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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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February 24, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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February 24, 2010
 

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I ~B Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Prioritizing debt, dealing with agressive creditors and debt relief options I1 NAVIGATING FINANCIAL WATERS MARY SHELTERS Attorney at Law Before considering debt relief options let's consider the obvious ... prioritizing what to pay first andhow to handle aggressive creditors and collection agencies. It may seem obvious that one should pay for food, shelter and utilities before unsecured debt (credit cards :and medical bills), but many : struggling families pay unse- !cured debt first, in an attempt i to keep that "coveted" high iFICO score. i Others, pressured by ! constant harassing calls and collection letters, make the same flawed choice, resulting in devastating consequences for their families. : If you lack the money to pay : all your expenses and bills, i develop a plan prioritizing what to pay first. Consumer advocacy groups set down general rules for payment priorities: rent or mortgage payments (if you plan on keeping your home), utilities, food, the essential vehicle payment, fines, child sup- port, alimony, income taxes, student loans, judgment liens and last, unsecured debt such as credit cards, doctor and hospital bills, and accounts with merchants. Notice that credit card and medical debt are last in order of importance for economic survival. These creditors cannot take your property until they sue and get a judgment, which can take months. Not paying these bills can give you breathing room, a chance to get another job and get caught up on essential expenses. Once you've decided which debts to pay, arm yourself with the strength to deal with aggressive creditors. Recog- nize their only weapon is in- timidation. The can do only three things legally: stop doing business with you; re- port you to a credit-reporting bureau, which is inevitable when you're unable to pay your bills; and sue you in court. Know your consumer rights. Federal law forbids harassment by collection agencies or attorneys. They cannot notify your employer; publish your name in the newspaper; contact your family and friends; call or contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. nor at any other unreasonable time or place, without your permission; threaten to have you arrested; or use obscene and profane language. This is not Vic- torian England; your creditors cannot put you in jail. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires collec- tion agencies and attorneys to stop contacting consumers after receiving a written re- quest asking the collector to cease collection. 15 U,S.C. Section 1692c(c) FDCPA does not cover creditors collecting their own debts, but they often comply. After prioritizing your debts and dealing with creditors, consider credit counseling. It gives you a chance to look at your income, expenses and with Husqvarna 49HP 679cc 28 bar X Torq Smart Start Magnesium Crankcase Reg. s710 507 Bell Lane Quincy 283-2226 families, sportsmen and travelers .... we offer an escape from the world. Our Surprise Valley ranch retreat features :;:!i~]~i~i~ i":~:~::;:: ~i~!~ ~:~:; :~::..::: .: ..................... :;:~:~: ~. ....... " ............... .......... two fully furnished ..... . *~: