HOWTO: Fix false information on your credit file

HOW TO GET FALSE INFORMATION CORRECTED ON YOUR CREDIT FILE

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People occasionally want to have information removed from their credit file, but are not sure exactly what is wrong.

FIRST: get a copy of your credit file from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

To order by phone, you can call the central source for these files, at 877-322-8228 (877-FACT-ACT).  This is a phone call, and the process takes about 10 minutes.  This call is to the central source for Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.  You will need your name, address, prior address if you have lived there less than 2 years, and your social security number.

To order by mail, you download the form, print it and mail it.  The address is Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

SECOND; Determine what is wrong.

Once you have your credit file, you will need to read the contents.

For each of the 3 agencies, there are 4 areas to look at.

Personal identifier information: This is your name, address, sometimes former addresses, social security number, and maybe a phone number.  Check this information for inaccurate identification of you. This indicates that there are serious errors.

Public records: anything filed in courts, like Bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens. Generally, it is not good to have anything in the public records. Judgments can be reported for 7 years, Bankruptcies for 10, and tax liens can be reported for 7 years after they are paid. (while they are unpaid, the clock does not start)

Trade lines: these are the accounts in your name.  There are 2 kinds- negative, and positive.

Negative: These are the accounts that are in your name that have something not good about you. Late payments, defaults, charge-offs and other negative information.  Negative trade lines can be reported for 7 years.

Positive: These are the accounts that are in your name that have only positive information about you.  On time payments, and accounts that have been paid are examples. These accounts can be reported forever.

Inquiries: This is a list of who has looked at your credit file in the last 2 years. Some inquiries are for the preliminary purpose of qualifying you for a loan. Some are inquiries made by creditors or potential creditors to determine if you are someone they wish to do business with or wish to continue doing business.

THIRD: Dispute inaccurate or false information.

If there is information on it that is wrong or false, you should write a letter and send it by certified mail, return receipt requested to the agency that has the false information. Many people try to start with the information source, but this does not preserve your rights.  It is a good idea to write to the information source, but it is not required.  Do not write the same letter to the information source that goes to Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.  Keep a copy of the credit file, your letter, the certificate of mailing, the return receipt and the response you get from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.  Your lawyer will need this.

The next phase is is really a repeat of the third phase, with more information-send an affidavit to Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, showing that the information is inaccurate, and asking them to correct this information.  If the account is incorrect due to ID Theft, you should use the FTC’s ID Theft Affidavit.  Again, send this by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. Keep a copy of your letter, the certificate of mailing, the return receipt and the response you get from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

Keep trying, and it is possible that they will correct the inaccurate information.

If they fail to fix the information, you can come see us.  Please bring with you all the information, including the credit file disclosures they have sent you, the mailing documents, and the letters you sent.

KCLS LIMITS THE GEOGRAPHY IN WHICH WE TAKE CASES. 

YOU MUST BE A VIRGINIA RESIDENT.

 

If you are not a Virginia Resident, click here to find a lawyer near you.

If you have been impacted by anything we mentioned here, you can make an appointment to see us.

NO FEE IN YOUR FCRA CASE UNLESS WE RECOVER!!

 

 

OUR LEGAL FEES:

The rights afforded to you, as a consumer, under the FCRA and the FDCPA means that a corporation or party who has violated your rights may ultimately be made to pay for statutory damages, actual damages, and your legal fees. Therefore, if we agree to represent you in any case, you won’t pay any attorney’s fees unless we are successful and we recover on your behalf. We are here to serve and have assisted many consumers TO enforce their legal rights. Let us try and see if we can help you too. That means you pay no fee in your case unless we recover.

Contact us by e-mail or by telephone or fax or US Mail.
You can call us: 804.303.0204
You can fax us: 804.303.0209
You can contact us by US MAIL:
Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23230

More Collection Myths Busted

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COLLECTION MYTHS BUSTED

We have all heard lots of these myths. Some are told by friends who have had collectors calling, some have been told by collectors as myths, and some are urban myths started on some internet webpage.

1. If you dispute, they must validate within 30 days. FALSE. When a debt collector contacts you, you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt, or they will assume it is valid. If you dispute within that 30 days, they must pause all collection activity until they provide validation of the debt. Not within 30 days. They have an unlimited period of time to get that information to you.

2. If you dispute, they must provide proof of the debt. FALSE. They have to provide validation, which is not much more than going back to the creditor to make sure they have the correct person and the correct amount. If you make a SPECIFIC dispute, they must investigate the specifics of your dispute, but a general dispute does not trigger any real investigation.

3. If you do not respond, they canot do anything. FALSE. If you fail to respond, they can do all sorts of thing, including call, write, place the item on your credit report, or even under some circumstances sue.

4. If you dispute, they can still put it on your credit report. SORT OF. They can report the account to the credit bureaus, but they must report that the account is disputed. Supposedly, this account will not be scored, but it is very difficult to tell. Further, disputed accounts must be resolved before Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will underwrite a mortgage loan.

5. If you call a debt collector and tell them you will not pay, they have to leave you alone. FALSE. A refusal to pay must be in writing. We recommend that you advise the debt collector that you refuse to pay in writing by certified mail. However, there are risks to using this tactic. The biggest is that they can still file a lawsuit, for which if you do not defend, they will win.

6. If you don’t pay, they can put you in jail. FALSE MOSTLY. There are a few instances where a debt collector can put you in jail. You can go to jail for writing checks on someone else’s account, or if your account was closed. Sometimes, you can be jailed for writing a bad check, but that is fairly rare, and in most states, that requires very specific requirements. IF your situation meets that problem, it is the crime of bad check, it is never bank fraud, or wire fraud.  Here is another blog entry on that.

KCLS LIMITS THE GEOGRAPHY IN WHICH WE TAKE CASES.
YOU MUST BE A VIRGINIA RESIDENT.

OUR FEES: Our fees are controlled by the local rules and your situation. They may vary from “free” or probono representation to a flat fee to an hourly fee, depending on your situation.

If you are not a Virginia Resident, click here to find a lawyer near you.

Contact us by e-mail or by telephone or fax or US Mail.
You can call us: 804.303.0204
You can fax us: 804.303.0209
You can contact us by US MAIL:
Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23230

Recognizing Scam Debt Collectors

Lately, we at KCLS have been getting a lot of calls about debt collection scams. One of the more popular lies that debt collectors tell is that you can go to jail for not paying this debt or that debt. That some how your failure to pay this (possibly time barred, and maybe not even yours) debt is bank fraud. But lets talk about the other signs that a debt collector is a scam.

1-If they call and tell you that you can be arrested, they are probably a scammer.  There are very few debts that you can go to jail for, and most of those, they don’t send a collector for the money. If you have committed the crimes of embezzlement, or theft, or fraud, they don’t call you. Think about it. Did they call up Bernie Madoff and ask him to pay? No. The SEC and the FBI just stopped in one day, and put him in irons.

2-If they call and tell you they are the police and that you will be arrested, they are almost guaranteed to be a scammer. Just think about this. Do the police call people before they show up to bust through the door with a warrant, throw you on the ground, and arrest you? No. That would be stupid of the police.

2A-this is not really a separate category, but a subtype- If they tell you they are a process server, and that you will be served shortly (typically that day or the next day), they are a scammer. This is a variation of the “I’m with the police” scam. Real process servers don’t call in advance. They also don’t ask where you work, and they don’t tell you what time they will be there.

3-If the debt collector will not give you an address for payments or for correspondence, they are a scammer.  Tell them that you will not pay over the phone, that you will only pay, if at all, by mail.

4-If the debt collector won’t tell you a valid phone number, they are a scammer. Tell them that before you will discuss the debt with them, you need to call them back, Promise them that if you can reach them, you will discuss the payment of the debt, but if you cannot, then you will assume they are a scammer.

5-If the collector only calls, but never sends you anything in writing, they are most likely a scammer. Real debt collectors know that they must send a collection letter, called a 30 day validation notice. This gives you 30 days to dispute the debt. Scammers know that if they don’t send you a letter, it is harder for you to track them down to sue them.

