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Please help - Atty Lawrence Hecker panicked me


confuzed
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Hi - thanks in advance for any help you can give me. I am reading the information and posts onsite, but I'm not thinking clearly and the acronyms are confusing.

"Attorney Lawrence Hecker" called me and I returned the call. They say I owe over 8,000 on a credit card account. I did have a Citibank account, I closed it (and all cards) about 14 years ago and thought I paid them all off. I don't even know if the account number they gave is correct.

They said they were starting legal action the next day if I didn't pay, they would send people to my house, garnish my wages and I would lose my job. They had my sister's name too (she has nothing to do with me financially!)

Then they said I could pay only 6,000, but then he put me on hold and came back and said no, he'd gotten in trouble for making that offer, I REALLY owed over 12,000 but they'd let me pay the 8400 in two installments if I gave them a postdated check number NOW.

I was in tears, saying how could I owe that, I don't know anything about it, and he kept threatening to hang up and start the legal proceedings....well, I gave him a check number, I was so panicked. Dumb me.

A day or two later I came out of the fog and thought, "I've just given access to my bank account to someone I don't know for a debt I don't have any reason to believe I owe." I'm just a mess. I called Consumer Credit Counseling and they said to pull my credit records and I did that and guess what - there is no Citibank or Hecker or any debt like that, just some small medical bills which I knew about and am dealing with. (I have Equifax, Experian and TransUnion reports.)

CCC said to stop the check so I did, now what do I do? Do I send one of these sample letters requesting verification on the debt? CCC said if the last activity or payment on the debt was more than four years ago, they can't collect it anyway. How do I find out when that last date was, IF the debt is real at all? Why isn't it on my credit report if I owe all this money? (The Hecker guy said the original debt was 3,000 and the rest is all fees and so on.)

I'm just freaking. I don't know what they will do when the check doesn't go through, and I don't want to lose my job. Can Hecker even do these things to someone in California when he's in New Jersey? I know he can't threaten things he has no intent or ability to do - but I don't know how to tell what he can or can't do!

Can anyone help me figure out what to do next?

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I think you've been scammed.

At the very least, if this is a legitimate collection agency that called you, they committed enough violations of the FDCPA to wind up paying you $8000.

The thing is, you not only gave them a check number, you gave them your bank account number.

I'd suggest you close that account, and open a new one. If you want to use the same bank, tell them you had a check stolen (which you did) and want to make sure the theif doesn't raid your account.

Then...if you hear from these people again...use the DV process. DO NOT talk to them on the phone. They're trained to panic people into doing things they shouldn't.

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I think they are a "legitimate" agency because I see other people on the board have heard from them, and I googled them and saw that they have had lawsuits filed against them for unfair collection practices.

Do you think I should just wait to hear from them again, after stopping the check? Or should I request the information from them now? I have an address they gave me.

I'm scared that the next thing that will happen is garnishment, as they said.

I hate to close the account, it's been open since 1979 and has all my automatic payments coming out, but I can do it.

Can they put this on my credit report NOW? If it isn't on there already?

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They can't garnish your wages without a court judgement...which they can't get until you're actually summoned to appear in court.

The problem is, these people are really low-life CAs...as evidenced by the suits against them. If they have your account information, they may try to do an electronic check against it. If you have someone at the bank you can trust, and want to talk this over with them, go ahead. You need to make sure that all avenues for them getting at the account are plugged.

If this pops up your CRs now, and you haven't had the account for 14 years, then they will have violated several laws. Doesn't mean they won't do it, just that you'll have reason to sue them.

(Actually, I'm thinking that if they didn't immediately go into your account for funds to cover the check you gave them (...you did say you had second thoughts days later...), it could be that they figured out they had the wrong person. Again, doesn't mean they won't try to take your money...just that you might not hear from them again).

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I forgot to say thank you for answering me. ;) I'm really not thinking clearly about all this.

I'm going down to the bank and talk to them about it this morning. Maybe there's some way to protect the account, I don't know. Or some way to close it but not mess up all the auto stuff (don't want anything legitimate to bounce.)

The "check" was postdated until the 30th which is Monday and I stopped it by phone yesterday, but there's nothing to stop them giving another check number, I guess.

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Okay. I opened a new account and moved all my money. I left the old account with a little money in case anything automatic comes through before I can get it all changed over.

