Businesses are allowed to demand a civil fine from you if you are charged with shoplifting. The fine is permitted to help the business defray the costs of having to maintain a loss prevention unit. If you don't pay it, they may bring a civil suit against you and be awarded a judgment for that amount, plus cost of court and attorneys' fees.
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I agree with the previous answer. The burden of proof is on them, but if you signed an admission the burden is very light. Don't give them any more information, it won't help.
You will need to consult with a consumer protection or bankruptcy lawyer locally for private and specific advice on your particular issues.
Many lawyers on this site offer a free consultation and you can find one near you, make an appointment for legal counseling, and take your paperwork and a written chronological summary.
1. Start keeping a detailed log of all calls and letters and a paper file of all information. Because persistent violations of the FDCPA are punishable by statutory fines and attorney’s fees under federal law, but you need hard evidence.
2. Make a written demand that all further communications from creditors is in writing under 15 USC 1692 (c). The letter should also contain a dispute of the validity of the charges and include a demand for a complete accounting with signatures, and all contents of their file.
The creditor then has 30 days to reply and they may not take any action until you have been sent the validation. Bear in mind that this may be motivation for the collector to work your account when the file comes to them from the original creditor with new information.
3. Do not give them any personal information because that is how collectors decide on which accounts to recommend suing. Remember they may not tell the truth and will say just about anything to get a payment from you and that payment reaffirms the debt, gives them information about you and your bank and ability to pay.
4. If you are going to make payments use money orders only and never personal checks, wire transfers, money grams, or “check by phone.” If the collector finds a bank account, the collector will be more likely recommend a lawsuit to their legal department.
5. Collections are negotiable; the original creditor has given up and is losing up to 50% on the face value already either by splitting any return or selling at a huge discount. In addition, the costs of a lawsuit although discounted still are a factor in the decision to settle with you.
If you are going to settle mark the check “settled-in-full” at the very top back of the check and include a letter explaining that you are offering a settlement, keep copies of everything.
6. Get written confirmation of any payment plan the agency will accept before making a payment.
7. Specify in writing that all payments shall be applied to principle first.
If you’re ready to throw in the towel, go see a local bankruptcy attorney and explore your options for federal protection. The protection will even look back 90 days from filing, get back money taken by the collectors, and apply it fairly.
If your debt is with the government like the IRS or a State agency or for Child Support or taxes, the rules will be different and you will need a local lawyer at once.
DO NOT use a paid debt settlement service; most of them are scammers. Here are some links to help you with your state & federal rights;
Washington collection agency complaint form: http://www.dol.wa.gov/forms/600006E.pdf
Washington statute regulating collection agencies: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=19.16
Consumer rights in Washington: http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/collectionagency...
Look for a qualified consumer protection attorney for a low cost or free consultation: http://www.naca.net
You can search the Avvo web site under the Find a Lawyer tab. But always remember to act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to an attorney and finding out what your rights are. If this answer was helpful, please give a “Vote UP” review below. Be sure to indicate the best answer. Good Luck
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I typically advise my clients NOT to pay the civil demand letters that are related to shoplifting allegations. Occasionally, there are cases where I end up advising my clients to pay the demand, but it is very case-specific. You should consult with a criminal defense attorney ASAP to get a better sense what all your options are, and what choices are best for you in getting through this situation.