6-If they communicate with you by e-mail, particularly if the first communication from them is by e-mail, they are probably a scammer. Not always true, but most debt collectors do not communicate by e-mail.  Also, look for the domain that they are e-mailing from. The domain is the part after the @, like gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc. If the domain is a public “free e-mail service” domain, like gmail, yahoo. Hotmail, AOL, or MSN, they are most likely to be a scammer. Real collectors have their own domains.

7- If they tell you the debt cannot be discharged in a Bankruptcy they are a scammer. The debts that cannot be discharged in a Bankruptcy are very limited in nature. Taxes, child support, and a number of special debts that apply mostly to corporations are not dischargeable. Almost everything else can be discharged.  Read more about Chapter 7 non-dischargeable debts and Chapter 13 non-dischargeable debts. Student loans are VERY hard to discharge, but they can be.

If a debt collector is telling you these things, call them out on it. Tell them you think they are a scammer.  Then give us a call, and let us see if we can track them down. Most are very hard to find, and they count on that, but we have been successful at finding some of them.

If you have been abused by a debt collector, please call us, and let us see if we can help you.

KCLS LIMITS THE GEOGRAPHY IN WHICH WE TAKE CASES. 

YOU MUST BE A VIRGINIA RESIDENT.

 OUR FEES: Our fees are controlled by the local rules and your situation.  They may vary from “free” or probono representation to a flat fee to an hourly fee, depending on your situation.

If you are not a Virginia Resident, click here to find a lawyer near you.

Contact us by e-mail or by telephone or fax or US Mail.

Call us: 804.303.0204
Fax us: 804.303.0209
US MAIL:
Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23230

Medical Expenses Are a Major Contributor to Bankruptcy

It is not a coincidence that medical expenses are one of the primary reasons Virginians file bankruptcy.  Medical costs are out of control.  Very few uninsured Virginians can afford to pay for a hospitalization or treatment of a chronic condition out of pocket.

Many of my personal injury clients have over $100,000 in medical expenses.  All it takes is a couple days in the hospital following an auto accident and bills can easily climb into six figures. The truth is that hospitals and doctors rarely collect what they charge unless the patient is uninsured and has a personal injury claim.  If the patient has health insurance, you can guarantee that the insurance company has negotiated rates as low as 25% of the actual charge.  Yet for the uninsured they are expected to pay the health care provider back in full.  Absent a personal injury claim, the patient may be forced to file bankruptcy.

If the patient was treated for a personal injury in Virginia the health care provider can assert a lien on the settlement.  If the patient was treated at VCU, UVA or another state facility, the provider has a lien of 100% of the charges even though they would never have been reimbursed dollar for dollar if the patient was insured.  Private hospitals have a lien of $2500 and physicians in private practice have a lien of $750.

If you are uninsured and have been injured in an accident in Virginia, you are probably being hounded by debt collectors.  It is important to consider all of your options including filing a personal injury claim and contacting an experienced consumer lawyer.

Attorney Josh Silverman is a good friend and colleague of Jason Krumbein.  Josh is a solo practitioner at the Silverman Law Firm LC in Richmond, Virginia.  Josh focuses his practice on representing victims of personal injuries in Virginia due to automobile accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, and defective products.  For more information about Josh Silverman please visit his website at www.joshsilvermanlaw.com or call him at (804) 325-4992. 

Old debt with new Garnishment?

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Old debt with a new garnishment?

A number of people have asked how long a creditor can issue a garnishment on an old debt.

WHAT IS A GARNISHMENT?

A garnishment is a court order for a third party to turn over property that belongs to the debtor to the creditor.
What does that mean in English? Someone else is holding something that belongs to you, like for example a bank holds your money, or an employer holds wages that are owed to you. A court orders that the bank or the employer pays some or all of the money that is owed to you to the creditor.

But there is a requirement that the creditor have a judgment. A garnishment is a secondary proceeding or order after the judge lowers the hammer and says that you owe the money.

