What To Do About Unwanted Calls

There could be many reasons you receive unwanted calls:  (1) Wrong Number (including for debt collection), (2) Debt, (3) Sales Calls, and (4) Donald Trump wants your vote.  While there is not much you can do about political campaigns and wrong numbers, you may be able to reduce the number of calls for debt and sales calls with these options: Option 1:  Pay Your Bills On Time Generally this prevents creditors from picking up the phone in the first place; it also helps to build your credit.  BUT if that ship has already sailed… Option 2:  Ask Collectors to Stop Calling You can ask the debt collector to stop contacting you.  You still owe the debt, but you do not have to deal with all the calls and letters while you work out your repayment. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. Write a letter to the debt collector or creditor asking them to stop contacting you, make a copy of that letter, and send the original to them, certified mail with “return receipt” so you will have a record of their receipt.  That should stop contact, with the exception of a communication to let you […] Read More

Social Security Reminder

Your Social Security benefits were not meant to be used to pay off a credit card debt in Small Claims Court.  If you are living off Social Security, you may be able to claim those benefits as exempt from a debt collection judgment.  The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. August 15, 1953 is the anniversary of when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing financial assistance for the elderly, the blind, the disabled, and the unemployed.  While everyone should pay their bills, people have to be able to stay in their homes, feed themselves, and put gas in their cars.  Therefore, do not promise Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  You can learn more at St. Johns County Legal Aid at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine (no appointment necessary to pick up a free pamphlet about collection exemptions and how to claim them).  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of pamphlets […] Read More

Solutions to Unwanted Calls

There are ways to stop unwanted calls.  One is to pay your bills on time, another is to ask debt collectors to stop calling, and the third is to register on “Do Not Call” lists.  Here are details for these options. Option 1:  Pay Your Bills On Time Generally this prevents creditors from picking up the phone in the first place; it also helps to build your credit.  BUT if that ship has already sailed… Option 2:  Ask Collectors to Stop Calling You can ask the debt collector to stop contacting you.  You still owe the debt, but you do not have to deal with all the calls and letters while you work out your repayment. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. Write a letter to the debt collector or creditor asking them to stop contacting you, make a copy of that letter, and send the original to them, certified mail with “return receipt” so you will have a record of their receipt.  That should stop contact, with the exception of a communication to let you know that no further action will be taken, or a communication that they intend to take further action, like […] Read More

Are You Receiving Unwanted Calls?

If you owe money you may be getting calls from creditors or debt collectors.  To learn more about your rights as a debtor, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection. If you do not owe money and are tired of sales calls, try these free registration websites for DO NOT CALL lists at the State and National levels: National DO NOT CALL LIST registration: https://www.donotcall.gov/ Florida DO NOT CALL LIST registration: https://www.fldnc.com/   Read More

Debt Collector Decorum

The Debt Collector Cotillion does not include calling consumers late at night, or causing their phones to ring continuously or repeatedly.  A good debt collector knows how to inspire you to pay within the law.  A bad collector strays into unfair debt collection practices. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. The Federal Trade Commission has put together a two-minute video to walk you through the basics of debtors’ rights (you can view it online at http://bcove.me/t6s6l7lf); seek competent legal counsel if you need further assistance asserting your rights.   Read More

Recovery from ID Theft

Recovery from Identity Theft is not easy, but the Federal Trade Commission has tried to aid consumers by writing letters for them…all you have to do is fill in the details. Letters Ask a Business to Remove Fraudulent Charges From Your Existing Accounts Ask a Business to Close a New Account Opened in Your Name Ask Credit Reporting Companies to Remove Fraudulent Errors on Your Credit Report Ask a Business to Block Information on Your Existing Account Ask a Business to Block Information on a New Account Ask a Credit Reporting Company to Block Information Get Copies of the Documents the Identity Thief Used Stop Calls and Letters From a Debt Collector Memo from FTC to Law Enforcement [PDF]   Read More

Steps to Better Credit

Are you receiving calls from creditors and collection agencies?  Working overtime to try to keep up with your bills?  Using your savings to cover daily expenses?  These can be signs of bad credit.  While bad credit is a problem—it makes getting a new loan more expensive or impossible—there are steps you can take to improve your credit score. The basics are basics include pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, and stay away from new debt.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi offers these further tips to personally manage your debt: Set up a household budget to guide your spending patterns. The budget should detail your monthly income, as well as your monthly expenses. Your budget should outline a spending plan which insures that your income will exceed your expenses each month. Don’t go any deeper in debt! Put your credit cards away and make a concerted effort to refrain from accumulating any more debt in the coming months. Pay cash or use a debit card. If you must charge something in an emergency, use the card with the lowest interest rate. Use daily money-saving strategies to free up more money. Cut out needless expenses and save money where […] Read More

What Is Good in 20 Years?

You can get a 20-year warranty on a mattress, roof shingles, and vinyl flooring.  You know what else is still good in 20 years?  That debt judgment against you. So you got sued in Small Claims Court.  If you had nothing for a creditor or debt servicer to collect, then they still did not get paid and all they got was a judgment against you.  The thing is, that judgment is good for 20 years.  Your creditor or debt servicer can collect at any time during those 20 years.  That is a good deal for creditors and debt servicers…not so much for you. The other thing is, once you have a money judgment against you, the collection can happen with fewer symptoms than a heart attack.  You wake up one morning and the money in your bank account got disappeared.  They can garnish everything in your account up to the amount owed without prior notice.  Again, a good deal for creditors and debt servicers…not so much for you, especially if you were trying to pay rent that day. Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in […] Read More

No Defense? No Problem

Debt collectors are standing by to take up to 25% of your paycheck.  Did you have trouble paying your credit card bill?  Maybe you did not notice the Small Claims Court suit filed against you (or you did not know what to do about it)?  No problem.  If you did not show up to your court date the debt collector has a simple remedy:  Get a default judgment against you that allows him to take 25% of your paycheck every payday. That is no big deal, right?  After all, what is a quarter of your earnings?  What would you use that money for anyway—Rent?  Groceries?  Gas to get to work?  Everybody can give up 25% of their net income, right? Everybody should pay their bills; however, you should not have to decide whether to pay your credit card bill or put food on the table.  There are exemptions you can file to protect certain incomes so that you can pay for basic needs.  Exempt incomes include: Income of head of household at a certain level Social Security benefits Pension Disability The key to an exemption is you have to claim it.  Even if you have an eligible exemption, you do […] Read More

Payback is Heck with Consumer Debt

Being in debt is bad.  Having up to 25% of your wages garnished, or having your bank account swept clean without advance notice can be a life-affirming experience…not in a good way. In Florida, debt collectors can take up to 25% of your net pay for things like old credit card debt, medical bills, and/or student loans.  Or they can sweep your bank account for the amount that you owe without prior notice—you wake up one day and whatever you owe them, that money got disappeared.  Later when you receive that notice of garnishment, you also get a form to file for exemption.  Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car—that is why certain incomes are eligible for exemption, like head-of-household at a certain level, pension income, Social Security benefits, or disability. The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions […] Read More