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Forum > Miscellaneous > a somewhat legal question? ( Moderated by Deepika, EleanorSews, CynthiaSue)

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a somewhat legal question?
ShantiSeamstressing
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ShantiSeamstressing
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Date: 1/29/12 5:09 PM

I will endeavor to make a long story short. My mother-in-law, NOT a U.S. citizen and not even residing here (in Asia), had a credit card that she no longer uses/has used for about ten year at least.

We moved back to the States (I'm from here, dh is naturalized) about five or so years back. Within a few months of being in our home, I began getting calls from a collection agency for my mother-in-law. Bear in mind ~ she's never even been here, has no visa, green card, what-have-you. She's over there; we're here. No connection except of course the last name is the same, and of course, she's my husband's mom.

I gave her the info and she said it must be that her number had been stolen, because she hadn't used that card in such-and-such number of years. It's about $1200. I advised her to deal with it anyway, contact them anyway, but she seemed unworried....They kept calling all these years, just leaving little messages for her name on the caller ID....

Fast forward to late fall 2011 and we get a notice from the nearby small claims court of a date for her to be present regarding that amount. Yikes! I contact her and give her the contact info. of the bill collector; and I tell the bill collector her overseas number. I thought it was all over.

Sat. I get a notice in the mail from the small claims court (!) that the next hearing is in the spring, and that the defendant [my mother-in-law! yikes!] is subject to arrest for failing to appear. What! Even if she was the one owing that money, she "can't" appear as she can't legally enter the U.S. - no visa!

What do I do? : contact those bill collectors/laywyers again and just tell them, again, she is not here and they'll have to call her in her country? I mean...my husband and I can't be held accountable for another able-bodied adult (who isn't even liable, actually), who is still alive, right? (Meaning, if she passed away, I suppose we'd pay all her debts, legally...? I guess. But she's alive and well and working in her own land.) Just wondering if anyone has the slightest clue what to do. Yours truly hasn't ever even had a traffic ticket, so it's a mystery to me.

mastdenman
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mastdenman  Friend of PR
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Date: 1/29/12 5:43 PM

You need to have a consultation with a local attorney. It's not possible for anyone on a message board to give legal advice. Your local bar association should be able to give you a referral. The cost should be negligible or free, but definitely worth the peace of mind.

------
Marilyn

January 2009 to January 2010 81 yards out and 71yards in January 2010 to the present 106.7 yards out and 146.5 yards in. January 2011 to the present: 47 yards out and 69 yards in.

justgail

justgail
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Date: 1/29/12 5:50 PM

It sounds like the collection company bought up a bunch of past due accounts and her account was mixed in along, or as she said, used without her knowledge. They are now dragging you into it hoping you will pay up just to make them go away. If neither of you signed on for the account, they have NO business calling you.

Please consult a professional on this, I just remember that there are limits to how much they can harass family members about this. If you need to do some research first, so you have all the information you will need ahead of time, you might try the Dave Ramsey website.

poorpigling

poorpigling
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In reply to ShantiSeamstressing


Date: 1/29/12 7:24 PM


Oh dear what will happen next.. sigh. its always something isn't it..

First off in order for the plaintiff to proceed even in small claims court they must have proper ''service'' .. You can call your local small claims court to see what their definition is of proper service for your locality..
At the same time you can request to talk to the court clerk.. and if you explain this to them. they more than likely will have it removed from the docket. You did make one HUGE mistake here.. you apparently opened the envelope address to your MIL. You should not have done that for more than one reason.. but if anything else appears for her. you need to write Not at this address and send it back..
AT this time you could put the letter back into the envelope.. and mark it as ''opened by mistake'' . Now here is the problem with doing either of those activities.. Seeing as you have the same last name.. most courts won't buy that just on your word alone.. in fact even jury notices have to be ''identified'' by the Post Office as being for a different person not living in that home. . In other words. if the name is almost exact the same name.. or if you receive other mail for that individual at that address... that excuse will not fly.

You can however appear in court if necessary ... and frankly if the court clerk will not help you that is exactly what I would do.. It would put a quick end to the proceeding.. Legally, your MIL must be served and given a fair chance to appear at the hearing.. It would also be up to the plaintiff to prove the charges were hers. or made with her knowledge and so forth.. I am guessing her identity has been stolen somewhere along the way..

Shanti.. I want you to look real closely at that letter from the small claims court. and make darn sure it is truly from there.. and not just a scam notice from the creditor.. Many companies are very good at intimidating you by claiming to be something they are not.. or claiming activity that is not really happening with these accounts.. And no .. this will probably never stop.. the phone calls and so on.. unless and until you stop it yourself by using the laws in regard to these harrassing calls.. which may include taking them to court..