B of A said that if they try to use anything other than the check number I gave them (which is now stopped) that it constitutes fraud. I am going to watch the account daily. They can't get the money anyway, because it isn't there.

B of A also suggested that I call Citibank itself to see if they say that I owe them anything, and if so how much. Is that wise?

I'm sort of nervous to do anything at all now, but I sure don't want a subpoena.

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You're in California. You are no longer legally liable for anything that old. The statute of limitations has passed. If they take you to court, your affirmative defense is "time-barred" and will be thrown out! If it were me, I would send them a letter, CMRRR, and tell them that you have revoked authorization to draw any amount from your account and if they attempt to you will sue them for violations of the FDCPA. Good thing you found this site, they almost had you!

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Personally, I think you have enough there to sue them. Each of the following is a clear violation:

- Threats of legal action which they did not take.

- Threatening to "send people to your house". That's pretty close to telephone harassment right there.

- Pretending to be a lawyer. I don't believe for a second that "Atty Hecker" has passed the bar.

- Threatening to garnish wages. Not possible if they don't have a judgment.

- Threatening to make you lose your job. Not within their power.

If they don't send the proper notification within 5 days, that's another violation.

Plus, I keep hearing that it's illegal in California to even try to collect time-barred debt. Anyone know the actual law on that?

First: Send them a cease and desist letter. This debt is far beyond the SOL.

Second: File a formal complaint with your state Attorney General's office.

Third: Think about suing them. You can find a consumer advocate lawyer through naca.net, who could discuss the specifics of your case. I think most will grant an initial meeting for free.

Oh, and I would file a formal complaint with the California bar association as well. Either "Atty Hecker" is a very bad attorney with no understanding of the FDCPA, or they are lying and representing themselves as lawyers. Either way, I think the bar would love to hear all about it.

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He said that I paid something on it in I thought he said 2000, but maybe he said 2003; I tried to write everything down that he said, but I don't have that. He said the statute of limitations had ALMOST run out but not quite, which was why they were going to sue me starting the next day. He said Citibank didn't WANT me to pay, they just wanted to sue me.

I know, writing all this down, it seems really stupid, but it was terrifying at the time.

I don't have any recollection or records of having paid anything to anyone.

How do I find out the last activity?

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The OP has a case but no proof. CA is NOT one of the states that you can't attempt to collect on sue to SOL. Only WI and Missississippi.

Did you make a payment in 2000 or 2003? I'm not sure if a payment resets the SOL on collecting in CA, but I have a feeling it does not. Also, make them proof you made a payment either way.

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bigjohnstud: Ah, thanks for clearing that up. For some reason, I thought I heard someone include CA in that list.

confuzed: Do you still have the original message from "Atty Hecker"? If so, take that to the lawyer. I bet there's enough violations in their message alone to go after them.

You probably should record all calls with them in the future, providing whatever notification is required by California. I think you'll quickly get them on other violations, judging from their conduct.

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I wish I knew; I don't. I don't have records going back that far. The best I can say is that I don't remember paying anything on any account. I haven't had any credit cards for fourteen years. I just get offers, which I toss unopened.

I did look up an attorney on naca.net, there is one local to me. Thanks!

Would talking to Citibank and asking questions cause me any grief or rset any kind of clock?

I didn't record the conversation; sigh. I didn't even know what it was about when I returned the call. So I have only my own notes and I didn't write down everything he said about people coming to my house, losing my job, and so on.

I have a feeling he may have been very careful anyway...he said things like, "we'll garnish your wages and I know of schoolteachers who have been fired for that." Which is probably not the same as saying, "YOU will get fired."

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this situation is the reason why you NEVER EVER talk to a CA by phone..its out of SOL.. the guy was looking for commission and it doesnt matter if they use the check number.. they can CREATE any amount they want.. not to mention by paying it you could in many states resest your SOL again...

YOU can not lose your job.. they can not garnish until it goes to court which is unlikley on a debt that old.. if they are that stupid you have an affirmative defense its out of SOL

these people make their money by scare tactics and intimidation.. stay off the phone with them..

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Okay...I think I will send this letter today by certified mail, revoking permission and requesting validation. DOes this look all right? I wrote some of it and took other parts from a form on this site.

To Whom It May Concern,

I have revoked any (real or implied) permission to withdraw any amount from my account, as any permission was obtained using coercion and threats which may violate the The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Any attempt to withdraw money from my account will be an actionable violation of The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Be advised that this is not a refusal to pay, but a notice sent pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 USC 1692g Sec. 809 (B) that your claim is disputed and validation is requested.

