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How To Handle Harassment From A Collector

When you are unable to pay your bills, it is made all the more difficult to have to field calls and letters from a collector. When debt collectors are breathing down your neck it can be hard to find the time to think long enough to come up with a workable plan. The situation is even worse when the collectors are engaging in harassing behavior. Examples of collector harassment include making threats to arrest you, claiming a lawsuit has been filed when it has not (or legally cannot be filed), calling repeatedly at inconvenient times or while you are at work (especially after you’ve made a written request for the calls cease and desist), and efforts that fail to advise you of your rights.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. In fact the law on what a collector can and cannot do is pretty clear. If a violation occurs, the wronged consumer has the ability to hold the collector responsible for their wrongful actions. Tips on how to handle harassment from a collector include:

  • Keeping a diary of the dates and times of calls, the name of the person who called, and a brief synopsis of the content of the call will help by allowing you to pinpoint unlawful collection activity.
  • Asking the collector to provide the name of the original creditor, and a pay history is a good idea. You are entitled to have the debt being collected verified to you, so you can be certain the debt is valid.
  • Requesting all communication cease and desist is within your rights. Doing so should stop the calls and letters, but will not necessarily stop any legal action from being initiated against you.

Perhaps the most effective way to stop collector harassment is to enlist the help of a knowledgeable attorney. Once you are represented by counsel, all communication must go through your attorney and not to you directly. If you are being contacted by a debt collector and need help figuring out what to do, call us for help. We will review the facts of your case and let you know your options.

For more information about debt and debt management and collection, contact our office at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We work with you to come up with solutions that work.

Will Debt Consolidation Help Me?

For those with more debt than they can handle on a monthly basis, there are several options for relief. You can contact your lenders and try to negotiate a lower interest rate, which will mean a lower payment; you can file for bankruptcy, or you can try to consolidate all of your debt into one loan. The benefit of a loan consolidation is that there is only one monthly payment to make, which makes organizing your finances an easier task. But there are also some down sides to debt consolidation, and before you apply for a consolidation loan you should know the fats.

Whether debt consolidation works for you depends on your financial goals and present financial condition. This is not the same for any two people, but there are some common threads to be found when thinking about consolidating debt. In order to figure out whether debt consolidation is beneficial to you, take a look at the following factors:

  • What are the chances you will take out new debt even after consolidating old debt? If all you do is take out one loan to consolidate others, and then continue charging on the paid off credit card or take out additional loans, the result is not pay off of your debt but an accumulation of more debt.
  • Consolidation companies rarely accomplish for you what you cannot do on your own. If you are being asked to pay a fee for a company to help consolidate your debt, make sure you do your homework first. Many times you can achieve the same results by making a few phone calls on your own, free of charge.
  • If you do decide to use a company, be sure your lenders participate in the program. Many debt consolidation companies fail to advise potential customers that lenders are not required to be bound by the terms proposed. What this means is that you will have spent money for a service the company cannot provide.

It is also smart to be wary of any plan that requires you to pledge your home as collateral, or that has an overall higher interest rate than what you currently pay. Sometimes the same results can be obtained by looking to the bankruptcy court. A chapter 13 bankruptcy is similar to debt consolidation, and your creditors are bound by the orders the bankruptcy court enters in your case. This means is that even a lender who was unwilling to work with you on your own or through a debt consolidation company, will be required to participate in a bankruptcy proceeding.

 

For more information about debt management, loan consolidation, and what you will still be required to pay after filing for bankruptcy, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We help by explaining your options and developing a plan that meets your needs.

Three Ways A Sluggish Economy Helps With Debt

When the economy takes a turn for the worse, panic can quickly set in for the public. News reports of the falling value of the dollar, houses sitting on the market for too long or going in to foreclosure, and a high unemployment rate tend to make people tighten their purse strings and ride out the storm. In a poor economy, many people find themselves without work and may have to resort to living off of credit. This can cause your overall debt load to dramatically increase, and unless steps are taken to service that debt, it is not long before it can spiral out of control. But a downturned economy does not have to mean the end of your financial world.

