Can a Debt Collector Take My STUFF?

When we enroll a new client for the Debt Settlement Program, most of the time they are confused about what a debt collector can and cannot do.

Although the whole experience of facing severe financial circumstances is stressful, let me help alleviate your fears.

cartoon_about_stress

OK...

For all kinds of reasons or circumstances, you just cannot keep up with the minimum payments required on your credit card accounts.

The annoying calls and letters come many, many times a day!

The last call left a message and the guy said that unless you contact them right away, they may decide to start legal processes to collect the money you owe.

Your mind starts fearfully asking:

  • Can they take money out of my bank accounts?
  • What about my paycheck?  Is it safe?
  • Will I have to sell my house or car?
  • What about my jewelry, tools, or other things I value?

Let me walk you through the debt collection process so you can start to understand what a collector can and cannot do:

Once you miss a couple of months of the required payments due, you'll start getting letters saying something like...

"Mr. Jones, your XYZ Account is seriously past due and unless you call us immediately, your account may be turned over to an attorney for collection."

If you've just had a temporary financial setback and have enough money to catch up or start making payments again, you may want to call and see what they will do to help get you back on track.

They should be willing to work out some kind of plan to start taking your monthly payments again.

But if you find yourself with just too much debt and not enough money coming in to keep up, then what should you do?

It really depends on a lot of circumstances:
  • How delinquent is the account?
  • How much do you owe?
  • What kind of account it is?
  • Who the creditor is (some will work with you and some will not).

If it comes down to paying the rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc. (the really important bills) and making credit card (unsecured) payments,

PAY THE IMPORTANT BILLS FIRST!!!!!!

Usually a creditor will try to get you back to paying monthly payments (they need that interest!) for a couple of months.

If unsuccessful, they will either send to their internal recovery department or to a debt collector or even sold to a debt buyer.

An account is deemed "CHARGED OFF" when the creditor decides that they are not going to spend any more time trying to collect and are going to write the account off as a loss.

Yes, there are companies that buy millions of dollars of debt for pennies on the dollar in order to try and collect.

Either way, now you can do a couple of things:

1) PUT A STOP TO THE CALLS!

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

2)  You may be able to negotiate a SETTLEMENT for less than the balance.

Your account may now be with the original creditor's internal recovery department, a debt collection agency or a Law Firm that specializes in debt collection.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW...

At this point, creditor, debt collector, debt buyer or law firm CANNOT:

  • Garnish your wages, retirement income, disability income (an several other exempt income sources).
  • Levy your bank account
  • Repossess your TV, stereo, furniture, jewelry, tools, etc. (unless they were used as collateral)
  • Arrest you or most any other thing you may think!!!!

BUT... (very important you understand the following!):

If no agreement can be reached, the creditor or collector may decide to file a CLAIM.

CLAIM is a legal document filed with the court of the county of your residence. 

You will be delivered a SUMMONS.

Basically is says that XYZ is claiming that you owe $$$$ and that if you want to dispute the CLAIM you have (avg.) of 30 days to file an ANSWER with the court.

A ANSWER is a legal document (usually prepared by an attorney) that PROVES that you have paid or why you do not owe the debt.  There is a fee for filing the ANSWER and fees for the attorney who prepares it.

Most people know they owe the debt so they don't file the ANSWER.

NOW WHAT???

At this point, an agreement can still be negotiated to stop the legal process, but is it VERY IMPORTANT that you DO NOT IGNORE the SUMMONS!!!

If an agreement cannot be negotiated, the the PLAINTIFF (the creditor or one filing the claim) may move forward for a DEFAULT JUDGMENT.

You don't want this to happen!

If a JUDGMENT is awarded to the PLAINTIFF, then now the PLAINTIFF has the right to apply for a WRIT OF GARNISHMENT OF WAGES OR BANK LEVY.

To prevent this, a SETTLEMENT or STIPULATED AGREEMENT may be negotiated.

A SETTLEMENT is an agreement whereby the PLAINTIFF agrees to accept an amount less than the balance due.  It may have to be paid in a LUMP SUM or in many cases, a LONG-TERM PAYMENT agreement.

Either of these is usually much better than a WAGE GARNISHMENT!

A WAGE GARNISHMENT is usually (in most states) 25% of you net (after tax) paycheck!

Let's say you earn $5,000/month.  If State (if you have) and Federal tax withholding equals 35%, you net take home would be about $3250.

25% of $3250 equals $812.50 ! ! !

If you're facing a financial crisis now, how could you survive if your income was cut by over $800 more!

Again... DO NOT IGNORE A SUMMONS!

SUMMARY:

A creditor or debt collector cannot just "take your stuff" when you don't pay your required payments due.

