3 Best Apps for Managing Your Money

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Many people find themselves in debt because they don’t manage their money well. There is a negative stigma on debt, but it is often the result of a series of small mistakes such as forgetting to pay off a credit card bill, not regularly checking bank account balances, not moving any money into savings or forgetting to make student loan payments and getting behind.

Luckily, there’s an app for that.

You can find an app for almost anything these days—editing photos, meeting new people, tracking your steps, booking a flight and even figuring out what song is playing on the radio. Take a look at these top user-rated apps for managing your money conveniently from your smartphone!

  1. Mint

Often touted as one of the best financial apps available, Mint is a collection of different apps for managing money. For example, Mint Bills lets you set up bill payments directly from your phone, while Mint Personal Finance keeps a log of all of your recent transactions and allows you to create and track budgets and credit scores.

You can manage your earnings, spending and savings via your bank account, mutual funds, 401(k) and/or IRA. Mint will alert you if you go over budget, overdraw your bank account or if an unauthorized payment was made using your debit or credit card (to help prevent fraudulent purchases).

Mint is available for iOS, Android and Windows, and it is free to download!

  1. Expensify

Expensify has both an app and web interface, so you can check your information from any of your devices. It is rated high in easy navigation and usability and offers four main features: SmartScan, Add Expense, Track Time and Track Distance.

The SmartScan feature allows you to take pictures and categorize your receipts. Expensify can use these receipts to generate reports and track your spending habits. This feature is mirrored in the Add Expense button, which allows manual entry.

  1. HealPay Reminders

healpayLast month, a Michigan-based company called HealPay released an app unique to their innovative bill pay solution—SettlementApp. HealPay’s “reminders” allow consumers to opt-in and create bill reminders via SMS and e-mail. Reminders allows for custom messaging, real-time delivery and unlimited reminders. This app, in conjunction with their online SettlementApp, reduces overhead and automates operations for companies that receive routine, reoccurring payments while reminding their consumers at no cost—a win-win for all parties. Learn more at http://healpay.com.

With today’s technological advances and a free app for managing nearly every aspect of your life, do your research and take advantage of the tools that can help you rest well knowing nothing has been forgotten!

Debt Collection Law Ranks High in Safety and Security

Debt collection law gets a bad rep. Just Google “debt collection,” and you’ll stumble across a thousand stories about crooked collectors, deceptive ruses and stringent regulations to maintain the climate of lending, borrowing and repayment.

If you’ve been following our blog, you likely already know that debt collectors must follow specific federal guidelines to avoid violating consumer rights and maintain their own responsibilities. Well-known laws that we’ve discussed include the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).

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However, what you might not know is that in the entire field of law, the legal debt collection industry is in the top 10 percent for IT security, data security, physical security and third party vendor management.

Because of the nature of the practice, collections tops all other areas of law in disaster preparedness, disaster recovery plans and employee training and conduct.

The industry as a whole is more likely to have superior call recording capabilities that record 100 percent of incoming and outgoing calls, email encryption and email programs that recognize and restrict the sending of a 16-digit sequential number (ie—credit card numbers).

The licensed and recognized creditors bar is the least likely to be hacked among all law firms nationwide, and although there have been attempted website hacks, there are no known data breaches in the entire industry of legal collections.

While the stringent standards placed on collectors are to protect the consumers, they make the practice of debt collection very expensive. Collectors rank high in the areas of safety and security, and that is a positive thing, but they pay handsomely to do so.

The bottom line after paying out for security systems and other third party vendors depends entirely on a collectors’ ability to connect with debtors and work toward a payment plan that benefits both parties.

Despite the horror stories, these statistics shine a positive light on the field of legal debt collection. Collectors are doing their best to ensure a safe and secure relationship with debtors, protect important and private information and collect money in order to regain economic balance in the area of lending.

