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5 Strategies to Tackle Your Credit Card Debt

In 2018, the average household owed $9,333 in credit card debt (for more see this post).  Almost 50% of Americans have revolving credit debt.  So, what can you do about it?  The easier answer: pay it off!  However, not everyone has thousands of dollars at a time to hand over to a credit card company.  Luckily, there are strategies to pay down revolving debt in an effective way.

1 – Target One Credit Card at a time

This strategy can be effective although the name is a bit misleading.  Using this method, you pay the minimum amount on each card on-time every month.  THEN, focus any additional money on one of the credit cards.  You should focus on the debt with the highest interest rate first so you accrue less interest.

2 – Debt-Snowball Method (coined by Dave Ramsey)

Tons of people swear by this method.  As explained on www.daveramsey.com:

  • List your debts from smallest to largest.
  • Make minimum payments on all of your debts EXCEPT the smallest.
  • Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
  • Repeat until all debts are paid.

3 – Consolidate Your Debt to a Single Card or Personal Loan

Sometimes people feel more in control when they just have one payment instead of 5 – 10.  If you are one of those people, consider moving all credit card debt to a single “balance transfer” card.  If you have a decent credit score, you may be able to find an option with 0% interest which can buy you some time to knock out the debt without accruing tons of interest.  Be careful with personal loans.  If you respond to an offer that says you were pre-approved, check the interest rate and payment options.  Too often, the interest rate is astronomical (20%-150%).

4 – Using Home Equity

Home equity can be an excellent tool when trying to pay down credit card debt.  Home equity loans usually have a lower interest rate than credit cards.  In addition, this type of loan can be tax-deductible.  One important note is that sometimes a closing cost can be a part of the home equity loan process.

5 – Negotiate!

You would be amazed at how much you can reduce your credit card debt by contacting the card company and negotiating.  If you are behind on payments, you can use that as leverage.  Tell the credit card company you will pay the entire balance that day if they reduce it to a certain amount.  Credit card companies often sell their “bad debt” to collections companies for less than $0.40 on the dollar.  It is in their best interest to collect your debt directly for $0.50 to $0.75 on the dollar.

If you find yourself saddled with credit card debt and you want a change, help is out there.  Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group is a skilled credit counselor and debt negotiator.  He has been helping people get their debt under control for over 15 years.

How Does Your Credit Card Debt Stack up Against Other People Your Age?

As of September 2018, the average amount of debt per person is $5,700.  The average balance per household is $9,333.  The total amount of revolving debt in the United States is $1.03 trillion.  41% of the people in the U.S. have some level of credit card debt.  Have you ever wondered how your level of credit card debt stacks up against other people’s in your age group?

0 to 35 – Average Credit Card Debt = $5,808

This group is among the lowest in terms of debt balance.  They are also among the least likely to have a credit card.  People in this age group typically have a lower “operating budget” so they cannot afford to manage much debt. Many Millennials are not opening lines of credit which is hurting their credit score and reducing their chance of getting a card.

35 to 44 – Average Credit Card Debt = $8,235

This is where credit card users start to pick up steam.  By this age, many people have had open lines of credit for more than 5 years.  They are typically in a higher income bracket than the previous group which allows them to get cards with greater spending limits and increases their ability to pay the bill.

45 to 64 – Average Credit Card Debt = $8,627

The “baby boomers” average the largest amount of credit card debt per person.  However, this age group also controls the largest amount of disposable income in the United States.  Additionally, they do not have as much student loan debt.

65 and over – Average Credit Card Debt = $6,326

This group is among the least likely to have a credit card.  However, this trend is changing.  Due to rising medical costs, the debt burden on this age group is increasing.  Some individuals in this group may have trouble getting a credit card even if they want one because, in the event of death, the credit card company could be stuck with the debt.  This fact often makes companies more hesitant to issue a card.

Credit card debt affects just about everyone over the age of 18.  Unforeseen events can lead to credit card overuse and things may get out of control.  If you find yourself in this position and creditors are calling you day and night or if you are ready to start paying down the debt and need guidance, contact Elias Dsouza at Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group.  He has the skill and experience to get you back on track.

 

Data used in the post is from valuepenguine.com.

3 Steps to Winning a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit

The short answer: get an attorney.  However, there are some who would rather try to defend themselves in court.  If you receive a summons to appear in court because you are being sued by a debt collection company, you have options.

Step 1 – Time is of the Essence

If you received a summons to appear in court because you are being sued by a debt collection company for credit card debt, you have a limited window of time to answer the complaint.  When being sued by a debt collection company in Florida, you have 20 days (including Saturdays and Sundays) to answer.  If you do not answer, you will be subject to a summary judgement which means you automatically lose.  Over 90% of credit card debt lawsuits end in a summary judgement because people do not respond after being summoned.

Step 2 – The All-Encompassing Answer

While submitting an answer in time is essential, it is not enough.  You must submit an answer that addresses ALL complaints listed by the plaintiff.  At this point, making excuses for why you did not pay will only hurt your case as excuses are an admission that you, in fact, owe the debt.

If you wish to deny every complaint made by the plaintiff, you can easily do so by saying “All allegations brought forth by the plaintiff are false.”  Keep in mind, this must be true or you are lying to the court.  If you are in court fighting a lawsuit for credit card debt, there is a good chance you did not pay that debt.  In this case, you have what are called “affirmative defenses”.  Creditinfo.com describes three common debt lawsuit affirmative defenses:

  • Statute of Limitations – This is one of the most powerful defenses in any case. In Florida, a debt stemming from revolving credit is outside of the statute of limitations after four years have passed.
  • Lack of Standing – As one of the most common defenses, Lack of Standing finds itself in most answers. Lack of Standing means the debt collection company does not own the debt and has no right to sue you for it.
  • Failure of Consideration – Failure of Consideration means there was no exchange of goods or services between the plaintiff and defendant, thus, nothing is owed to the plaintiff.

Step 3 – The Beauty of Discovery

During Discovery, you can ask the plaintiff for documents they will be using to prove your guilt.  In many cases, the plaintiff will lack these documents so it is important that you demand they provide them.  Once you have these documents, it is up to you to show the court that the plaintiff lacks the evidence to prove you are guilty.

This is a simplified guide to a very complex process.  The most appropriate way to give yourself the best chance to win a credit card debt lawsuit is to retain the services of an experienced debt defense attorney in Florida.  Elias Dsouza has been defending people from debt collectors for over 15 years.

The First 4 Phone Calls You Should Make if Your Identity is Stolen

You are at the register at the store and your credit or debit card payment reads “NOT APPROVED”.  You assume it is a machine error and ask the cashier to run it again, but the payment is declined again.  Your stomach drops when you check your balance on your phone and your account has been decimated by fraudulent charges.  Resolving an identity theft is a team effort, but who is your team exactly?

Phone Call #1 – Damage Control

Call the companies which you know accounts were fraudulently opened and/or credit or debit cards were used.  Before things get worse, you need to try to freeze the accounts and let the companies know that you were a victim of identity theft.  Also, let them know that you will be contacting them again when a report is created and a case is opened.  Lastly, change any and all passwords you can think of to block unwanted future access.

 

Phone Call #2 – Damage Assessment

Now you should start talking to Experian, Transunion, or Equifax.  You only have to create a fraud alert with one of the companies.  That company alerts the other two.  Next, get your credit report.  You can get a free credit report annually at annualcreditreport.com.  For the final portion of the damage assessment, list any and all transactions and fraudulent accounts.  You will need this information later.

Phone Call #3 – FTC

You may not be aware of this, but identity theft is a federal crime and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) has your back.  You can contact the FTC to report identity theft at 1-877-438-4338 or online here.  If you decide to use the FTC website, you will get an Identity Theft Recovery Plan tailored to your situation after answering some basic questions about your case.

Phone Call #4 – Local Authorities

This step may be considered optional, but it is recommended.  If all you get out of it is a police report, it is still a win.  The more documentation, the better.  If you decide to contact local authorities, you can call for advice, but you will most likely need to go to the police station in person.  Do not forget to bring:

  • An official government-issued ID.
  • Any reports you have received during this process so far.
  • Two pieces of mail showing your address.

While there is plenty of action to be taken at the federal level, you still may need guidance through this process from someone with knowledge of Florida state laws.  If credit bureaus are reluctant to remedy your credit report or collectors are insisting that you pay debts which are associated with your identity theft case, you need the help of an experienced debt defense lawyer in Florida.  Contact Elias Dsouza of Plantation, Florida for help defending yourself against debt collectors and credit bureaus.  He can help you put your debt issues in the past.

Things Debt Settlement Companies Do Not Want You to Know

A debt settlement company can be appealing.  They often come across as caring and their plans seem simple.  These companies may seem like a great option because the thought of hiring an attorney is intimidating and even scary.

What is a Debt Settlement Company?

A debt settlement company offers an array of services such as:

  • Debt settlement.
  • Credit counseling.
  • Debt management.
  • Credit repair.
  • Debt collection.

