Help Yourself to Better Credit

Credit is important.  Your credit determines your purchasing power to buy items like a house, a car, a student loan.  Bad credit can limit your ability to get more credit.  Beware of credit repair services…they can be more expensive than legal. Creditors look at your bill-paying history, whether you pay your bills on time, collections actions against you, your outstanding debt, how many accounts you have and what kind they are, and if you have applied for new credit lately.  They use this information to determine if you would be a good risk for repayment, or if you are a deadbeat.  Creditors want their money back, and they want to make interest on the loan. A credit problem is a problem.  And it is your problem to fix.  Despite what a credit repair service claims it can do, no one can legally remove current, accurate negative information from your credit report. You may have poor credit.  That does not mean you have to use poor judgment.  Here are some credit repair scam symptoms: 1. Up-front fees before services are rendered 2. Lack of information regarding your rights and what you can do for yourself for free 3. Recommendation of no […] Read More

Consumer Protection Week – Debt Settlement

Some business practices are better than others, especially the legal ones.  Just because something is printed on legal paper does not necessarily make it lawful.  Protect your rights with knowledge. March 4 through 10 is National Consumer Protection Week.  Are you feeling safer already?  So this week I will highlight legal issues that gain purchase when you pay for a good or a service.  Do not open your wallet to just anyone.  Make sure you are getting the deal you want. Debt Settlement sounds like good karma, but it can lead to bad credit.  Look twice at debt settlement deals because they may get a double take of your money. The following information is brought to you by The Florida Bar Consumer Protection Law Committee:   If you enter a debt settlement program, you need to understand that, if you stop paying your creditors, the amount you owe will increase due to added interest and fees, your credit will be negatively affected by nonpayment, and you can be sued. If you are having trouble paying your bills, contact your credit card company and try to negotiate a settlement, even if you have been turned down before. If you decide to […] Read More

Apocalypse & Legal Procedure

“Dave drove a Ford” – That is what General Motors claimed in their apocalyptic ad during the Superbowl.  GM rejected a cease-and-desist letter from Ford, but is poised to apologize at world’s end if their claim to the “most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup” turns out to be wrong.  In the meantime, GM is encouraging anyone who is worried about the Mayan calendar prediction to run out and buy a Silverado right away. You cannot unsay a misstep in court.  If you have received a court summons, seek competent legal counsel to make your reply.  Just as you cannot un-air a Superbowl ad, you cannot rewind legal procedures to correct for a better stance. Regardless of the vehicle you drive, let an attorney chauffeur you through legal procedure to arrive at the best possible destination. Read More

Gone A-Courting

Going to court is not for everybody.  There is the seriousness and the formality…plus the Judge has an armed guard!  If you do not know how court procedure works, you may feel uncomfortable by yourself in the judicial system. You may represent yourself in a court of law, but you may not want to.  A little legal counsel can go a long way to prevent devastating procedural errors.  Lack of response, failure to meet deadlines, or an improper response in a legal matter may hurt your position for what you are trying to accomplish. Do not court disaster.  Seek competent legal representation. Happy Valentine’s Day from Rusty Law! Read More

Darth the Debt Collector

In a galaxy far far away Man Solo was in credit card debt.  Fuel costs were astronomical to fill up the Millennium Hummer, and he had maxed his MasterCard and was behind on his bill.  Darth the Debt Collector was breathing heavy down his neck! Instead of agreeing to the repayment plan that Darth so un-subtly proposed, Solo asked for verification.  He asked Darth for proof of the amount due and proof that Darth was proper party to whom it was due.  Solo knew that these debt collectors can be fly-by-night characters, and he wanted to be sure he was paying the correct entity and the correct amount—he did not want a bounty hunter after him! Turns out Darth did not have all his documentation.  The Judge Dismissed the case Without Prejudice—which does not necessarily mean it went away for good.  A Dismissal Without Prejudice means that the plaintiff has a chance to get his records in order then re-file the claim within the statute of limitations.  It also means that the defendant, the debtor, has a chance to get his finances in order—get a job, file for exemptions, or take other legal steps towards his best benefit. You do […] Read More

