Category: Collections Law
Credit card debt - sending sheriff to my house ?
QUESTION: I am so upset that I am shaking as I type this. I have $14,000 in credit card debt, which was originally about one half of that until interest accrued over a few years. I get repeated messages on my answering machine at home, 5 or 6 a day from collection agencies or lawyers. Two days ago, I called one back to make a settlement offer with my income tax refund. The person was nasty, and said that the sheriff had already attempted to serve me a court paper. A Sheriff ??? I said, "Well shouldn't you send me something in the mail first ?" He said we did and he read me an address that was wrong.
I asked how long they wait after not getting a response from their letters before they send out a sheriff. He had no answer. When I said, "you work at a lawyer's office and you don't know why you are sending a sheriff?" He was very rude and elusive.
I don't have the money to pay everyone what they ask for.
I live check to check, with borrowed money from relatives. I make too much to get any government help for food, daycare or child health insurance.
The three credit card companies that I was dealing with refused to freeze the balances and let me pay them off when I lost my job. Will a judge care about any of that ? Should I save my tax refund money for bankruptcy? Or offer it as a settlement?
ANSWER: I wouldn't worry too much about them sending a sheriff
to your door at this time the way the threat was made. How on earth would the debt collector know that a sheriff was on the way to your door? He wouldn't because before the sheriff will come to your door he would have been sent there by an attorney who had actually filed a lawsuit against you, not a debt collector.
It was most likely nothing but a scare tactic.
To make sure of that you should call the county clerk's office and ask them if a judgment has been filed against you in court. If not you should be very angry at them for upsetting you so. You could sue them in federal court for doing that if you had some kind of proof such as a recording of the call to work from. Some would say that you can do that without having a recording and that would be true too but I don't like to recommend that anyone go file lawsuits without some kind of proof of the offense. You should not consider BK either in my opinion.
It is far too expensive and far too much trouble to even think of. I teach people how to (in a sense) file bk and never leave a record on their credit bureau history. Make them pay for their violations of the law and you probably won't need to file bk.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you for the prompt answer!
Sheriff's office told me to call back tomorrow when the proper person is available to speak to. County Clerk's office advised me look online at Pennsylvania's Office of Judicial Service. They want me to enter your docket number. Duh. If I had that then I wouldn't need to know if there was a judgement.
I researched that PA does not garnish wages for credit card default. Why then was lawyer saying that they were going to try to take 15-25% of my wages?
Also, these four credit cards are already marked as "Charged Off" on my credit report.
Answer: The real answer to your problem is one that few want to hear or even think about and that is having to take the time, trouble and expense of learning the law so they know exactly what their rights are and how to defend them in federal court.
One of the most important consumer rights we have is to be treated with dignity and respect by debt collectors and their attorneys. We also have the right to be told the truth at all times rather than being treated like naughty little kids who need to be spanked just because we were unable to pay what we owe or what somebody thinks we owe.
The remedy is in the law
but we have to know the law and be ready, willing and able to enforce those rights through court action.
Unfortunately we have to take them to federal court to enforce and preserve those rights. You were actually treated no better than as though if you were a little kid. They made you believe that the big bad wolf was going to come knocking at your door when that was obviously not true. They fed you false and misleading information and that is illegal. They cannot do that under the law but your only remedy is in the law. So now you have two choices. One is to just take what they dished out to you and lump it and the other is to get mad and take them to court to make them pay for their illegal actions. So what will you do?