Not every "Notice" deserves your notice

September 16, 2015

Dear Friends,

Recently a senior brought me something that she’d received in the mail that really worried her.  There was a warning on the envelope that said, in big capital letters, “DO NOT DESTROY,” and the document itself called itself a “NOTICE” and warned of certain consequences for “Failure to respond.”  Click here
 to take a look at the document.  And click here to see another, similar example (in which the name of the company is nowhere to be found).

Good news and bad news

The good news was that the senior had nothing to worry about.  The document in question was merely a direct-mail advertisement from what is known as a debt-settlement company.   Debt settlement companies, in theory, help debtors negotiate with creditors so as to lower the amount owed and/or obtain better payment terms.  (But beware: Click here for information about such companies from the NYS Attorney General’s Office.)

The bad news was that I’ve recently seen several mailings to seniors that I believe are designed, like the one this senior showed me, to mislead the recipient into believing that she needs to respond, and that if she doesn’t, something bad will happen. 

Furthermore, when I researched the company that sent this “notice” – United Debt Services LLC – I found that the company is presently the subject of a class-action lawsuit in Ohio, where the plaintiffs allege that the company is improperly using information obtained from credit bureaus to identify people to whom to mail its “notices.”  So not only are companies like this sending out what I believe are misleading advertisements, but also, they’ve apparently found a way to carefully target individual people with debt.

What should a client who receives a confusing or upsetting mailer do?

Please tell your clients that if they receive something in the mail that they don’t understand, or that makes them nervous, they should show it to you – and, of course, they may show it to me at one of our many free legal advice and referral clinics.

If it appears that the company that sent the mailer is trying to deceive the recipient, complaints can be filed with appropriate agencies.  In the case I described above, I helped the senior file complaints with the following (click on the name to be directed to their website):

All the best,
Alex