Ins and Outs of Debt Collection and Consumer Rights

 

questions about bankruptcy, consumer rights, credit card debt, wisconsin consumer laws

 

Credit card companies, hospitals, schools, utility companies, banks, or even payday loan stores extend services and credit to nearly everyone, but not everyone is able to return payment.  Although the intentions of consumers may be to pay back each line of credit; a job loss, illness or other life event that prevents us from working can make this very difficult.  Millions of Americans are contacted by debt collectors each year.  State and federal agencies are receiving more complaints about unfair or deceptive practices than any other part of the consumer financial system. 

Accumulation of Debt:  Families with children under eighteen, those without health insurance, and those that have experienced more than two months of unemployment are more likely to hold a credit card balance.  Credit Card Debt Statistics  Once any type of debt becomes overdue, the very companies that extended credit and asked for your business will become focused on collections.  If the company is not successful in obtaining payment for past due amounts, or if a payment plan has not been established, they may hire a third-party “debt buyer agency” to collect for a percentage of the original debt value.

Wisconsin Consumer Rights:  If a third-party debt collection agency is contacting you on behalf of a creditor, it can be helpful to know the statute of limitation that applies to your specific debts. If the statute of limitation has expired, a debt collector cannot sue to collect.  Any debtor has the right to obtain “verification” of the debt and to dispute it.  This and other laws are part of “The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”   The FDCPA and the Wisconsin Consumer Act has protected Wisconsin consumers from abusive and harassing debt collection tactics for more than forty years.

 FDCPA Violations:  There are many examples of debt collector abuse that are considered FDCPA violations.  For example, collectors must identify themselves and accurately identify the agency that they represent.  They cannot ask you to pay more than what is owed, threaten, or use profanity or violence.  They can’t ask for interest, fees or expenses that are not allowed by law, or call repeatedly or before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.  If any other violation of the FDCPA occurs, consumers have the right to sue the debt collector for damages.

Debt Collector Defense:  Once a creditor or a debt collector begins to contact you, keep records of each call including caller name and other important details.  Save all mail and emails, and ask them not to call you at work.  If you decide at some point to sue creditors for harassment, your records will be a valuable asset.  Next, contact an attorney who is familiar with Wisconsin debt collection laws and the elimination of debt.

Contact a Debt Lawyer:  Feeling that you have been harassed or deceived by a debt collector is a justifiable reason to seek the advice of an attorney.  Debt Advisors Law Offices offers a free consultation with a lawyer to discuss your experiences, financial circumstances, and options such as an “automatic stay” to stop harassment calls immediately.   Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy have helped thousands of Wisconsin Residents get back on their feet after a tough financial crisis.  The lawyers at Debt Advisors will be upfront and honest regarding whether or not the bankruptcy process is right for you.  The sooner you speak to an attorney about your particular situation, the sooner the calls can stop, and the sooner you can get back to living peacefully again.

Medical Diagnosis Often Precedes Financial Problems

mydebtMany recent studies have been done over recent years to determine who files and why. Most people who file bankruptcy carry some form of medical insurance, have an education, and are employed. Research findings repeatedly conclude that un affordable healthcare services lead to medical bills that cannot be paid; a common situation that explains why many people seek bankruptcy.

Rising medical costs lead to bankruptcy; especially for the young.

A medical diagnosis or catastrophic medical event is a sudden and unexpected life event that often precedes financial problems. Younger cancer patients have the highest bankruptcy rates. This is because younger patients are more likely to have debt burdens such as student loans, starting business costs, new home purchase, raising young families, etc. Combine these indicators with fewer assets and little or no supplemental income. Soon, it will become clear why younger people diagnosed with cancer are more susceptible to bankruptcy than older folks. To benefit most from the bankruptcy filing process, seek advice from a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy. Most initial consultations are free. Eliminating financial burdens will allow all expendable energy to be focused on a positive healing process.

Medical bills are only a hurdle.

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a medical condition such as cancer, the diagnosis itself is devastating. The ultimate manifestation of a diagnosis like this can become economic hardship. However, the medical bills that have accumulated should only be viewed as a hurdle. While a medical team is aiding in your physical needs, allow a reputable legal team to assist in resolving your financial ailments.

Filing bankruptcy is a positive and optimistic fresh start.

Already overwhelmed by debt? Need to improve credit scores and regain financial independence?Beyond the stereotypes and misconceptions, filing bankruptcy is an affordable resolution that can eliminate most types of debt, including debt incurred from medical bills. Filing bankruptcy provides the launch pad of positive actions necessary to regain control of finances, build back your credit score, and focus on health.

Find an experienced bankruptcy law firm

Filing for bankruptcy can become an expensive and complex process if not handled correctly. Only an experienced Wisconsin bankruptcy law firm will be prepared for the task. The bankruptcy attorneys at Debt Advisors are fair, honest, considerate, compassionate about your diagnosis and helpful in these types of financial situations. They will present all of your options, steer you in the right direction. The most difficult part is making the call for your free consultation. 888-997-4917

Chapter 128 Wisconsin Bankruptcy Alternative

Chapter 128 Wisconsin Bankruptcy AlternativeOverwhelmed by debt? Making the necessary changes to take back control of finances is a key step, but sometimes easier said than done. If you’ve tried everything in your power, and still find yourself becoming further and further in debt, get the facts about your options. Rest assured, there is help available to you. It can be as simple as just reaching out. Make the call today and get some helpful advice. 888-997-4917

Doing Nothing, Fixes Nothing
If you are becoming further in debt, don’t let the fear of bankruptcy overcome the reality of the situation. Sure, bankruptcy could affect your credit score. However, the beauty of filing bankruptcy is that it provides a fresh start. This way, you’ll actually have a real chance at building back credit scores. Without some kind of action, your credit score will likely continue to fall due to missed payments, defaults, repossessions and potential lawsuits. Never discount bankruptcy as a realistic, reliable, and attainable solution because for many…it is just that.

Filing Bankruptcy in Wisconsin
Filing bankruptcy has been a life-saver for many Wisconsin residents. Financial relief can be obtained in as little as 3-6 months with a Chapter 7. You do lose your credit cards, but they’re likely a burden anyway, and you’ll be able to obtain new ones in as early as a year. There many other advantages to filing chapter 7 that most people are not aware of. For example, many personal property items are exempt, and you’ll get to hold on to the wages you earn and the property purchased after you have filed. Keep in mind that nothing will remove student loan debts, but filing bankruptcy may free up money in other areas to make your life a whole lot easier. Chapter 7 can only be filed once every six years; chapter 13 or chapter 128 may continue to be options in-between, if necessary.

Bankruptcy Alternative – Wisconsin Debt Relief
Chapter 128 is a decades old state-law debtor action, with a bankruptcy sounding label, although it is not bankruptcy. Chapter 128 may work well for someone who has more debt than they can handle, but can still repay with minimal help in structuring a plan. With Chapter 128, the debtor bypasses filing bankruptcy for a different course of action which includes debt repayment;forcing most creditors to accept monthly payments for as long as three years, and stopping interest from accruing on debts.Nearly any type of unsecured debt can be included in a section 128.21, although larger amounts for home and car loans often have monthly payments that are too big for debtors to be included. At the onset of the process, an automatic stay also goes into effect against creditors who are subject to the jurisdiction of the state of Wisconsin. Unlike bankruptcy, a chapter 128 debtor must repay all debts noted on their individual plan. (No debts are discharged through section 128.21.)

Debt Advisors Law Offices
If you’re interested in learning more about bankruptcy or Chapter 128, consult with a bankruptcy lawyer who understands the different roles of the debtor, creditors, attorney and trustee. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can clearly explain the differences between state debt relief and federal options. They will review your individual circumstances and provide the best option for you and your family. Request a free debt advisors consultation.

New Law Amends part of Wisconsin Consumer Act

New Law Amends part of WisconsinThe collecting, buying and selling of debt has become a multi-billion-dollar industry.  Debt Collectors will do whatever it takes to collect a debt. Sometimes called “debt buyers,” these organizations purchase charge-off debts for pennies on the dollar then often repackage and resell the debt, or portions of the debt to other agencies or firms to make more profit. The result of changing owners several times is the loss of important details associated with the original credit document.  In the event that a debtor is sued, it can be very difficult to track and verify original creditors, account numbers, dates, etc.  The FTC has made state recommendations which would essentially make it easier for debtors to verify the debts they are potentially being sued for. (Name and terms of the original creditor, last 4 digits of original account number, amount and date of the original default or charge-off, and amount currently due including principal, interest and fees.)
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Wisconsin Consumer Act Revised:  As of March 1st, 2016 parts of the Wisconsin Consumer Act have changed, but not enough to appease the FTC’s recommendations to fully protect the debtor.  For example, the new Wisconsin law does not require creditors to provide the original account number, the default or charge-off dates, or the terms of the original contract.  In addition, “specific itemization” is not required in the new law.  Many consumer advocates are disappointed in the new law because these missing details will continue to hurt consumers in the event that they are sued.

Bankruptcy Attorney Chad Schomburg:  “The Wisconsin legislator did not make the Wisconsin law strict enough on debt buyers or collection agencies.  They still have only minimal requirements when filing lawsuits against consumers, making it very confusing as to what debts they are actually collecting on.  The debtors then do not have much recourse under the Wisconsin Consumer Act.  They might be better off seeking protection through the Federal Consumer Protection Act, or more importantly, through bankruptcy.”

Debt Advisors Law Offices: Your situation may or may not benefit from bankruptcy.  To find out what your best options are, call Debt Advisors Law Offices at 414-755-2400 or find us online at MyDebtAdvisors.com.   For your convenience, we offer six Wisconsin locations.  The attorneys at Debt Advisors are experienced in dealing with credit agencies, and will steer you in the right direction.

Correlation between Home Sales, Home Foreclosures, and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

MARCH 2In February, The National Association of Realtors posted a report stating that the home sales index rose 3.5 percent, the highest level since July of 2015. Although Midwestern states such as Wisconsin are in the middle of winter, sales surged ahead of the traditional Spring buying season. Rising home costs, fewer homes for sale, and higher expectations from lenders, had many thinking that sales would decrease. However, the opposite may be true, as the February numbers suggest a stronger than expected launch into Spring.

 

Foreclosure Crisis

Even the most optimistic of buyers can’t help to be a little cautious because in this fast-moving marketplace, things can change very quickly. It wasn’t that long ago that our nation experienced a major foreclosure crisis. Back in the early 2000’s, mortgage interest rates were very low. Buyers were able to borrow more money, and purchase bigger homes than what they would normally qualify for. Banks were largely basing their loans on the assumption that home prices would continue to rise. The assumptions were toxic and didn’t work as planned. Although most of the homes that were lost to foreclosure crisis were considered prime, the sub-prime borrowers did tend to default at a higher rate. Because the sub-prime loans were often sketchy, many experts blamed the crisis on sub-prime lending. However, other experts argue that a variety of stressful economic factors such as unemployment played a larger role. In any case, a crisis can happen at any time, to anyone, when particular conditions are present.

Stop Foreclosure

Foreclosure is the legal process whereby a bank or mortgage takes the real estate title, due to the homeowner’s failure to make mortgage payments. Although the foreclosure crisis may be over, and the market is showing some optimistic progression, hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the U.S. continue to find keeping up with mortgage payments a struggle. This is why our message is so important; if you are facing foreclosure, there are options available that could save your home.
Chapter 7, otherwise known as ‘liquidation bankruptcy,’ will allow you to eliminate a deficiency balance owed to your mortgage company, if your home is sold for less than the outstanding balance owed to the mortgage company. However, Chapter 7 will not provide the opportunity to catch up with over-due mortgage payments and will not provide the long-term protection that a Chapter 13 can.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Rising interest rates and the fragile balance of our economy makes foreclosure a real threat. For many people, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a very powerful tool that stops foreclosure and saves your home. In fact, Chapter 13 is the driving force behind many bankruptcy petitions. Generally, Chapter 13 must be filed before the mortgage company sells your home, but as soon as you file Chapter 13, the “automatic stay” goes into effect. This stops the mortgage company from foreclosing on your home. For more information on how bankruptcy can stop foreclosure, get first-hand advice from a bankruptcy attorney. Contact Debt Advisors Law Offices directly for a free consultation, while time is still on your side. 414-755-2400.

Basic Facts Regarding Bankruptcy and Paying Taxes

paintTaxes are a part of our government body, created to support a framework of opportunity for people, families, and local communities. Here’s another fact: Our forefathers had incorporated bankruptcy into the constitution. Sure, the laws regarding bankruptcy have been tweaked over the years, but it has always been part of this country’s history. Thankfully, bankruptcy protection has expanded from businesses to also include individuals who are struggling to get out of debt.

 

Sound financial decisions
Whether we look at how the government spends our money, or at how we spend our money; it’s important to recognize where we have the most control in order to make the most of our lives. Good intentions do not equal good design. If throwing more money into a deficit isn’t fixing the problem, you may need new plan to eliminate the debt. One can absolutely take control of personal debt that has spiraled out of control. Bankruptcy law eliminates certain debts so that a new plan and a fresh start can be established. Basic tax returns are pretty cut and dry but if you’ve filed bankruptcy, are in the in the middle of a bankruptcy, or are considering a bankruptcy…you may have some questions about how it would or could potentially affect your tax returns.

A Few Things to Note Regarding Bankruptcy and Paying Taxes
• Bankruptcy or discharge of debt is not considered taxable income.
• With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’re still required to file an individual tax return. There are special considerations and options that your attorney will review with you.
• With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’re also required to file your tax return as usual.
• Some taxes may be dis-chargeable in bankruptcy, but discharge of tax debt depends upon the details and circumstances of your personal bankruptcy case. Your bankruptcy attorney can clarify this for you.
• While in bankruptcy, you can receive tax refunds. But, they could potentially be delayed or used to pay down tax debt fees. Your bankruptcy lawyer can help determine if this applies to your case or not.
• Filing bankruptcy will not stop a tax audit.

If you have found yourself considering bankruptcy, don’t think about it as a failure, but as an opportunity to start new again.

You’re not alone, filing Bankruptcy happens and it’s a not the end…but a new beginning. The bankruptcy process is not complicated if you hire an experienced bankruptcy law firm. The best advice regarding bankruptcy and filing tax returns is to consult your bankruptcy lawyer if you have filed for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you are considering filing bankruptcy, consult a bankruptcy attorney. Legal processes such as bankruptcy depend greatly on each individual set of circumstances. Debt Advisors Law Offices offers a free initial consultation to evaluate your situation and steer you in the right direction. Pay taxes responsibly; don’t risk having to pay penalties, fees and interest on unpaid taxes. Contact the IRS directly for tax-related questions that do not involve bankruptcy.

Could Federal Interest Rate Hike Cause more Foreclosures?

Rate Hike CauseAlthough nobody knew exactly when it was going to happen, the Federal rate increase last month had been predicted by financial markets for some time now. It’s the first increase since 2006, and the first time the Feds have implemented any rate hike since the most recent recession. (Federal Reserve interest rates went from a range of 0% to .25% to a new range of .25% to .5%.)There was instant chatter about more rate hikes to follow, possibly as soon as March of 2016. However, more recently, traders anticipate the next hike may not be until early 2017. The current rate hike appears minimal, but many still wonder if the economy is strong enough to handle even a small rise.

