Bankruptcy: How to PROTECT YOUR CREDIT REPORT

protect your credit reportBankruptcy should always be a last resort (see our Debt Relief Options page for bankruptcy alternatives). However, if you are determined to file bankruptcy, then please take your time and don’t rush the process. It is more important to ensure that all your bases are covered than to make a mistake that may cost you later.

FIRST: Obtain Your Credit Reports

You need to obtain your credit reports from the three major credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Fortunately, you can conveniently obtain all three of your reports online in only minutes from www.annualcreditreport.com.

  • With the reports direct from each bureau you will have access to a file number and a phone number needed for accessing customer service.
  • You will see the addresses for each creditor on the credit report. If it is not there, then you can call customer service to ask them to provide you with the missing information.
  • When you call the bureau you can ask them to provide you with the phone numbers for each of the companies showing on the credit report.

NEXT: Get Updated Creditor Information

You need the most up to date information you can get when filing for bankruptcy.

  • Call each creditor and ask them how much is owed and for the address where payment should be sent.
  • If they don’t handle the account, then ask them for the name and address of the collection agency that will take payment.
  • Call the collection agency and ask them how much is owed and for the address where payment should be sent.
  • When dealing with creditors and collection agencies don’t let them bully you over outstanding balances. Just collect the information you need. All you have to say is, “Thanks. I will call your company back soon regarding this matter.” Then HANG UP!

Finally: Make a List of accounts for your bankruptcy attorney

Your attorney will need the addresses, current balances, and account numbers for all of your accounts to complete the bankruptcy papers.

  • If you don’t see a creditor or collection agency on the credit report, but you know for a fact you owe money, then you need to find any billing statements or collection letters you may have received. These statements and letters will have necessary address information and phone numbers along with amounts still owed.
  • If there are creditors that you want to continue paying, then it is very important at this time to tell your attorney that you want to offer reaffirming on the debt. The attorney will then send the offer to the creditors you have selected who must accept it. Then the judge must accept the offer too. The creditors will continue reporting the balance owed and show the status “reaffirmed” on your credit report.

Once the bankruptcy has been discharged, your balances will show as zero on your credit report. 

When creditors don’t update account information with the credit reporting agencies, then you get an incorrect credit report that still shows you owe on the accounts in question, and that they are currently in collections or charge off status when in fact they are not.

If you find that any of your creditors listed in your bankruptcy are still showing outstanding balances or if any of your creditors continue their collections efforts once the bankruptcy has been discharged, there are are a few steps your can take to resolve the issue.

  1. Obtain a copy of your bankruptcy and discharge papers from your attorney or the courthouse. This may include a copy fee.
  2. Make three copies of the section of papers that list all of the creditors and collection agencies that were included in the bankruptcy – usually this is called the Schedule F.
  3. Forward these documents along with the discharge to all of the credit-reporting agencies requesting that each creditor included in the bankruptcy be updated to properly reflect a zero balance with the status included in bankruptcy.
  4. When mailing correspondence to the credit reporting agencies, include a copy of your driver’s license and mail “certified return receipt requested”. This will ensure disputes are processed with little delay.

If you have completed these 4 steps and you still have a creditor or collection agency which is not honoring your bankruptcy and continuing collection efforts, then be sure to contact your bankruptcy lawyer. Give your lawyer the name and address of the company bothering you so that he or she can send them official notice. Follow up with the lawyer if the creditor persists in harassing you. It is a violation and they can be held accountable if they don’t cease after notification of the bankruptcy.

protect-your-credit-report

Tags: debt relief solutions, avoid before filing bankruptcy, protect your credit report

3 Ways to Remove Yourself From a Co-Signed Loan

co signed loanWe talk to a number of people who regret signing on the dotted line for their sister, best friend, boyfriend......  If they had just listened to Judge Judy in the first place, they would not be in this position. You should NEVER co-sign a loan for someoen unless you are married to them! That being said, so many people get talked into co-signing a loan and regret it later.

What does co-signing a loan actually mean?

Co-signing a loan basically makes you just as responsible for repaying it as the party actually taking the loan out in the first place.  For many consumers, that seems feasible.  After all, the only people asking you to co-sign a loan are either family members or close friends; you’re not gonna co-sign a loan for any regular Joe.

But, as is often the case, stuff happens and your friend or family member can’t afford to pay the loan off, leaving you holding the bill all by yourself.  So how do you get out of it?

Is it possible to remove yourself from a co-signed loan?

