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Opinion
Shiobhan Olivero
Plant City Observer Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 1 year ago

Being sued for debt? Here’s what you need to know

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You may not have to pay a debt if it’s being pursued through a junk-debt buyer.

By Shiobhan Olivero | Attorney

Do creditors frequently call your home or workplace? Are you having trouble paying back loans?

If you find yourself in this situation and aren’t sure where to get help, an experienced debt defense lawyer can prepare a strategy and protect you from receiving those incessant creditor calls. And if you’re dealing with a “junk-debt buyer” you may not have to pay the debt at all.

What to expect when working with a debt defense lawyer
When you make a decision to work with an attorney, you can expect to pay back the amount you borrowed — or possibly less if your attorney is able to negotiate the total down. 

A debt defense attorney is the best defense from being taken advantage of, so when the phone calls and harassment for payment get to be too much, they will be able to help you.

As a debtor, you have rights available to you no matter what amount you currently owe. While collection agencies may have a right to collect money owed, if they engage in unlawful behavior, you have the right to hold them responsible if they subject you to abuse, disrespect or lies. 

Because of certain laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you may be entitled to a cash settlement, and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act may entitle you to recover money for any actual damage collectors cause. The court may award an additional penalty of up to $1,000.

Junk-Debt Buyers
Junk-debt buyers are companies that buy consumer debt (mainly credit card receivables) from banks that the bank has written off. That means those banks and credit card companies don’t think it’s worth pursuing. 

At best, it’s too close to the statute of limitations expiring, the documentation is questionable or the amounts are wrong.
 
Sometimes, it’s worse than that: the debt was never owed, they are going after the wrong person, the debt was paid off or discharged in bankruptcy or the statute of limitations has long passed.

These junk-debt buyers buy the charged-off debt for pennies on the dollar — and then they treat it like a lottery ticket. They sue, but most of the time they have no intention of spending any money on the case beyond filing the lawsuit. Their hope is that the borrower fails to respond, and they win a default judgment for the full amount of the debt, plus costs and fees — when they only paid pennies on the dollar for that account. With that judgment, they can garnish wages or bank accounts. And, these buyers hope the debtor won’t hire an attorney to fight the case.

Hiring an attorney and giving any credible response can possibly beat these claims. Remember, the burden of proof is on the debt collector to demonstrate that the debtor agreed to the debt, to provide a full record of principal, interest, payments, and fees and to prove a complete and unbroken chain of title (which, many times, they can’t prove). 

So, who are these junk-debt buyers?  If you are being called, harassed or sued by companies such as Portfolio Recovery Associates, Midland Funding, CACH or Cavalry SPV, your original debt has been charged off by your original creditor and sold to a junk-debt buyer. Although there are others, these are four of the most common junk debt-buyers.

Shiobhan Olivero was born and raised in Plant City. Her law offices can be reached at (813) 534-0393 or by email at [email protected].

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