Credit Card Debt? Be Cautious of Debt Settlement Companies

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Many consumers with outstanding credit card obligations notice the late night commercials offering to settle or negotiate their debts. Consumers should be wary of such organizations, as there may be hidden fees associated with such programs, and these groups cannot give you legal advice or represent you in court. In fact, the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) has been investigating and even fining debt-settlement companies for false and misleading practices.

If you have credit card debt that is hard to manage, schedule a free consultation with a consumer attorney at the McIntyre Firm. A qualified consumer attorney can discuss the various options available to you including bankruptcy and debt settlement. Further, if you are sued by a credit card company or debt collector, the attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. can help you as we have represented hundreds of consumers in similar cases. Knowledge is power. Be informed by contacting a consumer attorney at the McIntyre Firm and scheduling a free consultation.

Are You Being Harassed for Credit Card Debt?

Harassed for Credit Card Debt

Being harassed for credit card debt can feel like a merciless series of interrogations. If you’re facing late mortgage payments, student loans, past-due bills or more, dealing with persistent calls from debt collectors usually adds to the mounds of already existing stress.

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has rules in place prohibiting debt collectors from harassing, oppressing or abusing you while contacting you about debts.

We care about your wellbeing in times of debt. Our skilled attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A are trained and able to give you the assistance you need when dealing with credit card debt harassment.

In addition to consulting with a trusted lawyer, here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from credit card debt harassment.

Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

You can submit an official complaint through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reporting the harassment you are facing and giving details of your negative experience. The CFPB will then forward your complaint to the company responsible for harassing you, demanding a response within 15 days and aiding you in taking action to end the harassment. To submit a complaint, click here.

Send a cease communication letter

If debt collectors call you non-stop, especially for credit card debt, you may draft a strongly worded cease communication letter demanding them to stop contacting you while you work to pay off your debts. This course of action is most beneficial when debt collectors call you while at work, which could put your job in jeopardy.

Keep full records of your communication

As in most legal cases, documentation is key! Whenever you’re communicating with a debt collector, keep a well-rounded record of your conversations, emails or letters exchanged. Be sure to save any and all voicemails, too. By keeping a trail of your experiences with debt collectors, you have a better chance of pinpointing where and how harassment takes place, giving you the tools you need to put it to a stop.

If you face harassing phone calls, letters or emails from demanding debt collectors, we at McIntyre Law Firm are here to help. Call our consumer protection lawyers; Jeff Hakanson and James Elliott today at (844)511-4800.

Emergencies can lead to out of control debt

Before the 2007 recession, the majority of Americans were not putting much thought into their emergency savings account. Without any “just in case” emergency funds, when people starting getting laid off and being forced to take pay-cuts, many no longer could afford their lifestyle. Some saw their homes go into foreclosure, while others had to deal with the constant calls from bill collectors.

Since then, while the economy has started to rebound and some are trying to save for emergencies, almost half of Americans still have more credit card debt than that saved in emergency funds. Bankrate.com conducted a survey by questioning 1,004 participants over the phone. This is the third year in a row the company has conducted this survey.

In 2011, 52 percent reported having more in savings than in credit card debt. The following year, in 2012, the overall percentage increased to 54 percent. In this most recent survey, 55 percent reported having more in savings than in credit card debt.

At first glance, this certainly seems encouraging. More and more are starting to save for emergencies. However, Greg McBride, who is a senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com, said that people are still not saving enough. Even with the better overall economic situation of the U.S., not enough attention is being given to saving for an emergency.

The issue is that, even though the economy has improved some, without money in savings, Florida residents will not be able to pay for emergencies. For example, if suddenly a homeowner comes down with a debilitating disease, there will be medical bills. However, since there is no extra money put aside to pay these bills, the homeowner will have to dip into the funds he uses for his other bills, like his credit card and mortgage. This in turn can lead into a vicious cycle where the homeowner owes money to multiple entities and just cannot keep up. In some cases, the threat of foreclosure can become very real.

In cases like this hypothetical one, or really any situations where debt is becoming overwhelming, instead of continuing to stress out, talk with an attorney who has experience handling debt relief cases.