Once there is a judgment, the creditor is in control. They can do lots of things. They can request a garnishment to be issued by the court, or levy against assets, attach cars, houses. But they can attach wages or bank accounts.

The judgment has its own statute of limitations. A judgment in General District Court is good for 10 years, renewable for 10. If the judgment is recorded in Circuit Court, or originates in Circuit Court, it is good for 20 years.

But all this assumes that the judgment is valid.

How do you know if the judgment is valid? There are a number of issues,

1- Was the judgment served or did you get notice that it was pending? In Virginia, you do not need to be “served” by a process server, service is done by “nail and mail” service. They attach a copy to the front door of your last known address, and mail a copy, regular mail to your last known address.
2- Are you the named defendant? Did they sue you or someone with a similar name?
3- Was the debt within the statute of limitations?
4- Do you have a defense to the claim?

Only after you have reviewed all the factors, can you go back and attack a judgment.

What can you do with a garnishment?

There are 4 options with garnishments.

1- You can do nothing, and let the creditor collect their money through the garnishment.
2- You can try to negotiate with the creditor and either settle the debt or make payments that are better for you.
3- You can get the evidence that allows you to attack the underlying judgment, and “un-do” the judgment, and fight the debt.
4- You can always file Bankruptcy.

KCLS LIMITS THE GEOGRAPHY IN WHICH WE TAKE CASES.
YOU MUST BE A VIRGINIA RESIDENT.

OUR FEES: Our fees are controlled by the local rules and your situation. They may vary from “free” or probono representation to a flat fee to an hourly fee, depending on your situation.

If you are not a Virginia Resident, click here to find a lawyer near you.

Contact us by e-mail or by telephone or fax or US Mail.
You can call us: 804.303.0204
You can fax us: 804.303.0209
You can contact us by US MAIL:
Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23230

Credit Cards After Bankruptcy – 4 Things To Remember Before You Take The Plunge

credit cards after bankruptcyMost of my bankruptcy clients come to me with one goal, and it’s not to get out of debt.  Sure, that may be the immediate desire but it’s not the first thing that comes out of their mouths when asked.

And every time I hear it, I die a little inside.

What is this yearning?  It is this: to get back their good credit.  And with that comes the question of when credit cards become available after bankruptcy.

As if a good credit score makes you a good person, and a bad score is the proverbial scarlet letter.

Let’s take a step back and think about why you should rethink your dream of getting new credit cards after your bankruptcy is over.

Remember What Brought You To Me

You didn’t come to a bankruptcy lawyer because you were flush with cash and having a great time of things.  You made the move because you were neck-deep in debt to big-money corporations that didn’t care whether you fed your kids or not.  They wanted their pound of flesh no matter what.

After bankruptcy, you’re going to be free of those sharks once and for all.  You’re not going to be subject to the phone calls, letters and constant threat of legal action.  Why walk back into that situation?

Expect The Unexpected

I know you’re not planning on letting it get out of hand again like you did the first time.  Then again, you didn’t plan on getting in over your head the first time either.

The unexpected happens.  Job loss.  Illness.  The shuffling of family lives.  The car breaks down and you need a new one.  It’s part of life.

After bankruptcy, you may not have the ability to file again depending on a variety of circumstances.  If you’ve amassed one or two credit cards after bankruptcy, paying those debts may prove more difficult than you can manage.  If that happens, you could end up looking at the inside of the bankruptcy court again.

Good Credit = Good Debt

Good credit means only that you pay your debts on time.  Without debt, you don’t have a good credit score but you actually have money.

Debt is nothing more than money slavery because you’re going to work each day for Capital One (or Chase, or Citi, or … well, you get the point) rather than for yourself.  When you pay your credit cards after bankruptcy, the resulting good score will serve only as an acknowledgement that you’ve dutifully re-joined the ranks of the millions of Americans who don’t get the benefit of their own paycheck each week.

Hell Bent On New Plastic?

Yes, you can get credit cards after bankruptcy.  Some will be better than others, and a few will offer terms so bad it would make Dr. Melfi’s most famous patient proud.