Three ways a sluggish economy can help you with your debt include the following circumstances:

  • The amount consumers spend have an impact on the economy far beyond just where the purchase is made. Financial experts say the number of people who are impacted by even a relatively small purchase is great. When consumers spend, the money infusion reaches all levels of workers from the store clerk to the manufacturer. When more people are spending, more people are needed for work, and this creates jobs. The creation of necessary employment positions means the unemployment rate goes down and more people are able to go to work and provide for their families. The key is to make purchases within your budget rather than to accumulate an overwhelming amount of debt.
  • When the need to take out credit arises, even in a sluggish economy, there are lenders who are willing to make loans. While the rates may be higher than you’d like, paying off the debt on time will help boost your credit score. This means that even though loans are required to help make ends meet, you are working towards a better credit report, and this can help you to get more favorable loan terms in the future.
  • When the debt taken out is for a home, the consumer ultimately benefits from the increased value in the property. In a sluggish economy home prices tend to be lower. The smart investor uses this information to take this chance to make a purchase, and hold on to the property until the values rebound. And, values always have a way of rising. The important thing to remember here is to only make the purchase if you are able to hold on to the property for several years.

It may seem like there is no end in sight when you are burdened with more debt than you can handle, but when creative ways to service that debt are formulated, even debt during a bad economy can be handled. Call our office to learn more, and to find out what type of debt management solutions meet your needs.

 

For more information about finances, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Are Banks Rebounding And Making More Loans?

The banking industry has certainly taken a devastating blow in recent years. Many borrowers found themselves without work, which meant loans went unpaid and into default. This scary situation made banks take a closer look at their lending policies, and the result was that fewer loans were made. And of the loans that were made, often times the terms were less than desirable. For those that were “lucky” enough to have a loan application approved, many times the interest rate was high and this meant higher monthly payments. The end result was much the same as when under or unemployment were factors, and many extensions of credit went into default.

Now that the news reports a little more positive outlook for the economy, it is natural to wonder if this means the banks are on the rebound and will make more loans. With a new year here, the best place to look for this answer is to the prior year. In January 2015 the Financial Post had this to say:

  • Housing activity in the United States was mean to play a major factor in helping stocks rebound in 2015, which could mean a loosening up of lending practices.
  • As default rates have declined, the instance of approving more loans has increased.
  • Certain decisions by the Federal Reserve, including the decision to delay implementation of some practices, will lead to an increase in lending.

What all of this means for the U.S. consumer is that the chances of obtaining a loan are greater now than they have been in recent history. But, with new lending comes new risk. There is never a guarantee that you will not lose your job or be forced to take a position with a lower salary, which means the possibility of taking out a loan you cannot repay exists. Or, it may be that you have already found yourself unable to make certain payments and are wondering what you can do to avoid collection efforts. One option is to ask for a deferment of payments, and another choice some consumers make is to file for bankruptcy. We can help by analyzing your particular set of circumstances, and making recommendations as to which course of action works best for you.

 

If you have questions about finances, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

 

 

Is Self-Employment The Answer To Your Money Problems?

It could be said that the American Dream is to run your own business, because being your own boss puts you in charge of your own destiny. If you’ve ever dreamed of setting your own hours, answering to no one but yourself, and having a taste of what it’s like to work for yourself, self-employment may be the answer. But, while there are perks to running your own shop, there are also drawbacks. In order to make the most of working for yourself, it is important to understand both. In particular, it is key to know how being your own boss will benefit you financially.
If you are considering starting up your own business, here are some things to know about how self-employment will impact your finances:

  • Your tax status will likely change, which can result in significant savings come April 15th. Some ways your taxes will be impacted include claiming part of your home as a deduction if you work from your house and meet certain criteria, and the ability to write off some expenses such as a cell phone or internet access.
  • The fear of not knowing when and the amount of your next paycheck will give you the motivation to market yourself, and build your business. When you have to run a business and a household, you quickly learn how to budget. This can have a positive impact on your finances and help you to keep your head above water.
  • When you hold the purse strings, you are less likely to make impulse purchases or rash decisions. For those that own their own businesses, every paperclip and box of copy paper becomes an asset. Knowing your inventory helps teach the value of the dollars you earn, and can help you to develop healthy savings and budgeting methods.

