Federal and Ohio laws against abusive debt collection practices have been in place for long enough that you might think that anyone tempted to engage in such activity would be deterred by them, but as recent news events demonstrate such a belief would be wishful thinking. In fact, the problem remains serious enough that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has teamed up with both state and local law enforcement agencies in Ohio and elsewhere to combat it under the aegis of "Operation Collection Protection."
Debts, creditors and collection agencies have one thing in common: ignoring them is not a sound strategy to make them go away. A frustrated creditor may turn to a collection agency; and a frustrated collection agency may turn to litigation in an attempt to make you pay a debt. Sometimes you may receive a warning that a lawsuit is imminent, or sometimes your first inkling of it may be when you are served with a summons and complaint. Regardless of how you discover that you are being sued over a debt, there are some things that you need to take into account in order to deal with it properly.
As a general rule it is not advisable to attempt to “hide” from your creditors if you are experiencing financial difficulties, because Ohio law provides them with mechanisms to seek out what money you do have on hand or in the form of wages to recover what they are owed even if you refuse to acknowledge them. A frequently-used tool in this regard is garnishment.
“Night of the Living Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead” “The Walking Dead,” what do these have in common with debt collection?
When consumers in Ohio fall behind on their bills, one route creditors can take to recover the debt is through wage garnishment. This may be a term you have heard on television or in movies, but how does it actually work? Creditors cannot simply take money from you. There is a process that they must follow.
Owing debt you can’t pay is a bad enough feeling. But when you are being harassed to pay debt you’ve already paid off, debt that has been discharged in bankruptcy, or even debt you never owed at all, the feeling goes from bad to frustrated and even angry.
Anyone who has ever watched television or dealt in-person with debt collectors in Cincinnati knows how sneaky they can be. Generally, there are certain rules set out by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that creditors must follow when calling about a debt. These dictate what they can and cannot say. But what if you never knew about the debt in the first place?
In an earlier post, we discussed how the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from creditor harassment. Essentially, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in harassing, deceptive, or unfair practices in order to collect from you. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from trying to collect on time-barred debts.
Some Hamilton County, Ohio, residents live with the daily fear that their home, car or even their furniture and personal belongings will be taken away from them to satisfy a consumer debt on which they have defaulted. If you default on payments, your creditors have the legal right to take you to court to obtain a judgment that authorizes them to use wage garnishment and the forced sale of real and personal property to satisfy the debt.
We recently discussed the importance of seeking legal advice from a Hamilton County bankruptcy law attorney when creditors resort to wage garnishment to collect a consumer debt. Another form of debt collection procedure authorized by Ohio law that can be equally harmful to a debtor is the garnishment of property other than earnings or wages.