In the state of Florida, a debt settlement or credit counseling company must be certified or licensed.  So, the good news is, there are standards.  In 2009, the Florida Senate released the Regulation of Debt Relief Services report in an effort to regulate debt relief companies which were increasing their fees to compensate for the increase in risk of non-payment.  To answer this increase in cost, regulations were implemented and/or enforced.

When you enlist the services of a debt relief company, you normally send them money to save for you.  When the sum of money becomes enough to pay off a debt (often times lower than the amount owed to the creditor), they will use the money to do so and take a fee.  Fees can include:

  • A start-up fee.
  • A percentage of the amount they saved you from paying.
  • A monthly fee for services.

Why is an Attorney a Better Option?

An experienced attorney will have a firm grasp on relevant laws.  The attorney will know if a debt collector has violated the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and they can protect you if the collector elects to sue you.  Many times, they can get the amount of your debt lowered or eliminated.  Also, debt settlement attorneys may offer credit counseling services in addition to their protection.

If you are in need of a debt settlement attorney, contact Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group in Plantation, Florida.  His team has the knowledge and experience required to counsel you through credit repair and protect you from abusive debt collectors.

Who Can Help You Repair Your Credit?

So, you spent the first third of your life treating your credit score like a punching bag.  Now, as an adult, you need your credit score to work for you to buy your first new car, a house, or maybe to get a loan to start a business.   Or, maybe your credit report has errors.  Did you know, in Florida, 79% of credit reports contain errors?  Depending on how complicated your credit history is, you may be able to use a private credit repair service.  The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) does offer protections to consumers who may be considering the use of a private credit repair service.

Credit repair services must:

  • Offer certain affirmative disclosures (any potential negative effects of service) and transparency.
  • Not demand fees before service is rendered.
  • Offer contracts in writing and give the consumer the right to cancel the contract.

A credit repair service may be a viable option if your credit issues are not too complex.

When Should You Hire a Credit Repair Attorney?

Navigating the resolution of these errors can require extensive knowledge of state and local law.  While a credit repair service may be able to help you with one or two minor issues, a credit repair attorney can be a game changer because:

  • They have a firm grasp on state and county law.
  • They can get the attention of a credit bureau much more easily.
  • If credit repair leads to bankruptcy, it is of huge benefit if the attorney is familiar with your case.
  • The attorney may be able to tell you when it is time to explore bankruptcy options.
  • Having an attorney/client relationship established with credit bureaus can expedite your case.

If you are losing sleep over your credit situation, contact Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group.  Elias Dsouza has been representing people in credit repair cases for over 15 years.

You Are Being Sued for a Credit Card Debt… Now What?

You get an advertisement in the mail from a law firm saying a case was filed against you recently and they would like to represent you.  At first, you think it is a mistake and then you keep reading.  It turns out the credit card debt you have been meaning to start paying down has been sold to a debt collections agency and they are suing you for the balance.   If your first instinct is to hide, DO NOT!

Read the initial correspondence very carefully and note any deadlines.  In most cases, you should expect to be served a court summons which will include a court date.  At this point, you have to decide if you want to try to pay off the full balance before the court date, negotiate with the collections agency yourself, or choose an experienced credit card debt negotiation attorney in Broward County.

Paying off the full balance

If you can afford to pay off the balance before the court date, that may be the way to go.  You should keep in mind that a quality credit card debt attorney can often get the debt reduced or even eliminated completely and at a very reasonable rate.

Negotiating with the Collections Agency Yourself

There is a time for negotiating directly with the agency that controls your debt, but more often than not, when the papers are filed and a summons is dispersed, it is too late.  The collections agency lawyers have already invested time and effort into the case and they need to get paid to justify those costs.  You can try to get the amount decreased, but it may be difficult.  Also, you may find that the collections agency is reluctant to accept a payment plan at this point as the debt has already gone unpaid for some time.

Choosing an Experienced Credit Card Debt Attorney

You decide that you cannot afford to pay off the balance before your court date and negotiating with collections agency has gotten you nowhere.  It is time to find the right attorney for you.

Things to look for in a debt collection attorney are:

  • Experience battling debt collectors.
  • Authority within their firm to get things done on time.
  • Fair fees and collection expectations

Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group of Plantation, Florida meets these criteria.  Elias Dsouza has been protecting people from debt collectors for over 15 years.  He is a Senior Attorney at the firm and specializes in credit card debt settlement.  Clients can pay easily and have access to customer service via www.dsouzalegalgroup.com.

