Are you being called by Schachter Portnoy?* Here's what you need to know.
Financial problems can hit anyone at any time. In many instances these situations gradually improve, but some people become so overwhelmed by debt that they are unable to make their minimum monthly payments and their accounts go into collections. It gets even worse when aggressive and unethical debt collectors start pursuing them, as not all debtors are aware that the law restricts what collection agencies may say and do to when communicating with consumers.
Your Rights Under the FDCPA
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, restricts what third-party debt collectors can say or do when seeking debt payments. Tactics like the following are against the law and can lead to significant fines and other consequences.
- Using profane or obscene language
- Telling you that you can arrested or imprisoned for nonpayment of a debt
- Making legal threats they have no intention of following up on
- Ignoring a written cease communications request
- Threatening to damage your reputation and credit rating
- Pretending to be police officers or government agents
Company Profile: Schachter Portnoy
Schachter Portnoy is a debt collection law firm headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. It also has branch offices in Valhalla, New York and Atlanta, Georgia. It was established in 1999, has over 50 employees, and is managed by its owner, Harold Schacter. Records retained by the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website indicate that people who felt harassed by Schachter Portnoy have fought back in court on numerous occasions.
Alleged Violations against Schachter Portnoy
According to PACER, Schachter Portnoy sent a collection letter on or about August 2, 2013 to a New Jersey resident regarding an alleged debt owed for medical treatment. This letter, which was later introduced as an exhibit, read:
Dear [Plaintiff's Name]:
This law firm has been retained by the above-named creditor to collect the outstanding balance due on your account stemming from medical services rendered. Our client requests that you send payment in full. Please make your check payable to Schachter Portnoy, LLC Attorney Trust Account, and send payment to Schachter Portnoy, LLC, 3490 US Route 1, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. If you cannot send payment in full, it is possible that a payment plan could be arranged. Please contact this office to make arrangements for payment.
You are hereby notified that this firm is acting as a debt collector in this matter. We are attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose. Unless within thirty days after your receipt of this notice, you dispute the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, we will assume the debt to be valid. If you notify us in writing within the 30-day period after your receipt of this notice that you dispute the debt, or any portion thereof, we will obtain verification of the debt, or if the debt is founded upon a judgment, a copy of the judgment, and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to you by us. Upon your written request within 30 days after receipt of this notice, we will provide you the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
The paintiff felt that this letter included language that overshadowed the required thirty day notice (e.g. “our client requests that you send payment in full”), leaving the recipient unsure about their right to request validation or verification of the debt. The letter also appeared to have the electronic facsimile signature of Darin S. Portnoy, an attorney with the law office, and was printed on company letterhead, which she took as a statement that an attorney reviewed her account, made a legal determination that a debt was owed, and then issued the collection letter to her.
Feeling harassed by Schachter Portnoy, she hired a consumer attorney and filed a class action lawsuit against the firm for the following alleged FDCPA violations:
- Using false, deceptive or misleading means to collect a debt
- Misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of the debt
- Implying that there was direct attorney involvement in her case
- Threatening legal action the firm had no intention of taking
- Using unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt
- Failing to validate the debt on request
The matter was later dismissed.
Hire an Attorney
The phone numbers for Schachter Portnoy are:
If any of these numbers appear on your caller ID when the phone rings, it means that you are being called by Schachter Portnoy. If they send you collection letters that appear to obscure or misrepresent your rights, hire a consumer attorney. If you file a claim against Schachter Portnoy and the judge decides in your favor, you could win $1,000 per violation as well as attorney's fees, court costs, and any actual damages. When debt collectors play games, your attorney can help you emerge the winner.
*Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is Case 3:14-cv-04715-PGS-DEA from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Disclaimer: The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be constructed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Schachter Portnoy or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.