Welcome to our December Newsletter! We hope you, your family and friends are staying safe and healthy and were able to enjoy some semblance of a traditional Thanksgiving.

We continue to conduct all work remotely and we are doing consultations and meetings by phone and Zoom. Interestingly, many people really like the ease of remote conferencing, and don't miss the in-person consultations.

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, consumer protection, credit reporting errors, wrongful foreclosure, student debt collection and car repossessions.
Santa's Share your Christmas Program
The Holland Law Firm is helping with the Sharing Foundation's Santa's Share Your Christmas. The program has been helping working families in Anne Arundel County since 1992 and has given over 6000 Christmas presents. We are sponsoring a toy donation barrel at our offices and there is a Virtual Toy drive to help because of the pandemic. To donate, please bring unwrapped gifts for children from ages 1-17 years, such as Legos, soccer balls, footballs, board games, jewelry or art and craft gifts. Thanks for your support!

Medical Debt Collection in the Time of Covid-19
Unpaid medical debt can stay on your credit report for up to seven years, much like any other kind of debt. But, medical debt should not be treated like other consumer debt (read our HLF blog where Peter discusses this further in his interview on The Doctors).

In a recent investigative report, two dozen hospitals in Arizona, Texas and Florida have sued hundreds of patients over their hospital bills this year. This is in spite of the $175 billion allocated in the CARES Act to reimburse providers treatment of uninsured patients.

And to make matters worse, it can be very difficult to discover the actual cost for the treatments that the consumer is being hounded for. We continue to receive calls from consumers who are confused about their medical bills, including getting billed for treatment not received, or bills for procedures that happened many years ago. Perhaps you have even heard about the $175 COVID test that ended up being billed for more than $2,000.

If you are being sued or hounded to pay medical debt, contact us about Medical Debt Collection Defense.

Emanwel Turnbull,
Associate Attorney
Emanwel Turnbull is from the United Kingdom, where he earned his law degree at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford and a post-graduate diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law in London. He earned his L.L.M. from the University of Maryland School of Law, where he focused on Consumer Law.

In addition to his practice, Emanwel teaches law and legal history in the Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies division at the University of Baltimore. He is also active in the legal technology field, volunteering his time to help the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service to build, maintain, and analyze a database of millions Maryland court records, in the Client Legal Utility Engine project. Emanwel also helps researchers interested in using the database for public-interest applications.

His passion for his clients and ability to discover information that no one else would be able to uncover makes him an invaluable member of our team. We feel lucky to have Emanwel as part of The Holland

Question: What got you interested in practicing consumer law?

Answer: I came for the aesthetics and stayed for the glory. I’ve always liked knowing niche or specialty things. As a child, I got a book about Egyptian myths and no doubt bored all the grown-ups around me to death about it. Consumer law is a niche. Only a handful of lawyers in Maryland do it as their primary area of practice. Its complicated and requires a pretty thorough knowledge to do at all well. So, I like consumer law intellectually. But, when I actually started doing cases, the clients became a lot more important. Consumers are always at a disadvantage, most of all when they’re pursued for debt. Having a good consumer lawyer is one of the few chances they have to win. I’ve had clients say we restored their faith in lawyers, which is no small thing.

Question: How has the practice of law changed during Covid-19?

Answer: There’s a lot less time wasted on travel and waiting on hard benches in court houses for things to happen. There’s a lot more saying “what?” and “I can’t hear you” on Zoom. I’ve always worked remotely a lot (you don’t need a big office to review a thousand pages of discovery...), so the routine has not changed all that much.

Question: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Answer: At university, I was the president of the historical re-enactment society. I met my wife the weekend before the society took part in the 2006
re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings.

Question: Where did you grow up?

Answer: Llantrisant-Near-Usk, in south Wales, and Braunton, in North Devon, in the United Kingdom.
Federal Trade Commission: Covid-19 Scams

How to tell if the person contacting you is a legitimate contact tracer: they will only ask for health information not your financial information.

Scammers are using illegal robocalls to sell health insurance and work-at-home income gimmicks.

The COVID-19 crisis has made consumer protection more important than ever. Wage garnishments usually occur as a result of a court judgment. The judgment can be from anything, but most commonly is from a credit card, student loan, medical debt, car repossession deficiency, or similar.

HOW MUCH CAN THEY GARNISH? Generally, a person who makes less than $217.50 per week cannot be garnished. Other than that, a person in Maryland can have a whopping 25% of their paycheck garnished. The National Consumer Law Center's study, "No Fresh Start in 2020" gives Maryland a grade of "D" for its garnishment exemptions.

If you feel your wages are being garnished illegally, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD). We have represented clients that have been wrongfully garnished, read more in our HLF blog.

Here are some of the protections that state governors have issued to protect consumers against wage garnishment during Covid-19:

  • The Governor of Illinois issued an executive order suspending garnishment summons, wage deduction summons, and citations to discover assets on a consumer debtor or consumer garnishee for all consumer debt.

  • Governor Jay Inslee of Washington issued a proclamation protecting stimulus checks and state and unemployment payments from bank account garnishments for consumer debt.

  • Maryland's Governor Hogan's executive order protecting the stimulus check from garnishment or consumer debt collection.

Have you experienced a collection call for medical debt during the pandemic?

As the second wave of the Covid-19 is setting in, most student borrowers of federal backed loans that received forebearance because of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) are coming to an end on December 31, 2020. CARES also stopped collection actions for loans that were in default between March 13 up to December 31, 2020.

In a recent Supervisory Study by the CFPB from March to June of this year, problems were found with student loan servicers and debt collection. Issues found: late fees being credited in a way that maximized fees to the servicers, to falsely telling student loan borrowers that their loans are never dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Identity Theft Hits Close
to Home
Imagine getting a phone call from a creditor saying you owe thousands of dollars and not knowing what they are talking about. Then after you obtain your credit report, you find out there are ten credit cards taken out in your name. You begin to feel queasy. How did this happen? You are so careful.

We have had clients contact us in similar circumstances, and the answer for some of them as to the "who" stole their credit: a mother, a friend or other family member.

There are three things you need to do when you find out your identity may have been stolen:

1- Go to the Annual CreditReport.com and review all accounts that are being reported, and also all companies that have pulled your credit reports. Because of the pandemic, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are offering free weekly reports through April 2021. If you see accounts that you did not open, or companies that pulled your credit without a permissible purpose, then you have a problem.

2- Dispute credit reporting errors IN WRITING with each credit bureau. Each bureau will do their own investigation. If after their investigation, they don't correct the error, then you may have to hire a Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyer.

3- File a police report and also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

good to know:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act recognizes your right to privacy:
"There is a need to insure that consumer reporting agencies exercise their grave responsibilities with fairness, impartiality, and a respect for the consumer’s right to privacy."
Peter Holland is on the board of directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. When not practicing law, you might find him with his wife and four kids, or playing golf, ice hockey or one of his (too many) guitars or banjos.

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. Manny also serves on the Maryland Attorney General's COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force, Consumer Protection Committee and on the Data & Legal Technology Committee.

Both Peter and Manny 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 consultation 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.