Are you drowning in debt and dealing with harassing phone calls and letters from creditors and debt collectors? Wondering how you’re going to pay off your debts, even though you work hard and have a good job? Rob Harrer, Chicago Consumer Lawyer and Founder of the Chicago Consumer Law Center, P.C., knows from personal and professional experience how unfair and difficult life can be for people who are struggling financially. Read on to discover how Chicago Consumer Law Center P.C.’s Debt Deletion Program is helping people resolve unsecured debt, obtain legal protections, rebuild their credit, and restart their lives…without declaring bankruptcy.
Q: Rob, how did the Debt Deletion Program come about, and how does it work?
A: At the Chicago Consumer Law Center, we can help people that have been sued for debt and get them great results. However, they have to have been sued before we can utilize the law to achieve a positive outcome. The other way we help our clients with their debt is through bankruptcy, which is an extreme measure. Depending upon the client’s circumstances, however, it could be the best option for them.
We created the Debt Deletion Program because we wanted to help people stuck in between: they have defaulted debt, but a creditor or a debt collector has not yet sued them, and they do not want to file for bankruptcy. These folks still need our assistance with their defaulted debt, so we came up with a way to help them possibly avoid debt collection lawsuits and bankruptcy and resolve their debt at the same time. The Debt Deletion Program allows us to assist clients that have not been sued by creditors and debt collectors and do not want to file for bankruptcy.
Q: Can you share a real-life example of a client that qualified for the Debt Deletion Program?
A: A client who had just been sued for credit card debt came to us; these are unsecured debts that we’re able to deal with. We defended him in the lawsuit, won, and got a great result. However, he had many other defaulted debts that we knew were going to a lawsuit. That’s the inevitable end of defaulted debts, whether they’re with an original creditor like Citibank or a debt collector like Midland: they eventually go to a lawsuit. We wanted to help our client without waiting for creditors and debt collectors to sue him on these other debts.
First, we examined his credit reports to see what debts showed up there; then, we talked to him to determine if he had any other delinquent debts that were not showing up on the credit reports. From there, we notified the creditors, be they original creditors or debt collectors. And because the communication came from a law firm and we let them know that we represented the client, they had to deal with us. All the collection calls, letters, and stress our client had been dealing with went away because the creditors had to communicate with us instead of having the ability to contact him.
In these situations, our purpose is to dissuade a lawsuit and get it past the statute of limitations so that the creditor can’t sue our clients. And if they do sue our clients, we can step right in and defend it as a regular debt collection lawsuit, which pretty much gets it out of that person’s life forever.
Q: What is your track record with collection lawsuits at the Chicago Consumer Law Center, P.C.?
A: In lawsuits brought by a debt collector, we’ve been able to get those cases dismissed if the person comes to us early enough. The client I mentioned was proactive and sought our help early enough to get his case dismissed. We got seven debts out of the way, and he avoided bankruptcy – even though he wanted to file for bankruptcy when he first came to see us. However, due to a specific situation, bankruptcy was not an option for him. Instead, we resolved his debts and kept him out of bankruptcy. He was a wreck when we first met him because his total debt was just over $35,000. And we got them resolved. Now he’s house-hunting for a larger house for his family because he’s back on his feet. He got rid of all his debts without filing for bankruptcy.
None of our clients have ever paid a penny to a debt collector in a debt collection lawsuit in the hundreds of cases we have taken on.
Now, if it’s an original creditor, it’s a different scenario. Lawsuits with original creditors typically settle, and we get people a lower amount and a payment plan that they can afford instead of paying the total amount all at once. The result? With reasonable payment terms they can afford, these clients can still get the debt out of their lives.
Q: Why is it best for someone to hire a debt collection defense attorney instead of dealing with creditors and debt collectors on their own?
A: When you’re dealing with creditors and debt collectors, there are so many wrong things you can do to make your situation worse. For example, even a $10 payment on a debt restarts the statute of limitations (the deadline for a company to sue a person). Someone could be a week away from the statute of limitations expiring when making a $10 payment. Guess what? Suddenly, they’re back on a new statute of limitations for another five years in which the creditor or debt collector can sue them. You can’t blame people for making numerous mistakes that exacerbate their debt situation. If you’re not a consumer protection and debt collection defense lawyer, you cannot be expected to know the law. At Chicago Consumer Law Center, we focus on debt collection defense, which is why we know this area of the law inside out. When people come to us, we tell them to let their problems be our problems. As I shared in the example of the client who used our Debt Deletion Program, the creditors and debt collectors had to deal with us directly, reducing his stress once he hired us. That’s another excellent reason to hire a debt defense law firm.
Q: In addition to helping clients resolve their debts, do you help them rebuild their credit?
A: After resolving their debts, we do a couple of things to help people with their credit. First, we share specific strategies and guide them along to increase their credit score right away. We also look for ways that debt collectors have broken the law. Once we start representing clients, we’re constantly on the lookout for this so we can sue a debt collector for breaking the law. We turn the tables on them and maybe even beat them to the punch by suing them before they sue our clients. As a result, the client could get the debt canceled and off their credit report and out of their life, then their credit score can start going up. So, yes, we do have a program where we help people work on their credit to obtain a higher score and enjoy all the benefits that go along with it.
