What to Do if You Receive a Summons for Unpaid Bills

Receiving a summons can be a very stressful situation!  Here's what you should know about a summons and more importantly, what you need to do about it:

It seems like a week doesn't go by that a prospect or one of our clients receives a SUMMONS.

Most of the time, a SUMMONS is delivered to you at home.  But in some cases, it may be mailed by certified mail or delivered to your place of employment.

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Before I explain what you need to do, you need to know why this is happening and what you can do to prevent it in the future!

When you find yourself in a financial hardship due to any number of reasons, most likely, you just can't afford to keep up with the minimum payments due on your credit accounts.

At first, after the creditor doesn't receive the payment that is due, you will get a statement with a warning (along with extra LATE FEES and added INTEREST) telling you how much you need to send in this month to catch up.

When you can't make that payment (and of course, you can't), you may start getting calls from a representative of the company.

I know you would like to explain your situation and would like to get a "little sympathy", but most of the time, the rep just doesn't care.  

I suggest that you either ignore those calls or if you just can't resist, say something like:

"I'm going through a very hard time and just cannot afford to make any payments at this time.  I plan to get caught up in the near future, but for now,  please stop calling me!"

Don't wait for an answer, just HANG UP.

Most likely, the calls will either stop or slow down and now you'll start getting letters.

These letters may threaten to "charge off" your account and turn it over to a debt collector or to an attorney.

This usually happens after 3-4 months of non payment, but sometimes, they may wait 6 months or more.

But, at some time, they will send these accounts to a collection agency or a law firm that deals mainly with debt collection.

Now, you will start getting calls and letters from them.

You can also put a  stop the calls now (before, the original creditor had the right to call you).

This will explain:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

If your circumstances don't change, and you can't negotiate a repayment or settlement agreement with the collectors, they may decide to start their "legal options" by filing a claim.

Once the claim (legal claim that you owe the debt) a SUMMONS will be delivered or sent to you.

The SUMMONS is going to say something like:

"You must APPEAR and give an ANSWER to this claim."

Without going into a long explanation, this basically just means that if you don't owe the money the PLAINTIFF is CLAIMING, you (the DEFENDANT), must provide PROOF to the court.  

This must be done in a short period of time (usually 20-30 days from the date of delivery) and it must be in "legally correct form" which usually requires an attorney's help.

Most of the time, you (the Defendant), owes the money, so when you don't give an ANSWER to the court, then the the attorney may apply to the court for a date in order to be awarded a JUDGMENT by DEFAULT.

Before this happens, here's what you need to do....

Even if the summons has been delivered, the creditor (plaintiff) may still be willing to accept a SETTLEMENT or a STIPULATED AGREEMENT:

Debt Settlement

Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be able to negotiate a settlement/reduced payment of the balance.

For example, if you are retired and receiving only Social Security or Retirement benefits as your only source of income, these funds are 100% EXEMPT from any levy or garnishment even if a judgment has been awarded!

If you are disabled, and only receiving SSI and/or Disability Benefits, these are also 100% EXEMPT from any levy or garnishment.

There are several other situations where you may have LEVERAGE to negotiate a settlement.

It's not easy, but very possible.  We do this everyday for many of our clients:

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

Stipulated Agreement

If you cannot negotiate a settlement, the law firm may apply to the court for a WRIT OF GARNISHMENT.  

With this, they can GARNISH YOUR WAGES and/or  FUNDS IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT!  For most people, this would be devastating.

Many times, a creditor (or attorney for the plaintiff), may be willing to agree to a series of payments to repay the debt instead of garnishment.  Of course, by now, the balance is much more due to interest, fees, court costs, etc.

As long as you meet the terms of the agreement, the attorney will not go forward with a garnishment or bank levy.

As you can see, a SUMMONS is serious and you can't ignore it!

I hope this information has helped, but if you feel like you need more information, then click here:

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Tags: summons, debt collector, stipulated agreement, oregon wage garnishment, Oregon debt collection

Don't Panic if You Receive a Summons!

It's bad enough to be under the stress and pressure of having too much debt and not being in a position to make adequate payments, but now, you get a SUMMONS!

I'm going to explain not only why it happened, but also what you can do to take care of it.

 

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I think it was Tony Robbins who either used an acronym about FEAR:

WHAT IS FEAR?

  • False
  • Evidence that
  • Appears
  • Real

When you get a knock on the door and someone (sometimes a sheriff or police officer) hands you a summons and says, "You've been served", it can be a very fearful experience!

 

FIRST, DON'T PANIC!

 

Take a deep breath, sit down and slowly....I said slowly (I know how you feel) the summons.

Most of the time, a summons will read something like this:

"You are hereby required to appear and defend the complaint filed against you in the above-entitled cause within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this summons on you.  If you fail to appear and defend, the plaintiff will apply to the court for the relief demanded in the complaint."

It usually goes on to read:

"You must "appear" in this case or the other side will win automatically.  To "appear" your must file with the court a legal paper called a "motion" or "answer".  The "motion" or "answer" must be given to the court clerk or administrator within 30 days along with the required filing fee.  It must be in proper form and have proof of service on the plaintiff's lawyer or, if the plaintiff does not have a lawyer, proof of service on the plaintiff."

OK...now they have your attention! But, before you "get carried away", let's examine the SUMMONS carefully:

"You are hereby required to APPEAR and DEFEND the COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST YOU...

"APPEAR AND DEFEND"

I know it sounds like you must appear in court, but that's not what it means.  The phrase, "appear and defend" is further explained in the second paragraph. 

The second paragraph (above) also says that you must file an LEGAL PAPER called a MOTION or ANSWER.

This MOTION or ANSWER is, in fact a LEGAL PAPER that you would file with the court if you don't believe you owe or are responsible for the debt they are claiming you owe. 

Yes, it will cost you a fee  just to file your ANSWER, and it must be filed in the appropriate legal fashion.  This usually requires an ATTORNEY to be retained, which also costs you more money!

But, in most cases, the client or DEFENDANT in the claim actually owes the debt, it is not necessary to file an ANSWER.

So, the 30 days to appear and defend doesn't mean you have to go to court!

OK, so what should you do?

Here's what has happened so far:

When you have debts that you are unable to pay, the creditor will send nasty sounding letters and call and call and call (you probably have experience this already). 

If you cannot or do not respond by making some form of repayment, then the original creditor may decide to hand over to a COLLECTION AGENCCY or hire an ATTORNEY to file a CLAIM or  "COMPLAINT". 

Most of the time, the original creditor will use a DEBT COLLECTOR or DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY to attempt to get you to repay the debt. They will start by sending you letters that may sound threatening in an attempt to scare you into paying the debt.

And as you probably know, they will call constantly.  Even though we have laws that protect us from harassing phone calls from debt collectors, most people are not aware or do not know how to put a stop to these calls. 

The FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT clearly spells out what a debt collector CAN and CANNOT DO!

The good news is now, you can put a stop to those calls! 

As long as the account is still with the original creditor, they have the right to call you.  Now, they must do it according to the FDCPA (above), but you can't put a stop to the calls until the account is turned over to third party collection agency.

You must send a letter and they must stop calling (even though they can continue to send letters).

This will help:

 

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

 

But, even though you can and have put a stop to the calls, in most cases, they are not going to give up trying to collect on the debt.

See my blog on HOW TO DEAL WITH DEBT COLLECTORS for some good tips.

  • OK, you've receive the summons.
  • You understand that you don't have to appear in court in 30 days

Now what?

You should contact the attorney who filed the claim and attempt to SETTLE THE DEBT by making a lump sum payment for less than the balance due. 

This is not always an easy thing to do at this point because the PLAINTIFF (the creditor or debt collector) has had to pay a pretty hefty FEE TO THE ATTORNEY to file the claim, prepare the summons and have it delivered to you.

 

Yes, many times you can still negotiate a settlement or other reduced repayment plan even though a judgment has been awarded!

 

Here's an actual example of a settlement we were able to negotiate even though a judgment had been awarded.  Click on the link below:


Actual example of a judgment that was settled.

 

But, if you are unsuccessful in negotiating a settlement, then you might have to attempt to negotiate what is called a STIPULATED AGREEMENT.

In a Stipulated Agreement, you and the plaintiff/attorney for the plaintiff have a legal document  written up ( the collector's attorney does this and you will not pay a fee). 

The agreement will basically state that if you make a certain dollar amount payment each month until the balance is paid in full, then they will not go forward with any more LEGAL OPTIONS.

 

WHAT...LEGAL OPTIONS?

 

When a Plaintiff (the creditor) is awarded a judgment (and they will be in most cases), then they now can choose to do several things...legally, to collect on the debt:

They can get a WRIT OF GARNISHMENT, giving them the ability to take 25% of your take-home pay until the debt is paid in full!

They can get a WRIT OF LEVY, giving them the right to levy one or more of your BANK ACCOUNTS! 

Again, before you go into PANIC MODE!!!!

The following sources of income are 100% exempt from any bank or account levy:

  • Social Security
  • Disability Income
  • Unemployment Income
  • Retirement Income
  • And several other sources

However, if you receive normal income (called W-2 Income) from your employer, and you deposit those funds into your checking or savings account, they can be garnished/levied.

The bank has now option but to obey the Writ of Garnishment delivered!

There is nothing more devastating to someone to deposit their check (from W-2 or other "earned income") and have their check or debit card declined at the grocery store because their account was liquidated over the weekend!

To make sure this doesn't happen, DON'T IGNORE THE SUMMONS!

Hopefully, I have made my point...

Let me summarize (if your still not clear, please re-read this article!):

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT, Ignore a SUMMONS!

If you take the appropriate action (as I've spelled out), you should be able to work out a mutually agreeable option.

If all of this sounds a little intimidating, I understand. If you need more guidance:

free-debt-relief-summary

 

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Tags: bank levy, how to stop a wage garnishment, receive a summons, judgment, settlement

"Pay-to Delete", Is This Ethical or Even Legal?

Over the last 15 years, I have come across all kinds of so-called "credit repair" suggestions and/or scams.

One of these is called "Pay-to-Delete".  The basic idea is that if you have an account that is past due, charged off, or in collections, you can offer to pay 100% of the balance in exchange for the creditor or debt collector promising to delete that account from your credit report.

Sounds OK, but also sounds "a little to good to be true". 

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The major crediot reporting bureaes are "for profit" businesses that collect data on all of us about how we use credit.  This includes:

How many accounts/credit cards you have

What type of credit accounts you use

How much debt you have

How you pay...on time, late, etc.

Judgments

Bankruptcy

The credi bureaus, mainly the big three:

Equifax

Experian

TransUnion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: how to stop a wage garnishment, Debt Settlement Services, Oregon debt collection

Debt Collectors...Don't Mess with Texas!

There are a few states that will not allow a debt collector to garnish wages, and Texas is one of them.  

If you live in Texas and have too much debt or are having trouble with debt collectors, here are some valuable tips that you need to know:

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If you, or someone you know, has gone through a time where you were not able to keep up with your debts, then you also know how stressful it can be!

Add to that a debt collector who calls all the time and may even make threats as to what they can do to you if you don't pay, and, well, it is really a bad experience.

But, if you live in Texas (and this will help everyone else as well), I have some good news and tips for dealing with and going through this tough financial nightmare:

We've been helping people solve their debt problems and deal with debt collectors for over 15 years.  

Once in a while, a prospect or new client tells us that they really don't know h

We take time to counsel and/or interview a prospect about their particular situation.

Even though each of our clients has too much debt in relation to their income and ability to repay their debts, each has a unique "reason" that led them to us.  

See if any of these sounds familiar:

  • Loss of employment
  • Divorce
  • Illness or disability
  • Too little fixed income after retirement

Once you start to fall behind or stop making the minimum payments required by the creditor, here's what happens:

At first, you start getting letters from the creditor warning you of the missed payment(s).

Then the calls start!  Lots of calls!

Now, at this point you cannot stop them from calling you (they have the legal right), you do not have to put up with harassment!  Such as:

  • threaten violence or other criminal acts;
  • use profane or obscene language;
  • falsely accuse the consumer of fraud or other crimes;
  • threaten arrest of the consumer, or repossession or other seizure of property without proper court proceedings;
  • use the telephone to harass debtors by calling anonymously or making repeated or continuous calls;
  • make collect telephone calls without disclosing the true name of the caller before the charges are accepted.

The penalties for violation of these laws by a creditor or debt collector are severe.  If you believe they have violated these laws, contact your state's attorney general's office (online is best) and file a complaint.  

We are in Oregon, so an Oregonian would go here:

Oregon Consumer Financial Protection

If the original creditor cannot get you to start making payments again or will not work with you to modify your account, then they may decide to charge it off and send it or sell it to a debt collector.

So, the letters and calls start again, but now, you can put a stop to these calls! 

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample LetterIf a debt collector cannot get you to start making payments or will not agree to a modification of your account, they may decide to FILE A CLAIM against you.

This would be done in your county's courthouse, and then you would be SERVED A SUMMONS.

I've written numerous blogs over the years that explain the who "Legal Process" that a debt collector may take.  For more information, click below:

"Don't Panic if you Receive a Summons!"

But for now, let me explain to Texas residents how they are protected from debt collectors as opposed to those who live in other states.

Once a judgment has been awarded (usually called a "default judgment" as the plaintiff/creditor wins by default), a creditor usually has several options:

  • Apply for a writ of garnishment for your wages
  • File a LIEN on your home or property
  • Apply for a writ to LEVY the funds in your bank account

In Texas, the Texas Consumer Protection Laws specifically state that a creditor/plaintiff CANNOT:

  • Garnish wages or
  • Place a lien on your home (provided it is homesteaded properly)

They can apply for a levy to take funds from your bank account, so be very careful!!!

Here's a link to help you protect your bank account funds.

However, as far as your home or place of residence, you need to make sure it has been properly HOMESTEADED.  

I found a great site that I recommend that you visit:

Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas

Bottom line...

Good news:

If you live in Texas, debt collectors cannot garnish wages or place a lien on your home.

HOWEVER...

That doesn't mean that the responsibility for your debts goes away!

You have several options, such as:

  • Debt Management
  • Debt Settlement
  • Bankruptcy

If you would like help in deciding which option is best for you, click below:

free-debt-relief-summary

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Texas, can a debt collector garnish retirement income, debt collection in texas, exemption from garnishment

Oregon Wage Garnishment...How to Prevent...How to Stop

A wage garnishment can be financially devastating, taking 25% of you net, take-home paycheck!

Here what you need to know to prevent or how to stop garnishments.

woman_on_floor_with_all_her_bills.jpgA wage garnishment doesn't "just happen".  After years and years of assisting people with debt problems, it still always amazes me when one of our prospects or newer clients that have received a notice from their employer that their pay check is going to be garnished, says something like:

I had no idea that this could happen.  I never received anything about it.

 How did this happen?

OK... Time Out!!!

A wage garnishment (technically called a Writ of Garnishment) can't happen without several steps preceding the order.

Let's start from the start...

You have several credit cards or other unsecured debts and because of something that has happened to you, such as:

  • Divorce
  • Severe illness or disability
  • Death of spouse or loved one
  • Too little fixed income after retirement

...now you just cannot keep up with the minimum payments due and start missing payments or just stop making payments all together.

When this happens, the creditor will start calling and writing letters trying to find out what is going on and to see if something can be done to get you to start making payments again.

If you ignore these calls and/or letters (and many, many people do), then the original creditor has no choice but to charge off, transfer or even sell the account to a debt collector or debt buyer.

Now the calls and letters really start to increase!

The good news is that you can put a stop to these annoying and sometimes harassing calls:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

Just follow the link above, and the calls will stop.

But, that doesn't mean that these debt collectors are going to stop their efforts to get you to pay!

So what should you do?

Let's say that you have several credit cards and because of going through a serious illness or injury, you have not been able to work, your income went down, and now, you are not able to make even the minimum required payments due.

When the creditor or collector calls, you may be able to negotiate a SETTLEMENT.

Again, depending on a number of circumstances, the creditor or collector may accept an amount that is 40% - 60% of the balance.

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

If you don't engage them, then the creditor or collector may decide to FILE A CLAIM against you in the county court where you live.

After the Claim has been filed, a SUMMONS will be issued and you will be SERVED the summons.  This could be at home or even at work!

When you receive the Summons, again, you CAN NOT IGNORE THE SUMMONS!  Even after the summons has issued and served, you should still be able to negotiate either a settlement or a repayment agreement.

But, if you don't, then there will be a court date set, and the creditor/collector will be awarded a DEFAULT JUDGMENT.

Once the judgment has been awarded, the Plaintiff (creditor/collector) can apply for a WRIT OFGARNISHMENT.  This will be sent to your employer and your employer has no choice but to obey the Writ!

Most likely, your state demands that the employer withhold an additions 25% of your net check (after taxes and required deductions have been removed).

This can be devastating!  Here's an example:

  • You earn $36,000/year or $3,000/month.  
  • You are paid every two weeks and that bi-monthly check is $1500.
  • State and Federal taxes equal 30%, so $450 is withheld and your net check is now $1,050.
  • Your employer must withhold an additions 25% or $262.50.
  • That's $525 each month!  You think it was hard to pay bills before...

I'm thinking you are starting to understand, that you cannot just ignore your debts, letters or calls, and especially a summons.

If you did, and now you have a wage garnishment, here's what you can do:

Contact the attorney for the plaintiff (that's the collector or creditor).

Explain you situation and if you have it (most likely you won't) offer a lump sum settlement on a reduced balance.

Usually, they won't take a reduction, but if the offer is large enough, they might.

Most of the time, they will be willing to accept an agreement whereby you pay them, say $200 -$300 a month (instead of, in this example, $525/month).

But, due to your financial hardship, you just can't afford any payment or the garnishment?

In this case, you should seek the services of a bankruptcy attorney.  This may be your only choice to protect yourself from the creditors!

I hope you understand my simple point....

  • A wage garnishment doesn't just happen.
  • If it does, you still have options.
  • The key is to take action!  Don't just "hide your head in the sand"!

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Tags: stop wage garnishment, dealing with debt collectors, summons, how to prevent wage garnishment, oregon wage garnishment, default judgment

Don't Be Afraid of Debt Collectors!

22853064975_8c547f714f_m.jpgReceiving a call or letter from a debt collector can be a scary experience. Here's what you need to know and what to do so that you don't have to be afraid:

 

  • Debt collectors (for the most part), are just trying to collect monies owed.  They are not "evil" or "our to get you".  If you follow my advice, you should be able to work with them to resolve your debt problem.
  • Having said that, some (yep, there's always a few) go too far in their debt collection efforts.  I'll show you how to handle this type of collector.
  • No matter how serious you financial and/or debt situation is, there is a solution.  DON'T BE AFRAID!
  • A debt collector can be from an attorney's office.  There are many lawyers that only practice debt collection.  You can work with them as well.
  • Regardless of what a debt collector says, you are not going to jail or have all of your belongings seized or confiscated!

 

You probably already know this, but let me briefly explain the debt collection process:

There are several reason why you find yourself barely able or unable to keep up with your debts.  (For the sake of this article, I'm only dealing with UNSECURED DEBT (credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, etc.) and not SECURED DEBTS (debts secured by the item itself (house, car, etc.)

Having been helping people deal with the stress, frustration and seemingly hopelessness of have too much debt, in about 99% of the time, something like this has cause the financial hardship:

  • Unemployment for a long time
  • Divorce or separation 
  • Trying to make ends meet on a fixed income after retirement
  • Long illness or disability
  • Death of spouse or partner

Using credit cards or credit in general may help in the short term, but when your situation doesn't improve or change over a long period of time, then you get to the point where is is very difficult or impossible to just make the minimum payments!

NOW WHAT?

So when you start missing payments or don't make the required minimum payments due, the calls and letters start!

I'll show you how to put a stop to the calls later, but for now, it is very important that you realize what to DO AND NOT DO, when the original creditor calls or writes.

Unfortunately, the original creditor (Visa, Macy's, Home Depot, etc.) that issued the card or account, has the legal right to call you when you miss payments.  You can do one of two things:

  • Not answer the call (just let all calls go to a recording), or...
  • Answer the call.

While your account is still with the original creditor (and it will be for 3-4 months), you might want to answer at least one call to see "where you are at" with this creditor.

Here's what I mean:

Depending a various circumstances, once you've be delinquent on making payments for a couple of months or more, you may get an offer (usually in the form of a letter), with a reduced payment plan or even a reduced balance settlement that could work for you.  

Let's say that you've been unemployed for about 6 months, used up all (if any) of your savings, and have been using credit cards to make up for the lack of income for things like groceries, gas, or even a cash advance to keep the lights on!

But, GOOD NEWS, you've found a new job and the pay is pretty close to your last job.

One the one hand, this is great!  But, on the other hand, you are so far behind in paying your credit card debt, it looks like there is just "no way" you can catch up!

You really only have a few options:

  • A Debt Management Program
  • A Debt Settlement Program
  • Bankruptcy

Debt Management is a program offered by most creditors, whereby they agree to reduce and/or eliminate interest rates and fees until you get "caught up".  This used to be referred to a Credit Counseling Program.

If you qualify, you will have ONE PAYMENT that is pretty close the total of all the minimum payments that are currently required on all of you cards or accounts.

The problem is that with a Debt Management Program, that payment may be too high for you to be able to qualify.

If you would like to learn more about this and/or see if you qualify, click below:

 

free-debt-relief-summary

 

If you do not qualify for a Debt Management Program, then you should consider a:

Debt Settlement Program

By now, most or your credit cards and other accounts most likely have been placed with a Debt Collection Agency.

Sometimes the accounts are even sold by the original creditor for "pennies-on-the-dollar" to companies.

Now, these collectors or "debt buyers" will start to contact you by phone and mail.

Whereas before, when your account was still with the original creditor, you could not stop calls, once the account is assigned or sold to a collector, you CAN PUT A STOP TO THESE CALLS! Here's how:

 

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

 

At this point in the collection process, most likely you will get or can negotiate a SETTLEMENT.