Rate hike may push homeowners into foreclosure

The housing market is supported by more than low mortgage rates, yet some home-buyers may still find it more difficult to get approved for a new home loan. Millions of American home owners and home buyers are uncertain about how this most recent federal rate increase will affect them both short and long-term. Some current owners fear that a small increase will equate to significantly more money taken from their wallets. Other consumers speculate higher interest will have minimal personal impact and a mostly positive mark on the economy. Chief economists and market strategist also have varying opinions. Some say that the increase is so small that it will have a very gradual and nearly unnoticed impact on mortgage rates. Other experts say higher rates could mean as many as one in five homeowners may face losing their homes.

Bankruptcy can save your home

Free financial advice from Attorney Chad Schomburg of Debt Advisors Law Offices.

The increasing cost of buying a home means fewer people will qualify for a mortgage loan. The larger problem may involve those who already own a home, especially those who have an adjustable rate mortgage, or those that may have taken out a home equity line of credit. It may be too soon to know what the full financial impact will be, but one thing is for sure, higher interest payments and financial pressure from many different angles may put your home at risk of foreclosure. If you find yourself facing foreclosure, don’t wait too long. (Don’t throw in the towel too quickly either.)How will you know what to do? Talk to a Debt Advisors Bankruptcy Attorney about your options. The consultation is free. If you qualify, Chapter 13 bankruptcy could save your home from foreclosure.

How to ensure your online shopping is safe & secure

How do I know an online site is safe to enter my credit card information?

When browsing online to make a purchase, there are easy things that you can look for that will reassure you that the website you’re on is secure.  Any site that asks for personal information should have an added layer of security between the browser and the website you’re connected to.  Before doing any kind of online banking or entering any kind of personal information, (including your name, contact info and or credit card information), be sure to look at the URL, or address for the site across the top of your computer screen or mobile, and ensure that you see “HTTPS.”  Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome will also display a “padlock” icon in the address bar to indicate the HTTPS connection.   On another note, reputable retailers and banks will NOT allow pop-ups advertising phony products or services, and you should easily be able to find a site privacy statement and return policy if applicable.

Good debt Vs bad debt

Borrowing money isn’t always a bad thing, it can actually be considered a good debt if it allows you to manage your finances more effectively.  Some examples of this could be investments in future earnings, taking out a mortgage, healthcare expenses or borrowing for a business expense.  Be cautious however, of online spending; it’s far too easy to spend beyond our financial means.  Credit card balances are bad debts that accumulate high interest charges.  The only way to avoid interest charges is to pay off the balance before the end of the current billing cycle.  Payday loans are also a form of bad debt.  If paying off a credit card balance in less than 3o days is not possible, or if you need to take out a payday loan, reconsider the long-term effects.  It’s always a better option to pay with cash, and you will spend less, avoid debt, and maintain your financial well-being.

Debit card vs credit card

DASometimes it’s difficult to see the visual differences between a debit and credit card, but the transactional process between the two is very different.  One comes directly from your banking account, the other is borrowed money.  To clarify, the amount of protection offered by both cards is essentially identical, as mandated by law.  However, because of the way debit cards are structured, unauthorized use can cause major havoc on your personal finances and take a long time to work through with your bank.  Credit card companies are quicker to alert suspected fraudulent behavior, and also offer some additional protections such as:  Disputing rights on a purchase, sometimes an extended warranty, property insurance, etc.

In financial trouble?  Find the help you need by scheduling a free, no obligation consultation with a Wisconsin bankruptcy attorney

Good money management and financial well-being

Good money managementand financial well-beingWe aren’t born with the natural ability to manage money, it is a learned skill.  Good money management is about commitment and true desire to want to live within your means and avoid bad debt.  Learning new money management skills has no age-limit. However, the best place to begin is at home.  Teach your kids about fiscal responsibility while they’re young, and prior to college.  Because each individual has their own needs and circumstances, balancing budgets and building a saving plan can mean something different to each person.

Typically, good money management is a combination of behaviors:

  • Setting reasonable budgets
  • Prioritizing needs over wants
  • Saving for short-term emergencies
  • Making legitimate plans to become debt-free
  • Having honest evaluations regarding spending
  • Starting a savings account and saving for the long-term
  • Seeking help when debt becomes out of your control

Setting budgets is placed first in order, and for good reason.  If done on a regular basis, the process of recording money coming in and money going out, forces a constant evaluation and allows the possibility for goals to be met.  We recommend creating a monthly budget for your household.  If you don’t have one, contact Debt Advisorsfor a “free budget worksheet template. One of the biggest mistakes that can happen when creating a budget is to make the budget so tight, that it’s nearly impossible to maintain.  Remember that budgets should be realistic and includes financial goals which are attainable.

 

Live within means.Here is an example:  Taking out student loans equal to your expected annual income may not be all that bad, but throw in a few credit cards and the story changes.Simply stated, “living within your means” is having a plan, making good financial choices, budgeting and planning based upon how much income you have.  We should all aim to become good stewards of our money.  The holiday season is an especially difficult time to do this.  Although most people say that the holidays are about spending time with family and friends, many also overspendon gifts.  Credit cards make the problem of overspending even more tempting.  Money alone isn’t the solution, nor is it the answer for living within our means because over-spending can be a potential issue for anyone, at any income level.  (From the less fortunate, to a millionaire athlete…anyone can make money mistakes.)  Take control of your finances and find peace of mind, even during the holidays.

 

What do you do when you have more debt than income? Sometimes, even while putting forth our best efforts, bad things can happen in life. In a short time, having more debt than income can potentially lead to a desperate financial situation.  There is a difference between good debt and bad debt.Given time, resources and goals, there’s almost always a solutionfor every debt issue.  The key is not to procrastinate because the longer you wait to make and execute a plan, the more that debt is going to grow.

 

If you find yourself overloaded with debt, consider Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  Regain control over your finances and even rebuild credit. Contact Debt Advisors Law Offices for a free, no-obligation consultation today.

 

Consumer money scam targets bankruptcy filers

Predators target millions of people every year through fraudulent behavior and scams that intend to steal money from innocent people.  Unfortunately, many scams target the vulnerable in society, such as the elderly or financially burdened.  Some scams are so slick that they are able to fool even the most intelligent, on-guard, and cautious person.  Internet scams have opened a new realm of security concerns but let’s face it; those who are looking to steal your money will use a variety of techniques and tools to try and fool you.  scam

Visit USA.Gov for how to spot Common Consumer Scams and Fraud:

  • Financial Fraud
  • Pyramid Schemes
  • Telephone Scams
  • Charity Scams
  • Lottery Scams
  • Tax-Related Identity Theft

New Scam targets bankruptcy filers across the United States

Recently, phone scammers have targeted bankruptcy filers using software that is so sophisticated it even fools caller id.  Often the calls are made outside of business hours so that the victim cannot call their attorney to verify legitimacy. The bankruptcy phone scam in the news this week claims to know personal information about the bankruptcy filing and sometimes poses as an attorney asking for money to satisfy a debt.

The attorneys at Debt Advisors Law Offices in Wisconsin are doing their part to inform the community of this real financial threat.  Be on alert and fully aware that a scam could show up on your doorstep, potentially come through the mail, internet email, texting, phone calls, or delivered through the U.S. Mail.  In addition, “under no circumstances” would they phone a client to request personal information over the phone, nor would they threaten legal action if money isn’t wired to resolve an unpaid debt.

Report a scam complaint

Report scamming or other fraudulent activities to your local law enforcement.  An excellent resource for determining the appropriate federal agency to report cases or complaints can be found at STOPFRAUD.GOV.  The Federal Trade Commission website can also be referenced regarding phone scams in particular.