Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Watch out for creditors these days

We're hearing about a lot of people defaulting on loans in this economy.

Yes, people who owe money on their homes, cars, credit cards and the like are defaulting or going bankrupt in droves. Considering how rotten the economy is, that's no surprise.

What is a bit surprising, however, is that a number of creditors appear to be adopting the strategy of squeezing the people who are paying to make up for the ones who are not. In a way, that makes sense, but beating on good customers and charging them sneaky late fees, bumping up interest rates and using other tactics to bleed money out of people who have always lived up to their obligations is just plain wrong.

Now, I've heard about some of these rotten tactics and have been arguing with one creditor who's been trying to beat some money out of me lately. Here's what happened.

A couple of years ago, I picked up a Toyota Matrix from a used car lot. Since I didn't bother with a dealership, I wound up financing it through the company the lot used rather than through Toyota.

I've never missed a payment and I've never been late on one. I know this to be true because I pulled my credit report prior to purchasing a 2009 Toyota Sienna for my wife. There's not a late payment to the creditor who holds the loan on my Toyota Matrix on the credit report at all, and I figure the fact we got a loan at a good interest rate through Toyota is proof that my wife and I are doing everything right with regard to our credit.

Now, back in December, my wife mailed the payment for the Matrix off as usual to the finance company in California. About a week later, we got a call from a woman in Memphis who said, "You don't know me, but your car payment was delivered to my house today."

Obviously, the Post Office messed up and the lady was kind enough to forward it along to the finance company with a letter explaining what happened. The finance company called, we explained what happened and the payment showed up a few days later.

Now the finance company has slapped us with a $30 late fee. I got a call from them Monday and said I didn't think I ought to pay that as the late payment wasn't my fault. I said I'd send it along with my next car payment and was told that was fine.

I got a call the next day from someone else at the company demanding that I send in an electronic payment right then. I told her I'd already handled that on Monday and she said she didn't have any record of that and started bugging me about the late fee. I told her to "check your damn records and quit bothering me" and hung up the phone.

I got another call this morning from another person at the finance company about the late fee so I growled at her, too. She said she had no record of anyone calling me on Monday or Tuesday and started howling about the late fee. I wound up cussing a bit at her, told her I didn't want to hear from her company again about such a piddling amount of money and hung up on her after saying I'd add it to the next car payment.

After thinking about it, I think I'll adopt the strategy of screwing with them and seeing just how many times they'll pester me about $30. All three of the calls I mentioned took place on my cell phone while I was at work.

I figure I'm not the only paying customer who has to deal with this nonsense and will feel compelled to mention that some finance companies are getting desperate, pesky and nasty. I would also suggest that everyone takes a look at the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

That handy slice of federal law sets out the the rights consumers have and what creditors can and cannot do. Pursuant to that act, I will be sending in a letter to the finance company requesting that they stop calling my cell phone, never call my work phone and communicate with me on my home phone or through the mail if they have a problem. Once a creditor knows that it is not convenient or allowable for them to contact you through work, they must honor requests to stop pestering people at their places of employment. My cell phone is owned by my employer, so I figure I can legitimately ask them not to call it.

Furthermore, I will dispute that I owe any late fee, request a full accounting of any and all late fees owed and ask for reasons why that fee or those fees were charged. If I get another phone call from the finance company on any of the numbers that I have asked them not to call or don't get a full accounting of the fee or fees as requested, I have grounds to turn them over to the feds.

If they want to be jerk bastards I can play that game just fine. Back when I made my living as an attorney, I filed a lot of of bankruptcies and learned to hate creditors with an almost maniacal passion. A good number of creditors like to bully people and push them around because they usually get away with it. Someone who knows their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, however, can push right back and raise five kinds of hell.


Sherry said...

You've shared some valuable information.

lot 2 learn said...

I applaud you for not putting up with the harrasment. I had a problem with a lender that my daughter used for a car loan. When she decided to move to Houston for a new job, I paid her car off for her to help her out a little. The creditor refused to send me the title and insisted she missed a payment early in the loan. I found information about the fair credit act and fought back. I took great joy in winning my fight with them

Rebecca said...

Get 'em, Hawg. Thanks for that link. Up til now, I believed we little people had no rights (that's what Chuck Schumer kept saying, anyway).

I've been in the same boat as you so many times it's crazy. Only I didn't swear. lol.

Karen said...

Wow, they messed with the wrong guy. Thanks for making it better for us little people.

phuckpolitics said...

I heard credit card companies are the next thing taxpayers will be bailing out. said...

That's a lot of hassle for $30 little dollars!

The Natural State Hawg said...

Sherry -- Thanks! I do try...

lot 2 learn -- I'm glad to hear that. Consumers do have rights, but creditors behave like none of us know that.

It's good to smack one on the nose every now and again, isn't it?

Rebecca -- Well, I shouldn't swear at them, but I can't help it. I don't like people trying to push me around.

Karen -- Hey, I'm just swiping at them a bit. I don't know if I'll come out ahead or not, but I do hope they'll refrain from being so pushy next time.

phuckpolitics -- Credit card companies deserve whatever misery befalls them. Those soulless jackals are absolutely despicable.

PurpleGreenPops -- Isn't it, though?