There's a whole process that must be completed first.

However, YOU HAVE TO TAKE ACTION!

It is not easy dealing with collectors and attorneys. 

Time consuming and frustrating, but absolutely necessary to prevent GARNISHMENTS!

This may help:

FREE  Debt Elimination Summary

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

 

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Tags: stop wage garnishment, credit cards, BBB, PORTLAND, settlement, mimimum payments

Should You Be Afraid of Debt Collectors?

A recent newspaper article in Portland, OR from The Oregonian stated that as many as 33% of all consumers will be dealing with debt collectors!

Although dealing with a debt collector can be frustrating and annoying, there is really no reason to ever fear a debt collector.

Believe me, I certainly understand why most people who find themselves in a financial situation that has caused some or all of their accounts to be turned over to a debt collector are nervous.  The thought that you might lose your home, possessions and/or bank accounts would cause any sane person to be afraid.

fear of debt collectors


Well, the good news is that in most cases, that FEAR is not necessary!

In this blog, I am talking about dealing with unsecured debts (credit cards, store cards, medical bills, etc.) and not secured debts such as a home mortgage or auto loan.

So, here are a few things to remember and tips on how to deal with debt collectors:

It rarely does much good to talk with a debt collector on the phone.

Once your account is 60-90 days past due, you can expect a call from either the RECOVERY DEPARTMENT of the creditor or from a DEBT COLLECTION COMPANY.

While your account is still with the original creditor, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA laws that allow you to put a stop to collection calls do not apply...yet!

Most of the time, when the original creditor's agent calls, they are just trying to find out what your situation is and may offer a plan to help you get back on track.

BE VERY CAREFUL!!!  They may offer what is called a "HARDSHIP PLAN", whereby you agree to allow them to deduct a certain amount of money (usually less than the total amount your last statement DEMANDED) from your checking account for say, 6 months. 

At the end of the 6 months, they promise to "REVIEW" your case and get you started making regular payments again.  But usually, after you have paid the agreed upon amount for 6 months, your have barely made a dent in reducing your balance and are right back to where you started!

If you take the call from the original creditor, be very calm and simply say something like:

"I realize I've fallen behind on my bill and fully intend to get caught up soon. But, at this time, there is nothing I can do, so please stop calling me."

Yes, I know I just said that they have the legal right (at this point) to call, but they may honor your request and leave you alone for a month or so.


If the recovery department of the original creditor is unsuccessful in getting your to start making payments, the account most likely will be charged off and sold or transferred to a debt collector after about 120 days.

You most likely will get a letter from the debt collector and no doubt will start getting phone calls!

A Debt Collector's job is to get you to pay...period!  Although there are plenty of "decent" debt collectors who actually may show some empathy for you, there are many that are just the opposite.

These debt collectors will use all kinds of tactics to get you to pay up!  Although most debt collectors follow the laws and/or guidelines of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, there are always a few "bad apples".

Don't get into a dialog with a debt collector!

While I think it's OK to have one short conversation with the original creditor, it's usually a whole different story now that your account has been turned over to a debt collector!

If they have sent you a letter demanding payment, etc., get the address of the debt collector and write them a letter demanding that they cease calling you at home.

Here is a sample letter you can use:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

If the calls don't stop (it will take a week or so) then you can file a complaint with your state's attorney general's office.

Usually, the debt collector will stop calling as they can be fined very severely!

NOW WHAT?

After a reasonable period of time (varies with each debt collector), if the debt collector is unsuccessful in getting you to start paying , the original creditor may:

  • Recall the account and turn it over to another debt collector and the process will start again.  Yes, you will have to send another letter to the new debt collector to stop the calls!
  • Turn the account over to a Law Firm that only practices debt collection.

 

If your account is placed with a Law Firm that practices debt collection, you will get the same letters and calls, but now, you need to be careful.

If the Law Firm decides to FILE A CLAIM for the debt you owe on behalf of the original creditor or the debt collector, you will get a SUMMONS.

I've written several blog articles over the years on what to do if you receive a summons, but in short:

  • DON'T IGNORE THE SUMMONS
  • DON'T PANIC!

Most people think that a debt collector and/or debt collection law firm can just garnish your income, levy your bank account and/or put a levy on your home or other property.

While it's true that they can AFTER they are awarded a judgment, they cannot do anything until then.  That's why it is so important to take action if you receive a summons!

In most cases, you can prevent the CLAIM from moving on to a JUDGMENT by contacting the attorney's office and working something out.

Most "judgments" are awarded to the creditor/debt collector/plaintiff because the debtor didn't take any pro-active steps.

If you are employed and receive regular W-2 income, then you can't let

If you...

