• FTC Complaints About Debt Collectors Have Increased 73 Percent Since 2008

    This video is another segment from the March 2009 Dateline NBC story on debt collectors that we posted on Wednesday. In that blog post, we also discussed one of the victims of aggressive debt collectors featured in an August 20, 2012, article published in the Los Angeles Times.

    The Times noted in that article that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives more complaints about debt collectors than about any other industry. The 180,928 complaints the Times said the FTC received last year was an astonishing 73 percent increase from 2008.

    “We’ve seen a high level of complaints, and I think some of it is collectors realizing in hard times they may have to press that much harder to get someone to pay,” FTC chief debt collection lawyer Tom Pahl told the Times. “And a lot of them are pressing.”

    As the Times noted, federal law prohibits harassment and limits the frequency and hours that debt collectors can call. As we noted on Wednesday, one way to end harassing calls from debt collectors is to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. An automatic stay goes into effect when you file bankruptcy, and this requires most debt collectors to cease their collection efforts against you until your bankruptcy has ended.

    Our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can review your case when you complete the form located on this page, or you can set up a free consultation by contacting our firm at (866) 930-7482.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • 30 Million Americans Dealing with Debt Collection Industry

    This video is from a March 2009 Dateline NBC segment on the dirty tactics used by debt collection agencies in the United States. While the segment is more than three years old, little has changed in that time. If anything, the problem has only grown worse.

    On August 20, 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that debt collection has become a $12 billion a year industry with an estimated 30 million Americans dealing with debt collectors this year. According to the Times, that is a nearly 50 percent increase since 2003.

    One person the Times article featured was Piqua, Ohio, resident Katie Brown. She told the Times that she received a call about her unpaid $3,000 credit card bill from Hhgregg Inc. The person claimed that he was from a free legal aid service that Brown had contacted to try to end harassing phone calls from debt collectors.

    “After I told him everything, he laughed and said, ‘Now let me tell you who I am. I hold your debt from Hhgregg,'” Brown told the Times. “I was scared they would get to my husband’s work and start calling them, because at this point they would stop at nothing if they were going to misrepresent themselves.”

    As the Times article noted, more people have increasingly fallen behind on their bills for credit card debt, student loans and other expenses in the Great Recession. If you are also facing harassing calls from debt collectors, the good news is that filing Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy will trigger an automatic stay that requires most debt collectors to stop all collection efforts against you until the bankruptcy is over.

    If you would like to learn more about filing bankruptcy and receiving an automatic stay, you can use the form on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers review your case or you can contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 to schedule a free consultation.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Durbin Looking to Help Students Who ‘Have No Idea What They’re Getting Into’

    As US Senator for Illinois Dick Durbin says in this video of a speech he gave on the floor of the Senate this past April, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt in America and “it is growing by leaps and bounds.” Not surprisingly, student loans are one of the overwhelming forms of debt that drives many clients into our office. Unfortunately, student loan debt can only be discharged in bankruptcy by proving an undue hardship-and the circumstances in which this happens are extremely rare.

    Durbin has been pushing for quite some time to enact some sort of legislative remedy to the problems that student loan debt is causing for millions of Americans, focusing largely on for-profit colleges. On August 20, 2012, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Durbin spoke at Loyola University Chicago about his pending bill to effectively require students to get counseling before they sign on the bottom line. At the event, Durbin was accompanied by Sheila Uribe, an Elmhurst College graduate who has seen the $35,000 of student loan debt she graduated with balloon to roughly $60,000 because of high variable interest rates.

    “Most students just sign. They have no idea what they’re getting into,” Durbin said, according to Crain’s. “They lack life experience. This is not an arms-length transaction between two parties who each understand the terms.”

    Under Durbin’s pending bill, co-sponsored by Iowa US Senator Tom Harkin, colleges and universities “would be required to inform students about any federal aid that might be available before they sign a private deal, and their legal rights to reject or cancel a loan,” Crain’s said.

    While you may not be able to discharge student loan debt by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may still be able to rid yourself of other unsecured debt like credit cards. If you would like to understand what options are available to you, contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or use the form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers review your situation and set up a free consultation.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Is Robo-Signing Sequel Being Put on Plastic?

    On Wednesday, we discussed how some Chicago-area homeowners are now dealing with foreclosure notices as lenders begin to tackle backlogs that were amassed while states investigated “robo-signing” fraud. As it turns out, the practice in which bank employees sign thousands of documents and affidavits without verifying the information was not just limited to foreclosures.

    On August 12, 2012, the New York Times reported that the same “robo-signing” problem is now emerging in the debt collection practices of credit card companies as well. Judges who oversee these cases told the Times that lenders are “churning out lawsuits without regard for accuracy, and improperly collecting debts from consumers.” Worse yet, many judges told the Times that “their hands are tied” and they cannot question the banks or comb through the lawsuits to root out suspicious documents unless a consumer shows up to contest the lawsuit.

    “I do suspect flaws,” Harry Walsh, a superior court judge in Ventura, California, told the Times. “But there is little I can do.”

    “I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt,” Brooklyn civil court judge Noach Dear told the Times. He said he presided over as many as 100 such cases a day .

    Are you being harassed by debt collectors for outrageous-possibly even exaggerated-credit card payments? You may be able to wipe out your credit card debt by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy . Contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form located on this page to see how our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys can help.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Homeowners in Foreclosure Demand Moratorium on Evictions

    More than 100 residents called on Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart to place a one-year moratorium on foreclosure evictions during a community meeting held on the Chicago’s West Side on August 9, 2012. As we noted last week, more homeowners in the Chicago area are in need of foreclosure help after the number of notices in July was 37 percent higher than it was in 2011. As lenders continue to clear out a backlog, the number is expected to increase.

    The investigative reporting magazine In These Times reported that Mary Bonelli was one of the residents in attendance at the community meeting. Her family has lived in the same home in Chicago’s Belmont-Cragin neighborhood for three generations, but could now be thrown out by the bank servicing her mortgage.  “I am 76 years old and I’m dying of cancer,” Bonelli said, according to In These Times. “But that’s not the reason I’m here today. It’s because Fifth Third bank is trying to take my house away from me. We moved here in 1958. The bank never told me the house was in foreclosure. … I want to stay in my home. That is why we need a one-year moratorium.”

    Preckwinkle and Dart were both sympathetic, but neither committed to placing a stay on evictions. If you have received a foreclosure notice, filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will trigger an automatic stay that stops most actions against your property. If you are facing foreclosure and want to understand all of the options available to you, contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to set up a free consultation with our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Bankruptcy Helps Sick People Who Did Not Plan on Getting Sick

    Suleika Jaouad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia just a few months after moving to Paris to start her first full-time job. She now writes a column entitled “Life, Interrupted” for the New York Times Well blog, and her post on August 9, 2012, discussed some of the financial challenges she faces because of her cancer. “Like a lot of other young people, I never thought about health insurance until I got sick,” Jaouad wrote. “I was 22, and my adult life was just beginning.”

    Jaouad says her insurance has covered over a million dollars in medical expenses in the last year alone. She estimated that the out-of-pocket costs associated with her cancer care so far have “reached tens of thousands of dollars.” While Jaouad says the financial burden of cancer has not forced her parents to take on second jobs or sell their house, she said she knows of “fellow cancer patients with and without insurance who have had to consider such options.”

    “Sick people don’t plan on getting sick,” Jaouad wrote. “We shouldn’t have the added worry that someday insurance coverage may not be there. Or that a medical crisis could become a financial one too.”

    It is important to remember that Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are legal options for people like Jaouad who have accumulated substantial debt through no fault of their own. We have helped hundreds of clients who were completely overwhelmed with medical bills for care they needed simply to survive. We fully believe that people like Jaouad deserve help, and our firm can help you if your family is struggling because of the costs of hospital visits and medical care. Contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys review your case.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Chicago-area Foreclosures Higher Than Last Year as Lenders Tackle Backlog

    Nearly 12,000 homes in the Chicago area received a foreclosure notice during July, RealtyTrac Inc. said on August 9, 2012. The Chicago Tribune reported that the overall number of 11,8885 was down from the 13,092 foreclosure notices in June, but was 37 percent higher than the level of activity in July 2011. “The increase in homes entering the foreclosure process raises the possibility that more properties could end up being foreclosed upon in coming months,” the Tribune said.

    According to the Tribune, 5,374 homes entered the foreclosure process, 3,274 were scheduled for a court-ordered sale and 3,237 were repossessed by lenders and became bank-owned. Many existing cases languished for more than a year while federal and state authorities were investigating the foreclosure practices of lenders and the industry dealt with allegations that it had processed foreclosures without verifying documents.

