New Regulations for Debt Collectors May be Coming Soon

The Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering changes to debt collection regulation that could have a big impact on consumers.  A feCall Centerw of the changes being considered are:

  • a requirement that third-party debt collectors verify a debt is valid before they can collect
  • collectors must disclose any disputes or restrictions when transferring a debt to another collector
  • strict limits on the number of times a collector can call a consumer per day and per week
  • restrict contact to any third parties once the consumer’s contact information has been verified

Although most debt collectors are ethical and fair in their dealings with consumers, some choose to use aggressive,  intimidating and misleading tactics to collect.  Worse, it can be difficult and expensive to hold dishonest collectors accountable for their actions, and many bad actors continue to harass consumers over and over again.  That’s why we’re hoping that the proposed changes also create a simple, fair mechanism for consumers to report violations, and the power to enforce the rules.  The CFPB is expected to make a final decision on the new rules sometime in the next year.  For more information on the proposals being considered by the CFPB, check out their website.

Comments Off on New Regulations for Debt Collectors May be Coming Soon

Recover garnishments by filing bankruptcy!

Are your wages and/or bank accounts being garnished by someone you owe money to?  We know how frustrating that can be.  If someone has a judgment against you, they can garnish your wages, your bank account or even put a lien on your house.  The only way to stop a garnishment, other than paying it off, is to file bankruptcy.

If you do file bankruptcy, not only will it stop the creditor from garnishing you in the future, we may be able to recover some of the money they have already taken from you.  Current bankruptcy laws allow you to recover garnishments taken from you in the 90 days prior to your filing date, if those garnishments total more then $600 for any one creditor.

If you are expecting to be served with a lawsuit, have been served with a lawsuit, or are being garnished, contact our office today to set up a free consultation.

Comments Off on Recover garnishments by filing bankruptcy!

Beware IRS and Oregon Dept of Revenue Scams

We’ve posted information before about ruthless scammers who call, mail, or email notices to individuals claiming that they owe back taxes in an attempt to scare them into paying nonexistent debts.  These dishonest and aggressive collectors are especially active right now, and we’ve received several reports from clients and local law enforcement agencies recently.

As a reminder, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be a tax collector:

  • DO NOT give any personal information, especially not a social security number or bank account information.  A legitimate tax agency representative will NEVER ask you for that type of information over the phone.
  • Likewise, don’t be fooled into believing a tax agent is legit just because he or she can recite some of your personal information to you over the phone.  Actual tax collectors will not share personal taxpayer identification by phone.
  • Ask for an account detail in writing before agreeing to any payment.  Both the IRS and ODR will attempt to contact you in writing before using any other method, and neither agency will ever use email for official purposes.
  • Legitimate tax agents will not make demands for specific forms of payment.  In other words, do not give payment information in the form of bank accounts numbers, credit or debit cards, wire transfer or any other financial information.  If you owe a tax debt, you can pay by mail to the official payment addresses for the agency, or pay in-person at a local office where the information can be verified.
  • Don’t be intimidated or harassed by a caller who threatens to arrest you, deport you, or contact your work or family if you refuse to pay.  While tax agencies have many tools they can use to collect a tax debt, you’ll be given ample notice if wage or bank account garnishment are in your future.  And criminal penalties don’t apply except in cases of fraud or criminal activity.

Some scammers have become even more sophisticated in their operations, and will contact taxpayers to tell them they are due a refund from the IRS or ODR.  Don’t let the “good news” trick you into giving away personal financial information.  Instead, if you think a refund notice might be authentic, end the call and contact the agency directly for verification using the information at the bottom of this post.

Finally, if you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer posing as a tax collector, report it to the tax agency immediately.  They’ll work with local law enforcement to locate and stop criminals from tricking others out of their money.

To contact the IRS:

go to www.irs.gov and click on “Get Transcript Online” to check your tax account on the web, or call 1-800-829-1040.  If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent agent, contact the Treasury Inspector General online here.

To contact ODR:

go to ODR’s Revenue Online application page to create an account and view your tax information securely online or call 1-503-945-8738.  If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent agent, contact the Oregon Department of Revenue by using the online Fraud Reporting tool, or call 503-947-2000.

If you filed bankruptcy and have been contacted about a discharged tax debt:

Call your attorney immediately.  If your case was filed by an Armstrong Bankruptcy Law Offices attorney, please call our office at  541-683-6652, and we’ll be glad to assist you.

Comments Off on Beware IRS and Oregon Dept of Revenue Scams

Have You Received an ODR Notice in Error?

Due to a recent system update at the Oregon Department of Revenue, several demand letters have incorrectly gone out.  If you are unsure whether or not your income taxes owing to the Oregon Department of Revenue were dischargeable in your bankruptcy, please call your attorney.  If Armstrong Bankruptcy Law Offices assisted you in filing your case, call us at 541-683-6652.

Comments Off on Have You Received an ODR Notice in Error?

Credit Report vs Credit Score

“What’s the difference between a credit report and a credit score?”   That’s a very common question we hear from our clients, and it’s easy to see why so many people confuse the two, since sometimes creditors use the terms interchageably.

A credit report is a detailed list of your debts and payment histories with individual creditors.  For example, if you have a car loan and a credit card, both would be listed in your credit report.  If you regularly make late or incomplete payments to any creditor, that information will appear month-by-month so that potential creditors looking at your report can make a decision about whether to extend credit to you.  Different creditors might put different weight on individual items, depending on their individual credit standards.

A credit score is a number that the credit reporting bureau believes represents your credit on the whole.  Some creditors rely on credit scores rather than credit reports because they are calculated by the credit reporting bureau based on all the information available, and don’t require the same type of line-by-line scrutiny that credit reports might.  For example, if you miss two payments on a loan, your credit report will reflect those payments and the months they were missed.  A credit score, on the other hand, would just be reduced by a set amount to reflect the missed payments.  credit dial

Here’s the catch: credit reporting bureaus (like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) don’t want you to know how they calculate credit scores, because they are a proprietary financial product available for sale.  So you can make a guess about how certain items will affect your credit score, but you won’t know for sure until you see the score change.  Reporting bureaus claim they are using their knowledge and data analysis to give creditors the best guess available about your creditworthiness, which may be true.  But it’s difficult or impossible to dispute an incorrect score because of the secretive, proprietary formulas used to generate them.  Because we know that many credit reports contain errors and misinformation, it’s hard to know where your score should be and how to change it unless you are regularly monitoring your credit reports.

For bankruptcy purposes, we want to look at your credit report rather than your credit score, because we want to be as accurate as possible about who your creditors are and how much you owe to each.  If you haven’t had contact with some creditors in a long time, your credit report might be the most accurate record we can find to make sure all of your creditors receive notice of your bankruptcy filing.

We’re always glad to help our clients figure out the difference between credit reports and credit scores.  Feel free to give us a call if you have questions!

Comments Off on Credit Report vs Credit Score

Credit Reports: Get Them, Monitor Them!

credit reportCredit reports and scores are used for the purpose of advising a lender of the risk factors in lending a person money or advancing credit.  It is very important to maintain the accuracy of your credit reports.  Most commonly credit reports are incorrect after a bankruptcy filing.

Our office recommends that you check your reports at least once a year, if not twice a year.  So long as you are not requesting your credit “score,” you can view the report to check for any errors once in a twelve month period from Transunion, Experian and Equifax.  Free credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies can be obtained at:www.annualcreditreport.com.

 

Comments Off on Credit Reports: Get Them, Monitor Them!

Scam Alert: Unethical Debt Collectors Going After Discharged Debts

Our office was recently contacted by the United States Trustee advising that there have been many complaints that debtors are receiving calls from prior creditors demanding payment for bills or services listed in their bankruptcy. Most of the callers are refusing to send a bill or statement, and claim that the debt was either not included in the bankruptcy or not dischargeable in the bankruptcy.

scam imageUnder the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act creditors are required to send you a bill or statement. If they are not able to do so, it is most likely a scam. These scammers are preying on people who filed bankruptcy in particular. They are trying to scare debtors into making a payment over the phone. As a rule, any creditor calling you and demanding payment right then, should not be paid over the phone.

If you are unsure whether a debt was included or discharged in your bankruptcy, contact your attorney’s office and explain the phone call you received. Your attorney’s office should be able to check your case for the correct information.

If the debt was in fact listed and/or discharged in your bankruptcy case and you continue to receive calls, you should tell them to first send you a bill. If the creditor refuses, take down their information and then contact the US Attorney’s Office to file a complaint.

Comments Off on Scam Alert: Unethical Debt Collectors Going After Discharged Debts

Stop Receiving “Pre-Approved” Credit Offers by Mail

Many of our clients, both before and after bankruptcy, tell us that they are inundated by “pre-approved” credit card offers by mail.  There is a reason why creditors target those with poor credit: they are a higher credit risk, which means they may be willing to accept a much higher interest rate than some consumers, along with fees, penalties and restrictions that mean big money for lenders.

If you want to stem the tide of pre-approval letters, here’s how to stop receiving credit offers by mail (according to the Federal Trade Commission):

To opt out for five years: Call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. The phone number and website are operated by the major consumer reporting companies.

To opt out permanently: You may begin the permanent Opt-Out process online at www.optoutprescreen.com. To complete your request, you must return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which will be provided after you initiate your online request.

When you call or visit the website, you’ll be asked to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth. The information you provide is confidential and will be used only to process your request to opt out.

If you don’t have access to the Internet, you may send a written request to permanently opt out to each of the major consumer reporting companies. Make sure your request includes your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth.

Experian
Opt Out
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Equifax, Inc.
Options
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374

Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230

 

Comments Off on Stop Receiving “Pre-Approved” Credit Offers by Mail

Student Loans: Read the Fine Print on Co-Signers

http://articles.latimes.com/2014/apr/22/business/la-fi-mo-student-loan-defaults-cosigner-20140422

The federal consumer agency is now warning student loan borrowers to be aware that in the event that their co-signer passes away or files for bankruptcy, the lender can automatically (and without warning) require the borrower to pay the full amount immediately.

These private lenders say that this is completely within legal bounds but the federal consumer agency is warning borrowers to read closely each private lender’s co-signer release and other benefit information before taking out the loan; to avoid being Student Loan Applicationblindsided by loan defaults. The LA Times article says, “The automatic defaults triggered by a co-signer’s death or bankruptcy have the potential to harm a borrower’s credit rating, making it difficult to pass employment screenings or access other forms of credit.” This is why we think it is very important for all potential borrowers to be aware of the dangers of student loans, and the affects they could have on you in the future.

Comments Off on Student Loans: Read the Fine Print on Co-Signers

How Much Debt Do you Need to Have to File Bankruptcy?

This is a question we often hear from potential clients who are struggling with debt and aren’t sure whether bankruptcy is right for them.  While the bankruptcy code does contain some maximum limits, there is no minimum debt requirement.  Whether you have enough debt to consider bankruptcy is a very personal decision, and depends upon a number of factors.  Some considerations are:

  • Do you foresee a time when you’ll be able to pay off your debt, if your financial circumstances do not change?
  • Do you anticipate a change in your earning potential or assets that would allow you to pay off your debt in the future?
  • Is your debt the type of debt that could be discharged in a bankruptcy? (Ask your attorney if you aren’t sure.)
  • Is your debt preventing you from paying your basic living expenses for you and your family?

The answers to these questions may be able to help you make a decision about whether bankruptcy is an option you’d like to consider.  If you aren’t sure, or if you have questions, call or email us to make an appointment with an attorney so you can find out how bankruptcy would work in your situation.  With some information about your finances, we’ll be able to talk about your options and answer your questions.  The consultation is completely free and confidential, and there’s no obligation.  We’re glad to help you get the information you need to make an informed decision about your financial future.

Questions? Send us a message!
Which of our offices is nearest to you?
Comments Off on How Much Debt Do you Need to Have to File Bankruptcy?