This is NOT a request for “verification” or proof of my mailing address, but a request for VALIDATION made pursuant to the above named Title and Section. I respectfully request that your offices provide me with competent evidence that I have any legal obligation to pay you.

Please provide me with the following:

What the money you say I owe is for;

Explain and show me how you calculated what you say I owe;

Provide me with copies of any papers that show I agreed to pay what you say I owe;

Provide a verification or copy of any judgment if applicable;

Identify the original creditor;

Prove the Statute of Limitations has not expired on this account

Show me that you are licensed to collect in my state

Provide me with your license numbers and Registered Agent

If your offices are able to provide the proper documentation as requested in the following Declaration, I will require at least 30 days to investigate this information and during such time all collection activity must cease and desist.

If your offices fail to respond to this validation request within 30 days from the date of your receipt, all references to this account must be deleted and completely removed from my credit file and a copy of such deletion request shall be sent to me immediately.

I would also like to request, in writing, that no telephone contact be made by your offices to my home or to my place of employment. If your offices attempt telephone communication with me, including but not limited to computer generated calls and calls or correspondence sent to or with any third parties, it will be considered harassment and I will have no choice but to file suit. All future communications with me MUST be done in writing and sent to the address noted in this letter by USPS.

It would be advisable that you assure that your records are in order before I am forced to take legal action. This is an attempt to correct your records, any information obtained shall be used for that purpose.

Best Regards,

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Oh, good (%#@)&%)@!. Is this where I can start swearing?? I can't even get an address on this sleazeball to send my letter to. He's listed all over the place with various spellings. Even the BBB lists him about four times with various addresses. I can't verify the one I wrote down from the phone call - I google it and there's no match.

When I google stuff, I just find boards and references to what sleazeballs these people are, how they try to collect out-of-date debts, how they use mail drops, so on and so forth. Maybe they buy these "debts" for a penny on the dollar or something???

How do I get an address for this guy, or do I trust that I wrote one down correctly even though I can't google it? (Yes I read the sticky and had no luck with it!)

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Oh, good (%#@)&%)@!. Is this where I can start swearing?? I can't even get an address on this sleazeball to send my letter to. He's listed all over the place with various spellings. Even the BBB lists him about four times with various addresses. I can't verify the one I wrote down from the phone call - I google it and there's no match.

When I google stuff, I just find boards and references to what sleazeballs these people are, how they try to collect out-of-date debts, how they use mail drops, so on and so forth. Maybe they buy these "debts" for a penny on the dollar or something???

How do I get an address for this guy, or do I trust that I wrote one down correctly even though I can't google it? (Yes I read the sticky and had no luck with it!)

We usually don't use the "form letters" but it will suffice. As far as finding these people, try http://whocalled.us

http://www.dnb.com, which is basically the credit reporting agency for businesses, list them at: 109 Division St, Toms River, NJ

Also I would suggest making a complaint at the BBB right now too.

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I readied four copies for the four addresses that I have, and am off to send them. The Toms River is one of the ones I am sending to. I will also do the BBB stuff after (four of their listings have no complaints, but one has 25 complaints; they all appear to be the same guy.)

Thank you, all of you, for helping me.

Edited later to add:

The following addresses were received and signed for (this is for anyone looking for good addresses for these guys later)

Attorney Lawrence Hecker

2C South Gold Drive

Hamilton New Jersey 08691

Laurence Hecker

109 Division St.

Toms Rivr, NJ 08753

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I filed a complaint with the BBB. I will look into a police report too. Since they are a collection agency (a really scuzzy one, apparently) I don't know if the police would really care?

I'm still unsure of whether to phone Citibank and try to verify the account number and if there really was any balance on it all those years ago.

Question: what does it mean if this "debt" is not listed on the three credit reports at all? Does that prove it doesn't exist, or would I have to verify through Citibank?

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The fact that the account is not on your credit reports does not prove anything. If it really was your account, and it went delinquent more than 7-1/2 years ago, it would have been removed...but, you would still owe it, and they could still try to collect.

If you have a complete account number, I'd suggest you call Citibank just to see what they say. Don't admit anything, and don't agree to anything. But, at least you should be able to find out if its legitimate and in your name.

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