We hope you, your family and friends are staying safe and healthy during these extremely challenging times for us as individuals and for us as a nation.

We continue to conduct all work remotely and we are doing consultations and meetings by phone, Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting or Webex. Recently, we have conducted court hearings via Zoom and Webex, with no noticeable difference between live and video link.

This newsletter and our website are full of information and tips on how to protect yourself in the constantly changing world of privacy and consumer finance. If you find them useful, we hope you will share our tips! We are here to help you navigate issues that might begin as financial, but quickly evolve into a legal challenge. For over twenty five years we have helped people facing identity theft, abusive debt collectors, predatory lenders, credit reporting errors, wrongful foreclosure, student debt collection and car repossessions.
Identity Theft
According to a 2014 study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 550,000 fraud and identity theft cases were by a person the victim knew. Surprising isn't it. The concept of an unknown stranger behind a computer screen isn't always the way your identity is stolen. Unfortunately, studies show that many times these cases are by someone who is a friend or family member that has easy access to your private financial information.

In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) settled one of its largest suits against one of the biggest debt buyers, Encore Capital Group. Flash forward to September of 2020 and the CFPB is suing them again for widespread violations of that settlement. Not just a few violations, but to the tune of 750,000 times, sending accounts to legal collections without giving a disclosure mandated by the settlement agreement.

Part of that agreement included notifying consumers of their rights to provide copies of account documentation within 30 days of a written request, free of charge. Encore also filed hundreds of lawsuits without possession of original account level documents such as statements or loan agreements required by the settlement in 2015, the CFPB said.

Another piece to the violations cited by the CFPB: Encore used a foreign payment processor exposing consumers to international transaction charges on card transactions when making payments to Encore. The CFPB says that Encore knew this but didn't tell consumers.

Read more in our blog.
Peter Holland's remarks in Pew Charitable Study "How Debt Collectors are Transforming the Use of State Court," May 2020
"People don’t appreciate the impacts of a small claim judgment. If this is on your record, you’re not going to get a housing loan or a car loan, and it impacts other areas of your life. And all for a very small debt claim."
Peter Holland, Maryland consumer attorney
A default judgement might not sound familiar, but put simply that means a judgement was made because for whatever reason the consumer failed to appear in court. More than likely, that spells out bad news for that consumer. A new Pew Charitable Trust Report "How Debt Collectors are Transforming the Use of State Courts", May 2020, found that "default judgment in debt claims usually means that the court makes no finding as to the validity of the debt, the accuracy of the amount sought, or whether the correct consumer was sued, but simply orders the defendant to pay the debt sought." The study showed that because some courts were not verifying the debt, a consumer may find that they are on the hook for a debt that they do not owe or perhaps the debt was never theirs to begin with.

These judgements can have a lasting impact on a consumers' ability to secure loans, housing or credit. The judgments can often result in wage garnishments, bank garnishments, "debtors exams" in court, and liens. In Maryland, a judgment is good for 12 years, and is renewable.

The Holland Law firm has dealt with consumer debt cases for over 25 years. We can help even the playing field and do the hard work to get your life back.

Read more on debt collection defense.
WAMU/DCist, 10/7/2020 "Attorneys Accuse Maryland Legal Aid of Discrimination," Peter commented about the case in the interview that his client, "intends to pursue all her rights."

Pew Charitable Trust, May, 2020 "How Debt Collectors are Transforming the Use of State Court" (see story above)
There are two protections for federally or GSE-backed mortgage loans under the Cornonavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Aid Act (CARES):

First, for many federally or
GSE-backed loans, your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you until at least December 31, 2020.

Second, if you experience financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, you have a right to request and obtain a forbearance for up to 180 days. You also have the right to ask for another 180 days for a total of 360 days.

Find out more here from the Consumer Financial Bureau Website.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a new website where consumers can report fraud and other consumer issues directly to FTC. Problems with scams, frauds and bad business practices can be reported directly to ReportFraud.ftc.gov/#/

Peter Holland is on the board of directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Peter hails from Buffalo, New York. He has spent most of his adult life living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and for the past eleven years in Annapolis.

Emanwel Turnbull is on the board of directors of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition. MCRC has been actively advocating for greater consumer protections during the COVID-19 crisis. Emanwel also serves on the Maryland Attorney General's COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force. The mission of the task force is to address significant legal challenges created by the pandemic. Emanwel serves on the Consumer Protection Committee and on the Data & Legal Technology Committee.

Both Peter and Emanwel are members of Law Zebra, a groundbreaking organization of independent trial and consumer rights lawyers who hail from several states across the country.
We Are Here to Help. Call Us!
Do you know someone being hounded by debt collectors for a mortgage, student loan, medical debt, residential lease, car loan, or credit card debt? Do you know someone who is the victim of Identity Theft or Credit Reporting Errors? We can help.

Call us for a Confidential Consult at 410-280-6133!
Peter A. Holland
The Holland Law Firm, P.C.
914 Bay Ridge Road, Suite 230
Annapolis, MD 21403
410 280 6133

NOTE: This newsletter may be considered to constitute advertising under Rule 7.2 of the Maryland Code of Professional Conduct and other state rules. Peter Holland is responsible for the content.