Latest Articles

Tampa Bay Residents Scammed into Surrendering Their Cars

 

By Richard Dauval

Be careful out there. The high cost of automobiles and the unprecedented number of 5+ year car loans is taking a financial toll on Tampa Bay consumers.

Tampa Bay has recently seen an uptick in auto loan modification companies that are simply scams. Much like the foreclosure defense scams that did nothing more than take money from cash-strapped homeowners, these auto loan modification companies are doing little more than taking cars and leaving the debtors on the hook for the loan.


Here is how the “so-called” auto loan modification or “solution” works:

Auto Debt Consulting

  • The auto loan modification company will advise their client to stop paying on their car loans and either collect a “negotiation fee” or alternatively offer to purchase the car from the consumer for several hundred dollars;
  • The auto loan modification company will then assure the client that they will negotiate a modification or cancellation of the debt; and
  • Then, unbeknownst to the consumer, the company will ship the car out of state to take advantage of legal loopholes that will allow them to clear the title of all liens (e.g., “wash the title”).  

Federal Trade Commission Action

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took on three such scams in California.  Details of this scam are featured in this Press Release issued by the FTC.   

The truth is, when consumers are sinking financially, they often will take the advice of anyone offering to help. They don’t fend for their client, they fend for themselves: CBS is the only true debtor friendly alternative to repo agents and scam artists.  CBS was founded by licensed professionals who understand bankruptcy and debt/credit law . . . and are well respected in their community.  CBS was developed to legitimately help bankruptcy attorneys and trustees (and ultimately the debtors who filed bankruptcy) solve their problems with surrendered collateral.  

Here is how CBS works:

  • Collateral Bankruptcy Services

    CBS will reach out to your client to arrange a pick-up time and date that is convenient to them – at no cost to the debtors.
  • CBS will provide your client with a Receipt of Possession, to document the transfer of the car, boat, RV or motorcycle, and promotional codes for free credit counseling or debtor education.
  • CBS will provide to you a $100 AMEX gift card as a small token of thanks for the referral and your trust. 

If you or your bankruptcy client want to know more about CBS and our success in coordinating the surrender of vehicles, please visit our Facebook page or the Frequently Asked Questions on our website. Once you have had all of your questions answered by a legitimate company established to solve problems, you can contact CBS to arrange a pickup.

Collateral Bankruptcy Services, LLC is a company that assists trustees, debtor's attorneys, and debtors in correctly and effortlessly surrendering automobiles incident to the bankruptcy process. We also offer Legal Practice Consulting to aid Debtor's Attorneys in identifying potential new business opportunities, improving process, and increasing profitability.  For more information, please visit us at www.CollateralBankruptcyServices.com or call us at (727) 362-4944.  We will look forward to assisting you. 

 

Wells Fargo to Pay $4.1 Million for Illegal Student Loan Servicing Practices

 

By Gregory H. Lercher, Esq.

Wells Fargo Student Loan Lawsuit

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent regulatory agency of the federal government, identified illegal practices and breakdowns throughout Wells Fargo’s student loan collection and servicing process. In summary, the CFPB found that Wells Fargo charged student borrowers illegal fees (such as charging on-time payers with late fees), failed to provide important payment information to consumers, and illegally failed to update and correct inaccurate credit report information it provided to credit reporting bureaus.  These errors could damage a consumer’s ability to obtain new credit or apply for a job.

“Wells Fargo hit borrowers with illegal fees and deprived others of critical information needed to effectively manage their student loan accounts,” bureau Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Consumers should be able to rely on their servicer to process and credit payments correctly and to provide accurate and timely information.’’ 

Specifically, Wells Fargo illegally processed student loan payments in a way that made consumers pay unnecessary late fees. For example, student borrowers typically have their loans divided between multiple student loan accounts. If a borrower's payment was not enough to cover the total amount due for all loans in an account, Wells Fargo divided that payment among the loans in a way that maximized late fees rather than satisfying payments for some of the loans.  Wells Fargo left borrowers in the dark about how it divided single payments between their multiple loans, did not make borrowers aware that they could decide how their payments would be applied across loans, and then hit consumers with unnecessary and avoidable late fees. Furthermore, Wells Fargo’s billing statements did not make it clear that partial payment could be counted toward paying down student debt.  

Student Loan Lawsuit Settlement

The CFPB’s order requires Wells Fargo to improve its consumer billing and student loan payment processing practices. Wells Fargo must also provide $410,000 in relief to borrowers and pay a $3.6 million civil penalty to the CFPB.  The CFPB’s order can be found at: Wells_Fargo_Bank_N.A._Consent_Order.pdf

The CFPB’s order comes as it takes steps to ensure that all student loan borrowers have access to adequate student loan servicing. Last year, the CFPB released a report outlining widespread servicing failures reported by both federal and private student loan borrowers and published a framework for student loan servicing reforms. 

Students and their families can find help on how to tackle their student debt on the CFPB’s website.   Student loans make up the second largest U.S. consumer debt market with roughly $1.3 trillion owed by borrowers who took out federal and private loans. Wells Fargo is the second-largest private student private student loan lender in the United States and services about 1.3 million consumers in the United States. 

The consumer lawyers at LeavenLaw dedicate themselves to fighting for our client’s rights against banks, debt collectors, and the ‘Big Three” credit reporting agencies.  LeavenLaw attorneys also zealously represent student loan borrowers and fight back against illegal practices like those described above.  If you have been the victim of illegal student loan debt collection, or if you have errors on your credit report, please call us today at 1-855-LeavenLaw to schedule your free consultation.  You can also access free copies of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com and then schedule a free credit report analysis with an experienced FCRA lawyer.  For more information, please visit www.leavenlaw.com.

 

LeavenLaw Successfully Enforces Disabled Consumers Rights in Restaurants

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

 

St. Petersburg, and the entire gulf coast of Florida, are beginning to see the effects of an improving economy.  The summer months of 2016 boasted the highest national consumer confidence index ratings in the past year, according to the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Survey.  As consumer confidence improves, many local businesses see increases in both sales and patronage.  Part of keeping the sunshine city economically successful means ensuring that all of our great businesses are accessible to the entire community, especially those with disabilities.  Recently, LeavenLaw successfully litigated two lawsuits against inaccessible businesses in the bay area that resulted in real-world change.  

St. Petersburg resident, LeavenLaw client, and self-styled dining connoisseur, Kimberly Rankine frequently dines and shops locally.  Kim says that she “love[s] being able to go to different restaurants and sample different cuisines.”  Recently, however, when Kim—who uses a wheelchair—dined at a local hamburger shop, she encountered barriers that kept her from accessing parts of the property that are open to the public.  The historic south St. Petersburg hamburger shop that Kim visited is a local landmark, but sadly, Kim was unable to access the restroom during her visit.  After her experience, Kim contacted LeavenLaw Attorney Jordan Isringhaus and developed a plan.  After only two months of federal litigation, LeavenLaw obtained a settlement for Kim that requires the restaurant to make its restroom accessible, as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Settlement Reached in Two Counties

Kim encountered a similar situation while vacationing on Sanibel Island in Lee County.  Although the meal was excellent at a local brunch café, the café’s inaccessible restroom blemished an otherwise great visit.  After her first visit to the café in 2014, Kim personally asked the café to provide an accessible restroom but received no meaningful response from the manager or the landlord.  After years of negotiation, and months of litigation with the café and its landlord, LeavenLaw obtained a settlement for Kim that requires the café and its landlord to develop and implement a plan for ADA compliance within 18 months.  Remarking on the settlement, Kim said, “I can’t patronize some restaurants and shops because they can’t accommodate me in my wheelchair, but Jordan Isringhaus and Ian Leavengood have helped me immensely by getting businesses, like the café, to accommodate disabled patrons.”  LeavenLaw Attorney Jordan Isringhaus commented, “Kim’s café case is a great illustration of the advantages that we as consumer protection attorneys can provide to individuals whose voices are too often ignored.”  

The ADA, which mandates equality of access for disabled Americans, has been law since 1990, and most individuals with disabilities are protected by the ADA. The ADA provides information about accessibility on its website, including the ADA Guide for Small Businesses. If you, or someone you know, have encountered a barrier at a public place, call LeavenLaw at 1-855-532-8365 for a free consultation.  LeavenLaw attorneys are skilled at evaluating ADA compliance issues and will assess your legal rights and explain your options in a detailed, understandable way.  

 

Junk Debt Buyer Loses Seminal Credit Card Collection Case

 

by, Sara J. Weiss, Esq. 

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, in a case entitled Midland Funding LLC v. Thiel, et al., recently held that in the context of retail store credit cards—whose use is limited to the specific store—the applicable statute of limitations is four years (rather than longer state-specific statutes of limitations that can range up to ten years).  The decision is an important win for consumers, as it limits how long a creditor, debt collector, or junk debt buyer can sue consumers on zombie debts.  

Midland Funding Credit Card Collection Lawsuit

Generally, the Court disagreed with Midland’s arguments that the six-year statute of limitations that governed most contractual claims under New Jersey law applied, finding instead that the four-year statute of limitations that governs contracts relating to the sale of goods controlled.  In the Thiel case, Midland filed collection actions which were beyond the four-year statute of limitations, but within the six-year statute of limitations.  Ultimately, the Court agreed with the lower court’s analysis that an “agreement between a buyer and a third-party financer who is neither the seller nor an assignee of the seller to provide credit for the purchase of goods [is equivalent to] a contract for the sale of goods [that is] subject to the four-year limitations period of the [UCC].”  Examining the transaction as a whole, the Court found that the “essence or main objective of the parties’ agreement” was still a transaction for the sale of goods.  This decision, for example, applies to retail credit cards such as Home Depot, Best Buy, or Target consumer credit cards.   

Importantly, the Court also found that partial payments, which were less than the required minimal payment, did not toll (i.e., pause or extend) the running of the statute of limitations. Typically, the right to institute a debt collection lawsuit arises on the date of a consumer’s default, i.e. the first date the consumer fails to make at least a minimum payment.  The Court determined that Thiel’s partial payments, which were less than the required minimum payment, did not change the date of the original default, and therefore did not change the date on which the cause of action accrued.  As a result, the statute of limitations for Midland to sue began on the date of Thiel’s first default, and ran out four years from that date.  

Even more important for consumers, the Court found that Midland violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by initiating the debt collection lawsuit on a time-barred debt, noting that filing the time-barred lawsuit is “automatically a violation.”  Midland incorrectly operated under the belief that the six-year statute of limitations applied, and as ignorance or mistake of the law itself does not excuse liability under the FDCPA, by filing a collection action on a debt that was time-barred, Midland violated the FDCPA and was liable to Thiel for damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs. 

This Thiel ruling is a win for consumers, and is another tool for consumers and consumer lawyers to fight against the unlawful collection practices of large junk debt buyers and debt collectors.  The attorneys at LeavenLaw are committed to fighting for the rights of consumers, and we will continue to fight junk debt buyers and debt collectors such as Midland who harass our clients or violate the law when attempting to collect a debt.  If a debt collector is trying to collect a debt from you, or someone you know, that originates from a retail store credit card older than four years, please contact us at (727) 327-3328 or visit www.floridacollectiondefense.com.  Our initial consultation is always free, and you may be entitled to damages, and the debt collector may have to pay our attorney’s fees.

Page 1 of 15