    “We’re seeing a rebound in foreclosure activity off of artificially low levels last year,” RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist told the Chicago Sun-Times. “What we’ve seen over the past year and a half is kind of a false bottom. The market is reaping the consequences of delaying foreclosures in the form of increased numbers this year.”

    If you are facing foreclosure, you should know that you can delay the process by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy or possibly even save your home by filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy . If you want to understand the options that are available to you, either complete the form on this page or contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 to schedule an initial consultation.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Mother of Pint-Sized Gymnast Had Olympic-Sized Debt

    As we mentioned in our last blog post on Monday, the financial woes of Russell Brand’s father, Ron, were just one story published on August 7, 2012, discussing the relative of a celebrity facing bankruptcy. As the CBS News clip above touches on, gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas’s mother, Natalie Hawkins, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year in Virginia. This news was also reported the same week that the parents of fellow US Olympian gold medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte were facing foreclosure in Florida.

    “It was really hard for us growing up – my dad had left us, so he wasn’t really in the picture anymore,” Douglas told the New York Post. “So my mom had to front all these bills. My dad didn’t really pay the child support. He was short [on money]. It was definitely hard on her part, and she had to take care of me and the rest of my siblings.”

    The Post also noted that Douglas has landed a $100,000 deal to appear on a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, one of what is likely to be multiple endorsement opportunities for her and other Olympic athletes. Many people in situations similar to Natalie Hawkins’ in the sense of trying to raise a family as a single parent, however, will not be so lucky.

    If you are raising a family by yourself and have become overwhelmed with credit card debt or are facing foreclosure, a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could provide you with the fresh start you need. To see how our firm might be able to help, you can contact us at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form located on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys review your case.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Russell Brand’s Father Faces Bankruptcy For Unpaid Rent

    We have written before about famous bankruptcies , and two stories in one week demonstrated that celebrities are still subject to the same financial difficulties as the rest of us. WENN.com reported on August 7, 2012, that actor and comedian Russell Brand’s father, Ron, was facing bankruptcy after amassing more than $20,000 in debt. The 67-year-old reportedly owed the sum in unpaid rent and was due to appear in court in the United Kingdom that day, but a source told British newspaper the Daily Mirror that he refused to borrow the money from his son because he does not want to “burden him.”

    “Ron would never want to burden Russell with his problems and would never dream of asking for money,” the source told the Mirror. “It’s a really stressful situation but Ron is determined to work through his problems. Ron’s made a couple of bad investments and has struggled financially as a result. It’s obviously upsetting but he’s confident he can turn things around.”

    While it is certainly understandable for people to want to handle financial problems on their own, you should also know that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. In our next blog post, we will discuss the other high-profile bankruptcy that garnered headlines that day, but you should know that there is assistance available if you are currently struggling to pay your monthly bills. A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you and your family get a fresh start. Contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers review your case.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Teens Need to Learn Dangers of Credit Cards Before Heading Off to College

    As the video above from WOLO-TV notes, one group being targeted by many credit card companies is college students. In a July 12, 2012 article entitled “Credit cards and college students can be a dangerous mix,” the USA Today discussed how the Credit Card Act that took effect a little less than three years ago made it more difficult for anyone under the age of 21 to get a card. However, “Under-21s can still obtain a credit card if they have a qualified co-signer or proof of sufficient income to repay the debt,” The USA Today reported. “And card issuers still market aggressively to college students, targeting them with pre-screened mail offers.”

    With thousands of families getting ready to send teenagers off to college, this is an important topic that needs to be discussed and handled responsibly. Many of the nation’s graduates are already struggling with the student loan debt they incur during their studies, and adding credit card debt on top of that only compounds the problem after graduation.

    As USA Today noted, some credit card issuers will say that as long as an applicant under 21 has a job and can afford a monthly minimum payment, they can be approved for a credit card without requiring a co-signer. Whether parents are co-signers or not, they should encourage their teenagers to use credit cards only for emergencies or pay off the balance immediately. A secured credit card can be a far safer option, and both debit and prepaid cards also avoid much of the trouble associated with traditional credit cards, although neither of those options will help build credit scores.

    Whether you are a student or not, filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be able to eliminate your credit card debt and help you get a fresh start. If you are tired of struggling to pay your monthly minimums, you should contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or fill out our intake form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys see how we can help.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers