Client Bulletin: Debt Settlement Companies

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization

Debt settlement or debt negotiation is a new form of relief that promises quick results to get you out of debt. In a debt settlement program, you stop paying your creditors altogether, and save the monthly payments you were making in a savings account. Once you have saved sufficient funds, the company will contact your creditor, and negotiate a lump sum payoff of your debt, often for a significantly reduced amount.

Use caution in selecting a debt settlement company – because you will stop paying your debts your credit will decline and you may be faced with extreme collection efforts, including having lawsuits filed against you. Debt settlement companies often do not have lawyers available to assist you in those situations.

You will also likely have to pay high fees to participate in the program – find out what your total costs are and who is receiving your money. Make sure you find out who is responsible for saving your money in the program – some require you to send monthly payments to the company or to a third party, while others require you to simply open your own bank account. And even if you save significant amounts in the program you may owe income taxes on the amount of “forgiven” debt.

In fact, it’s common for these services to not even be operating legally in Texas. In Texas, debt management or debt “pooling” services are regulated by the Texas Debtor Assistance Law, which is Chapter 394 of the Texas Finance Code. The Texas Finance Code is at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FI/htm/FI.394.htm (See Chapter 394).

These services must be registered with the Texas Consumer Credit Commissioner in order to be operating legally. A list of those services that are registered is on the web site of the Texas Consumer Credit Commissioner at http://www.occc.state.tx.us/pages/searches.html Click on “List of Debt Management Services Providers” to see if your service is listed.

If you are a Texas resident, and your debt management service is not listed on that page, or if they have violated other provisions of the act, you may have a right to recover from them: (1) all the money you’ve paid them; (2) any actual damages you’ve suffered as well as punitive damages; (3) attorney fees for enforcing your rights; and (4) injunctive relief (a court order stopping them from continuing to operate illegally).

If you are in deep trouble with your debts and want to discuss your alternatives, call and speak to Mr. Black at 713-772-8037, or email [email protected]

QUOTES

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.
—Will Smith

The trouble with jogging is that by the time you realize you’re not in shape for it, it’s too far to walk back.
—Franklin Jones

Destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for. It is a thing to be achieved.
—William Jennings Bryan

CONSUMER CORNER

DEBT RELIEF USA BANKRUPTCY

The Office of the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the now bankrupt Debt Relief USA, a Dallas-area debt settlement company, on August 29, 2009. Debt Relief USA has been out of business since 2009. A settlement has been proposed to the bankruptcy court that will refund over $4 million to consumers who had a balance in their savings account with Debt Relief USA. Please refer to the Attorney General’s website at www.oag.tx.us for more information on the refund process. The nationwide toll-free number to call is (800) 806-2092.


A little humor

–The Zen Edition (for those who take life too seriously)

Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
A day without sunshine is like night.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Honk if you love peace and quiet.
Remember, half the people you know are below average.
He who laughs last thinks slowest.
Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
Support bacteria. They’re the only culture some people have.
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory
Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.
Get a new car for your spouse. It’ll be a great trade!
Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

Call Us If You Need Us. We Also Welcome Referrals

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Facing a foreclosure or repossession? Is the I.R.S. threatening to levy your wages or other property? If any of these situations describes you, contact Mr. Black at 713-772-8037 or make an appointment to go see him. ■

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