Nickels & Dimes of Small Claims Court

If the debt amount is under $5,000, the case goes to Small Claims Court, land of Debt Buyers who pay a nickel to get two dimes back.  It may seem like small change, but it really adds up, especially if you are on a fixed income.  Sometimes it pays to ask questions. For the Debt Buyers, collection is a numbers game.  They pay four or five cents on the dollar to purchase delinquent accounts, and they hope to get back twenty cents on the dollar—that is a good return, especially in bulk—but Consumer Rights can get shortchanged. Debt Buyers deal in bulk and often their cases are not well-built, but if their claims go uncontested—nobody verifies the Debt Buyer is the proper party to whom the debt is owed, and nobody verifies the amount owed—then the checks and balances are tipped toward the payment only side. Yes, everyone should pay their debts, and yes, Debt Buyers should have their cases in order.  If the Debt Buyer does not have all their documentation, then the Judge can dismiss the case.  If the case is dismissed without prejudice, that does not mean the matter is gone.  Dismissal Without Prejudice means the Debt […] Read More

Post Holiday Blues

Afraid to check your credit card balance after the holidays?  Wondering how you can go to the gym and work off two grand?  Before you commit your Social Security income to a Debt Collector, consider your rights. Remember, you need your house.  You need to eat.  Debt Collectors can be pushy, but making a credit card payment ahead of your mortgage payment may not be the best action.  You need a plan, and good legal counsel can be a lot cheaper than decades in therapy. The procrastination, the guilt, the insufficient funds—a proactive approach may be easier than to face your mother.  Get legal guidance on what debts should take priority, review the possible consequences and your legal options.  You may have more choices than the Debt Collector on the phone has led you to believe. Make a plan, one that does not jeopardize exempt income, such as Social Security, pensions, and disability benefits.  Even if you are in debt, you do have rights. To learn more about Consumer Rights and Debt Collection, go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm or seek competent legal counsel.   Read More

Legal Trouble

Nobody hopes for legal trouble in the New Year.  Nobody has their black-eyed peas for good luck, greens for prosperity, and then a toast of poison.  But sometimes legal trouble has a way of finding you. In divorce cases, When the love is gone, it is only business.  That can be true of most legal matters. Attorneys remove the emotion so their clients can take the necessary steps to move through a legal problem.  Even in home foreclosure, an attorney can help a homeowner walk through the process toward the best possible outcome. Decisions in a legal battle are not easy to make on your own.  Attorneys approach legal troubles simply as business; they take the emotion out of the problem to look at choices and consequences available. Nobody wants to have to hire a lawyer, but if you are in legal trouble, an attorney can be an asset. Read More

Financial Lost & Found

eHarmony users are not looking for a partner in Bankruptcy, and Ancestry.com enthusiasts do not want to turn over a leaf to find that Great Aunt Dora lost the family estate to Foreclosure.  Most people do not go out searching for misfortune; misfortune finds them. When you go to buy something, generally you know what you are going to do with that thing when you get it.  Harder to know what to do with financial misfortune when it arrives unannounced and unwanted.  Medical hardship and loss of income or employment are not situations homeowners are actively seeking, yet they often have to deal with the consequences. You have legal options.  Just because misfortune has made an extemporaneous, unwelcome visit does not mean you have to accept the worst case scenario.  Seek competent legal counsel to actively look for the best possible outcome in a bad situation.  Legal defense in a foreclosure or consumer rights situation is like shopping, where you want the best deal with the best benefit for you and your family.  If you are financially lost, seek legal guidance to help find your way to recovery.   Read More

Consumer Debt Triangle

No one wants to be tri-folded into consumer debt, but you may be getting a lot of mail and phone calls about what you owe.  Beware of the Bermuda Triangle of fraudulent debt collection practices. Just because you borrowed money from Party A does not mean you owe money to Party B.  It should be impossible for Party B to collect on a debt it does not own, but that does not stop some bad actors from trying. Debt buyers purchase debt in bulk for pennies on the dollar in hopes of collecting the full amount.  They play a numbers game, knowing not all claims are going to pay off, but filing enough claims to make money on the ones that do.  In filing mass claims, some debt collectors fail to support their claims properly with evidence.  They are counting on enough people just to pay the money without asking them to prove their case.  That is where unfair debt collection practices can slip in. By defending your consumer rights, you help protect the rights of all consumers in this country.  Companies need to play by the rules, and the more companies have to pay out for unfair collection practices, […] Read More