The debt collector who has the account (or the debt buyer) can offer to settle the outstanding debt for less than the full amount.

This can be done in a LUMP SUM or even in several, interest-free PAYMENTS.

Check out some actual settlements we have negotiated for our clients:

 

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

 

Once the account has been settled, not only will you be done with this debt, but your credit report/score will start to improve.  

It won't happen over night, but over a relatively short time (3-4 months after settlement), your scores will increase!

 

Finally, if you cannot qualify for a Debt Management or Debt Settlement Program, you may need to seek BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION from your creditors.

The law allows (in certain situations) for someone to basically "start over with a clean slate" through bankruptcy.

While I believe you should try to either take care of your debts through Debt Management or Settlement, if you just cannot do either, then seek the help of a Bankruptcy Attorney!

The attorney will offer you a FREE, Initial Consultation and he/she will explain your options.

As you can see, when dealing with the stressful situation of having too much debt and too little income, you don't have to fear the debt collection process.

But, you just can't "put your head in the sand" and ignore the problem.

There are answers and freedom waiting for you:

free-debt-relief-summary

 

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Tags: dealing with debt collectors, alternatives to bankruptcy, Credit Card Debt Negotiation, Oregon debt collection

Wage Garnishment in Oregon...Know Your Rights!

If you receive a notice that your wages are going to be garnished, you need to act, and act fast! Here's some helpful tips you can use:

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Here at Debt Relief NW, it seems like we get dozens of calls weekly from people who "just found out", that their pay check was going to garnished!

I've highlighted the phrase, "just found out" to make a point:

A WAGE GARNISHMENT DOESN'T JUST HAPPEN!

There is a legal process that must unfold before a creditor or debt collector can receive a writ of garnishment from he court to send to your employer.

I am going to outline, in a nutshell, so to speak, of the process and what you:

  • COULD HAVE DONE TO PREVENT IT and,
  • WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW TO STOP IT

For the purpose of this article, I'm only referring to UNSECURED DEBTS, such as:

  • Credit or Store Cards
  • Personal loans (NOT mortgage or auto loans)
  • Deficiency judgment after a repossession
  • Medical bills
  • Private student loans

OK, let me lay out an example (based on over 15 years of helping people with their debt issues):

I'll call him Joe.  Joe has a decent job and earns about $20/hour.  At 40 hours a week and an average of 4.2 weeks/month, his GROSS (before taxes and deductions) is $3360/month.

Of course, after taxes and other deductions, his NET INCOME ("TAKE HOME")  is only about $2352 (approximately 30% less than his Gross Income).

He is renting an apartment and has all of the usual bills.

His total budget or outgo is about $2100 a month, leaving him barely $250 for emergencies, etc.

Included in that budget is about $15,000 of credit card debt spread over 3 cards:

  • Visa                 $8,000
  • Master Card    $6,000
  • Home Depot    $1,000

The total monthly MINIMUM PAYMENTS on all add up to $300/month.

Joe is having a very difficult time making the $300/month, minimum payments and then, he is working around the house and falls off a ladder and breaks his leg!

His insurance policy doesn't provide for any "disability income" for the accident, so not only is he going to be off work for about 3-4 months, he doesn't have any means of income.

Fortunately, he had a little savings account, but it wasn't enough to cover all of his monthly budget.

So, Joe does what thousands of people do every day, he pays all of the most important bills, like his rent, utilities, groceries, etc. and let's the credit card bills get behind.

NOW WHAT?

After he misses a payment or two, he starts to get letters and calls, lots of calls!

At this point, Joe can't do anything about the annoying calls, because as long as his account is still with the original creditor, they have the right to call him about it.

But, once the account is charged off, sold, or transferred to a collection agency or other third party, then he can put a stop to the calls!.  (I'll show you how in just a minute.)

Of course, Joe tries to explain to the caller what he is going through and they may or may not offer some kind of "HARDSHIP PROGRAM"  to help him through this.  But, it really doesn't matter as he just will not be able to make any payments until he is back to work and get some other bills caught up.

NEXT...

The original creditor(s) will most likely charge off, sell or transfer the account to a collector after about 120 days of so if nothing can be arranged.

So now, Joe starts getting letters and calls (LOTS OF CALLS)  debt collectors!

He'd like to make some kind of arrangement with them, but they are demanding full payment on the balance or else!

At this point, he can put a stop to these calls.  Here's how:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

But, even though the calls are stopped and he is just "ignoring" the letters, the debt is not going to go away.

THE DEBT COLLECTOR DECIDES TO FILE A CLAIM

If the debt collector is unsuccessful in getting you to start making payments, then the debt collector may decide to start the legal process of obtaining a judgment.

An attorney for the collector will FILE A CLAIM at the courthouse of the county where you reside.

This CLAIM will generate a SUMMONS that will be delivered to you, usually in person, but sometimes by registered mail.

I'm not going to go into all of the details of what to do with the SUMMONS here, but you can check out a blog I've written that will be very helpful called:

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A SUMMONS.

 

But, please DO NOT IGNORE THE SUMMONS!

The fact that the collector decided to file a CLAIM proves that they are very serious about collecting on this debt.

If you ignore the summons, then a court date will be scheduled (you don't have to go), but a representative from the collector (now called the PLAINTIFF) will show up and the court will award them a DEFAULT JUDGMENT.

It's called a "default" judgment because no one contested it and they won by default.

NOW WHAT HAPPENS?

Now, the PLAINTIFF ( the collector) can apply for a WRIT OF GARNISHMENT.

The Writ of Garnishment is sent to your employer and they, by law, must obey the writ and withhold up to 25% of your net, after-tax, income.

