Attorney Stephen Skinner leads the Consumer Protection practice at Skinner Law Firm.
Consumer Fraud & Deceptive Practices
Skinner Law Firm represents consumers in a wide range of consumer fraud actions including unfair and deceptive practices. We also handle class actions against businesses and employers who defraud individual consumers. Some of the consumer protection statutes that come into play in consumer actions include the West Virginia Consumer Credit & Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which are designed to protect those borrowing money or making purchases for personal use. Most consumer protection laws allow successful plaintiffs to collect monetary damages, costs and attorney fees from the defendant or defendant’s business.
Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Consumers have many rights that help protect them from collection agents who don’t follow the rules. Many problems arise from the sale and resale of debts. Debt buyers purchase consumer debts from other companies and then work to collect it. The purchaser may not receive the entire file, doesn’t read the entire file, and/or the information received is old. The Federal Trade Commission receives more consumer complaints about debt collectors than about any other single industry.
Many of these complaints have their origins in the quantity and quality of information that collectors have about the consumer debts. In a 2009 study, the FTC showed concern that debt collectors, including debt buyers, may have insufficient or inaccurate information when they collect on debts. This often results in debt collectors seeking to recover wrong amounts and/or to recover from the wrong person.
Oftentimes, senior citizens are asked to pay for debts they do not owe. It can be unbearable. In one well-known West Virginia case, a debt collector illegally called a consumer over 900 times, among other abusive tactics.
Most consumer protection laws allow successful plaintiffs to collect monetary damages, costs and attorney fees from the defendant or defendant’s business. If you believe you have been the victim of illegal debt collection tactics, then contact us to request a no-cost evaluation.
Zombie Debt Collection & Your Rights
“Zombie Debt” is an old debt that you should not be sued for because the statute of limitations has run. It’s called Zombie Debt because it should be dead, but unscrupulous debt collectors keep bringing it back to life.
How does this happen?
Often, a “debt buyer” purchases debts from another company and then tries to collect it using phone calls and letters. These debt buyers will normally buy these debts for pennies on the dollar. The debts are purchased and sold many times. The lack of information that these debt buyers and collectors have about these debts is alarming. It often results in debt collectors trying to recover the wrong amounts and/or from the wrong persons. Many file lawsuits past the statute of limitations because they have incomplete information about the debt.
Why does it happen?
The less reputable debt buyers and collectors use intimidation, harassment, deception, or other abusive tactics to get their victims to pay or make payments on the debt. Because the debt buyers have literally bought the debt for pennies, any collection on the debt generally amounts to a windfall for the debt buyer. Some of these debt buyers, upon receiving a large payment on a debt, will then sell the debt to another debt buyer, which results in a new round of collection tactics by another company for the same debt.
In some cases, debt buyers will file a lawsuit, even though the lawsuit could be thrown out. Their end goal is to get a default judgment in order to garnish wages. The collectors rely on the fact that many of their victims won’t know how to respond and won’t know to call a Consumer Protection lawyer.
What are my rights?
Consumer protections provided by the West Virginia Consumer Credit & Protection Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act make it illegal for debt buyers to file lawsuits for Zombie Debt. Additionally, in West Virginia, every Zombie Debt collector must give a notice that they are trying to collect a debt for which they can’t file a lawsuit. However, some clearly do not follow the law.
At Skinner Law Firm, we represent clients who have been unlawfully contacted by debt collectors. The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm are experienced, skilled, and ready to fight for your best interests in court. For help with your case, contact us today at 304-725-7029.