Monthly Archives: July 2014

How To Hire A Debt Settlement Lawyer

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For many, choosing a debt settlement lawyer is a daunting task; especially if this is your first time doing so. Here are 7 helpful tips on how to hire a debt settlement lawyer.

Before even choosing a lawyer, you need to know if you should settle your debt. Answer these questions to make sure debt settlement is the right move for you.

Knowing what type of legal issue you are dealing with will help you narrow down what kind of attorney you need. For example, if you received a summons for speeding, you will want to retain a lawyer that has experience defending speeding tickets.

And, if you are having problems with debt, you will want to look for an attorney that has experience helping consumers resolve their debts. Below are some tips for finding the right debt settlement lawyer for you.

Ask Around

Asking your friends, family, and colleagues if they know, or hired, a debt settlement lawyer is always a good place to start. Quite often individuals that contact our firm were referred to us by one of our other clients. Another advantage of asking someone for a referral is that you can get an idea of what to expect prior to speaking with the debt settlement lawyer.

Online Search

This day and age we are lucky to have access to an abundance of legal information online and most attorneys have websites that allow potential clients to learn more about their practice. It is important to spend some time online doing research about debt settlement lawyers prior to contacting one; although, like everything on the internet, you should be mindful of the source.

Can’t I Just Use The Information Online?

The internet can be helpful, but it is still in your best interest to contact a debt settlement lawyer and not rely exclusively on the information that you found online. So, now that you have done your research and made a list of debt settlement lawyers to contact what can you expect? What questions do you need to ask? Here are some pointers.

Initial contact

Most likely, your first contact with the debt settlement attorney’s office will be a phone call. During that initial call, you should ask whether or not that attorney offers a free-initial consultation, or if there is a fee for a consultation and, if so, how much?

Ask if the consultation can be in person so you can get a feel of who you will be working with. Then, once a consultation is set, ask what documents you should bring with you to that consultation.

The Consultation

Once you are sitting down with the debt settlement lawyer, there are several questions that you will want to ask. At first, the attorney will, most likely, ask what brought you to them. This is your time to explain what got you into this situation and why you think that you need a debt settlement attorney’s help. After telling the attorney your story, ask them how he or she thinks that they can help you based on our situation.

For example, can the debt settlement lawyer help you reduce the balances of the alleged debts? Can they help you setup payment arrangements with the creditor? By this point you should have a much better idea if this attorney is right for you.

Legal Fees

This is one of the most important topics that you will discuss with your debt settlement lawyer. During your consultation, you want to ask for a clear explanation of the attorney’s legal fees.

For example, does he or she charge on an hourly basis? And, if so, how much per hour? Does the attorney charge a flat fee? If so, what exactly does that flat fee include? Once you and the attorney have agreed on a fee, they will most likely ask you to sign a retainer agreement.

Is The Retainer Agreement All That Important?

We cannot stress enough how important it is that you review the retainer agreement and ask questions if you are not 100% sure what the retainer is saying, because once you sign the retainer you are most likely bound by its terms Choosing a debt settlement attorney can be an intimidating task, but if you follow these suggestions it will make the process much easier!

I’ve Made My Decision! 

If you’ve made a decision and feel that you need professional consultation, or would think you need more information to decide, click here.

Legal Disclaimer: The content in this article is strictly for informational purposes; it is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

How to Negotiate With Debt Collectors

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For most people, how to negotiate with debt collectors is unfamiliar territory. Especially if you’re unsure if you should even be settling your debt (find out if you should settle your debt here).

It can be an intimidating situation for the average consumer. There are certain things you want to tell the debt collectors and certain information you do not want to tell them. First off, it is important to remember that the collector’s sole purpose is to collect as much as possible from you, as quickly as possible. That being said, here are some tips for negotiating with debt collectors.

Get It In Writing

Occasionally, consumers will enter into a verbal agreement, with a collection company, but the collection company may disregard it because it is not in writing. If you reach an agreement with a collector, make sure you get it in writing and it is signed and dated by a representative of the company. This way you will have proof of your arrangement if they disregard it.

Know Your Limits

It is crucial to go through your finances and figure out exactly what you can afford to pay toward your debt. Have an idea of what your monthly payment ceiling is and do not go past it. A good rule of thumb is to not agree to anything greater than 80% of what you can afford.

Why 80 Percent?

Unexpected expenses occur which can make it tough to meet the payment that you agreed. For example, if you know you can afford $200.00 per month make sure you do not settle for more than $160.00 per month. Doing so saves you a bit of a cushion, preventing you from failing to make your monthly payments if you are confronted with an unforeseen expense.

Know Your Rights

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) establishes legal protection from abusive collection practices. The Act prohibits certain types of “abusive and deceptive” conduct when attempting to collect debts. Some of the most common violations are:

  • Calling outside of the allowed local hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Communicating details of the debt to third parties
  • Not explaining the purpose of the call at the beginning of the transmission
  • Abusive and profane language
  • Seeking unjustified amounts
  • Misrepresentations by the collector
  • Threatening arrest or invalid legal action.

This is list is not exclusive. If the collector violates one or more of the restricted acts under this law, the consumer may be able to collect a monetary award. It is important to know that the FDCPA only applies with secondary creditors, if the party attempting to collect is the original creditor these restrictions do not apply.

Know Your Situation

Everyone’s situation is different, and there are certain laws in New York that may help you negotiate a lower settlement.

If You’re Collecting Social Security

Under federal and New York State law, Social Security income is exempt from collection. If your sole income is Social Security and you have no other assets then it would be extremely difficult for any creditors to collect on any debt you may have. It is important to remember that the creditor would need to be officially put on notice of any exempt income that you’re earning.

 If Your Wages Are Being Garnished

A wage garnishment occurs when a court or the government orders your employer to set aside some of your earnings to pay a debt. Under New York law, if there are multiple garnishment orders, the order that came first would take the maximum amount allowed by law until that debt is paid, then the next order would be allowed to garnish.

If you are currently being garnished that can be used as leverage against a different creditor because the collector will be more willing to settle rather than wait in line to garnish your wages.

What Are My Options?

You will likely be able to negotiate a lower settlement. Otherwise, debt collectors may have to wait in line for years, which is not in their interests. Negotiating your debts with collectors can be a difficult minefield to navigate.

These are simple tips that may help your efforts. There are debt settlement companies that offer services to handle the negotiation for you; however, be wary of any company that guarantees they can save you any certain amount or percentage.

But What About Me?

Because every situation is different, it would be nearly impossible to guarantee any amount without knowing the specific details of your unique situation. Unfortunately, some companies can offer a guarantee as a sort of “bait and switch” sales technique to get you in the door, when in fact there are disclaimers in their service agreement disregarding any guarantees.

Knowing your limits, situation, and rights as well as remembering to get any agreement in writing, can help you to better negotiate with debt collectors.

Get Help With Your Debt Collector Negotiations

If you feel you’re in need of professional consultation or would like more information, click here. 

 

Legal Disclaimer: The content in this article is strictly for informational purposes; it is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

 

Should I Use A Debt Negotiation Service?

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Is It For Me?

It can be difficult to determine whether a debt negotiation service is right for you. Find out if debt settlement is right for by clicking here. 

There are companies that offer to negotiate your debts for a fee. Basically, these companies will contact the creditor and attempt to have them accept a smaller amount to satisfy the entire debt.

Can’t I do It Myself?

If you are struggling with debt and are considering debt negotiation, you may ask yourself, “Should I use a debt negotiation service or should I do it myself?” Here are some tips to help you make the best decision for you.  Consumers that are in a large amount of debt often think that bankruptcy is the only path to debt relief.

Sometimes bankruptcy makes sense; however, many times, bankruptcy is not the right solution.There are certain restrictions to qualify for bankruptcy and not everyone is able to. While there are some debt negotiation companies that offer legitimate services, there are many that take advantage of consumers and put them in a worse situation.

Debt negotiation companies are regulated by the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission, but they are rarely prosecuted.

Be Careful:

Be suspicious of debt negotiation companies who make promises such as:

• That they will settle your accounts for pennies on the dollar;

• Some debts will be eliminated altogether;

• You will not be sued once you sign up with them;

• That they will remove negative information from your credit report;

• They will get you a better deal than you could on your own.

• Tell you to stop making your minimum payments.

Not All Debt Negotiation Companies Look Out For You

There are debt negotiation companies that prey on consumers who are unfamiliar with debt negotiation. Their hope is that by offering such lofty promises, you will pay them to handle your accounts.

Some firms require that consumers make monthly payments to them, instead of to creditors. Then, they keep part of that money without informing the consumer, or worse, never pay the creditors at all.

The consumer is left with the original debt, plus late fees and interest: all while having paid the debt negotiation company to do nothing. The money the consumer pays the debt negotiation company could have gone toward paying the original debt.

How Can I Avoid These Companies?

It is best to find companies that charge after the settlement is reached, such as 20% of the amount the debt has been reduced, instead of companies that charge an upfront fee.

There are also debt settlement attorneys who will attempt to negotiate your pre-litigation debts. Attorneys who practice consumer protection law, such as Civil Defense Litigation may be willing to negotiate your debts by writing demand letters requesting verification of debt. There are many benefits to hiring an attorney:

Knowledge Of The Law:

Consumer protection attorneys understand the collection practices and can couple their knowledge with your situation to convince the creditor that it is in their best interest to settle your debts.

Leverage:

In some cases, it may help the consumer gain leverage by having an attorney negotiate on their behalf. The creditor will take the consumer’s actions seriously and will be more likely to work out an arrangement knowing that the consumer has legal representation.

Your attorney can say things about your situation with an air of legitimacy. Attorneys can also convey to the creditor that you are exploring bankruptcy as a debt relief option, which will persuade them to enter a settlement.

Arm – Length Negotiator :

For many people dealing with their debts can be emotionally taxing. Emotion can have a negative impact on negotiations, as strong emotions can cloud your judgment. Having an attorney act as an arms length negotiator can benefit your situation by taking the emotion out of the negotiations and carefully constructing your best arguments.

Ethical Guidelines:

Attorneys must adhere to the ethical guidelines set forth by the New York Rules of Professional Conduct; otherwise, they face sanctions from the grievance committee. Knowing that an attorney cannot steal from you, lie to you, or deceive you, provides peace of mind that you cannot get from a debt negotiation company. When considering debt negotiation, it is important to weigh all your options.

I’m Still Thinking About it…

Maybe you have been considering a debt negotiation company to handle your accounts; however, you should proceed with caution. Be wary of any guarantees or promises. Do not make any hasty decisions. If you are unsure about the collection law or possible collection methods, contact a consumer protection attorney. Having an attorney handle the negotiations may get you a better deal due to their knowledge of the law and ability to advocate on your behalf.

If you’ve decided that going with the attorney option is the right choice for you, click here for more information.

Legal Disclaimer: The content in this article is strictly for informational purposes; it is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Why Should I Hire A Debt Settlement Lawyer? What Benefits Do They Provide?

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Why Hire A Debt Settlement Lawyer And The Benefits Of Doing So

Potential clients often ask: why do I need to hire a debt settlement lawyer, can I just handle this on my own?

How much does a debt settlement lawyer cost?

In order to best address these questions there are several factors that consumers should consider when deciding whether or not to hire a debt settlement lawyer.

The Debt Settlement Lawyer’s Knowledge Of The Law:

Lawyers spend countless hours studying the law and will, in turn, apply that knowledge to your individual situation. More specifically, a lawyer that specializes in debt settlement and consumer rights will have specific knowledge of consumer protection laws; thus ensuring that your rights are not being violated by the creditor. In some instances, if the original creditor, or Collection Company, is unable to collect on the alleged debt they may file a law suit.

Wait, This Could Be Happening To Me:

If that is the situation, it is very important to immediately contact an attorney to ensure that a default is not entered against you. Even if the creditor has filed a lawsuit, an experienced debt settlement attorney could still potentially negotiate a settlement on your behalf. Although, due to the fact that you have a limited amount of time to respond to a law suit, it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.

The Debt Settlement Lawyer’s Legal Experience:

Coupled with their knowledge of the law, a debt settlement lawyer will have valuable experience assisting consumers in resolving their debts. Having experience dealing with creditors can be vital to ensure that the client gets the best possible outcome based on their particular situation. In addition to legal experience, debt settlement lawyers, most likely, will have extensive negotiation experience, which is very important to ensure that the client is getting the best possible outcome.

Time Out Of Your Schedule:

Dealing with creditors can be a tedious process. For example, waiting on hold, attempting to find the correct point of contact at the creditor’s office, numerous emails and letters back and forth, and so on. This day and age, many consumers lead very busy lives and simply do not have the time to effectively deal with their creditors. Hiring an attorney allows the consumer to focus on more important aspects of their life while their attorney is diligently working with their creditor to resolve their issue.

Fees Associated With Hiring A Debt Settlement Attorney:

Although legal fees can vary greatly from one attorney to the next, a lot of debt settlement attorneys do offer reasonably priced, flat-fee services for their clients. Often times the fees charged by a debt settlement attorney will be offset by the amount that you save. Deciding whether or not to hire a debt settlement lawyer, or any attorney for that matter, is an import decision.

Okay, So You’ve Decided:

If you are considering hiring a debt settlement attorney it is wise to reach out to their office to see if they offer a free consultation; which many debt settlement lawyers do. During your consolation, the debt settlement attorney can review your debts, discuss your current financial situation, and advise you of all your options.

If you’ve decided that hiring a Debt Settlement Lawyer is the right choice for you, click here to find out more information.

Legal Disclaimer: The content in this article is strictly for informational purposes; it is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Should You Settle Your Debt?

By | Consumer Credit | No Comments

The Current Debt Picture 

Although economic conditions have been improving, there are still millions of Americans with vast amounts of debt, looking in the mirror and asking, “Should you settle your debt?” Whether it comes from credit cards, mortgages, medical bills, or student loans, most Americans are living with some type of debt.

The average U.S. household has approximately $7,087.00 in credit card debt, according to an April 2014 analysis. Overall, American consumers owe a whopping $11.68 trillion dollars in debt. With so many Americans in debt, a common question that can be difficult to answer by yourself is, “Should you settle your debt?”

You’re Not Alone

Many of our firm’s clients are facing this exact situation; they are making a modest income that needs to be spread among many different responsibilities, such as rent, bills, food, and credit card payments. If you have children, those responsibilities can be multiplied 2 or 3 times, making it even more difficult.  It can also be challenging to determine when it makes sense for you to settle your debt. The following are key indicators that debt settlement may be your best solution to debt relief.

Should I Settle My Debt?  Determining Factors 

You are only able to make the minimum payment:

Credit card companies usually calculate the minimum payment as a fixed percentage plus any late fees and interest charges. Often the minimum payment is slightly more than the monthly interest charges. For example, if your balance is $1,000.00 with an APR of 20.99%, and the minimum payment is 2% of your balance, then the minimum payment is $20.00, and the interest accrued every month would be $17.49.

If you only make the minimum payment, you will be paying about $2.50 of principal, the rest of your payment will be used to cover the interest. If you can only afford to make the minimum payment then it is possible that debt settlement is right for you.

 You are carrying a balance on multiple accounts:

If you have more than one account that is carrying a balance, debt settlement may be your best option. The old saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” applies to credit cards as well. It can be extremely easy to open additional accounts as expenses pile up; however, you can then be forced to make minimum payments on multiple accounts, spreading your income even further.

Having an account in Collections:

If you have an account that is sold or transferred to a Collection company, debt settlement could be your best option. Generally, collection companies purchase debts for less than the amount they’re claiming is due. They then have the right to collect the entire amount of the debt. Many times collection companies will agree to settle for less than the amount that is due an account because doing so can be more cost effective for them. If they settle an account quickly, it saves them costs, and in turn, can save you more money.

What about my credit score?

Occasionally, consumers will not settle their debts due to the impact it may have on their credit scores. Even though settling your debt for less than the full amount owed may negatively influence your credit score, it is usually offset by having the account reported as settled on your credit report.

It is important to keep in mind that it is best to settle these debts before the creditor files a civil action. If the creditor files a lawsuit, it can be much more difficult and costly to resolve. It is imperative to be proactive and keep track of all your accounts. Not paying attention to such matters can cause an account to fall through the cracks, leading to collection letters or maybe even filing a Summons & Complaint, (notifying you of a lawsuit). Being proactive with your debts is a crucial first step toward your debt-free life.

 Should You Settle Your Debt?

Click here to learn more about debt settlement and what you can do to make the right choice >> 

Legal Disclaimer: The content in this article is strictly for informational purposes; it is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.