Joe has just gone back to work and then he get's this notice from the payroll department that he is being garnished...and he starts to panic, which is understandable!

Remember when we did the math earlier about what his actual "take-home" or "after tax" income was?

That amount was $ 2,352.

Most states allow for up to 25% of the net, after-tax check to be deducted and sent to the creditor until the full balance (inflated now with interest and legal fees) is repaid!

WOW...WAIT A MINUTE...

$2,352 X 25% = $588 will be deducted from Joe's Net Check!

He could barely make it on the $2352, and now he has to somehow make it on $1764!

Yep....PANIC!

 

couple_Help.jpg

OK, so Joe's really in trouble, you get it...

How did this happen and what can he do about it now?

Joe could have stopped this "process" and ultimate JUDGMENT by trying to work out a SETTLEMENT PLAN with the debt collector.

Most debt collectors would much rather accept less than the full balance than go to all of the time and expense to seek a judgment:

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

When Joe received the summons, he could have contacted the attorney for the collector and most likely worked out some kind of repayment arrangement that may have included a reduced settlement!

Once the judgment was awarded and the plaintiff had spent more money in legal fees, they went after the garnishment.

But that doesn't mean that you still could not work out something to stop the garnishment!

You may be able to get them to stop the garnishment and take a more "reasonable" amount to repay the debt.

Depending on the circumstances, you may even be able to not only stop the garnishment, but also get a reduced settlement.  Each case is a little different.

If this help, great.

If you find it a little "over-whelming", then maybe we can help:

free-debt-relief-summary

 

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Tags: debt collection, summons, how to prevent wage garnishment, credit card, garnishment

Beware of Debt Collection Scams!

Being in a financially stressful situation is bad enough, but then add to that a call or letter from a "so-called" debt collector that threatens fines and/or imprisonment can be happen!  Here's what you need to know and what you can do about it:

couple_Help.jpg

Being in a situation where you just can not keep up with the payments due on your credit cards or other unsecured debts can be very stressful and fearful.

You have several options to help you get through this (which I'll talk about later), but it is very helpful if you have a basic understanding of how the debt collection process works...legally, that is!

Calls and letters

Once you start to fall behind in making at least the minimum payments required, you will start to get calls and/or letters.  The original creditor usually starts with a letter saying something like"

"Your account is seriously past due and you must call us immediately to arrange repayment or your account may be charged off and turned over to a debt collector or attorney."

What the original creditor really wants is help you start making some kind of payments again.  They really don't want to lose you as a customer or to have to charge off your account as a bad debt.

Most major credit cards or other lenders have in-house collection departments that will attempt to get you to pay.

JUST A WORD ABOUT STOPPING THE CALLS...

As long as your account is still with the original creditor, they have the right to call you in regards to that accounts.

Now, once that account is transferred or sold to a debt collector, then you can stop the calls.

I'll show you how is just a minute.

If you have the ability to get caught up and keep your account from being charged off and turned over to a debt collector, you should do so.

But, BEWARE of a so-called "Hardship Plan" offer!

Your creditor may offer you a 6 month, lower payment and/or interest to help you get "back on your feet".

These"Hardship Plans" are usually not in the consumer's best interest and you should really examine the offer before agreeing to it.

Account placed with a Debt Collector

After your account has been delinquent for about 3-4 months with no payments, most of the time, the creditor will transfer or sell your account to a debt collector.

Now, you start getting letters and calls from them, but now, you can at least put a stop to the calls.  Here's how:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

Now that your account is with a debt collector, you may be able to negotiate a SETTLEMENT for less than the full balance due.

A successful settlement depends on several factors and although not that easy to do, can be done.  Here are some actual examples of a settlement:

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

Most debt collectors will work with you and will follow the law as laid out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA.

A debt collector can and cannot do certain things in an attempt to collect a debt and it would be worth your time to familiarize yourself with your rights under the FDCPA.

Beware of Debt Collection Scams!!!!!

Once in a while you may get a call, letter or email from a debt collection scam company.

One of our clients received an email recently from just such a company.  It stated:

This letter is to notify you that we have received a Summons of Garnishment on your wages. This means that someone you owe money to has been awarded a judgment by the court for payment of the debt. The court has ordered us your employer to deduct 50% percent of your disposable earnings and make payment to the court on your behalf. The following applies to you:

Before you are arrested

If you pay in full, or make a part-payment before you are arrested, the warrant will be recalled and amended. However, it will be immediately re-issued if the debt is not paid in full.

After you are arrested

Once the warrant has been served, your only options are to serve the time in prison or pay the debt (plus costs) in full at the court house.

If you want to stop the garnishment deductions from your paycheck, you must obtain a release or pay the entire amount you owe, which you can pay with the help of Money Gram, Western Union, OneVanilla Prepaid Visa Card and American Express Prepaid Debit Card in order to close this account.

Sincerely,

Frank Dollard, Sr. Officer

UNITED STATES OF FEDERAL MANAGMENT      ACELOAN.ONLIN

Not only was this a scam, but also illegal under the FDCPA!

Here is an article concerning this you should visit:

American Cash Services USA - Payday Loan Collection Scam

There are so many violations of the FDCPA, I don't know where to begin.  But, let me point out a couple of the most blatant ones:

A debt collector cannot threaten that you will be arrested!

Yes, a debt collector may choose to FILE A CLAIM concerning your account.

You would receive a SUMMONS, and if a settlement could not be reached, a JUDGMENT may be awarded to the plaintiff (collector).

Then, and only then, could the plaintiff seek payment via wage garnishment or bank levy.  But, even these have restrictions and limitations.

I've written several blogs about WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A SUMMONS, and it may help you to check out.