Self-employment is not for everyone, but if you are brave enough to take the leap, do so after first consulting with a knowledgeable financial professional. We can help you with business formation, and guide you towards choices that work. As your business grows, we can help by reviewing your business plan and making sure you are on track.

 

For more information about what it takes to be your own boss, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Five Ways To Live On Less Than What You Make

Having enough money to pay the bills, with some left over, is an attainable goal. The key is to find ways to live on less than what you make, so you are able to put money aside for an emergency or a rainy day. It might seem like an impossible task, but cutting back on extras can be done, and in most instances it can be done without changing your lifestyle.

Five ways to live on less than what you make, which will free up some of your money for savings or a much needed home or auto repair include:

  • Clip coupons and search online sites for discounts on items you use on a regular basis. We have all seen or heard a story of someone that saves big by using coupons, but the key is to use them for things you normally buy. If you clip a coupon simply to see the savings, but it is for something you don’t use, there is no real savings. But, using coupons in conjunction with grocery store rewards cards or other savings methods will put extra money in your pocket.
  • Monitor the temperature in your home. The difference you feel from adjusting your thermostat a degree or two is insignificant, but can make a difference on your monthly bill. If you have the option to average your bill with your utility company, do so. Paying an average amount each month will not only save you money, but will also help you to prepare a budget by knowing in advance how much your bill runs on a regular basis.
  • Have movie night at home rather than going out every weekend. By staying in one weekend a month, you can save close to $100 per month.
  • Carpool to work or take public transportation if possible.
  • Shop at thrift stores or start up a “clothes swap” with your friends and neighbors.

When you are able to control the amount of money you spend in a way that saves each month, the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck quickly disappears. Having a nest egg for an emergency gives you the kind of peace of mind money can’t buy, and puts you in the best position for financial success. However, we understand life happens and sometimes circumstances can get the best of you. You do have options if you are facing overwhelming debt, and we can help figure out which option best meets your needs. Loan modifications, workouts, or bankruptcy may be the answer you need. Call us today to learn more.

For more information about bankruptcy, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Surviving The Holidays On A Tight Budget

Every year, the day after families sit down and give thanks for all that they have, a countless number of consumers hit the malls and other retail stores in hopes of finding the perfect holiday gift on sale. Black Friday is a long standing shopping tradition, and thousands of people pour over the ads for weeks in advance and map out their plan of attack. Saving money is always a good idea, but rather than try to beat off the crowds, there are some things you can do to help survive the holidays on a tight budget. Many of these tips can be practiced year round, resulting in substantial savings not only in December, but throughout the year.

If your money is tight, you might be worried about how you will give gifts to family members and other loves ones this year. But, it can be done. You can survive the holidays on a tight budget, by sticking to some of these tips:

  • Shop for items when they are on sale; this can include Black Friday; Cyber Monday, or stocking up on smaller items throughout the year from sources like Living Social or Groupon.
  • Download apps that save money, like Cartwheel from Target or the Savings Catcher from Wal-Mart. Many stores participate in a price match with their competitors, and when you have the right tools in your hands, you can save big.
  • Draw names for gifts if you have a large family, agree to buy only for the children, or set a spending limit. While it can be hard to bring up the subject of a holiday budget, you’d be surprised at how many of your friends and family will quickly jump on board once the conversation gets started.
  • Put together frugal, but thoughtful gifts from lower priced stores. You can put together a “spa night” basket for under $10 by visiting most dollar stores. These make great gifts for teachers or caregivers.

The holiday season does not have to be a time of year that breaks the bank. Make a plan, and stick to it to see real results. Remember that it is not the gift that you give, but the thought behind it that counts. Going into debt during December can make seeing loved one stressful, and take the joy out of the season. But, if you do get in over your head, call us for help. We can help develop a strategy for your finances that helps get you out of debt, and puts you on the path to financial freedom.

For more information about debt and debt management, contact our office at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We work with you to come up with solutions that work.

Three Ways To Stop Collection Calls

 

Owing money that you can’t pay is no fun; it can cause you sleepless nights and be a constant source of stress when you begin receiving collection calls and letters. Unfortunately, even with caller ID, it can be hard to know when a call is from a collector. More and more frequently collectors are becoming tricky with how and when they place calls, making simply avoiding the phone a non-existent option.  But, there are ways to stop the calls, and give you the time and space you need to figure out how to best manage your debt load.
Three ways to stop collection calls include doing the following:

  • Send a cease and desist letter to the creditor. This will stop the calls and letters from coming, but will not stop the possibility of a lawsuit being filed against you.
  • Dispute the validity of the debt, and request a pay history as well as identification of the original creditor if it is a different entity than the one calling you.
  • File for the protection of bankruptcy.

While issuing a cease and desist, or disputing the debt are good tactics, they offer only temporary relief. However, with bankruptcy, you are afforded the benefits of the automatic stay. The automatic stay prohibits a creditor from taking the following actions:

  • Calling you, in an attempt to collect a debt.
  • Garnishing your wages.
  • Sending threatening collection letters.
  • Filing or maintaining a collection, repossession, or foreclosure lawsuit against you.

And the best part is that the automatic stay goes into effect the moment you file for bankruptcy. What this means is that the minute your case is filed, your creditors can no longer contact you. Of course you may have to field a call or two if you receive one within the first couple of minutes after your case is filed, but providing your case number will put an end to the call on the spot, and will also prevent future calls from being made. If you are unable to meet your monthly obligations as they become due, take your future into your own hands by speaking with a knowledgeable bankruptcy and debt management attorney today. We will help you develop a strategy that fits your budget, and meets your needs.

 

For more information about bankruptcy and the automatic stay, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Will A Chapter 7 Eliminate All Of My Debt?

The purpose of filing bankruptcy is to give the “honest, but unfortunate debtor” a fresh financial start. It is hard to do this if you come out of bankruptcy with close to the same debt load as when you filed your case. When you file bankruptcy, you have a choice about what chapter to file. What debt is discharged (eliminated, or no longer considered due and payable) and what debt is still owed after your case is determined, in part, by the chapter of filing. Most debtors prefer to file a Chapter 7 case rather than a Chapter 13 case, because a Chapter 7 acts to discharge all of your unsecured debt. In contrast, a Chapter 13 case is like a loan consolidation, and a portion of your unsecured debt will be paid through the case over a period of up to 5 years.

The Chapter 7 discharge eliminates the following types of debt:

  • Unsecured debts; like credit cards, signature loans, or medical bills.
  • Secured debt for property you decide to surrender to the lender.

What is not discharged are things like student loan debt, unless you can meet a strict standard that your future is bleak, with no hope of ever finding gainful employment that would allow you pay even a part of your student loans back; taxes; child support obligations; any debt that was incurred under false pretenses; and debt that was incurred with the intention of discharging it in bankruptcy. The benefit to a Chapter 7 case versus a Chapter 13 case is that discharge is entered much faster. The typical Chapter 7 takes from about 4 to 6 months, while a Chapter 13 can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. You are also not required to make monthly payments to the Bankruptcy Trustee with a Chapter 7, but are required to do so in a Chapter 13 case. Given these attractive benefits, it is no wonder most debtors seek to file a Chapter 7 case. However, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to be eligible to file a Chapter 7.

Debtors must qualify for a Chapter 7 after having completed a means test calculation. This complex math requires a debtor to compare their secured debt to their disposable income, and if there remains even a small portion of disposable income to put towards unsecured debts after the secured obligations are met each month; the debtor will be required to file a Chapter 13 case. We can help by reviewing your monthly budget, income, and expenses and making the computation for you. A misstep in the means test could mean that your case is not allowed to be filed at all, so it is critical to get it right. Call us today for help.

For more information about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.