If that was a legit notice .. I would be sure to make an appearance in her behalf.. really.. in your behalf.. because if no one appears..t then they may be given an automatic judgement.. and then you will find yourself being hounded by their attempts to collect on that judgement..

I am strongly guessing that this a a scam on the collections agencies part. as surely your statute of lmitiations on that debt would be long expired by now.. thats an easy bit of information to google up btw. That defense alone would keep them from collecting on that debt.

You reread that notice.. call your small claims court clerk.. and get back with me .. This really is no big deal. just one of those daily kind of things that can give one a headache.. Time consuming.. and just plain frustrating yes. but it will work out okay in the end.. in fact it may finally put an end to all those phone calls and such.

I fail to see any reason to spend your money on an attorney for a debt which is not even yours.. Judges are not only reasonable people. but many times are looking out for your welfare also . .not just the plaintiffs..

poorpigling

poorpigling
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Date: 1/29/12 7:26 PM

I also want to add that the bill collectors will not believe a word you tell them.they are so use to being lied to.. but a Judge will..

And no. neither you nor your DH can be made to be responsible for paying that debt. unless your names were also on the account.. or the charges were made by you.. which I assume is not the case here.. that is neither of your names are on the account in any way..

JUST so you .. and others know.. its far too easy to find the closest relative to bother.. as that question is usually on the form you fill out when you apply for credit.. Heck even your Dr. office will ask for emergency names and numbers.. This info is not for an emergency of course.. but for collections purposes.. I always leave it blank or give bad info.. not too obvious.. maybe a wrong phone number.. And I have requested by children and MIL and such to never give my name.. nor my DHs name and phone number when applying anywhere for anything..
That doesn't stop them from googleing up the info though.. which is easy enough to do in this day and age..
-- Edited on 1/29/12 7:35 PM --

ShantiSeamstressing
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ShantiSeamstressing
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Date: 1/29/12 9:29 PM

Okay, thanks everyone. (I'll try to remember to let you know what eventually happens in my own little "as the world turns.")

ShantiSeamstressing
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ShantiSeamstressing
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In reply to poorpigling


Date: 1/29/12 10:11 PM

Quote: poorpigling


Oh dear what will happen next.. sigh. its always something isn't it..




poorpigling,
Thank you for understanding. That's exactly it.
Janie Viers
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Janie Viers  Friend of PR
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Date: 1/29/12 11:39 PM

Sometimes it's "as the stomach turns."

------
JanieV

ShantiSeamstressing
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ShantiSeamstressing
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Date: 1/30/12 11:44 AM

Oh that's true as the stomach turns.

Okay, poorpigling, here's an update and let's hope this is all I ever need to say or hear or know of the matter ever again (so the poor stomach doesn't churn).

newsflash: She DID owe at one point. "Someone" told her once they couldn't find her information and that meant it was canceled. Did she save that name, date, badge number, what have you. Of course not. She is not meticulous....very very brilliant, (has a PhD) but gets annoyed with minutiae. Well, minutiae usually comes home to roost.

So I called the law offices handling it for the plaintiff (the credit card) and gave them her overseas address; and I called the local clerk at the court and she was very helpful, and told me to just cross off my address, note hers, and mail it back. I'll do it all registered mail.

Okay, show's over! here's hoping.

poorpigling

poorpigling
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In reply to ShantiSeamstressing


Date: 1/30/12 12:07 PM


Thats good news really. as it means that her identity was not stolen..

You will most likely continue getting phone calls from that creditor however. they sell and resell these old debts.. and so you may even get contacted by another firm later on down the road who buys this debt for collection. Just don't be surprised if you do. .

Did you check on the Statute of Limitations in your State. I am sure its too old a debt to collect on at this point.. but that will not stop them from trying.

Now really.. I doubt she will willingly pay the debt off at this point.. the fact ''someone'' may or may not have told her it was cancelled is neither here nor there.. She knew she owed the debt.. and if she didn't pay it before she won't pay it now either.. As there is really. . nothing.. nothing they can do to collect this debt from her at this time as she is out of country.. She will most likely ignore any attempts at collecting. The reason I am even going into this is so you won't be surprised if they continue to call you to attempt to collect. There are steps you can take to put an end to this.. but some firms will ignore those also.. just so you know.
My guess here is that the company that told her the debt was cancelled no longer owned the debt.. that is to say they had sold it to another company and therefore were not really concerned as to whether she had paid or not.. or even wanted to pay ..

You did good to handle this so promptly. I have found in life that its worst to just let things go undone and hanging over your head.. like taxes for instance.. Now you have one less thing to think/worry about..

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