No Fooling: April is National Financial Literacy Month
Making sound financial decisions starts with knowing your rights as a consumer
Consumer advocates are hoping this month that April showers also bring May financial flowers for their clients, using National Financial Literacy Month as a springboard to get people to know their consumer rights to avoid being taken advantage of.
According to www.financialliteracymonth.com, Americans carry over $2 trillion in consumer debt, with thirty (30) percent of all consumers reporting no tangible savings at all. Advocates say such a lifestyle makes living paycheck to paycheck a difficult reality to escape, made worse when consumers do not know their legal rights. This is because along with the rise in consumer debt, there has been a similar rise in complaints over the conduct of overly-zealous debt collectors, who it is said violate the Fair Debt Collection Act (FDCPA) with increasing regularity.
“We as a law firm see Financial Literacy Month as a way to help consumers gain at least some control over finances by educating them about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA),” said Craig Thor Kimmel, co-founder and managing partner of the consumer advocacy law firm Kimmel & Silverman. “Knowing their legal rights can keep people from overpaying their debts, from being harassed, abused, deceived or just plain fooled into paying amounts that are not well documented or properly collected.”
Based on Kimmel’s twenty-two plus years as a consumer lawyer, he says debt collectors are highly sophisticated and employ cunning and diversion techniques to get paid.
“They understand human behavior so well that they can often mislead, divert, harass, deceive or abuse people into doing whatever they want, even in cases where the consumer has no legal obligation to pay,” says Kimmel. “And when these techniques fail, it is my experience that some debt collectors resort to what I call ‘ransoming credit’, reporting a debt inaccurately to credit bureaus, or by failing to note that a debt is disputed. Either of these can dramatically affect the consumer’s credit scores, increase interest rates on loans, or make it impossible to get credit approved.” In support of this point, Kimmel cites a recent Fair Trade Commission report showed that one in twenty American consumers had a mistake on their credit reports. (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/02/creditreport.shtm)
“We all agree that if a debt is properly owed, it should be paid,” said Kimmel. “But a debt collector is not permitted to use trickery, deception or heavy-handed methods to get paid either. That’s why knowledge of their FDCPA rights is so important for consumers. The statute informs people what can and cannot be done by collectors and lets consumers know what information they are entitled to in connection with any claimed debt.”
The FDCPA amended the Consumer Credit Protection Act, establishing legal protection from abusive debt collection practices. Its stated purposes are to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts, to promote fair debt collection, and to provide consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information in order to ensure the information’s accuracy.
Financial Literacy Month, established in 2003 by the United States Senate with Resolution 316, gives consumers information to help them understand their finances, make the most of their money, achieve financial wellness and information about their rights as financial consumers.”
For more information on how Kimmel and Silverman can help protect consumers from FDCPA violations, call 1-800-NOT-FAIR (800-668-3247) or visit www.creditlaw.com for free legal help.