Senate Bill No. 542 Important for WV Debt Collectors

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The West Virginia Consumers Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) was originally passed in 1974 as a measure against abusive and deceptive debt collection practices. It has since been amended several times, most recently in the 2015 first session of the 82nd West Virginia Legislature.

Senate Bill No. 542 is an amendment that made significant changes to several sections of the WVCCPA. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Tomblin on March 31, will go into effect on June 12; however, certain provisions of the bill will not become applicable until September. The bill seems to focus on issues that are frequent claims litigated in West Virginia courts, such as how many phone calls per week constitutes a violation and appropriate times for communicating with consumers.

There are two major changes that will be particularly significant to day-to-day debt collection operations. The first is that the bill states that notifications of attorney representation must be made in writing (either on paper or electronically) and sent to either the West Virginia Secretary of State or the collector’s place of business.

Section 46A-2-128 formerly stated that collectors should cease communication with a consumer “whenever it appears” they are represented by an attorney. This was often ambiguous and could constitute anything from a brief phone call or voice mail to an e-mail. However, the amendment sets a more specific procedure and timeline and offers a 72 hour grace period after the collector receives the written notice from the consumer or his or her attorney. This will help collectors avoid unnecessary fines for violating the WVCCPA and federal standards.

For example, let’s say a collections firm or agency had an automated outgoing call set up to contact a consumer on Saturday morning, and the firm received notice that the consumer had obtained an attorney on Friday afternoon. In the past, if the automated call was not canceled, the firm would be fined for violating the consumer’s rights. However, with the recent amendment, the firm has 72 hours to comply after receiving the written notice.

In addition, Senate Bill No. 542 revised Section 46A-5-106, which previously allowed statutory penalties to be adjusted for inflation. Per the amendment, the penalty will be reset as of September 1, 2015. The new fixed penalty of $1,000 per violation will no longer be subject to the inflationary standards originally imposed in 1974; however, a new inflationary standard may be imposed after September 1. An across-the-board four-year statute of limitations will be imposed on WVCCPA penalties as well.

These changes signify a significant change in the nature of debt collection legislation. Up until this point, most regulations have been made with the objective of protecting consumers, but recent changes demonstrate a shift toward assisting the collections industry, which over time will benefit the state and its economy.

In the News 04/21/2015

The 2015 West Virginia legislative session saw significant changes for the debt collection industry. The WV Legislature passed Senate Bill No. 542, which amended several sections of the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act (WVCCPA). The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Tomblin on March 31, made concessions regarding when and how often consumers can be contacted, how collectors must be notified when a consumer has obtained attorney representation and minimized the interest rate on collections’ penalties, which will be effective on September 1.

For more information, you can read the bill in its entirety here: https://legiscan.com/WV/text/SB542/2015.

Or check out our blog this Thursday for a breakdown of the WVCCPA amendments and how they will affect collections in the Mountain State.

The History of Debt Collection, Part 1

According to anthropologist David Graeber, debt has involved some sort of institution throughout history. Whether it was the Mesopotamian kingship or Canon Law, some type of established authority controlled debt and ensured that there were social consequences for not paying.

As long as there has been currency, people have been borrowing and lending it. The beginnings of debt collection history involved enforced punishments upon those who were unable to pay their debts, and debts have even been paid with life itself.

If you look at the big picture, debt collectors and agencies are relatively new entities. Before their inception, it was the sole responsibility of the creditor to collect on the debt, and the law was typically on their side. In the past, many religious organizations discouraged their followers from lending and creditors from charging interest. Creditors could take consumers to court, and if they were found guilty, the consumers could be sent to debtors’ prison until his or her family could pay their debt in full. Collateral associated with the debt was a popular form of repayment (and still is in regards to car loans or home mortgages), and personal property was a popular consolation for creditors.


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Debtors’ prisons were abolished by the federal government in 1833. The image above is from a debtors’ prison in Accomack County, Virginia, where it was not outlawed until 1849.


