Like many of the reports I have read here my situation is the same but unlike many of you I am going to make an attempt to do something about it.
Here is my story: The 1st time I heard of these guys a woman came to my door in Mar 2004 and asked if I was John. I stated yes, she then handed me a sealed envelope. I thought it was just some certified mail of some sort. She told me it was a notice to appear in court. After reading it I went to the court clerk the next day to inquire about it seeing there was no date specified. The clerk informed me that it was not from them yet the woman who gave it to me said it was. The clerk said I had to call the attorney listed on the bottom (William Cortellessa). This all seemed kind of strange so I figured it was a scam of some sort and blew it off. Shortly after I luckily checked my bank account because I was expecting my only income at the time to be deposited (GI Bill) and my account was overdrawn 2X the amount these people said I owed them. I immediately made appropriate arrangments to protect my money.
A few days after this, I recieve my second letter from them that explained how I could get my money back. I was thinking what money? The $2.00 that was in there. So I blew it off again because for the second time the letter said Erin Capital was creditor they represented. I figured it might be 1 of 2 old credit cards that I got back in the late 90's (pre-paid cards)that I rebelled against due to the outragous fees. That's another story!! Anyway, I really couldn't do anything even if I did call them because I was a fulltime student living on $840 a month from GI Bill. I had nothing to offer so what was the point in listen to them try and tell me otherwise.
I heard nothing until Dec 2004 when I got a letter stating the obvious and offering me a 65% settlement. Like I had $1200 just laying around!! [note: this letter was signed by Derrick Riley, Collection Supervisor. The significance will be expalined in a bit] Once again, I blew it off. This letter actually told me who the original creditor was, First Consumers. I have never had an account with them either.
Here's where it start to get good! In Sept 2005, I recieve a letter from my local Sheriff's telling me I had to start paying them of they were going to garnish wages. I now started to realize its for real or they were really good at scamming. I caved and sent the Sheriff's $20.00. By the time I was to get to the November payment I had started a new job. You will never guess??? A collection agency!! I brought this to the attention of a couple of the senior guys. They advised me to contact the Sheriff's with my finances. They ended up cancelling things at their end and sent it back to the Attorney's.
Prior to Nov 2005 I really didn't have the rescources or knowledge to look into my rights. I decided the best thing to do was clean up my credit report. I did this by initially getting my reports via annualcreditreports.com. To my suprise they were not anywhere on any of the bureaus. In fact, the 2 credit cards I had had were. I have since paid those. Now the real question is who is First Consumers and better yet who is Erin Capital? I started to do my digging and inquired with an attorney. Basically put, I didn't have enough dirt yet.
Now for thier final straw. After all my hard work to get my credit heading in the right direction, they decided to put the judgments on my Experian and Equifax at the end of Aug 06. I am STEAMED!! To top it off they misreported it. The stated that it was filed in July 06 when in fact it was in March 04.
I have done some digging and think I may have something that could help some of you. It's an article about a Civil Suit that was filed and won against them:
Debt Collection Letters Sent by Law Firms Without Attorney Review Violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. On May 10, 2005, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York held that law firms that send debt collection letters on behalf of debt collection agencies violate the FDCPA when those letters are automatically generated without individualized attorney review of the facts of the case. Reade-Alvarez v. Eltman, Eltman & Cooper, P.C., No. 04-CV-2195-ILG (E.D.N.Y. 2005). The court found that sending form letters on firm letterhead to collect debts violated the FDCPA because it created an impression that attorneys had reviewed the matter and were familiar with the case, when in fact there had been no attorney review. The FDCPA requires some degree of attorney involvement in the letter, including direct control or supervision of the process through which the letter is sent. The court, however, dismissed as not actionable under the FDCPA plaintiffs' claim that the use of form letters amounted to the unauthorized practice of law by the debt collection agency as the firm's alter ego.
Fortunately for me, this pertains and I still have the letters.
I will be doing what I can to find out what legal recourse I have. If any of you find anything let me know. If I can get a civil suit going I will try. They are not going to get a red cent from me!! I will take myself to family court and have the judge increase my payments 1st !!!!! I feel it is never too late to protect your rights.
Buffalo, New York