Source: ABC News, “Nearly Half of Americans Have More Credit Card Debt Than Savings”, Susanna Kim, Feb. 25, 2013

Florida still ranks No. 1 in delinquent mortgages

Over the past year, on average, debt among Florida residents has greatly decreased. In fact, average debt dropped from $181,241 during the last three months of 2011 to $176,337 during the last three months of 2012. However, while this can be looked at in some ways as a positive, the fact remains that Florida ranks the highest in terms of mortgage delinquencies. Additionally, residents still also continue to struggle with student loan debt and many are also having financial issues when it comes to tackling credit card debt.

When speaking of mortgage delinquencies, on a national level the rate is 5.19 percent. In Florida, the rate is more than double the national average at 12.47 percent. The state ranks No. 1 in terms of homeowners being behind on mortgage payments, which puts them in direct threat of foreclosure.

Student loan debt also continues to be a problem. Just like other states, with the Great Recession, many found themselves out of work. Hoping to give themselves a competitive advantage, many of these people decided to go back to school. However, this was done at the same time that the country saw an increase in for-profit colleges and the cost of tuition rising. This led to many taking out thousands in student loans, only to graduate — and in many cases — still not be able to find a job due to the economy.

In talking about these types of debts, many wonder if they should file for bankruptcy. And while every situation is different, only being able to make minimum monthly payments on credit cards, falling behind on financial obligations and missing a mortgage payment are all definite signs that it is time to talk with bankruptcy attorney.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Credit card debt, mortgage balances drop sharply in South Florida”, Donna Gehrke-White, Feb. 12, 2013

Our firm can provide information on the different types of debt relief solutions that may be available. To learn more, visit our Tampa bankruptcy page.

Florida residents: Take charge of out of control debts

Avoiding debt is top of mind for many Florida residents. Many budget and make purchases based on their needs and any discretionary income. However, there are those who ended up accidentally falling into debt during and after the Great Recession and many who are now living in constant fear of losing their homes and wage garnishments.

In order to get out of debt, the first thing is to realize exactly what debt is and how it works. In the simplest terms, people take on debt when they borrow money to buy something they would not be able to afford all at once. A perfect example of this is a college education or a house. These two purchases are normally considered OK.
However, there are those too who use credit cards to make purchases they otherwise could not afford. This becomes tricky when high interest rates leads to larger payoffs. Others too also get into the dangerous behavior of borrowing more debt in order to pay for other debts.

When it comes to credit card debt, many like to think that it is younger Americans who are not responsible with their money or simply do not understand how debt works. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is actually older Americans who have seen the largest uptick in debt. This alone is proof that no one is immune to debt.
Of course the advice is to only purchase what can be afforded, and for those larger purchases like a college education or a home, make sure that the monthly payments will be manageable. But, for those already living with massive amounts of debt, know there are options available.

For example, if medical bills have gotten out of control and credit card debt is continuing to pile up, and if these bills are putting a homeowner in jeopardy of losing their home, now is the time to talk with an attorney with experience handling bankruptcy and other debt relief options. Regardless of the situation, an attorney can evaluate the situation and provide insight into options.

Source: Consumer Affairs, “How to determine how much debt is too much”, Mark Huffman, March 26, 2013

Tampa residents can learn from celebrity bankruptcy filings

While most residents in Tampa, Florida, live their lives without their financial troubles being broadcasted on the news, there is something residents can learn from looking at the debt problems facing certain celebrities. Not only do their stories show anyone can run into financial hardships, but it also proves that debt relief options are often available.

Take for example the recent news that former supermodel Janice Dickinson filed for bankruptcy. The 58-year-old reportedly has more than $1 million in debt. This money is owed not only to the government in the form of unpaid taxes, but also to plastic surgeons and cosmetic professionals.
At one point, the claim is that Dickinson was even facing the possibility of eviction for falling behind on her monthly rent payments by three months.

When asked about her bankruptcy, Dickinson did admit that she had fallen behind and feels terrible about the money she owes. However, bankruptcy may be one way for her to get back on top of her finances.
For Tampa residents hearing of Dickinson’s bankruptcy, while their own debt issues may not be in the form of owing plastic surgeons, any Florida resident can run into debt. Whether it is in the form of credit card debt, unpaid medical bills or being behind on mortgage payments — or a combination of all three — being in debt is surely a frustrating time.
However, as Dickinson did, filing for bankruptcy is often an option.
In terms of filing for personal bankruptcy in Tampa, it is important for all residents to understand they are certainly not alone. Over the past several years, the area has been severely impacted by the downturn in the economy. In turn, this has led many residents who never imagined having financial problems to bankruptcy.
With personal bankruptcy, there are two types to consider: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, assets are liquidated and debts are discharged. The financial slate is essentially wiped clean.