Indentured servitude was a common form of debt repayment, even in early America. Debtors worked off their debts with unpaid labor for their creditor, and their service sometimes lasted years. This coupled with the tense early history of bank-based lending led to the negative reputations of both lenders and collectors. In this series, we will explore in more depth the historical timeline that led to today’s collections environment.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Lean Six Sigma

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As we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, timing is everything in the debt collection industry. A great way to use time efficiently is by optimizing processes and making procedures run as smoothly as possible.

Lean Six Sigma and the Continuous Process Improvement approach are a common set of industry-proven tools that are applied throughout most organizations. Applying these tools to the practice of debt collection is invaluable.

The approach includes constantly evaluating your processes in an effort to improve them. This is done with a focus on both the big picture (how it impacts the business overall) as well as the individual team member (the whole is only as great as the sum of its parts).

The big picture starts with understanding the overall vision of where you’re trying to take your practice. This includes ensuring your organization is able to accomplish its goals with its current resources and that the process has the support, or “buy-in,” at all levels. The goal at the team member level is to consistently train and educate, which will ensure that each member’s role is being executed and fulfilled at the highest level of performance possible.

Think of the actions of debt collection as an assembly line process.  A case is received and begins to go through the collection process. Typically that process will include evaluating and inputting information into the system you use, followed by pre-litigation, litigation, execution and with any luck, payment in full followed by a recorded release of judgment.

What must be evaluated throughout the entire process is three-fold: How long did this process take? How efficiently, and to what level of quality, was it performed? What was the cost and was it as cost-efficient as is reasonable?

This is where Lean Six Sigma comes in.

You can take the name quite literally—applying this approach to any business means trimming the fat (or the unnecessary steps) from your business process. The “lean” aspect focuses on efficiency. It takes a systematic approach to identify and eliminate waste (whether measured in time, effort or money) in the overall process. This is all evaluated with an overall goal of achieving perfection in the process, which brings us to the “Six Sigma” aspect of the approach.

Six Sigma is a methodology used to manage process variations in order to eliminate waste or defects with a goal of delivering the highest possible performance. In collections, our focus is providing the client with results as quickly as possible while also maintaining an emphasis on managing and minimizing risk.  Achieving our goals will ultimately improve both customer and employee satisfaction.

Executing a Continuous Process Improvement project must focus on one piece of the process at a time. That piece may be client satisfaction, operating concerns, improvement ideas, etc. and must always be tied to the overall goals/vision of the organization. To determine opportunity for improvement, you should ask several questions.

What is the problem or improvement opportunity?

Where does the problem exist (internally or externally?)

How long has it been a problem?

What is the extent of the problem and what is the impact?

Once you have identified and analyzed the problem, put it through the Continuous Process Improvement cycle, and implemented change, you must test your results. Remember to get the employees involved in the process. Resistance to change is a normal reaction; however, involving all parties in the decision for change and having them be a part of formulating the required change will instill a sense of ownership and a stake in seeing the change(s) achieve success.

While these approaches are meant to make your businesses more efficient and result in a more profitable process, you may run into mixed emotions from your team. Some will see the glass half full, believing everything is working just fine. Others will see the glass half empty, with a “this is how we’ve only done it” mentality. But with team empowerment and an environment that fosters patience in working toward a common goal, you may end the process with a common mindset that the glass is neither half empty nor half full—you were just using the wrong sized glass.

Collecting Corporate Debts, Part III

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After the service of process, a consumer has 20 days to answer the court before a default judgment is filed, but corporations are given 30 days to respond. There are a variety of ways to attempt to collect on a corporate debt. Collectors can freeze the bank accounts of corporations, file a writ to attach inventory or file a writ for a till tap.

When collectors file to freeze a corporate bank account, they usually try to catch the bank right before payroll to get the attention of management quickly.

To attach inventory is rare, but in this case, a sheriff would be dispatched to put tags on inventory at the business’s location. For example, if the judgment was for $10,000, the sheriff would tag enough inventory to equal that amount. Tagged items cannot be sold, and those assets are “frozen.” This would be similar to garnishing the wages of an individual consumer.

