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Ten do's and don'ts of Debt defense

My name is Seth Wieder, and I am a South Florida attorney who has dealt with hundreds of consumer debt cases. In this blog I will share my insights about what has worked for me when fighting credit card lawsuits as well as my thoughts on the evolving field of consumer debt law.

Having worked on hundreds of consumer debt cases and seen thousands more walk through the courthouses of South Florida, I have watched the same missteps repeated over and over by well intentioned people doing their best to navigate a complicated legal system. None of the following should be taken as legal advice, for legal advice contact legal counsel, such as our own office.

The Ten DOs and DON'T's of Debt Defense

  1. DON'T WAIT! A lawsuit has many steps and most of the steps have some sort of deadline, even if the deadline is not obvious. Ignoring a lawsuit won't make it go away, broadly speaking if a consumer ignores a lawsuit they will get a worse outcome.
  2. DO CONTACT AN ATTORNEY! Different lawsuits require different steps to be taken in response, some of which have to be taken immediately. Sometimes there are ways to fight lawsuits which only work if action is taken quickly. What needs to be done in response to a lawsuit can be complicated. Many attorneys, such as Loan Lawyers, will not charge for an initial consolation. If a consumer can't find an attorney to speak with, there are non-profit groups which might be able to offer basic legal help, search for "legal aid" and the name of a city in Google.

    Legal aid is not a substitute for hiring an attorney but may be able to answer some very basic legal questions.
  3. DON'T THROW OUT LEGAL PAPERS! There are ways to fight lawsuits which depend on when certain documents were sent, how they were delivered and who delivered them. If a consumer throws out legal papers, they may be throwing away ammunition they can use to fight their case. A consumer should keep any document they have related to a lawsuit.
  4. DO TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT THE PLAINTIFF! A lawsuit is started by a "plaintiff" and the person being sued is the "defendant". The Plaintiff is usually listed on the top left hand corner of the complaint right above the word "plaintiff". Banks and credit card companies often sue in their own name but they often sell debts to other companies. It is important for a consumer to know who is suing them.
  5. DON'T SKIP COURT DATES! If a consumer does not show up to a court date about a credit card or other consumer debt, they will almost certainly lose. Not having a lawyer is not an excuse, if a consumer is actively looking for a lawyer but not found one, they should appear and tell the judge.
  6. DO KEEP A LIST OF CELL PHONE CALLS! There are laws related to cell phone calls which can help consumers fight credit card cases. If a consumer receives a collection call to their cell phone, they should write down the date, the time, ask who they are speaking with and write down the name of the debt collector and the company they work for. The consumer should tell the person not to call their cell phone again. This information can be very helpful to an attorney fighting a credit card case.
  7. DON'T HIDE MONEY! Credit card cases and other consumer debt cases are usually only money, not about criminal matters or going to jail so even if a consumer loses a case and has to pay a lot of money, they do not risk their freedom. Sometimes consumers may try to hide money by giving it away right before they lose a case. If a consumer is caught doing this, there is a chance they may face criminal penalties. Consumers should not try to move money to hide it, credit card companies and debt collectors are good are snooping for it and if they find it, the consumer risk getting into even more serious trouble.
  8. DO LOOK HOW OLD THE DEBT IS! Certain kinds of debts have an expiration period where it becomes very difficult if not impossible to collect them. Finding out the expiration period for a debt is complicated and a consumer should contact a lawyer to find out. A common trick that debt collectors use is to ask a consumer to pay a small amount of money, $10.00 or $20.00 as a sign of "good faith". Sometimes debt collectors lie and claim they will wipe out the debt if a small payment is made. This is a trick. The way that expiration dates work on credit card debts, by making that small payment a consumer may renew the debt and renew the expiration date. If the last purchase or last payment on a credit card was more than three years old, a consumer should definitely contact an attorney to find out if the expiration date of the debt is close.
  9. DO GET A WRITTEN AGREEMENT! Sometimes debt collectors will try to convince consumers to make payments on a debt. Sometimes they really are trying to work out a deal, often times they are trying to string the consumer along. A consumer should get some form of written agreement before agreeing to pay off a debt. These sorts of agreements can be full of tricks, ideally a consumer should contact an attorney.
  10. DON'T LIE TO A JUDGE! Credit card cases are mostly about money, not about breaking the law and they mostly do not risk anyone going to jail. Lying to a judge may be perjury, a crime.

This document has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any legal issues related to the matters discussed in this article as the applicability of state, local and federal laws may vary.