Collection Letters From Law Firms: Are They Legitimate?
If you get a lot of collection letters in the mail, they may all seem pretty standard. You may not even be afraid of getting them. But then you get one that looks different. This one is from a lawyer. Now you know you’re in trouble or about to get sued, because there is a law firm after you. Or is there?
Law Firms and Collection Agencies
Before you get too frightened, many collection agencies partner with law firms in order to use their letterhead for the sole purpose of scaring consumers into paying. Likewise, many law firms have in-house collection departments. Many of these law firms do not actually review any files, don’t know who you are, and have not given any review or meaningful legal analysis to your debt or potential case. They are simply using the leverage that their law license provides them to collect debts.
You may notice, in some cases, there is language on your letter that informs you that no lawyer has actually reviewed the letter, or that no attorney has conducted any investigation into your potential case. This is usually a good clue that the attorney is not meaningfully involved in your case.
Any letter that suggests that a law firm will sue you and that it has conducted some kind of legal analysis into your specific case when it has not done so, is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For a lawyer to actually send a letter on legal letterhead, and to threaten legal action against you, the lawyer must meaningfully participate in the debt collection process. This means more than just automatically signing a thousand letters a day that the lawyer has not even looked at.
Many law firms try to confuse consumers by giving mixed messages on collection letters. They will say that they have not reviewed the file, and are only acting as debt collectors and not as lawyers. Then they will threaten a lawsuit. This kind of contradiction is a violation of the FDCPA.
A letter does not have to say the word “lawsuit,” to violate the FDCPA. A letter from a lawyer that threatens some vague “further action” will take place, could violate the FDCPA, as could any veiled, vague or ambiguous threat that could reasonably be construed as taking legal action.
Remember that there is nothing illegal about an actual attorney threatening a lawsuit. Some of these letters are from real lawyers, who have reviewed the file, and who can or will sue.
The FDCPA violation is when a lawyer threatens the lawsuit, even though he or she has not reviewed the file, and knows little or nothing about the debt or the circumstances of the debt. Using a legal letterhead just to scare consumers is not allowed under the FDCPA.
Questions about foreclosure, debt collection, or consumer credit problems? Contact the Miami consumer rights attorneys at Jacobs Legal today.