  • Are retired, with only Social Security and/or Retirement Income, or
  • Disabled and receiving Disability Income only, or
  • Are unemployed and receiving unemployment income, or
  • Receive child support or alimony payments, then...

These sources of income are exempt from garnishment. Notice, I didn't say exempt from state or federal taxes you may owe, but from garnishment for unsecured debts.

The best way to put an end with dealing with debt collectors is to NEGOTIATE A SETTLEMENT of your account. That is, if you have some funds available to make an offer of 40%-60% of the balance. 

If not, you can still usually negotiate a settlement by agreeing to make monthly payments rather than a lump sum payment, but you may have to pay a little larger settlement.

Click here for some very useful information on how to negotiate a settlement:

FREE EBook Debt Settlement  Basics

One final thought...

If your financial circumstances are such that you have no ability to offer a settlement, either in a lump sum or payments, then you may need to consult a bankruptcy attorney.

Bankruptcy is a way to help those who qualify to put and end to debt collectors and get a fresh start.

If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, we can help:



 


 

Photo credit: 

Kevin B 3

milwaukeemakerspace.org/2012/12/fear/

Tags: debt collection, fair debt collection practices act, credit card debt, debt settlement, Bankruptcy, debt, credit cards, Oregon, PORTLAND

Find Debt Relief in Portland, Oregon

Looking for Debt Relief in Portland, Oregon?

Dealing with the stress of too much debt can be overwhelming.  

But, GOOD NEWS, YOU HAVE OPTIONS that can help you become DEBT FREE once again!

 

debt relief portland oregon

DEBT MANAGEMENT

If you have accumulated too much credit card debt or other unsecured debts such as:

 

  • STORE CARDS
  • PERSONAL BANK LOAN
  • PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS
  • REPOSSION DEFICITE JUDGMENT
  • MEDICAL BILLS

In a Debt Management Program, a Debt Management Company will contact each of your creditors and set up agreements to repay your entire balance. In most cases, your interest rate will be lowered or eliminated and late fees and over-the-limit fees will be stopped or forgiven.

You will have ONE MONTHLY PAYMENT which will be distributed to  each creditor according to the agreements.  This payment is approximately 2.5% - 2.7% of the total balances of all of your accounts.

For example, let's say you have a total of $20,000 of unsecured debts.  Your monthly payment in a Debt Management Program would be approximately $500 - $540.  This includes the monthly Debt Management Program fee.

Not everyone can handle this payment.  If this is your case, them you should check out and investigate a:

 

DEBT SETTLEMENT PROGRAM

Debt Settlement is for people who have had a serious financial setback due to a number of factors including:

  • UNEMPLOYMENT
  • ILLNESS
  • DISABILITY
  • DIVORCE
  • DEATH OF SPOUSE OR PARTNER

There are several factors to consider before enrolling in a Debt Settlement Program, but see if some of these describes you:

  • Missing or unable to make all of the minimum monthly payments required by your creditor.
  • Taking cash advances to be able to pay basic monthly bills.
  • Some or all of your accounts are 60 -90 days past due.
  • Some or all of your accounts have been charged off and placed with Debt Collectors.
  • You are getting numerous DEBT COLLECTION CALLS!
  • You have received a SUMMONS.
STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter
In a Debt Settlement Program, you will have:
  • ONE MONTHLY PAYMENT THAT FITS YOUR BUDGET
  • EACH OF YOUR ACCOUNTS WILL BE NEGOTIATED AT AN AVERAGE  OF 50% OF THE BALANCE
  • ONCE ALL OF YOUR ACCOUNTS HAVE BEEN SETTLED, YOUR CREDIT SCORE WILL BEGING TO GREATLY IMPROVE!
Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

BANKRUPTCY

Unfortunately, you may find yourself in such a financial situation that you cannot qualify for either a Debt Management Program or a Debt Settlement Program.  If that is the case, then Bankruptcy may be you best and/or only option.
There are varying opions about Bankruptcy, but it allows someone who has tried everything possible to keep up or pay back their debts, a SECOND CHANCE!
Most likely, you will qualify for a CHAPTER 13 Bankruptcy.  A qualified BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY will explain all of your options and prepare a "PLAN" to present to the Bankruptcy Court Clerk.
You will be making monthly payments to the bankruptcy court clerk for approximately 3 -5  years (depending on your Chapter 13 plan).
A portion of the payment will go to the attorney and a portion will go to the creditors, according to your plan.
Once your bankruptcy plan is completed, your credit scores will start to improve.
Regardless of which option is best for you, there is a way to get out of debt and become DEBT FREE ONCE AGAIN!

 

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/89463094@N02/

Tags: debt settlement, Bankruptcy, debt, debt management, credit cards, Oregon, PORTLAND