through a series of questions to report the theft. Once you have given them all the information you can, a report will be generated that can be offered as proof to any lender or business that disputes your claim of identity theft. You will also need the report when you file a police report.
Filing An Identity Theft Report With Local Law Enforcement
Most identity thieves steal the information they need “virtually,” meaning they get your bank account numbers or Social Security number through online sources, not out of your wallet. So why would you report the theft to the local police? After all, the thief is most likely not your neighbor—or even a resident of California or the U.S. The reason you file a police report is to create an official record of the theft even if you don’t expect the thief to be caught. At the local police station, you should be prepared to show them the following:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report (See? I said you would need it!)
- A government-issued photo ID
- Proof of your address (a mortgage statement or utility bill)
- Any proof you may have that a theft occurred (credit card statement, collection notices, etc.)
Your goal in reporting this to the police is not to get them to catch the thief, but to get a copy of the police report. Ask them to attach your FTC complaint to your report. You may have to be firm and insistent with the officer—but also calm and patient—because they may see it as a waste of their time.
Identity Theft Is Not a Waste of My Time!
If you’re getting nowhere with the FTC or the police, check out my identity theft toolkit to walk you through the steps to recovery. If you are being harassed by a lender or collection agency over debt that is not yours, you may be able to take legal action to stop them. If that’s the case, don’t wait any longer to call me. I will look into your situation and help if I can. The best part is, I will do all of this FOR FREE! If you are owed damages for harassment, I will file suit and take my payment only when I win on your behalf. Now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and hope this goes away. Take action today!
Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400.
How can I protect my stored property when I am on active duty?
To the average person, temporarily renting a unit to store personal possessions is no big deal. However, when you are an active duty servicemember who has been deployed or moved and must store almost everything you own while you are away, there is a lot to worry about. What if you forget to make a payment? What if you are away longer than you expected? Will you lose your possessions? The good news is, you have protections that the average citizen does not have.
Your Active Duty Servicemember Rights Regarding Stored Property
Simply stated, while you are on active duty, a storage company cannot simply sell your possessions if you fail to make a payment or break the contract in another way. Instead, they must first get a court order. How does this help? Well, first, it buys you some time. Instead of being notified that your stuff has been sold, you will get a notice that a case has been filed against you. You then have time to take action. What should you do? Start with the following:
- Call me. As a Marine and military consumer attorney, I am committed to protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform. I will communicate with the judge and get the proceedings against you stopped.
- Ask for more time. If you are behind on your rent or are unable to pay what you owe, we will work with the judge to adjust the amount you owe or the deadline for making the payment.
If the judge decides that your deployment or active duty status is not the reason you have broken the contract, he could grant the storage company permission to sell your belongings. Don’t let it come to that. Contact me before it’s too late!
Understand Your Rights As An Active Duty Servicemember
These protections are granted under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which grants many other protections as well. But if you don’t know your rights, you won’t know when you are being taken advantage of. If you are on active duty and are struggling with any consumer matter—breaking a new car lease, a landlord dispute, a civil lawsuit—please feel free to contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 for help. You deserve better treatment while you are serving our country and I’m here to make sure you get it.
Can I lose my house or my car while I am serving in the military?
You have a lot to worry about when you are away from home serving your country. You may have left a spouse and kids behind, and you probably left bills that need to be paid. If those bills don’t get paid while you are gone, you should not have to worry about whether the lender will foreclose on your house or repossess your car or other property. The Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), offers some protections to prevent this from happening; however, it is not a get out of jail free card.
Why Foreclosures and Repossessions Happen
When you borrow money to buy something, the lender often reserves the right to take the property back if you fail to make payments on the loan. With a home loan, this is known as foreclosure. Repossession occurs most often with cars. In California, both of these actions can be taken without filing suit to get a court order. However, as an active-duty servicemember, you will have an extra level of protection to prevent this from happening.
How Does the SCRA Protect Me?
While you are still subject to foreclosure or repossession if you default on a loan, as an active-duty member of the military, the creditor cannot just take your home or your car with no notice. Instead, he must file a lawsuit to get an order from a judge in order to take the property. This process could give you enough time to work things out with the creditor so you can keep your house or your car. This protection only applies if you purchased the property and made at least one payment on it before entering active duty service.
How Can A Military Consumer Protection Attorney Help?
If your SCRA rights were violated and your property was taken without a court order, call me to take legal action against the creditor or repossession service. You may not only get your property back, but you might be awarded financial damages for any losses you suffered. Don’t be pushed around by creditors while you are serving our country. I am a Marine myself and I know what you’re going through. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 if you think your rights may have been violated.
How do I get accounts opened by an identity thief off my credit report?
Not only do identity thieves steal your money, but they also steal your peace of mind and your financial reputation. When your personal information—Social Security number, bank account number, or password—has been stolen, you can quickly become overwhelmed by everything you need to do to fix it. Fortunately, you don’t have to despair. When accounts you did not open are on your credit reports, call me to help you take the necessary steps to get them removed. I will give you everything you need to take care of the problem and, best of all, I won’t charge you a thing!
What Can You Expect for Nothing? Identity Theft Credit Help!
You can’t get something for nothing, right? Wrong! When you fill out the form on this page, I will send you everything you need to inform creditors, debt collection agencies, and credit reporting agencies that your identity has been stolen and that they need to take action—all at no cost to you. How will this help? For starters, when you ask any one of the three national credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—to place a fraud alert on your account, they must all:
- Give you a copy of all the information in your file.
- Block any information in your file that resulted from identity theft, including unpaid accounts, lines of credit, or loans, so that anyone looking at your file—a potential creditor or employer, for example—cannot see the fraudulent information.
Hopefully, taking this first step will begin to make you feel more in control of a frightening situation. You can also expect a follow-up call from me to see if you have any questions or need additional assistance. I will evaluate your case for potential legal action and you will owe me nothing until and unless I do find grounds to file suit and I win damages for you.
Trust Me—Everything Will Be OK!
I know how painful it is to be the victim of identity theft. The stress and anxiety it causes can affect other areas of your life, including work, your social life, and your family. Don’t allow the actions of a thief to take over your life. Fill out my contact form and let’s get started fixing this problem now!
How do crooks get ahold of financial information?
As consumers get wise and security systems go high tech, identity thieves have had to step up their game—and have they ever! The lengths these crooks will go to get your sensitive financial information is almost unbelievable. What they are able to do with your data once they get it can have long-lasting repercussions for your credit score and your ability to get credit cards and loans in the future, so it’s well worth your time to learn how they work.
From Dumpster Diving to Skimming—If it’s There, They’ll Find it
Identity theft tactics run the gamut from digging through trash cans to hacking into corporate data systems. When you know what their methods are, you have a better chance of stopping them from getting your information. Some common tactics include:
- Stealing your mail. Think of the sensitive data you get through the mail—bank account numbers, tax forms with your Social Security number on them, confidential medical reports, and more. Thieves may take mail directly out of your mailbox or they may fill out a change of address form to redirect your mail to them. Sign up to get as much of this communication sent electronically as possible and be aware of when you should receive a statement so that you’ll know when you don’t get it.
- Going through the trash. Thieves can strike gold in garbage cans, Dumpsters, and recycling bins. Those same confidential forms you got in the mail can end up in the garbage and can easily be picked out by thieves. Always shred sensitive forms and statements.
- Stealing your wallet. Totally old school—but it still works. From your wallet, thieves can get your address, bank account numbers, credit cards, and even your SSN, if you carry your card with you (which you should NOT do!). Hold on to purses and carry wallets in a front pocket to protect yourself.
- Getting a copy of your credit report. It’s not too difficult for a thief to pose as a landlord or employer and request a copy of your credit report. Once they have that, they have everything they need to steal your identity. Check up on who has requested your credit report and follow up on anything suspicious.
- Phishing. If you get an email that asks you to reply with account numbers or directs you to a website to enter information, you should immediately be suspicious. Thieves will pose as eBay, PayPal, or a government agency to get this information from you. Don’t fall for it! Legitimate companies will never ask you to send them information they should already have.
- Corporate data breaches. When a store or institution that has your personal financial data is hacked, you are at risk for identity theft. This seems to be happening more and more and there’s not much you can do other than follow the news and freeze your credit when it happens to you.
While you should do everything you can to protect your personal financial information, you are not to blame if a thief gets your information and opens accounts in your name. When that happens, don’t waste any time taking action. Contact me online for FREE help undoing the harm that has been done. If there is legal action to be taken—like against the credit reporting agency that gave your credit report to a thief—I’ll help you take it! You can also call 415.802.0137 to speak with me directly.
What can I do about the high-interest loans I took out before I joined the military?
As a Marine myself, I understand that joining the military requires sacrifice, but I also know that there are amazing benefits to serving your country. Not only are you doing your part to protect democracy, but you get a steady paycheck, educational opportunities, advanced technical training, and a whole lot more. One perk your recruiter may not have told you about is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which offers a bunch of financial protections when you are serving in the military.
One of the benefits SCRA provides is reducing the interest rate on any pre-service loans you or your spouse have to just 6 percent. Think about that. The credit card debt you’re carrying with a 23 percent interest rate? Slashed to 6 percent! Pretty awesome. But this won’t happen automatically. You’ll have to request it—and you may even need to demand it.