Q: You mentioned that the sooner a client comes to see you, the better. Is it better for the client if they’re still dealing with the original creditor versus a debt collector like Portfolio Recovery Associates or Midland Credit Management that has bought the debt for pennies on the dollar?
A: Surprisingly, it is better to deal with a debt collector because there’s more that we can do. Those are the cases where we have very high success rates. We know what to do, we have the strategy, and we’ve been tweaking our litigation tactics for years. And we’ve never had a client that’s been sued by a debt collector pay a penny to a debt collector if they come to us early enough. Oddly enough, people think it’s worse once it gets to a debt collector or a debt buyer who buys these debts. But I tell our clients, it’s good news for them because it gives us more options.
Q: Can you clarify the difference between Debt Collectors, Debt Buyers, and Debt Buyers That Act as Debt Collectors?
A: Yes, there is an essential distinction between debt collectors, debt buyers, and buyers that act as debt collectors. The debt buyers buy the debts and then sue people on them. Companies used to hire debt collectors, but this doesn’t happen as much anymore because debt buyers have taken over the industry. However, third parties will collect a debt; for example, maybe Chase hires a debt collector to collect the debts for them, and whatever this third party can collect, they keep a part of it, and the rest goes back to Chase. However, these days companies like Chase and Citibank usually sell off the debt. They won’t even hire a debt collector; they just want to get rid of the debt, write it off, get their few pennies on the dollar, and be done with it.
Debt buyers like Midland Credit Management, Portfolio Recovery Associates, and the Cavalry Portfolio Services are the ones that will now own the debt and go looking to sue people and collect the debt. And they’re aiming for 100%, 100 cents on the dollar.
It’s easy to get confused because most people just know the term debt collector, and debt buyers become synonymous with that term. Everybody knows it as a debt collector, yet there aren’t many true debt collectors out there anymore, especially big ones. They’re mainly debt buyers now. And these are billion-dollar, NASDAQ-traded companies with names that make them sound like finance companies. Funny, they even caught on to catchy slogans; for example, Portfolio Recovery Associates says, “We’re giving debt collection a good name,” yet they’re consistently sued for breaking the law when trying to collect debts.
Q: How do debt collectors break the law? What do you most often see in your debt defense work with clients?
A: I mentioned that once a client hires us to represent them, a debt collector cannot contact them. And they know that. Still, they will contact the client by sending a letter and calling them in many cases, which violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Now we can turn around and sue them for contacting our clients when they’re not supposed to. Another violation is what we call letter violations. To the untrained eye, it’s hard to spot because you don’t know the laws. For example, a debt collector might have bought the debt from an original creditor, and they’re required to state who the original creditor is with no confusion. However, they’ll often put a different creditor’s name, the name of a company that doesn’t really exist, or put words together with maybe one word from the original creditor’s name in the letter. When the person gets it, they don’t know where it came from. That’s another violation. Wrong amounts could be another violation. An example of this would be if they’re trying to collect more than the person owes them or even a lesser amount — something they do to make someone more inclined to pay it – in a letter. When the person pays the lesser amount, the debt collector comes back and says, “No, the full amount is this.” They also use a strategy to trick people into paying them to reset that statute of limitations.
Or, they may call somebody and say, “Hey, you know, just make a good faith payment of $20, so I can tell my boss you’re a good guy. And we’ll back off for a while.” That person might take them at their word and make the payment; then, all of a sudden, get served with a lawsuit because they didn’t realize they reset the statute of limitations with that payment. This could happen either before the statute of limitations expired or after. This person may no longer have had a legal obligation to pay the debt. Still, they accidentally reset the statute of limitations because the debt collector tricked them into it.
Q: Is there anything else you want to mention about the Debt Deletion Program?
The Debt Deletion Program is for people with unsecured debt, which is usually credit card debt or loans. It’s not for mortgages, automobiles, and so forth. It’s also for people who don’t want to file for bankruptcy, which usually is most people anyway. We call it an alternative to bankruptcy because it’s a way for people to resolve the debts they can’t afford, get out from under the debts, and enjoy legal protections without having to file for bankruptcy and suffer for the ten years that it would be on their credit report.
Another benefit to the program is if someone receives notice of a lawsuit, all they have to do is call us up and say, “Hey, I’m in the debt deletion program. I got sued, here’s the lawsuit,” and we just take over and handle it. I don’t want to say it is stress-free, but it reduces the stress of getting served with a lawsuit and not knowing what to do. With our track record being what it is, it makes complete financial sense because no one’s ever lost money with us.
One last important point: because it’s built with the expectation that many of the cases will go to a lawsuit, we only offer the Debt Deletion Program in Cook County, Illinois. People get confused because the laws cover different geographic areas, and there’s state law and federal law. The Debt Deletion Program is only for Chicago and Cook County, which includes Chicago and a couple of suburbs.
Are you ready to resolve your debt and reclaim your life? Call now to talk to someone about the Debt Deletion Program at Chicago Consumer Law Center, P.C. at (312) 858-3240 and get those debts out of your life once and for all!
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