Three Steps to Take When Zwicker & Associates Tries to Collect a Debt
Zwicker & Associates is a collection agent and law firm based in a suburb north of Boston, MA. It buys collection accounts from and works on a contingency basis for major credit card issuers, including American Express. According to the BBB, Zwicker & Associates employs more than 800 employees, and has offices near Oakland, CA and Atlanta, GA. Zwicker & Associates employs 300 people at a call center in Hebron, KY. It is not public knowledge how many Zwicker & Associates employees are lawyers. However, the company is known to file lawsuits in almost all states.
Zwicker & Associates collection agency employs or contracts with debt collection lawyers in almost all US states. It calls itself a law firm specializing in debt collection and has a reputation for filing lawsuits relatively quickly.
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Zwicker & Associates must follow the same rules other collection agents do. These rules are found in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Zwicker & Associates calling itself a law firm does not make it exempt from the FDCPA.
When Zwicker & Associates contacts you to collect a debt, take these three steps in this order:
- Validate the debt
- Review the debt’s statute of limitations
- If necessary, negotiate a settlement with Zwicker & Associates
Validate the Debt
Under the FDCPA, consumers may dispute a debt when a collection agent attempts to collect a debt. This is called debt validation or debt verification. If the consumer does so within 30 days after the collection agent contacts the consumer, the collection agent must:
- Cease collection activities
- Ask the original creditor to verify the:
- Amount of the debt
- Name of the consumer
- Other information, such as account numbers
- Share the debt validation information with the consumer
If the original creditor cannot provide validation, Zwicker & Associates may not collect the disputed debt. The threshold for debt validation is low. However, some collection agents have stated in testimony to the FTC and CFPB in the summer of 2013 that if a consumer disputes a debt, the collection agent will either return the collection account to the original creditor or otherwise cease all collection activities.
Statute of Limitations and Zwicker & Associates
If Zwicker & Associates validates the debt, look to your state’s statute of limitations to learn if Zwicker & Associates can use your state’s court system to collect the debt. State lawmakers created statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits to encourage people to settle their disputes quickly while the matter is fresh in people’s minds and records are still available. Other states have long statutes of limitations.
The statute of limitations for credit card and other consumer debts is a bit tricky. In all but two states, creditors can still file a lawsuit against a consumer after the statute of limitations has passed. If the statute of limitations clock has run out, it is up to the consumer to raise this defense and ask the court to dismiss the case.
Look up your state’s statute of limitations for credit card debt (if the collection account is for a credit card) or written contracts. Has the clock run out on this account? If so, then send Zwicker & Associates a cease communications notice. Under the FDCPA, collection agents must stop pestering a consumer once the consumer sends a cease and desist notice.
If Zwicker & Associates validates the debt and the statute of limitations has not run out, then you may want to negotiate a settlement for the debt.
Negotiate A Settlement With Zwicker & Associates
Collection companies handle collection accounts in one of two ways: Buy the collection account outright from the original creditor and own all rights to it, or work on a commission basis as an agent for the original creditor. Zwicker & Associates seems to buy some collection accounts and work on a commission basis for original creditors.
Collection agencies buy collection accounts for one to eight cents on the dollar, typically. The fresher the account, the more an agency pays for an account. A collection agency that owns an account has more negotiating flexibility than an agency working under the direction of the original creditor. The individual debt collectors who work for collection agencies are paid on a commission and have extra incentives to make deals at the end of the week and at the end of the month. Use this to your advantage if you want to negotiate a settlement to the debt.
If the collection agency did not buy the account and is working under contract with the creditor, then it will have less price and payment term flexibility in settling the debt. Either because the agency bought the account for top-dollar, or because the agency is working for the creditor, settlements on newer accounts typically range from 40 to 60 cents on the dollar. Some original creditors are notoriously hard-nosed negotiators and will insist on more than 60 cents on the dollar.
If you do not feel comfortable negotiating, then partner with a debt settlement provider. Debt settlement companies employ teams of people who do nothing but negotiate settlements all day. Debt settlement companies rely on past settlement databases, so their negotiators know what range original creditors and collection agencies have accepted for settlements in the past.
Bills Action Plan
When Zwicker & Associates contacts you about a debt, validate and dispute the debt. If the original creditor cannot validate the debt, Zwicker & Associates cannot collect it. If the debt is validated, then review the debt's statute of limitations to determine if the collection agent will likely file a lawsuit against you. If the debt is not time-barred, learn tactics and strategies to negotiate a settlement with Zwicker & Associates.