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The Fraudsters radio show interviewed me this week for about an hour on how consumers can arm themselves and proactively protect their credit report, stop or fix violations, and obtain damages for violations under the TCPA, FDCPA, FCCPA and the FCRA.  Here’s a direct link to the interview about how we can help clients with these claims to settle or eliminate debt.

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robocalls
From time to time, our consumer law practice here in Tampa, Fl has had to shift gears to better use our state and federal laws that protect consumers faced with debt – and the inevitable robocalls and erroneous credit reports that come with that.

The current state of robocalls is very similar to the days of emails before spam filters.  With the advent of the internet, businesses don’t need expensive hardware.  Anyone can start a mini call center with software that auto dials and spoofs caller IDs.  Many of the calls appear local and they avoid detection as a debt collector.  Small and large companies both still use predictive dialers capable of making hundreds of thousands of calls daily despite a consumer withdrawing consent to call their cell phone.

Thankfully, over the next year or two, the FCC and phone companies will implement a call certification protocol where the phone carrier can verify the caller is legitimately using the number — and Caller IDs may once again mean something!

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgFlorida is a state that allows professional licenses to be suspended for non-payment of federal student loans.  We had a client who came to us last month after having her LPN license suspended.  This is even worse than a garnishment.  Rather than 15% of her wages being garnished, which is difficult enough for most clients, she’s receiving NO pay.  And her job could be at risk if she is replaced.

It took 2-3 weeks, but we fixed her federal student loan default, got her onto an affordable income based plan and lifted the suspension order.  Fortunately, our client was able to retain her job.

Don’t wait to cure federal student loan defaults!

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgToday, a client elected to have us settle her defaulted federal student loans in full by payment from her 401k.  While we normally don’t recommend using protected 401k monies to settle debt, this particular client makes too much for debt forgiveness.  A settlement now will likely result in 10% reduction in principal and waiver of the 25% collection fees since she is in default.

While you normally cannot settle federal student loans, there is an opportunity to do so when the loans are in default and a hardship exists.  So by paying them now from her 401k, she’ll likely see a 1/3 reduction in her loan balance.  Put another way, that’s a 35% return!

The average interest rate on federal student loans is also 6.8%.  Most people are not getting those rates with CDs, money markets, stocks and bonds.  So paying off the federal loans often makes sense from this perspective as well.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgAn Iowa appellate court ruled recently that a Income Driven Plan with a zero payment “does not ameliorate the undue hardship”.

In In re Martin, out of the Northern District in Iowa (8th Circuit) the lender argued that the debtor was not entitled to discharge the loans because she would qualify for an income-based repayment program, or IBRP, where she would qualify for a zero payment.  In 20 or 25 years, whatever is left on the loans would be forgiven, but the forgiveness could be considered taxable income.

In 20 or 25 years, the debtor would be 70 or 75 years old, and whatever savings she amassed would be consumed by the maturing tax liability.  In other words, Judge Collins said, the “tax liability could wipe out all of debtor’s assets not as she is approaching retirement, but as she is in the midst of it.”

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passports
U.S. Passports Can Now Be Revoked for Unpaid Taxes — Can this Expand to Include Unpaid Federal Student Loans?

Right now no.  Although there are signs that U.S. Passport holders could face a revocation of their passports in the future for defaulted federal student loans.

The reason I say this is because of a new law signed by President Obama in late 2016, implemented in 2017, and now in 2018 is beginning to effect the passports of folks with tax delinquencies.

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school-bus-driver
Desperate mother, teacher, bus driver and student loan captive for life.

This is the actual signature line of a client who we are helping with her federal student loans.

The short version of her story:  she paid 10 years of consecutive and timely payments only to be told that she had to start all over again with ANOTHER 10 years of payments simply because she had the wrong loan type — and NO ONE at her servicer ever told her this.

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How much is too much?  Unfortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and its Florida counterpart do not specify a particular number of calls per day that a creditor can make when trying to collect a debt.

An older Florida case is somewhat illustrative in finding the answer.  In Story v. J.M. Fields, Inc., 343 So. 2d 675, 677 (Fla. 1st DCA 1977), the Court looked at what conduct was considered harassing, such as:  a) the frequency of the creditor’s calls; b) the number of calls; c) the time of day when calls were received (whether during normal business hours); and d) whether the purpose of the calls was appropriate, such as calling to i) remind the debtor of the debt; ii) determine the reasons for non-payment; iii) discuss a plan for making payments.

My rule of thumb that I like to use is if a creditor calls in the morning and talks with you, and then calls again the same day, that only works if you said something like I may get paid at lunchtime and might have some money for you.  Otherwise, I doubt that anything changed that day and there was no reasonable reason for a second call the same day other than to harass you.

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We have rented out our second conference room as an office and need to sell the furniture by April 1 if possible.  There is an antique oak round table, with two leaves to extend its size, an antique oak bureau and four small chairs.  Two single file cabinets free to a good home, fair condition.   May be able to deliver if local to South Tampa.  Call our office at 813-258-2808 or email me at christie@christiearkovich.com if interested.  Thanks!

conf-tableconf-bureau

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Reports have been surfacing that the Department of Education is kicking borrowers out of Income Driven Plans when they file bankruptcy.  It makes no difference if they are in a Chapter 7 or 13.  It also doesn’t matter if the debtor is current in their payments.  The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) views this as a direct violation of 11 U.S.C. 525 (Protection against Discriminatory Treatment).

There are ways to counter this and remain in an Income Driven Plan to continue progress toward debt forgiveness including Public Service Forgiveness.  A new development is spreading across the country to file what is called the Buchannan provisions in a Chapter 13 Plan.  We have recently adopted this in Tampa, Florida.

On January 5, 2018, Trustee John Waage and Judge Catherine McEwen agreed to the following Non-Conforming language in In re Hyland, 8-17-bk-01564-CPM that now allows for Income Driven Repayment Plans concurrently with a Chapter 13.

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