Desperate request for legal info

First of all, I’m not sure what forum this belongs in, so I’ll put it here and let the mods move it to wherever they deem most appropriate.

Secondly, let me give myself a pseudo-Pitting.

I am an idiot. I am financially irresponsible. I am lazy. I am disorganized. I done, bad, and now must pay the piper. I am not, however, out to screw anybody. Even though it seems the Federal Government is acting like terrorist thugs, I am not trying to be some fugitive from the law. I also realize that when people screw up they must make amends. I screwed up, and I am more than willing to make amends.

I realize that I was an idiot on the phone the day before yesterday. I got the call early in the morning, I had not yet put on my skeptic’s hat, and I was easily intimidated by a phoned in threat on behalf of the Department of Justice. My bad for answering the phone before having my first hot cup of Don’t Trust Anybody. Before I knew it, I had given a complete stranger my employer’s name and phone number, my parents’ names and phone number, the name of my bank, a rough estimate of my balance, and details on my salary.

I was an idiot, and I deserve whatever consequences I get.

This does not, however, mean that I have to take this lying down.

Having said all that, here is my situation: I have student loans that have been outstanding for quite some time now. They are in default. The call I got was from a collection agency, and they told me that if I don’t pony up X dollars by tomorrow, the Department of Justice will not only garnish my wages, but sieze all of my assets. (Yeah, let’s see them try to take moldy cheese and dust bunnies. They can try to take my cobweb collection, but not without a fight.)

While at first I was intimidated, I started to think that this was merely the strongarm tactics of a dishonest collection agency. I thought a mere five minutes of web research would get me enough information to have these jerks closed down for good. However, it seems that student loans are another animal altogether. All I have found is support for what Ms. Evil Collection Clerk said. It seems that I have no rights, and jackbooted gummint thugs can run roughshod over me at their whim.

That’s how it seems. But surely, I must have some rights here. Any lawyers care to comment? Anyone else in a similar situation? Any advice, good, bad or ugly? Is the weather in Zurich good at this time of year, and can the Evil Claws of the US gummint reach me there?

IANAL.

If I were you I’d call a Congressman or a Senator. They pay people to have the answers to stuff like that and then fix situations like this. Couldn’t hurt.

Pretty good advice. I looked on http://www.congress.org/ to find out who that would be, but the search engine is a little funky in that I’m having a hard time figuring out who I should contact or who my local representatives are.

I’m also unsure whether I should be contacting someone at the state or federal level. Since the loans are federal, I’m assuming the latter. So should I contact senators, as in Kennedy or Kerry? Seems like they would have better things to do (although if Kerry wants my vote…)

You won’t get either Senator, but you will get a staffer. They’re the ones whotake care of things like this. I dealt with my congressman’s staffer some years back over a stolen gov’t check.

So contact either - that’s my free advice.

Tell me your rep (or location) and I’ll see if I can find the constituent services weenie for that rep.

Yeah, that’s kind of what I figured. Last year I was in a bit of hot water (I was chronically unemployed and goverment benefits ran out, then I was facing eviction). I contacted a local (state) rep’s office and talked to a staffer (interestingly enough, same last name as the rep), and found him to be quite accessible, if not helpful.

I have come up with a solution in the meantime – by cutting a few unnecessary luxury items every week (ones that I’ll never miss anyway), I can actually come up with a payment plan that is far better than what they have offered, and I won’t even have to give up the expensive drugs and hookers that have become my debauched way of life. The only hitch is that I can’t afford the exhorbitant intial downpayment that they are demanding by tomorrow. If I can negotiate that down a bit (and later a bit), that should satisfy all parties involved.

On the other hand, if they display the kind of inflexible unreasonableness that we have come to know and love from our esteemed feds, then I’m still f@cked.

I would suggest contacting your bank immediately. The collection agency may attempt to deduct funds based on the information you gave them and you want to be sure the bank is aware that you do not authorize any such transaction. Follow this up with a registered, return receipt requested letter to your bank stating the same thing.

If you are on direct deposit for your paycheck, have it stopped immediately. Choke off the ability of the agancy to deduct the funds. Contact your HR department and tell them that someone may call attempting to get information and that they are not authorized to release anything without yout prior written permission. Request that any attempt to obtain information about you be documented and that documentation be sent to you. Follow that up with a letter to the HR department saying the same thing to be placed in your employee file.

Call your parents and tell them what happened and that they are to give NO information to anyone about you, your salary, your assets or anything else.

Read the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Print it out and keep a copy by the phone. If this agency or any other violates any provision of the act, nail them. Based on the story as you’ve related it, they are primed and ready to violate several sections of it.

Contact the collection agency immediately. Obtain an address for correspondence. Advised the agent explicitly that the agency is to cease any and all communication with anyone in regard to the debt and send a registered, return receipt requested letter stating the same thing to the address you are given.

Keep copies of all correspondence you send or receive.

IANAL, but I recognize sleazebag tactics when I see them and you have rights in regard to this situation which I hope you will defend.

As I said, my Senators are John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. Without giving out too much personal information on the web, I feel I can safely disclose that my ZIP code is 02135.

Does that help?

Thanks for that and for all of your other excellent advice. The one bad think about that link, however, is that it is dated 1996. Ms. Collection J. Thug explained to me that there is a new law granting someone in the Fed the right to access my account or garnish my paycheck without my consent or notification, they don’t even have the obligation to go to court over it. It sounds like this law is newer than and supercedes what you posted. I have no more details than that, but I guess I can call her tonight and ask a buttload of qusetions (like what the name of the law is, when it was passed, linky cite, etc.). I wonder if she is compelled to disclose that information if I request it.