If you ever receive a call, letter or email from a company like this, DO NOT REPLY,  but contact your state's attorney general's office immediately.

If you live in Oregon, click here

So, do not be tricked into one of these collection scams!

When your debts are just too much to handle, you have several options, but do not fall prey to one of these crooked scams!

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Tags: debt collection harassment, debt settlement, receive a summons, abusive debt collection practices, garnishment

Do Not Let Debt Collectors Intimidate You!!!

Dealing with a debt collector can be very intimidating.

 Here are some tips how to deal with them:


4685879535_e268930fc8_n.jpgSomeone has said that the word FEAR really stands for:

  • False
  • Evidence, that
  • Appears
  • Real

Living under the financial stress that comes from dealing with too much debt can be one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can face!And if that wasn't bad enough, now you have debt collector calling day and night!

It's time to eliminate that fear that comes from dealing with debt collectors!

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects all consumers from the unlawful tactics used by some (not all) debt collectors.

Although the FDCPA covers many things that debt collectors can and more importantly, CAN'T DO, here are some of the most important for you to know:

They cannot call you dozens of times a day or before 8am or after 9pm.

They cannot harass, threaten or try to deceive you.

Although they can contact family and friends, they are prohibited from revealing anything about you debts or situation.  They can only contact them for your address, phone or work number.

And about contacting you at work...You can stop that by telling them you cannot take personal calls at work.  If they call again, you have a legal right to file a claim with your state's attorney general's office or even contact an attorney to bring charges!

They cannot threaten you or insinuating that you could be arrested, etc.


But, what most people are afraid of is that somehow they can take your stuff or money in the bank, wages, or make you sell your home.

You have to understand the legal process a debt collector must go through to really understand what they can and cannot garnish or levy. 

Disclaimer...

Although I've been helping people solve their debt issues for a long, long time, I am not an attorney, so don't take anything I say as the advice from a legal authority!

Having gotten that out of the way....

While your debt is with the original lender, they have the legal right to call you about it. Now, the same FDCPA rules apply, but at this point, you cannot make them stop calling you.

However, once the original creditor charges off, places the debt for collection or even sells your debt to a debt purchaser, then you have the LEGAL RIGHT TO STOP THE CALLS!

Here' how:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

 

When the debt is placed with a debt collector, of course, they want to get you to pay them money and don't really want to go the "legal" route unless all else fails!

Trying to explain your situation to the average debt collector is usually a waste of time.  That's why I encourage all of our clients to NOT ANSWER the phone and if they do by mistake, JUST HANG UP!

But they are going to send you letters....lots of letters in hopes of getting you to pay or set up a repayment plan.

You might even get a letter offering to SETTLE for LESS THAN THE FULL BALANCE.

This may or may not be a good deal, but you should think about it.

When I work for my clients, I'm trying to negotiate a settlement of around 50% or less.  In most cases we can.  Here are some actual examples:

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

If you cannot come to an agreement with the debt collector over a reasonable amount of time (maybe 2-4 months), they may decide to:

File a CLAIM

You'd then get a SUMMONS

And that could lead to a JUDGMENT

Which could allow them to now...NOT BEFORE... get some of your money, etc.

ONE MORE TIME...

THE DEBT COLLECTOR CANNOT TOUGH ANY OF YOUR ASSETS WITHOUT A JUDGMENT!

Filing a CLAIM means that they hire an attorney to file the proper documents with the county court wherein you reside.  They are "claiming" that you owe this debt.

Then, you'd be served a SUMMONS.

It basically states that the "plaintiff" (creditor or debt collector) claims you owe such-n-such a debt.

It also states that you have 20-30 days to "APPEAR" and give an "ANSWER".

That sounds like you have to go to court, but you don't!!!!

If you can prove (with clearly documented evidence) that you do not owe this debt, then you could file the legal document called an ANSWER. 

But, in most cases, you owe the debt, so it is not necessary.

WHAT YOU CANNOT DO IS TO IGNORE THE SUMMONS!

In most cases, they (the debt collector or attorney for the plaintiff) may be willing to set up some reasonable repayment plan instead of going through all of the legal processes to get a judgment.

But, if you ignore the summons, they will then set a court date and be awarded a judgment by default (no one contested the CLAIM) so they win a DEFAULT JUDGMENT.

I hope you are starting to see that there is a long process before a creditor or debt collector can go after any of your assets.

So, let's say that a creditor or debt collector is awarded a JUDGMENT, NOW WHAT?

If you are employed, and receive a normal check (called a W-2), then they can now file a WRIT OF GARNISHMENT with your employer.   

Your employer had no choice but to obey the "WRIT" and send the attorney for the plaintiff 25% of your net/take home check each week or by-week until the total debt you owe is paid back. And, they can charge interest as well (each state varies, but Oregon is 9%).

If you are unemployed or retired, unemployment income or retirement income from a retirement plan and especially from Social Security is 100% EXEMPT from garnishment.

But, BE AWARE!!!

If you "co-mingle" your retirement income (including Social Security) with other "earned income", then ALL OF THE FUNDS are now accessable at your bank!

That can happen if you transfer some of your retirement or Social Security income funds from checking to a separate savings account!  Now they can go after the savings account.

So, if you have a judgment against you, make sure you get some sound advice on how to protect your assets!

Here is a link to a very good article about what I have been writing about.  It's published by the Federal Trade Commission and very informative...

Debt Collection

 

I hope this has helped you understand what a debt collector can and cannot do so that you won't be afraid!

If you could use some help, then let us know:

free-debt-relief-summary

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Tags: debt settlement, debt collectors, summons, judgment

Enrolled in a Debt Settlement Program? Now What?