Are You a Victim of Predatory Debt Collection Practices?

Most people who have unresolved debt have received mail, phone calls or even at-home visits from debt collectors.  While it always feels intrusive, did you know that these debt collections practices may actually be illegal?  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted in 1978 to protect consumers from abusive and/or deceptive actions taken by debt collectors.  According to the National Association of Consumer Advocates some of these practices include:

  • Calling you before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm.
  • Giving other parties such as employers or family members information regarding your debt.
  • Calling you at work without your permission.
  • Cursing at you or threatening to garnish your social security payments.

In 2018, the average amount of credit card debt per person in Florida is $8,444.  Some of this money lands in collections.  It is important to understand that it is legal for a debt collector to try to collect a debt and often times they are perfectly reasonable, but they cannot attempt collection by any means they deem necessary.  If a debt collector is threatening to have you arrested, calling you repeatedly in an attempt to annoy you into paying the debt, threatening physical harm, or if they have notified you in writing that they are suing you, know that you have options.


What are your options?

If you believe a debt collector is using illegal methods to collect your debt, you can:

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint.
  • File a lawsuit against the debt collector.

If you are considering filing a lawsuit against the debt collector, you may want to consider legal representation that specializes in debt negotiation and abusive debt collection practices.  Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group of Plantation, Florida does just that.  Guiding citizens of Broward County through credit card debt negotiation, bankruptcy, foreclosure (and more) is what they have been doing for over 15 years.

Three Thing To Know About Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Cases

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a form of bankruptcy that requires the debtor to enter into a plan of debt repayment. It is similar to debt consolidation, but has the backing of Court approval, so your lenders do not have a choice about whether to participate in your proposal. When a Chapter 13 case is filed, a repayment plan is proposed and eventually approved by the Court. The debtor then makes a monthly payment to the bankruptcy trustee and the trustee disburses payments to the lenders.

In order to better prepare yourself for what lies ahead when you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy it is a good idea to go into it with some background about how Chapter 13 cases work. Three things to know about Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases that will help you understand your case more include:

  • A percentage of your unsecured debt will be repaid over the life of your Chapter 13 Plan. The percent you have to repay will depend on how much disposable income you have after paying monthly secured debts.
  • You are permitted to pay the value of some pieces of collateral instead of the balance due, most notably your car. You can also pay your car note at a lower interest rate than what the purchase contract provides. This combination results in a lower overall car payment, paid through your bankruptcy.
  • A Chapter 13 Plan takes between three and five years to complete, meaning you making monthly payments to the trustee for that time period, and once all plan payments are made you receive a discharge of debts.

It might sound undesirable to remain in a bankruptcy for a few years, but during that time your lenders are not allowed to call you. This gives you the freedom you need to get back to your life and takes the stress of not being able to pay monthly bills off of you. The relief that comes with being able to pay bills without fielding collection calls is enormous. When Chapter 7 is not an option, you can get this relief by filing a Chapter 13. The same rules regarding the automatic stay and discharge of debts apply, so you still get all the benefits of the bankruptcy laws.

For help with your questions about Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, contact us at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that help get you back on your feet.

A Step By Step Guide To Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy comes in two forms for most debtors, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is the preferred type of case to file because it allows a debtor to get rid of all of their unsecured debt. And, in most cases, it is having too much unsecured debt that puts people in the position to need the relief bankruptcy can provide. But before you decide to file a case and count on being able to file a Chapter 7, there are some points of interest to learn.

In order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you have to submit your income and debt information for review. The amount of secured debts you have will be compared to the amount of income you bring in, and if your income shows no ability to repay any of your unsecured debts after making secured debt payments each month, you will be allowed to file a Chapter 7. Here are some of the key components of Chapter 7 cases:

  • All unsecured debt is eliminated, in full. That means you no longer have to pay credit cards, signature loans, and medical bills.
  • Debts for things you want to keep, like your house and car, have to be repaid if you do not want the lender to ask for permission to repossess the item. In most instances the continued payments are made pursuant to a reaffirmation agreement, and that means the debt will still be due after your case is over. If you miss a payment, you can be sued for the debt.
  • The timeline to complete a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is around 3 to 6 months. This relatively short timeframe is an incentive for most people, as they prefer not to be involved in a bankruptcy proceeding for too long.

Getting out of debt, at least unsecured debt, by filing a Chapter 7 helps thousands of people each year. If you have more debts than you have income, come in and talk to us about your bankruptcy options. We will take a look at the numbers and let you know what type of case you can file and how it will help you become more financially secure.

For answers to your questions about debt, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com.