As a wise Homer once said to his wife Marge, “Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals, except the weasel.”  While we certainly don’t condone weaseling out of your financial obligations, we certainly understand the feeling of buyer’s remorse that comes with co-signing a loan.

Banks and other financial institutions typically don’t let co-signers off the hook unless the other signer can demonstrate he has the funds to pay back the loan on his own.  Since that doesn’t happen often (why would they ask you to co-sign in the first place?), here are three ways to remove yourself from a co-signed loan:

 #1 Time off for good behavior

Some loan programs will release your obligation to the loan as a co-signer if the other person is able to make their payments on time over a set period of time (usually about 2 years).

#2 Have them refinance it

Assuming your buddy has a good credit history on their own and has enough income to make the payments, you can try and get them to refinance the loan in their name. The account may still show up on your credit report, but it should be listed as either closed or paid in full.

#3 Sell, sell, sell!!

Did your friend or favorite second cousin ask to take out the loan for a new car or house?  If so, and they’ve fallen behind on the payments, you can certainly try selling the car or home to help with the payments – assuming your name is on the title. 

Hopefully you can use these tips to get yourself removed from a co-signed loan.  If you need more help, one of our Debt Solutions Specialists can help. 1-877-492-4109

Tags: debt relief solutions, credit repair, co-signed loan

3 Tips on How to Cope With Financial Stress

Coping with financial stress is not only possible, but may help put you back on the path of financial stability!

Let's face it, we are living in one of the most financial challenginghow to cope with financial stress times of our history.

  • Unemployment is at an all time high
  • There never seems to be enough money at the end of the month
  • Retirement savings at an all time low

Someone has said that FEAR is really:

  • False
  • Evidence that
  • Appears
  • Real

Here are 3 Tips on how to cope with Financial Stress:

FIRST: As bad as your financial situation seems, it is probably not as bad as you think!

There was an article from ABC News that really nails the problem:

Don't scare yourself with "what if" scenarios. Don't tell yourself panic-inducing stories about the future, because you'll begin living in this catastrophe that hasn't actually happened. Instead, look to the past, at the stories of how you've rebounded before. We're in a time of incredible uncertainty but the future is never certain -- remember the tough times you've made it through before.

You can probably recall tough times before and somehow, someway, you made it!  YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN!

SECOND: Determine exactly where you are financially.

If you haven't done so, you need a very complete budget.

I know, things may seem so bad that you may be thinking, What's the use?", but you have to know! 

Remember?  FEAR =  False Evidence that Appears Real

Once you know how much you have coming in (net take-home from all sources) and how much you have going out, you can start to deal with the problem or at least free up some outgo that you most likely can live without each month:

  • Daily Starbucks ($3 for a cup of coffee x 5 days x 4 weeks = $60)
  • All the extra channels on your Cable TV (you may save $25-$35)
  • Going out for lunch each day ($10 x 5 days x 4 weeks = $200 !!!)

And there is probably more, but you get the idea. 

You could free up a coupld of hundred dollars without too much pain or sacrifice!

THIRD:  DON'T BE TEMPTED TO USE (OR KEEP USING) YOUR CREDIT CARDS!

I know the rational behind using credit cards to make up for lack of income, but in the long run, you are just charging your way into a black hole that you may never recover from.

But if you have serious credit card debt, what can you do?

There are several programs available and you should request a FREE CONSULTATION to determine if one would work for you.

Learning how to cope with financial stress is not impossible.

Remember these 3 tips:

  1. Your financial situation is probably not as bad as you think.
  2. Find out EXACTLY where you stand financially.
  3. Don't be tempted to use those credit cards!

Fianlly, if you are being harrassed by collectors, click below for free information:

stop collection calls Free Guide

photo by: anitafrances

Tags: debt relief programs, how to cope with financial stress, debt relief solutions, create a budget

HELP! Can a debt collector leagally call my neighbor?

It is one thing to "love thy neighbor", but it is quite another thing to share financial information with the folks next door.  However, we get calls from people all the time looking for help because their creditors have started calling their neighbors, parents, siblings etcetera. 

Can a debt collector legally call your neighbors?

Surprisinglygly, yes.  In some cases this practice is actually legal.  This is just another example of how collectors are getting more resourceful as more and more consumers become buried in debt. 

Federal law regulates only third-party bill collectors.  Calls to someone other than the debtor, such as a neighbor or family member, are allowed as long as collectors only verify the debtor's address, phone number or place of employment. 

debt collector leagally call my neighbor

What CAN'T debt collectors do?

