All items from Armstrong Kellett Bartholow P.C.

A recent article by the New York Times reviewed a study of whether medical bills for cancer patients cause more bankruptcies. The researchers found that “cancer patients were twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as people without cancer.” The study was conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The effort determined based on “court records and information from the regional cancer registry” that younger people with cancer experienced the highest bankruptcy rates. In a comparison of all cancer patients versus people without cancer, the cancer patients were 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than people without cancer. In addition, there was a significant discrepancy between younger cancer patients and older cancer patients (sixty-five or older). The younger patients had 2-5 times higher bankruptcy rates than the older cancer patients. The study authors believe this discrepancy is due to Medicare and Social Security as a possible mitigating factor that is decreasing the risk for the older group.



Posted 1 year 9 weeks ago

Evidence is building that more and more often, medical bills are pushing people into bankruptcy. An article by the Examiner evaluates a study of recent bankruptcy cases, finding that “75% of the entire pool surveyed had some type of health insurance.” Even so, medical bills listed in the bankruptcy case start around $5000 and rise above that. Most expenses are a result of out of pocket medical costs that insurance did not cover. To make matters worse, most of the insurance companies cancel coverage when the employee suffers a disabling illness because they become too sick to work, leaving them with medical bills and no insurance.



Posted 1 year 15 weeks ago

The worst thing you can do for your credit is to allow inaccurate or out of date information to remain on your credit report. By simply checking your credit report, you can stay apprised of all suspicious action.
Remaining on top of your credit is the best way to avoid having to repair your credit. For example, as discussed in one recent helpful article, the best way to find errors are to check your credit report regularly. The story breaks down the five most common credit reporting errors that you need to look out for:

  • Identification that does not belong to you.
  • Accounts that don’t belong to you.
  • Incorrect payment status.
  • Public records that are not yours.
  • Inquiries for credit you never applied for.
  • Identification that does not belong to you.

The most common of these mistakes are due to variations in name spelling, wrong social security numbers, or entry mistakes. This can be a sign of identity theft. Staying on top of your credit report and in contact with the credit reporting agency can help you correct the mistakes before any damage is done to your credit.



Posted 1 year 15 weeks ago

How do you know if you are suffering collection harassment, and when is it time to seek an attorney? If you are constantly harassed, embarrassed, or threatened by collection agencies, it is likely you are a victim. According to an article by ABC News, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) received more than 150,000 complaints about collection agency debt collectors in 2012. The most common complaints are due to profane language, violent and abusive threats, and calls multiple times of the day.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked to supervise the large collection agencies to make sure they are not using harassing or threatening tactics in pursuing collection actions. Further they are cracking down on collection agencies and making sure they are only using accurate data to pursue debts. The main goal is to police agencies and make sure larger agencies start leading by example. The FTC suggests that if you are a victim of improper collection agency actions you should file a complaint on their website.



Posted 1 year 15 weeks ago

You hear and see ads all over the place. “We will stop your foreclosure!” “9 out of 10 customers keep their homes!” “Modify your loan with us, guaranteed!” You might have even received personalized letters in the mail that make similar claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scammers are all too eager to go after those who need help the most. Consumers want desperately to keep their homes, reduce their mortgage payments, and just be more financially stable. When companies offer them a light at the end of the tunnel, many are willing to travel down that path. Hopefully you will able to see through the false promises these companies make and avoid becoming another victim of their all-too-common scams.
Scam Warning Signs
Look for some of these telltale signs that you may be dealing with a scammer:



Posted 1 year 16 weeks ago

The FTC has been busy cracking down on mortgage relief scams. Just this year, the FTC has obtained settlements from over 20 individuals and companies involved with scamming distressed homeowners.
Most recently, two individuals and seven companies settled FTC charges that they victimized over a thousand people through “mass joinder lawsuits” and “forensic loan audits.” These defendants allegedly violated the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, which aims to curb deceptive and unfair practices related to such services.
Mass Joinder Lawsuit Scam
The FTC alleges that Sameer Lakhany, Brian Pacios, Precision Law Center, Inc., Precision Law Center LLC, National Legal Network, Inc., and Assurity Law Group, Inc. targeted consumers with a mass joinder scam. The defendants allegedly promised homeowners that they could stop their foreclosures or obtain some other mortgage relief if they joined together to sue their lenders. The defendants represented themselves as a law firm called Precision Law Center and charged between $6,000 and $10,000 in up-front fees. Unfortunately for the victims, every suit was dismissed soon after being filed.



Posted 1 year 16 weeks ago

If you are behind in your mortgage or facing foreclosure, you may have been contacted by one or more companies promising to get your loan modified or your foreclosure stopped. Unsurprisingly, all you have to do is pay a hefty, up-front fee. Blanket guarantees such as these—especially with a large advanced sum—smack of dishonesty and should set off your scam alarm. Do not trust these companies, and certainly do not give them any of your money. Read on to learn about two common scams and your rights.
MARS Rule
The FTC has been cracking down on many mortgage relief scams, which prey on vulnerable homeowners in financial distress. These relief scams violate the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule. Under the MARS Rule, mortgage assistance relief services must comply with the following:

  • The company may not collect advance fees
  • The company must disclose the amount of the fee
  • The company may not tell the consumer to stop communicating with her lender or servicer
  • The company may not make false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims about its services

The company must also disclose up-front that:



Posted 1 year 16 weeks ago

What the FDCPA is and to Whom It Applies
Are you being contacted by a debt collector? Whether you are behind on payments, or a creditor wrongly thinks you are, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the FDCPA prohibits third-party debt collectors from using particular kinds of collection practices, such as abusive, unfair, or deceptive collection conduct. The Texas Debt Collection Act is similar in many ways to the FDCPA and applies to anyone trying to collect a consumer debt.
Debt collectors may be contacting you about a credit card debt, a car loan, medical bill, mortgage, or any other debt you may have. The FDCPA covers all personal or household debts, but it does not apply to business debts.



Posted 1 year 17 weeks ago

When You Can Be Contacted
Unless you agree to it, debt collectors cannot contact you at inconvenient times, like prior to 8am or after 9pm. If you tell them, in writing, to stop contacting you, they generally must stop contacting you altogether. Also, if they are told they cannot call you at work, they may not contact you in that way.
Who May Be Contacted
Generally, a debt collector cannot discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, co-signer, executor, administrator, guardian, parent of a minor, or your attorney. However, if you are represented by an attorney for your debt, the debt collector may not contact you, and instead must contact your attorney. They may contact others (usually only once) to obtain information about where you are located, what your phone number is, and where you work. They cannot reveal that you owe a debt or discuss details of the debt, aside from identifying the name of the collection agency, but they may only do that if asked.
Prohibitions
Debt collectors are not allowed to harass you. This means they cannot threaten to harm you, use profanity, call you repeatedly to annoy you, publish your name as someone who refuses to pay her debt, or harass you in any other way.



Posted 1 year 17 weeks ago

Stopping Debt Collection Contact
If you want a debt collector to stop contacting you, you must write a letter to the collector telling them to stop. It is a good idea to send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested and make a copy of the letter. Once you make that request in writing, the collector cannot contact you except to inform you that they are ceasing contact or to inform you that they are going to do something specific, like turn the file over to an attorney or file a lawsuit. While the contact should stop, the collector or creditor can still sue you to collect the debt.
Knowing Your Debt
Debt collectors must inform you, in writing, of how much money you owe within five days after first contacting you. This “validation notice” must list the name of the creditor you owe and inform you what to do if you do not believe you owe that money. If you send a letter denying you owe some or all of the money, or if you ask for a verification of the debt, the collector may not contact you again (except to inform you of the actions listed in the section above). This letter must be sent within 30 days of receiving the validation notice, and it is effective until the collector responds with written verification of the amount you owe.



Posted 1 year 17 weeks ago