“Why are Zwicker and Associates calling me?” We feel your pain. The debt collection company has quite a reputation for dishonest and unethical business practices. So, if for whatever reason it has your account, you would do well to know your rights and how to deal with such an agency, particularly this one.
What are Zwicker and Associates?
Zwicker is a 40-year-old consumer debt collections agency and law firm headquartered near Boston, Mass., that collects for various kinds of clients including credit card issuers. The firm, which pulls in more than $84 million in revenue annually, also buys accounts and tracks those down. As with other leading debt collection agencies, Zwicker is only called in when other resolution efforts have failed.
What’s the Firm’s Rep?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) opened a file on Zwicker in 2002. Most issues with the collector have to do with collection and billing services like problems validating debts, or modifications to billing or payment arrangements.
For its part, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has recorded a myriad of complaints having to do with inappropriate contact or info disclosure, trying to collect on debts that are not owed, untrue statements or misrepresentation, communication maneuvers, and the threat of lawsuits.
Don’t I Have Rights?
You totally do. The federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines what a debt collector can or cannot do.
For example, a collector is prohibited from phoning you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and may not harass or use threatening language toward you or discuss your debt with anyone. What’s more, it cannot call you at work if you tell it the boss doesn’t like it. It also can’t call you a thousand times a day (actually, “numerous,” but it likely feels like a “thousand”).
What if Zwicker Ignores My Rights?
If this happens, you can and should lodge a complaint with the BBB, the Federal Trade Commission and your state’s attorney general’s office. If Zwicker and Associates calls you outside of times delineated in the FDCPA, be sure to document every phone and get their full name. You should also jot down the nature of what was said, the time the call came in and the call’s duration. If you’re contacted through mail, be sure to save those correspondences.
Believe it or not, you can sue collections agencies such as Zwicker for harassment. If a court finds that Zwicker or other collector has harassed you, you can receive up to $1,000 in damages, plus court costs and lawyer fees. Such suits are more common than you might think and are increasing in incidence: just two years ago, 2,904 FDCPA suits were filed – an 11% hike over the year before.
What Else Can I Do if Zwicker Calls?
Get the agency to verify what it claims you owe. Within 30 days of agency contact, write to the agency and request verification, which Zwicker must do in writing. If the amount is wrong or something else about the debt is amiss, you likely don’t have to pay the debt. You also don’t have to fork over a dime if your state’s statute of limitations has expired.
So, why is Zwicker and Associates calling? Maybe it’s a legit debt, maybe not. But once you determine either way, you can act accordingly. You don’t have to just roll over. If the debt is valid and you want to boost your credit score, perhaps you should pursue another financial strategy such as debt settlement. Size up your situation and choose wisely.