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Maryland Courts Require More Proof in Debt Collection Cases, Ringing in Some Debt Collection Cheer

posted by Nathalie Martin

In many states, a creditor or debt collector can easily obtain a default judgment with just a person’s name, last known address and Social Security number, and the judgment can follow the person around for years despite that the debt was never proven. Due to a flood of uncontested debt collection cases in Maryland, its high court has just ruled that for all cases filed on or after January 20, 2012, collectors and creditors must produce actual proof that the debtor incurred the debt. This can be done by producing a copy of a signed bill or contract, or other evidence of the debt. Debt buyers also must prove they actual hold the debt through a valid purchase, a common stumbling block for collecting debt buyers. In making this decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals (which is Maryland’s high court) took into consideration that many cases end in default judgments, a problem Nationwide. The decision also evidences a distrust of those pesky (often fraudulent) affidavits. Let’s hope other states decide to follow suit and put collectors to their proof.

Comments

This strikes me as an important development, particularly if another few courts from other states go the same way such that debt collectors change their practices across the board. A related problem is the use of small claims courts to collect debts. Those courts were designed for small guy-as-plaintiff but at least in many states are dominated by large national debt buyers or collectors filing suits against consumer defendants. In that context, the streamlined procedures of small claims can work against consumers--precisely because of relaxed evidentiary rules, etc.

How to reverse boycott debt collectors.

When a debt collector/debt collection/debt buyer company can repeatedly call with the intent of getting money their customers can repeatedly answer or call back with the intent of not giving them any. They need people to pay with as little talk as possible. They don't want to talk with people who know they are never going to pay. Be all talk and no pay. Answer when convenient. Call back. Give no information. Verify nothing. Ask as many questions as you can. Answer none.

Don't ignore/block/report them. It doesn't work. These folks want you to ignore them for as long as you can stand to or until you give them something valuable like money or information. Ignoring them is being their good customer. Sending a cease and desist is giving information. It lets them know you are still alive and remain their good customer. Preparing to initiate unlikely individual legal battles is being their good customer.

Be their bad customer. Make them talk to you fruitlessly for as long as they can stand to or until they stop selecting you as their customer. These companies cannot spend seconds much less minutes on the phone with every person who will never send them a dime. But they don't know who that is. You do. That knowledge is power. Every second you can keep their staff on the phone will render their business less profitable giving them a reason to never call you again.

Calling will not reset your SOL. Making a partial payment will.

One person who does this likes to ask general questions they should but usually won't answer, "May I have the name and address of your agent for service of process?" Calmly and slowly ask them to spell every word in the address. Read it back for verification. Control the pace. If they are rushing then politely ask them to slowly repeat. "Are you a corporation and if so in which state are you incorporated?" Repeat your questions when you don't get direct answers. When they won't answer a question ask, "Would you like to comply with the business and professions codes of your state?" That is usually the point when they hang up on me but if they say they want to comply then begin your questions again.

Repeat while you have the spare time. These folks have many victims and few operators. If everyone calls back but pays nothing the mass auto-dialer business model becomes unprofitable. Don't aid and comfort the enemy by ignoring them. Call! Have a nice long slow friendly chat! Make them hang up first.

Press 2 for Spanish.

There are certainly enough victims to take down this company so ignoring/blocking seems downright Orwellian to me. Really? We're just going to passively submit and go with a block list or however we manage ignoring an endless stream of unwanted phone calls day after day? No! Unite or remain conquered. Answer/return every call - become well practiced at keeping these folks on the phone - or count yourself not amongst the free.

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