How to Get Your Interest Rates Reduced
First, take a look at all your loans and lines of credit. This includes car loans, student loans, mortgages, and credit cards. If any of them have an interest rate greater than 6 percent, you’ll have to do the following:
- Notify your lender in writing of your eligibility for a reduced interest rate.
- Include your copy of your orders to active duty service or a letter from your CO verifying the date you began active duty service.
Your lender is obligated to reduce your interest rate to 6 percent for the entire time you are on active duty, plus an additional year after the end of active duty. You also have these protections:
- Your lender can’t add the amount over 6 percent back into your loan after you leave active duty.
- Your lender can’t revoke your loan or credit account, change the terms of your credit, or refuse to grant you credit just because you exercised your SCRA rights.
- Your lender can’t furnish negative information to a credit reporting company just for invoking your SCRA rights.
And if your lender does any of these things? Or refuses to lower your interest rate? That’s when you call me. Not only are there criminal penalties for SCRA violators, you can also sue the violator to get them to fix what they did wrong and to pay my fees if we win. I give free case evaluations and take these cases on contingency, so it doesn't cost you any money up front.
You deserve to be treated with the respect you have earned as a member of the United States military. Allow me to help you get that respect. Contact me online or call me directly at 415.802.0137 and I will do everything I can to help.
Will having a debt collector after me lower my credit score?
This one is easy—YES! Having a debt in collections will definitely affect your credit score. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Arm yourself by understanding what debt collection is, why it affects your credit score, and what you can do to fight back.
Why Did Your Debt Get Sent to a Collector?
The people you owe money to—whether it is a medical office, utility, cell phone company, contractor, or anyone else—can only spend so much time trying to get you to pay a bill. Most service providers have a written policy about past-due accounts and will send your account to a collection agency after a certain time period—typically 180 days. Either the original creditor or the debt collector will then inform Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion that you have an account in collection. The credit reporting agency will mark that account “in collection” on your credit report—not something you want potential creditors to see!
What Will That Do to Your Credit Score?
That all depends on how much you owe. A collection on a debt of less than $100 shouldn’t affect your score at all, but anything over $100 could cause a big drop. In many cases, it doesn’t even matter how much it is if it’s over $100. Whether you owe $500 or $150,000, you may see a credit score drop of 100 points or more, depending on where you started. To make matters worse, a paid collection on your credit report is just as bad as an unpaid collection. Why? Well, creditors are looking at your report to determine how much of a risk they are taking by lending you money, so any indication that you don’t pay your bills on time will be a red flag for them.
So, What Can You Do?
The best thing to do is not allow a debt to go to collections. Easy, right? Not for everybody, I know. If the debt really is yours, you will want to communicate with the debt collector to see if you can negotiate a settlement that works for you. If you don’t work with the collection agency, they could sell your debt to another collector and now you will have two collection notices on your credit report for the same debt—not good!
There is always the possibility that the collection notice is on your credit report in error. In that case, you should take steps to correct your credit report as soon as possible. If you can’t get it corrected in a timely manner, call me!
Finally, if you have been harassed in any way by the collection agency, you can sue them to make them stop and for monetary damages. You may even be able to get the debt removed from your credit report.
Work With Me to Take Action
If you are being harassed by a debt collector or are struggling to get your credit report corrected, call me to help you. Together, we can hold these unscrupulous providers accountable for breaking the law and get you the break you need to get back on track. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 and let's get things started.
What if Experian (or Equifax or TransUnion) won’t fix my credit report?
Sue them! Well, maybe that’s not the first step, but it may be where you’re headed if you can’t get the credit reporting agency (CRA) to fix their mistakes. After all, those mistakes could be costing you more than you know. And if you’re applying for a mortgage to buy your first house, errors on your credit report could mean a higher interest rate or an outright rejection. So, what can you do? I’ll tell you!
Take a Deep Breath, and Try This To Fix Your Credit Report First
Before we jump into a lawsuit, I advise people to take these steps:
- Dig up some new evidence and dispute it again. If you keep providing the same reasons when you dispute something on your credit report, the CRA might decide you are being frivolous and refuse to investigate. Track down a pay-off notice, cancellation receipt, or some other proof and send that with your dispute.
- If it was the creditor who provided the incorrect information to the CRA, you have to dispute the error with them, not the CRA. Send your proof to the information provider and, if they confirm that you are correct, they have to give the correct information to the CRA.
- File complaints—and let the CRA know you did. Complain to the California Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When these offices get enough complaints, they will go after the CRA themselves.
