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Debt Collectors Harass New Jersey Woman About Debt From Stolen Credit Card

July 8, 2010

As Redlands unfair debt collection attorneys, we were disappointed to see a recent article about debt collector harassment of a woman whose credit card was stolen. The Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, N.J. ran an article July 6 about Linda Wright of South River, N.J., who was held responsible for $15,000 in debt on a credit card that her adult children stole. Despite a police report and a probation sentence for the perpetrators, Bank of America told Wright that she was being held responsible for the charges, then turned the debt over to a debt collector when she couldn't pay. Only a call from a reporter convinced the debt collector and the bank to take a second look at the situation, the article said.

Wright, 54, left her credit card in a dresser drawer when she moved away from home temporarily to care for a sick uncle. She left her daughter, 28-year-old Lisa Wright, to pay the bills -- not using the credit card. Instead, the article said, Lisa Wright and her brother, 31-year-old Isaac Wright, ran up $13,000 in debt for food, cab rides, cash withdrawals, cell phone bills and entertainment. Meanwhile, the elder Wright was away from home and knew nothing about it until she received a phone call at work from Bank of America. Wright had to call the police on her children, who were eventually convicted of fraud and put on probation. But despite the fact that she explained the situation many times, Wright says, Bank of America rejected the fraud claim, saying she "provided access to [her] account and/or account information" to her children.

Wright says the bank placed 200 to 300 phone calls at the flower shop where she works over a period of about four months, then turned the debt over to a debt collector working with a Nebraska law firm. Wright says she called that law firm, but it didn't help. In fact, she says, the law firm ignored her request that it not call her at work, a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. She eventually quit the job, in part because of the phone calls, and says her credit was ruined. It wasn't until a late June phone call from the Home News Tribune that the debt collector agreed to drop its pursuit of Wright. The same afternoon that the newspaper called, Wright called the debt collector and was told that her account would be "zeroed out"; Bank of America later confirmed this.

Our Riverside County debt collection harassment attorneys are glad Wright's situation has been cleared up, but we're disturbed that it took a phone call from a reporter -- with an implicit threat of negative publicity -- to achieve that. A police report saying that a credit card has been stolen is one of the clearest ways to prove that the cardholder has been defrauded. That the victim happens to be the perpetrators' mother does not mean the police report is lying; it means this woman's trust has been violated by her own children. Ruining her credit and making her legally responsible for the fraud injures her yet again, and it's difficult to think of any motive other than profit. In addition, the article suggests that the debt collector violated at least one provision of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act with the repeated calls to Wright's workplace. As the article notes, it's difficult to pursue a FDCPA lawsuit -- but it's one of the few ways to enforce your legal rights when you don't have a government agency or a newspaper on your side.

Howard Law PC aggressively represents people who are victims of unfair, deceptive, harassing or abusive debt collection practices. Unfortunately, more and more Americans are victims of these practices lately, thanks in part to the bad economy. As more people fall into debts they cannot pay, debt collectors become more and more aggressive, and some of them step over the line. Collection agencies may not call continuously; call at work after being told this is not permitted; collect more than is owed; use obscene language or threats; and much more. When they violate these laws, they rely on consumers to not understand their rights or be discouraged by the difficulty of suing. In fact, our Santa Ana debt collection abuse lawyers can take on these cases without requiring high up-front legal fees, because the law allows plaintiffs to recover reasonable attorney fees as well as up to $1,000 in statutory damages and payment for any actual damages -- such as lost wages from losing a job.

If you believe you're the victim of unfair, deceptive or abusive debt collection, you don't have to put up with it. Howard Law can help you get justice and financial compensation. To set up a free, confidential consultation, please contact us online or call 1-800-872-5925 today.