After bankruptcy, those credit cards will come calling.  Offers will flood your mailbox like greeting cards on a major holiday.

Please, do me a favor – rip them up.

Jay S. Fleischman is a lawyer who helps people fight back against harassing bill collectors after bankruptcy.  

Image credit: richard ling

13 Collections Myths BUSTED

13 COLLECTION MYTHS BUSTED

Many people believe the common myths of collections. Most of them are myths that are as effective as an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.  Don’t be an ostrich.

  • 1.     If I make a payment they will leave me alone.

FALSE.  Usually, if you make a payment, it means that they know that you have some money, and will pay more.  They will bother you more, not less.

  • 2.     If I make any payment at all, they cannot sue me.

FALSE.  In fact, making a payment may restart an expired statute of limitations. You may make it so that if they could not sue before, they can sue now.

  • 3.     If I settle, it will improve my credit rating.

FALSE. If you make a payment, it may decrease your score, because there is now recent activity on a negative account.  Eventually, the score may go back up, but for the short term, the score will be lower.

  • 4.     All debt collectors sue.

FALSE.  Most debt collectors do not sue. Check to see if the debt collectors are located in your state of residence (we are talking about Virginia here), and if they are licensed as a lawyer there. If they are not licensed in your state, then they cannot sue, they cannot get a judgment, and they cannot attach your wages or bank account.

  • 5.     If I get sued, I can lose my house or my car.

USUALY FALSE. There are circumstances where people can lose their house or car, but those are relatively rare. Cars have an automatic exemption in Virginia for $6,000.  Houses do not have an automatic exemption, but most homes do not have enough equity in them to be at risk.

  • 6.     If I get sued, my spouse’s wages can be garnished.

FALSE.  Only you are responsible for the debts that you owe.  Virginia is not a community property state, so spouses are only responsible for the debts that they sign for, or are for medically necessary expenses.

  • 7.     If I get sued, my spouse will be liable for my debts.

FALSE.  Only you are responsible for the debts that you owe.  Virginia is not a community property state, so spouses are only responsible for the debts that they sign for, or are for medically necessary expenses.

  • 8.     If I get sued and don’t go to court, they can’t get a judgment.

FALSE. You only are entitled to get notice and have a fair hearing.  If you do not show up, then it is your problem.

  • 9.     If I move and don’t tell them, they can’t sue me.

FALSE.  A creditor can sue and get a judgment based on service at an address you used to live at, if you do not keep them in the loop about where you live.

  • 10.If they get a judgment, my entire wages can be attached.

FALSE.  Under Federal law, your wages can only have 25% taken, except for certain debts, like taxes and child support.

  • 11.If they get a judgment, they can take my social security money.

FALSE. Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income cannot be taken, even if it is in your Bank account. In fact, the Federal Regulations have been recently changed, and the bank must protect, automatically, 2 months of SSD or SSI benefits.

  • 12.If I don’t pay, they can put me in jail.

FALSE. Almost all debts, including credit cards and payday loans, are civil matters, for which the failure to pay is not criminal. It is not fraud to fail to pay almost any debt.  Of course, there are exceptions, for example, child support and taxes can put you in jail, and a payday loan taken on an account that was closed when you took out the loan.

  • 13.If my car is repossessed, I don’t owe any more money.

FALSE.  Under the laws of most states, you owe the difference between the balance of what was owed and the amount they got when they sold the car.  Of course, there are some exceptions, and time limits.

KCLS LIMITS THE GEOGRAPHY IN WHICH WE TAKE CASES. 

YOU MUST BE A VIRGINIA RESIDENT.

If you are not a Virginia Resident, click here to find a lawyer near you.

OUR FEES: Our fees are controlled by the local rules and your situation.  They may vary from “free” or probono representation to a flat fee to an hourly fee, depending on your situation.

Contact us by e-mail or by telephone or fax or US Mail.

You can call us: 804.303.0204
You can fax us: 804.303.0209
You can contact us by US MAIL:
Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23230