If you’ve tried all of this multiple times and your report has not been corrected, you have a right to sue the CRA for damages. This is where the copies of every letter you sent and recordings of phone calls will become very important (you did keep copies of everything, right?) People have won millions of dollars by suing CRAs, but you will generally get a few hundred dollars in addition to any actual monetary losses you can show.
Sound tricky? It is. That’s why you need my help. If you are not getting any satisfaction in your attempts to fix a credit report, contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 to see if I can help. If the CRA has failed to investigate a legitimate dispute, they could owe you big time, but you won’t know if you don’t try.
If my FCRA rights have been violated, who can I sue and what can I get?
Great question! In other words, is it worth your time and effort to go after the CRA, information furnisher, or information user who violated your rights? I say yes, and I’ll tell you why.
First, Who Can You Sue?
Ok, so I just rattled off a few potentially liable parties. Let me explain who they are and how they may violate your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:
- CRA. This stands for Credit Reporting Agency and it refers to the three agencies that collect financial information about you—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If a CRA grants access to your report to an unauthorized party, fails to remove old data, or violates any other provision of the FCRA, they can be sued.
- Information furnishers. These are the banks, creditors, lenders, and collection agencies that give the CRAs information about you. If they provide inaccurate or private information, they may be liable for damages.
- Information users. Landlords, creditors, and employers use information from your credit report to make important decisions about you. If they violate your rights in any way, they may have to pay you damages.
Once I figure out where the violation occurred, I will know who to go after.
What Can You Collect Under The Fair Reporting Act?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may be eligible to collect the following:
- Actual damages. This is a dollar amount you can prove you have lost as a direct result of the violation. There is no limit to these damages.
- Statutory damages. These can total anywhere from $100 to $1000, depending on the violation. You do not have to prove that you suffered losses to sue for these damages, you just have to show that the violation occurred.
- Punitive damages. If a violator acted willfully and in an egregious manner, a judge may order him to pay punitive damages of any amount.
- Attorney’s fees. Yes, you read that right! If I prove there was a violation, the liable party has to pay my fees, too. YOU PAY ME NOTHING OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET!
So, What Should You Do First If Your FCRA Rights Have Been Violated?
That’s an easy question. The first thing you should do is contact me to help you determine if there has been a violation and what to do next. These laws exist for a reason and it is worth pursuing the violators of the law—not only because you can get back the money you lost—and then some—but because it holds these parties responsible for abusing the law. Call me at 855.982.2400 to get started!
I am the victim of identity theft. How do I fix my credit report?
One unfortunate reality of our digital society is that no one is safe from identity theft. Your vital stats are out there, just waiting to be mined by an identity predator. The faster you catch it, though, the better off you will be. One key way to find out if you are a victim is to check your credit report on a regular basis. Do I sound like a broken record yet? If credit card accounts have been opened or loans have been taken out in your name, they will appear on your credit reports, and the sooner you see it, the better.
You Caught the Fraud, Now What?
The first thing you need to do is prevent the thief from opening any more accounts in your name and stop the credit reporting agencies (CRA) from releasing your credit report to anyone until you get it fixed. To do this, take the following steps:
- Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Simply call any one of the three CRAs—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—and ask for an initial fraud alert. The company you call must inform the other two CRAs of the alert. The alert will remain for 90 days and can be renewed after that. With a fraud alert on your reports, a creditor or lender will be required to confirm your identity before issuing credit.
- Freeze your credit reports. Ordinarily, CRAs will send credit reports to almost anyone who asks, but when you place a security freeze on your account, they will have to check with you first. There may be a fee for this, depending on the situation.
You can knock these two things off your to-do list in less than half an hour after you discover the fraud on your report. However, your identity is still stolen and you’ll need to take further action to actually undo whatever the thief has done to your credit report.
- Complete the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Affidavit. The FTC has a widely accepted affidavit for identity theft. It's absolutely necessary in order to remove Identity Theft related mistakes from your credit report and to release you from liability for those debts. I will send you the FTC ID Theft Affidavit plus some critical instructions by email for Free.
- File a police report. Identity theft is a crime and should be reported to the police. Although local police are rarely successful at tracking down identity thieves—if they are even willing to try—having a police report on file (get a copy of it) is CRITICAL to removing the fraudulent information from your credit report.
- Contact the creditors and lenders directly. Call the companies that are fraudulently on your credit report due to the theft. Send them your completed FTC ID Theft Affidavit AND the Police Report and make a request—in writing—that they remove the accounts from your credit reports. Make every request and every follow-up in writing and keep copies of everything.
When You Need a Credit Protection Lawyer
If you are having trouble getting mistaken or fraudulent information removed from your credit reports—no matter how it got there—you may be able to take legal action. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 today. If I can help—I will!