Almost You is NOT You – Social Security

Had your Social Security number exposed in a data breach?  Here is a checklist of what to do, provided by the Federal Trade Commission: IdentityTheftFTCgov   Note that in some cases the Social Security administration may issue a new Social Security number, but that can create new problems as follows: The credit bureaus may combine the credit records from your old Social Security number with records from your new Social Security number. A new Social Security number may give you a blank credit history, making it difficult for you to get credit.  While a new number may erase the bad credit an identity thief gave you, it may also erase the good credit you had. Just because you have a new Social Security number does not mean it is immune from theft.  The new number can be stolen, just as the old one was. Despite the problem of bad credit on your old Social Security number, you may be better off to keep it rather than to request a new number, depending on the circumstances. Your credit may be compromised in a data breach if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any […] 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

Exempt Incomes from Money Judgments

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.  That is the idea behind Social Security, disability, pensions, and income that provides more than one-half the support for dependant or minor children—those are exempt incomes from money judgments. Small Claims Court can be a lot bigger than you think.  Even though it only deals with matters less than $5,000, that can be a big claim if you have limited means. Everybody should pay their debts, but you should not have to decide whether to buy food or pay the electric bill.  Thus there are certain incomes that are exempt from money judgments. The key to an exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible for a collection exemption does not mean you automatically receive it.  Exemptions have to be filed within 20 days of the Notice of Garnishment that you receive after your account has been frozen. A Judgment is bad, but ignoring it is worse.  Seek competent legal advice to learn more about collection exemptions.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.) Read More

Social Security & Small Claims Court

August 15, 1953 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing financial assistance for the elderly, the blind, the disabled, and the unemployed.  This year the Social Security Administration projects that over 59 million Americans will receive almost $863 billion in Social Security benefits…none of that is meant to be used to pay off a credit card debt in Small Claims Court. Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car.  Therefore do not promise your Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. 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. 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 and how to claim them.)  Small Claims Court is not necessarily easy, but good legal advice may give you […] Read More

Small Claims Court – Not As Easy As It Looks

Small Claims Court seems simple enough:  you owe the money, you do not pay the money, and you get summonsed to Small Claims Court.  It is not as easy as it looks.  Once you set up a payment plan with the plaintiff, you actually have to make the payments. Not so easy if you are living on a fixed income.  If you are head of household at a certain low level, living off Social Security benefits, or a pension or disability, you may have exemptions to collection judgments.  You have to be able to stay in your domicile, to feed yourself, and to put gas in your car.  Do not promise your Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. The key to an exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible for an exemption does not mean you automatically get one. Everyone should pay their debts.  And everyone should assert their legal rights.  An exemption does not block a judgment against you, but it can defer the collection (within 20 years), waiting for you to be in a better position to pay it (for example if you win Lotto or […] Read More