Debt collection laws vary from state to state, but here are the basic rules that all collectors must follow.  These laws prohibit debt collectors from:

  • Calling outside the hours of 8am and 9pm, threatening violence or using profane language
  • Refusing to identify themselves, misrepresenting what is owed or falsely implying legal action has been taken
  • Contacting debtors at work if it is possible to reach them at home in the evening
  • calling more than once weekly at work or continuing to call the workplace if the debtor has told them not to

Are you being harrased by collection calls. If so, you may need the services of a professional debt relief agency.  Their solutions specialist can help you to determine whether you would benefit from a Debt Consolidation or Debt Settlement program.   

If you need help immediately, CALL NOW for assistance!

1-877-492-4109

Tags: fair debt collection practices act, debt collection harassment, creditor legally call my neighbor, common collection practices, debt relief solutions, credit counseling

Help! I need debt settlement advice!

debt settlement advice I have too much credit card debt and need debt  settlement advice.

 What are my options?

 When overwhelmed with too much unsecured credit card debt, before you decide on a course of action, take some time to analyze your unique situation.

Can you meet the total minimum payments on all of your cards?

If the answer is no, then Debt Settlement may be the best choice for you. 

How does Debt Settlement work?

Instead of continuing to make normal minimum monthly payments that do little to reduce the original principle, determine how much you an set aside each month in a savings or reserve bank account with a qualified Debt Settlement Company.

These funds will be used to negotiate a settlement of you account in the future.

Can I negotiate settlements on my own?

Yes, but understand that the collectors you will be dealing with are trained professionals.  Their job is to get as much money out of you as possible and they will use every technique possible to do so!

Most Debt Settlement Companies have experienced, trained negotiators who may be able to settle you debts at 30%-40% and even including their fees, the total may be less than you would be able to negotiate on your own.

It also takes a lot of time to negotiate a settlement.  If you do not have the time or patience, you may end up spending much more than if you hired a professional debt settlement company.

What happens after the settlement?

Before you agree to a settlement, make sure, absolutely sure, that you get the agreement in writing before authorizing a check-by-phone or sending any money!

It is not uncommon for unsuspecting credit card customers to be lied to when negotiating a settlement.  Remember...NO WRITTEN SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT...NO DEAL!

Once the settlement is completed, you should request a letter stating the account has been settled-as-agreed.

If you do not receive a letter, then contact the creditor until you get one.  Do not be surprised if it takes a couple of months!

 

Tags: best way to eliminate credit card debt, debt relief solutions, settling credit card debt on your own, debt settlement help

Debt Consolidation really works!

This news clip shows a real life Debt Consolidation success story.  Check it out!

 

Tags: debt consolidation success, debt relief programs, debt consolidation, best way to eliminate credit card debt, debt relief solutions, credit counseling

I need debt settlement advice!

too much debtA prospect wrote, "Christmas is over and I charged too much!"  Can you help with debt settlement advice?

When someone calls and tells us that their credit card debt has grown to a level where they cannot keep up with the minimum payments, they are in serious trouble.

Bankruptcy should be the last option, so what can they do?

First, we advise that they should get a clear financial picture of their situation.  They need to complete a BASIC BUDGET in order to find out exactly where they stand.

Next, it's time to be honest with yourself.

If your net disposable income (net left over after all bills are paid, excluding credit debt) is less than the minimum total payments required on all of your credit cards, then you really only have 3 options:

1.  Do you qualify for a Debt Management Program?  If you do, then you will have ONE MONTHLY PAYMENT that will be disbursed to each of your creditors according to agreements made with each creditor.

Some creditors will reduce the payment, interest rate and fees to allow you to pay off 100% of the balance over approximately 48 months.

Your creditors will NOT be calling you and according to FICO, being enrolled in a debt management program IS NOT A FACTOR of your credit score.

If you qualifiy for a debt management program, it would be your best option.

2.  If the total payment of a debt management program is still too high, then DEBT SETTLEMENT may be your best option.

Debt Settlement is a program designed to negotiate reduced payoffs on you unsecured credit card debt.  usually, the settlement is at 50% or so.

Instead of making regular monthly payments to your creditors, you will save an amount each month that your budget can handle. 

If you are not disciplined enought to leave this account alone, you may need to seek the help of a professional Debt Settlement Company.

Once a settlement has been negotiated and payment completed, the account will be listed on your credit report as "settled" or "settled at a reduced amount" or something like that.

People always ask, "Will this hurt my credit score?"

At this point, that should not be a consideration.  The goal is to get these creditors "paid off" and not have to file for bankruptcy!

There will be time to improve your credit score later.

If you cannot qualify for Debt Management or Settlement, then your only option may be bankruptcy protection.

Make sure to seek the counsel of a bankruptcy attorney who specializes in bankruptcy.

Tags: best way to eliminate credit card debt, debt relief solutions, debt elimination without bankrupcy, alternatives to bankruptcy, debt consolidation vs. debt settlement, debt settlement help

I received a summons. What can I do?

credit card help

HELP! I received a summons for my credit card.

What can I do?

First, don't panic! 

  • You are not going to jail
  • You most likely will not have to go to court
  • If this was an unsecured debt, no one is going to come take your personal property
  • The creditor is not going to garnish your wages...unless you ignore the summons
  • For the time being, your bank account is OK

OK, so now what?

Somewhere on the first part of the summons it will tell you that you have 20 or 30 days from receipt of the summons to ANSWER the complaint.

To answer means that you file a reply with the court explaining why you don't owe the debt, THAT IS, IF YOU DISPUTE THE DEBT.

But in this case, you owe it, you just don't have enough money to make the payments.  To answer DOES NOT mean to explain why you are in a hardship position, financially.  So don't waste your time or money filing an answer.

Instead, contact the attorney who filed the claim for the creditor.  Ignoring the summons is not a good idea!

But before you do, take time to write down all of your net income and expenses so that you will be able to explain why you cannot keep up with the payments at this time.

It might be helpful to use a basic household budget. 

For a free copy, click here.

If you had about 50% of the balance somewhere, you could make a settlement offer and most likely they would accept it.

But, most people do not have that kind of money available or they wouldn't be in trouble in the first place!

So, let's say that your minimum payment was supposed to be $125, but you can only realistically afford $50.

Offer to pay $50/month if they will stop the interest and finance charges.

If the monthly interest and other charges (late fees, over-the-limit fees, etc.) are more than $50/month, it doesn't make sense to send them $50.  You wouldn't get anywhere!

If they accept the offer (most likely will come back at you with a counter offer), MAKE SURE TO GET IT IN WRITING.

This is critical to protect you in the future.  Many people agree with a service person, authorize a check-by-phone, make several payments, and when the check on the account, find out that nothing from the original account agreement was modified.

GET THE AGREEMENT IN WRITING, PERIOD!

Once the agreement is set, do not miss a scheduled payment.  This is usually grounds for voiding the agreement and you are back to square-one!

If you can't afford anything, then you may want to consider bankruptcy protection.

Although bankruptcy should be your last option, it is not the end of the world.

Seek the advice of a bankruptcy attorney (one who specializes in bankruptcy) before proceeding.

You may also want to consider other options such as Debt Management or Debt Settlement.

Remember, DON'T IGNORE THE SUMMONS, but DON'T PANIC!

Be proactive and most likely, you'll work something out.

 

 

Tags: wage garnishment, debt relief solutions, summons, alternatives to bankruptcy, stipulated agreements

HELP! My Debt is Out of Control!

Too much debt, not enough money!  What can I do? my debt is out of control

First, you need to find out exactly how much money you have coming in and how much is going out each month. 

Most people really don’t have a budget to keep track of their finances.

When you know exactly how much money you have (or how little), then and only then, can you decide which solution would be best for you.

 

OK, you need $500 just to make the minimum payments on your credit cards, but only have $350 or so after all other bills are paid. 

Does it really make  sense  to continue making the minimum payments required by each of your creditors?

Consumers do not understand that the Credit Card Industry does not want, nor expect you to ever fully repay your accounts! Billions of dollars of interest and fees are earned from people just like you, who only pay the minimum payment each month.

It is estimated that in takes the average consumer 15-20 years to repay a single account at a cost of 3-4 times the total amount charged! There’s got to be a better solution, and there is.

Debt Management (sometimes called Credit Counseling) programs? How do they work?

Most unsecured creditors will participate in a Debt Management Program (DMP). To determine if you qualify, information about your accounts will be entered into a national data base. 

You will need:

  • Name of the creditor
  • Account number
  • Current Balance
  • Interest Rate
  • Payment

If you qualify you will have:

  • One monthly payment disbursed to each of your creditors according to the accepted proposal.
  • Lower over-all interest and fees allowing you to pay off these accounts in 48 months or so saving you thousands of dollars in interest and fees.