Making the decision to enroll in a Debt Settlement Program brings a whole lot of different things to prepare for and get comfortable with. 

After 15 years of helping people manage their debt issues, let me share with you some things that will really help!

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People decide to enroll in a Debt Management Program such as Debt Settlement after a careful examination of their individual financial and personal situation.  We always carefully walk our potential clients through their various options to make sure they choose the best one for them.

Although there could be many other reasons, most people have experienced one or more of the following:

  • Unemployment for too long a time
  • Divorce
  • Major accident or illness
  • Death of spouse or partner
  • Retired with too little income
  • Disability

Again, many people turn to the easily available credit of a credit card, pay day loan, or some other "quick fix" solution with the intention of paying these off as soon as things turn around.

I can't remember anyone that sought our help that had just foolishly spent and spent and spent and now was not able to keep up.  I'm sure that happens, but that's not the normal Debt Settlement Client.

So here you are...

Several unsecured accounts (may also include medical bills and judgments) where the minimum monthly payment is just too large for the current income you have coming in.

Let me walk you through the basic process of the Debt Settlement Program:

When you miss (or start missing) the minimum payments due on your credit accounts, you most likely will get a letter or even a phone call from your creditor.

At first, they seem pleasant and willing to work with you, but as time goes by, their attitude and tactics change.

Now the letters seem very "threatening" and "demeaning" and the phone calls keep coming more often.

When a creditor calls, don't forget that the caller has been trained to say and do whatever they can (hopefully within the laws of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) to get you to start making payments again.

If you are not in a position to get caught up on your outstanding/delinquent debts, then I advise that you just ignore the call (learn to use caller ID!) or just hang up if you pick up by mistake.

I know this sounds harsh, and some other Debt Settlement Companies my suggest that you try to explain your situation, but years and years of working with people deal with debt collectors has taught me that is is usually a waste of time!

Oh, and by-the-way, as long as your account is still with the original creditor, they have the legal right to call you. Now, they are not supposed to call every hour or so and they are limited to the times of day, but at this point, I still advise that you just ignore them for now. (I'll show you how to put a stop to them just a little later.)

So, what's next?

After a while, maybe 3-4 months of this, your accounts will most likely be charged off and/or assianged or sold to a debt collection agency or debt buying agency.

"Charged off" means that the creditor is going to claim that they could not collect on this debt and they will "write it off" as a loss for their annual tax reporting.

TIME OUT...

About 99% of our clients ask, "What's this going to do to my credit?"

There is some great information about how your credit report and credit scores work.  I'll give you a summary here, but it would be well worth your time to visit this site:      MyFico.com

I know you are concerned about your credit score, but at this point, by being late, having too much debt and using too much debt, your credit scores are going to go down (if they haven't already).

The fact that you have gotten "in over your head" credit use wise, but, have taken the steps to do something about it (like debt settlement), will in the long run improve your scores.

Right now, the goal of the debt settlement probram is to help you avoid wage or bank garnishments due to judgments and/or avoid being forced to seek bankruptcy protection from your creditors.

Once you/we have successfully negotiate all of your accounts to a $0 balance, your credit score will improve.

Having your account "assigned" or "sold" to a collection agency, sounds very bad, but actually, for your debt settlement program, it is good.

Once your account(s) have been turned over to a collection agency, the negotiation process really starts. 

Now we can demand/put a stop to the calls.  I do this for my clients, but you can do this yourself.

Here's how:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

Now, once in a while the orgingal creditor may send you letter stating that they would be willing to settle you account for such-n-such, but not very often. 

If you get such a letter, be sure to forward it to the Debt Settlement Company right away as they may be able to get an even greater reducion/settlement for you!

Here's a good place to explain what your responsibility is while enrolled in a settlement program:

  1. Don't speak with the crediors or debt collectors as this actually hinders your negotiator in reaching good settlements.
  2. While your account is with the original creditor (Visa, Home Depot, etc.), you really don't need to send every monthly statement.  One about every 3 months is fine.
  3. But, when the account is transferred to a debt collector, you need to scan or fax the most recent letters you receive each month.  This is VERY IMPORTANT!  I have had many client's fail to send me very good offers until a couple of months after receiving them.  When I called on the offer, the account had been recalled by the creditor and now we have missed a very good opportunity.

How settlements are negotiated:

You've been making deposits/contributions into your Reserve Account help by an FDIC bank through your Debt Settlement Company for a few months now.

Obviously you don't have enough built up to settle all of you accounts, but your negotiator will try and negotiate a settlement with the company that is willing to give you the best settlement.

Most debt settlement companies will not make offers for settlements until they have a very large lump sum of money to offer.  However, I have found that fair settlements can be negotiated and paid out over several months at now additional interest.

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

After the settlement has been completed:

Once the terms of the settlement have been completed, the debt collection company will send a letter of statement stating such.

They are supposed to send update information about this account to the 3 major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), but about half the time they don't!

I have our clients wait about 2-3 months after the settlement has been completed to request an Credit Report on themselves.  It's not difficult and it can be FREE.

The law allows for each of us to request and receive a credit report on ourselves annually.

For a FREE copy (no scores) go to www.annualcreditreport.com. 

You will asked a few security related questions, but should be able to get your credit report without too much effort.

You can get a more detailed report including your credit score from a number of sites, such as:

Credit Karma  or   several other sites

If you find errors, ie. they have not been updated since the settlement was completed, you can open a DISPUTE and in most cases, the error will be corrected in 30 days or so.

So, in a nutshell, that's how a debt settlement program works.

If you have questions or would like to learn more, let us know:

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Tags: debt settlement, debt collectors, credit card, free credit score