The Holland Law Firm March/April 2020 Newsletter
The Holland Law firm team is open for business full time. We are scheduling consultations and meetings via phone, Zoom, Skype or Face Time to discuss your questions and cases.
We wish you and your loved ones the best during this life-changing interruption of our daily lives due to the onset of the Coronavirus. Much like the rest of the world, we are protecting our staff by working remotely and staying home.

Daily we hear reports not to worry about your mortgage, rent, student loan, and credit card payments as there might be a moratorium on those payments for an unspecified amount of time. While this may help in the short term, history has shown that promises from banks about loan deferments and forbearance often lead to added fees and added confusion later. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just put out this guidance for Protecting Your Finances During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The New York Times article, " Your Money: A Hub for Help During the Coronavirus Crisis " has valuable links on many financial issues such as unemployment insurance and pausing your federal student loans.

There will be a time that our world will return to a new normal. In the meantime, it is essential to get accurate information. To get the updates on what is happening with the Coronavirus visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Well the person owes the debt anyway, right?" Not always. On a regular basis, we defend victims of fraud and identify theft who were sued on an account they never opened, and victims of credit reporting errors where the account was already paid, the amounts are wrong, or the account was from identity theft.

We also represent people sued by debt buyers -- companies that buy bundles of junk debt with no representations or warranties that the accounts are accurate or owed in the first place. We have represented consumers sued for accounts they never even owned. And what if the person actually does owe the money? We represent people who owe money, but who do not owe the junk fees piled on by the debt collector. Or they once owed the money but get sued long after the statute of limitations expired.

Bottom line: under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, it makes no difference whether a person "owes the money anyway" (and often they don't.) Those statutes are designed to fight back against debt collection abuse, like calling your employer or family, like calling late at night or early in the morning, like making threats of arrest, like "breaching the peace" while repossessing a car.

Go to our website for "How to Fight Debt Collection Harassment in Maryland." Often there is a lot of shame around debt which prevents people from protecting themselves. We are here to help defend consumers and combat abusive debt collection practices.
Peter was recently interviewed for an article by Jack Karp at Legal360 titled, " From Hospital to Jail: Debtors Face Growing Arrest Rate." Karp writes about Steve Krueger of Idaho Falls, Idaho who, four days after back surgery, got a visit from some the sheriff's deputies claiming that they had a warrant for his arrest because of an unpaid medical bill.

Peter points out that while we do not formally have debtors prisons in this country, many times a body attachment (a form of arrest for contempt when a debtor does not appear in court) creates a de facto debtors prison. We have represented people who were arrested on body attachments even though they never had notice of the court proceedings.

Currently there are a handful of states that are trying to limit the use of body attachments for judgements on medical debt collection. Washington state enacted a law in July of 2019 prohibiting an arrest warrant for a debtor based on a judgement for medical debt. In Maryland the court adopted a rule change in May of 2019 that the debtor be served personally with the court order (no "substitute service" allowed any more). It is hoped that this Rules change will prevent Marylanders from surprise body attachments.
Social Security Scams on Rise
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is reporting a rise of social security scams that began in July of 2019. Here is what might happen: a recorded message or a person posing as a government employee tells you there is a problem with your benefits due to your social security number, account benefits or that you might be a victim of identity theft. The victim is then asked to pay in order to reactivate, protect or restore their benefits. If the person is threatening you at all, it is a scam. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not threaten you with arrest or a fine for an unpaid fee.

If there is a problem with your social security, then it won't come by email or text with your personal information contained in it. If you do receive a letter: pay close attention. The letters may use government "jargon" or letterhead that appears official in order to help convince victims they are authentic. But often these letters will contain misspellings and grammar mistakes which is a real red flag.
Finally, if the person is asking you to pay SSA using gift cards, prepaid cards or a wire transfer, this is a way for scammers to steal money that makes it hard to trace. We have a wealth of information about protecting yourself from identity theft, and we have represented clients whose identity was stolen.

Peter i s on the board of directors for the National Association of Consumer Advocates . Emanwel Turnbu ll is on the board of directors for Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition . Both Peter and Emanwel are members of Law Zebra , an organization of independent consumer rights lawyers working together to level the playing field for consumers in an ever changing marketplace.
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 may be able to help.

Contact us f or a Confidential Consultation at 410-280-6133
Peter A. Holland
T he 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.