Although your credit score may decline slightly while you are in the program, once you have completed the program your scores will improve. For more information, visit www.myfico.com

No creditors are calling as they are receiving monthly payments according to the program.

But what  if after  completing the Household Budget Worksheet and examining the Debt Management Program you simply do not have enough left over at the end of the month?

Then, a Debt Settlement Program (DSP) may be your best solution.

Debt Settlement is a program designed for those  who are…

  • Facing severe financial hardship due to circumstances beyond their control (loss or lower income due to unemployment, lay-offs, divorce, disability, insufficient retirement income, etc.)
  • Have considered a Debt Management Program (above), but simply cannot qualify or afford the monthly payment required.
  • Do not want to file for bankruptcy at this time.

How does a Debt Settlement Program work?

If you have fallen behind in making your minimum payments (or are about to), rather than continuing make payments, you will deposit an amount you can afford into a savings account or into an account set up by a qualified Debt Settlement Company

Once there is sufficient funds to make a settlement offer, the creditor is contacted and a settlement is negotiated.

Most creditors will accept a settlement, but there are some cases where a creditor may attempt to seek legal action in order to collect the full balance.

But, successful settlements can still be made in spite of a judgment, as creditors would rather accept a settlement offer than force you to consider bankruptcy.

For those of you who are self-employed, retired and/or receiving Social Security and/or Disability benefits or income from a pension or retirement plan, then you are most likely exempt from any legal action from a creditor.

Once you or a professional negotiator has arranged a settlement, the account is now listed on your credit report as “paid-as-agreed” or "settled-as-agreed" with a zero balance.

Debt Settlement can be a time-consuming venture and you may not get as good of a settlement as a professional debt settlement company.

It might be in your best interest to request a FREE Analysis from a qualified company.

my debt is out of controll

 

Photo by Caston Corporate

Tags: fair debt collection practices act, best way to eliminate credit card debt, debt relief solutions, debt consolidation vs. debt settlement, Credit Card Debt Negotiation

Debt Settlement Help

Too much debt? You may need debt settlement help.

debt settlement help

You've done your best to keep up with all of the credit card or unsecured debt you have, but there is just no way to keep up with the payments any longer.

After responding to an ad on TV, you find out that you cannot qualify for a Debt Management Program because the monthly payment is too large.

Rather than filing for bankruptcy, you may want to consider debt settlement help.

Debt Settlement is a program designed for those who are:

Facing severe financial hardship due to circumstances beyond their control.  Unemployment, rising cost of living to those on a fixed budget, divorce, disability...situations that can happen to anyone.

After your accounts have been past due for 120-180 days, most creditors will consider a settlement on the account.

In fact, you may receive a letter or statement offering a 75% settlement if you can send the entire amount by the end of the month. Of course, if you had that kind of money, you probably would not behind in the first place.  What can you do?

If you have 40%-50% that could be paid in a lump sum (most likely, you don't), then play hard-ball and offer 40%.  If you have a lump sum, you should be able to get the account settled for a much lower amount that 75%.

If you do not have the lump sum needed, then counter with a term-payment settlement of what your budget will allow.

Here's an example:

You have a credit card with a balance of $8,000.  It has been charged off and is with XYZ Collections.  

You don't have $4,000 (50%), but you could put $1,000 down and then make $300/month payments on the balance of $3000, for 10 months.

The agent will most likely say that they cannot go beyond 3 or 6 months.

Tell them you have no more funds and if the offer is rejected, then you would most likely have to file for bankruptcy protection.

If the answer is still no, then hang up.  You may get a call right away with a counter.  If you do...Hold firm!

Wait about 3-4 days (ignoring their calls) and then call back and hold firm with your offer.  You may have to give a little (12 months of $300 instead of 10 for a total of $4600 total), but you still have a decent settlement.

If the agent agrees, GET THE AGREEMENT IN WRITING! Never send or authorize a settlement payment without having the written agreement in hand!

Finally, don't be late on your payments!  There will be a phrase in the settlement agreement stating that any missed or late payments will VOID the agreement.

As you can see, it is possible to settle debts with your creditors on your own.  However, if you are uncomfortable with this proccess, there are Debt Settlement companies out there to do it for you.  Since you will have to pay a fee for their services, it may cost you a little bit more.  However, you will still save thousands and have an experienced debt settlment professional doing the negotiating for you.  Either way, Debt Settlement is a great option!

Tags: best way to eliminate credit card debt, debt relief solutions, Credit Card Debt Negotiation, settling credit card debt on your own, debt settlement help