You could contact your state’s Attorney General’s office and ask about where to get the information on the updated Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

No prob.

Sen Kennedy’s Constituent Services Info

And the phone: 202-224-4543

Senator Kerry:For him you want to email a man (who’s name I won’t put here but it’s easily found:

http://kerry.senate.gov/high/index_high.html

Click on ‘services’ and then ‘government agencies’.

First of all, this question may be better suited for GQ. You might want to ask a mod to move it.

As is almost always the case, the laws on this subject vary from area to area. In my area, the state has its own Fair Debt Collections Practices act, which may vary substantially from yours. It would be worth checking out what collections agents can and can’t do, but generally, it’s illegal to lie about the remedies available to them.

I dealt with this once (sort of). I moved, called one of my many student loan companies to give them my new address, had my mail forwarded, and then after a few months, I stopped getting bills to remind me when to pay my student loans. Turns out they’d made a notation in the computer that someone needed to change my mailing address, but had never changed it. Since I’d been relying on those bills to tell me when to pay, I promptly forgot to pay for a few months. I got a call from a collections agent saying that I was in default and required by law to cut them a check for the full amount of my student loans, or they’d start garnishing wages, etc. I calmly explained that I didn’t have $20 grand sitting in my checking account (the amount of this one group of student loans . . . post-high school education was expensive), so was there anything else we could work out? After a bit of cajoling, she explained that I had 6 (or so) months during which I could defer payment for any reason. Essentially, these were “get out of jail free” cards. I used a few of those and got right back on my payment schedule.

I don’t know how long you went without paying or whether your student loans allow deferral, but it might be worth asking about deferring your student loan payments for those months you missed.

I used to collect for a Canadian gubmint agency. That said, anything I write here might not necessarily apply to your situation, so take a grain of salt.

Send them something, anything. Even if you can only afford $10, send it in. At the same time, write a letter to the collections agency and the creditor explaining your situation. If there’s a recent payment on file (no matter the amount), and correspondence from you acknowledging the debt, it’ll be a hellofalot harder for the agency to obtain a judgement against you and therefore get a garnishee order approved.

If, after talking to them, they don’t approve you for a payment plan, put yourself on one. Send what you can, when you can. As I said, if there’s payments on file showing good faith, it’s a lot harder for them to play the hardass.

If this is the first contact they’ve had with you, outside of form letters, then they’re still a ways away from garnisheeing your wages. That’s not to say they won’t try in the long run; but you’ve still got a bit of time to work something out with your creditors. Collection agencies don’t like getting the debt paid back that way. They don’t make anywhere near as much money then if you sent it to them directly. Contrary to popular belief, collection agencies do not “buy the debt” from the creditor. They collect it on their behalf and take a cut.

This will show on your credit report, but I’m assuming that if you’ve already been referred to collections, it’s already there. That sucks, but remember that a paid debt looks better than an unpaid one.

I just reread what you wrote about the collector’s dun. That was my standard opening after my first contact with a debtor. Confirm the name and residential address. Get as much contact and employment info as possible. My standard line after that was “if this debt of $XX isn’t on my desk by 3 pm tomorrow, I am authorized to take legal action, including garnisheeing your wages by the government of British Columbia. Now, would you like to clear this up using your Visa or MasterCard?” First step is always to put the fear of god into the debtor. Next step, they’ll tone it down a little.

But show good faith and send something in before they call you back.

Good luck.

Sounds like a lie. Check this link to see if there’s any more information for your situation.

Thanks for all the responses, I don’t have much time now, but I promise to respond to everyone soon.

Haven’t checked your link yet, but the new law is 3720D of the Debt Collection Improvement Act, which I haven’t investigated yet.

Anyway, I called the collecter just a bit ago. The conversation consisted of exactly one asshole, and it wasn’t her. :wink: We reached an agreement. Not the best I’d hoped for, but all parties involved can live with it.

And I stay out of debtors prison for another month.

Unrelated question – Is it possible to live on mac & cheese for 10 years? Also, is it possible to buy a retirement yacht on found Canadian pennies?

Thanks for all the responses, I don’t have much time now, but I promise to respond to everyone soon.

Haven’t checked your link yet, but the new law is 3720D of the Debt Collection Improvement Act, which I haven’t investigated yet.

Anyway, I called the collecter just a bit ago. The conversation consisted of exactly one asshole, and it wasn’t her. :wink: We reached an agreement. Not the best I’d hoped for, but all parties involved can live with it.

And I stay out of debtors prison for another month.

Unrelated question – Is it possible to live on mac & cheese for 10 years? Also, is it possible to buy a retirement yacht on found Canadian pennies?

IANAL

A paid debt is not necessarily better than a non-paid debt when were are talking about credit score. It really depends upon the length of time since payment and whether or not you can get the Credit Bureaus to delete a negative item. Sometimes when you dispute a negative on your report… the creditor will forget/refuse to verify your debt and/or information. If that happens then the Three Bureaus can delete your negative information. I strongly suggest that you visit any of the numerous credit message boards out there that discuss defaults, garnishments, fair debt collection, and credit scores.

If I were you I would start keeping a record of all correspondence and a log of any phone calls or mail. Also, attempt to contact the original creditor or use one of the passes that you can sometimes get for Student Loans. You are NOT in that bad of a situation hopefully and can start paying again after awhile.