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Fighting Predatory Creditors in Queens

Man on phone calling about a credit card problem.Credit cards with high interest rates and mounting penalties have been aggressively marketed to poor people across the country. When a job is lost or a health problem hits, credit card debt can mount quickly, leaving people like Queens resident Ms. Z, a disabled 57-year-old, in the lurch.

Before she was able to get disability benefits, Ms. Z survived by charging necessities to her credit cards while she was recovering from successive strokes. Then she started getting several calls a day from collectors and soon her bank account was frozen. She didn't know she was being sued, and never received a notice to go to court.

Ms. Z is not alone. Collection agencies have bought up millions in credit card debt and are using unscrupulous and often illegal methods to take these collection cases to court and seize assets. The courts are overwhelmed with cases filed with errors, such as wrong names and addresses. As a result, New Yorkers can find their pension payments and Social Security checks suspended and not even know they have been sued.

The Legal Aid Society was able to help Ms. Z get the case dropped by proving to the courts that her bank account only contained exempt Social Security Disability funds. With a grant of $75,000, Legal Aid's Consumer Rights Law Project is helping protect more Queens residents from abusive debt collectors. Focusing on cases that have potential to set precedents to protect all consumers, the project will help at least 40 low-income individuals keep creditors out of their bank accounts.

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