However, Chapter 7 is not necessarily for everyone and there are eligibility requirements. For some, this is where Chapter 13 can work to their advantage. With this type of filing, also commonly referred to as a wage earner’s plan, a repayment plan is created with monthly payments being made over the next three to five years.
When it comes to filing for bankruptcy though, while this can clear up debts and put an end to creditor phone calls, this is merely a brief overview and not something that should be done alone. Rather, many reach out to attorneys with experience handling personal bankruptcy cases in order to learn more about what debt relief options are available and to make the best choice for their individual situations.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Former supermodel Janice Dickinson files for bankruptcy”, Nardine Saad, April 23, 2013

Bankruptcy as a debt relief tool for struggling Florida graduates

It used to be that being a college graduate almost guaranteed a spot in the middle class — if not higher — for most Florida residents. However, now with the high cost of college tuition and the slow job market, many college graduates are finding themselves out of work and behind on student loans, a financial situation that can be quite discouraging for those who are trying to start their adult lives.

The U.S. Department of Education recently released data comparing delinquent student loan payments. According to the department, 11 percent were delinquent on their student loans in the third quarter of 2012. Comparing this to 2003 when only 6 percent were delinquent in the third quarter of the year really highlights just how bad the student loan debt issue has become.

At this point, student loan debt has reached $1 trillion. This makes student loan debt the second highest consumer debt, right behind mortgage debt. This debt also ends up affecting many aspects of a person’s life. For example, while many used to graduate, start working and buy their first home, many are now finding themselves extremely stressed and living back with their parents.

Of course this begs the question of just what can be done. While going to college is expensive — with the cost of tuition only rising — having a college degree still gives a competitive edge when it comes to finding a job.
This means that for many, the risk of not being able to pay back student loans is still worth it and most do not even think about what to do until after graduation.

Part of the issue with student loan debt is that unlike other types of debt — like that from credit cards — student loans are rarely dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, this does not mean that bankruptcy can still not be a valuable tool.

For example, let’s say a graduate has tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And, while some of this debt is due to student loans, other debts are tied to credit cards. If the debt from the credit cards is discharged through bankruptcy, this would free up limited resources that could then go toward student loans.
Of course though, this is only one type of example. What works for one person may not work for another. This is why those with debt are encouraged to reach out and speak to an attorney who has experience handling debt relief cases in Florida in order to learn more.

Source: Bloomberg, “Overdue Student Loans Reach Record as U.S. Graduates Seek Jobs”, John Hechinger, May 22, 2013

Credit card debt continues to grow with consumer confidence

The recent Consumer Confidence Index showed people are starting to take a more optimistic view when it comes to the economy and job growth. This optimism, while certainly better than constantly worrying, can also end up being a negative as some Florida consumers start to once again rack up credit card debt.
The Federal Reserve released numbers on Monday showing the largest increase in consumer debt since May 2012. Overall, there was an 8.3 percent increase from April to May of this year. The last increase of this magnitude was a 9 percent increase in May of the previous year.

When talking about consumer debt, the overall number comes from two different types of credit:
Revolving credit: This kind of debt does not have a fixed number of payments that needs to be made. Rather, how long it takes to pay something off will depend how much is paid each month. This category of credit is mainly made up of credit card debt.
Non-revolving credit: This is the kind of debt that does have a fixed number of payments. Unlike revolving credit, when payments are made, the line of credit is not extended. Student loans and car loans fall into this category.

In looking at the most recent gains in consumer debt, while non-revolving debt stayed relatively flat, according to the Federal Reserve, it was revolving debt that really increased from $849.9 billion in April to $856.5 billion in May.

This jump in revolving debt shows an increase in consumer confidence. Basically, when consumers feel more secure with their jobs, they are more likely to take on more debt. Their idea behind this is that income will be steady to allow for payments to be made on time.

Of course, an increase in consumer confidence is a positive. Yet, it is important to remember that job loss, divorce and unplanned medical bills are all common reasons for overwhelming debt. These are all still aspects of life that can creep up rather unexpectedly. When this happens to Florida residents, it is important to sit down with a bankruptcy attorney and look at the accrued debt — revolving and non-revolving — and determine what can be discharged or restructured and if this would free up money to go toward other bills.

Source: USA Today, “Consumers break out the credit cards in May,” John Waggoner, July 8, 2013