Filing a writ for a till tap is another antiquated practice that is rarely used. Again, say the debt owed is $10,000. The sheriff’s department would dispatch a deputy to the store site for the day. The deputy would stand behind the counter and watch the cash register, and at the end of the day, he or she would seize the profits made that day and take it to the collector. This is not necessarily used to collect the entirety of the debt, but to let the business know that you are serious about collecting and that they need to take the appropriate steps to make the debt a priority.

Settlements are often the best way to resolve a corporate debt for several reasons. Large corporations are usually concerned with keeping their names out of the news. A settlement allows the debt to be resolved quickly, without dragging out the process with monthly payments.

While the lender is usually the only person that would not want a settlement, cooler heads normally prevail in this situation. Lenders realize that they are more likely to get the largest amount of their money back by settling.

In the News 03/10/2015

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Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active duty military members and their families are protected from legal action relating to rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosure, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.

The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) recently announced that military service members will receive more than $123 million for unlawful foreclosures, which will affect approximately 952 service members and their co-borrowers.

The SCRA caps interest rates on most loans, including home mortgages and credit cards, at six percent and postpones foreclosures and debt collection lawsuits while a service member is deployed. This settlement is the result of a national settlement for violation of the SCRA between the U.S. Government and five of the United States’ largest mortgage services, including JP Morgan Chase Bank, Wells Fargo Bank and Citibank.

Read here for more information: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/service-members-receive-over-123-million-unlawful-foreclosures-under-servicemembers-civil

Atkins & Ogle Law Offices, LC offers its sincerest gratitude to all of our nation’s servicemen and women.

Collecting Corporate Debts, Part II

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As we discussed last week, collecting the debt of a corporation is significantly different than collecting the debt of an individual. Over the course of this blog, we’ve discussed at length the authority and regulations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and this might be the most considerable difference between consumer and corporate debt collection.

A lower degree of compliance is required when dealing with corporate debt. The regulations put in place by the FDCPA do not apply to commercial debts, and even the West Virginia Consumer Protection Act excludes commercial transactions.

As a result, collectors are able to pursue commercial clients more persistently, without fear of violating FDCPA standards or even fear of the nuisance lawsuits that are rampant throughout the industry today. Collectors should still use good business sense when pursuing these interests; however, they are allowed more leeway and flexibility in engaging corporations.

Commercial debtors are also typically held to higher standards in court. Contracts are more strictly interpreted and enforced in terms of interest rates, payment due dates, attorney fees, equipment levees, creditor bills, receiverships, liabilities and other clauses. Any of these may be enforceable and valid but are much less likely to be imposed against an individual consumer.

Lawyers often cite the hypothetical least sophisticated consumer standard when representing individual debtors. This standard was created to protect all consumers (no matter their education level or understanding of their debt or contract) by suggesting that even the least sophisticated consumer would have been deceived or misled by the terminology and true meaning of a given contract. However, it is assumed that corporations would be much savvier in understanding the agreement into which they were entering.

What do you think? Should corporations be held to a higher standard of contractual obligation than individual consumers? Tell us your thoughts in our comment section, and check in next week for the final installation of our series on collecting corporate debt.

In the News 03/03/2015

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In Tuesday’s post on Collecting Corporate Debts, we discussed the least sophisticated consumer standard. This week in the news, Attorney John Rossman expands on that concept on insideARM.com. This standard is an established tenet in FDCPA law, as it suggests that all debt collection communication must be approached this way.

However, many practitioners also recognize that the exception to this rule is collection communication with a consumer’s attorney. This has been debated in the past, but recently the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that “statements in a proof of claim filed in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy are subjected to the least-sophisticated consumer standard” in the Crawford decision.

While the Crawford decision is most widely known for its interpretation of the crossroads between bankruptcy law and the FDCPA, the implications regarding communications between consumers and attorneys are also notable. For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/mm6y2r6.