Free vacation offers
‘til debt do us part
Handling debt collectors
Nobody wants to be in debt. Nobody wants to
have their debt in collections. And nobody wants
those dreaded calls from some debt collector and
their heavy-handed pressure to settle the accounts.
But you don’t have to put up with the harassment of unscrupulous bill collectors. Fight back!
U.S. District Court statistics show lawsuits filed
against debt collectors under a federal consumer protection law are up 60 percent this year, compared with
last year. According to one Houston lawyer, “A lot of
consumers don’t understand that they can go after
the debt collectors and they can get paid for their pain
and suffering, and their attorney’s fees can be paid.”
It isn’t that the debt is in question, it’s the tactics
bill collectors use. Violations involve breaking laws
about when to call; how often to call; calling at a
place of employment; informing third-parties about
the debt; or making false claims such as threatening
jail time; the forcible taking of a person’s home; or
What are your rights under the Federal Debt
Collection Protection Act? Debt collectors may not
tell a neighbor, coworker or nonspouse that you owe
money; may not call at work after you’ve told them
you can’t receive such calls; may not call before 8
a.m. or after 9 p.m.
For more information about bill collectors, call
the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357, log
www.ftc.gov, or contact your state attorney
Fortunately, not every discount travel offer is a
scam. Professional organizations such as the American Society of Travel Agents and the National Tour
Association on the Internet can provide oversight
on their members.
WE HAD A written contract
with a landscape maintenance service since 2005.
Last December they notified us they’d sold the service to another company
who would be taking over
as of January 1, and that
the new company would be
contacting us. They didn’t,
so on January 12 I called
and faxed a written request
to cancel the service. Since
then, we’ve received no service and nothing in writing,
except a bill for January.
I wrote, explaining we’d
Free vacation check-outs
canceled the service, but
they sent the debt to collec-
tions, claiming a 30-day
cancellation clause on the
contract they’d bought from
the previous company. But
the original contract stated
that all maintenance will
be performed by the origi-
nal company, and any
be in writing and
be signed by both
parties. It also
noted the agree-
ment could be
with 60 days
What’s really behind so-called free vacation
offers? Once you sign up for one of these deals,
many experts say here’s what you may find:
Hidden costs for basics or undisclosed extras.
This can include service fees for hotels, travel fees
and port charges.
Travel deals or discounts requiring people go
to a high-pressure presentation.
Discount-club memberships with penalties,
including picking up bills for everything if you cut
your trip short.
Identity theft, if your personal information is
taken simply to sell to marketers.
Your deposit money is cashed and the “travel
One of the most difficult decisions someone
must make is choosing a nursing home for an
elderly relative. The U.S. government is now giving
us a helping hand with the first-ever federal government Web site that rates
the facilities for quality.
The Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services rates 15,800 nursing homes that participate in the public insurance system. On their Web site,
ratings of 1 to 5 stars are given for
quality, measuring the percentage of residents who have
bed sores after their first 90
days in the nursing home, the
number of residents whose
mobility worsened after
admission, and whether
residents received recommended medical care.
The new site, www.
medicare.gov, also has information for commu-nity-based alternatives to
nursing homes that may
be of great interest to families. The site will be updated
monthly, and also includes
staffing levels and whether
the facility is for-profit or
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
check the radio page at
Under the terms of the
you’re not under any
obligation to accept
their service or pay that
bill. Take copies of your
old agreement, plus
the faxed cancellation
request, to the head of
the new company. Let him
know you’re ready to go to
small claims court if you
Follow up: Pat did that,
and the head of the company apologized and
released her from all liability.
© 2007 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
More in archives
At Online Edition, search
Do you have a question for David?
Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond
to your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco
members receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest
interest to Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the
contributor and will be posted on