Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NACBA 2014 Convention in New York City


The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) 2014 Annual Convention is being held in New York.  This is the 22nd annual convention for the organization, and they are "pulling out all the stops" for this one, as this is the first year it is being held in New York. 

For a while, they were keeping it quiet as to what hotel it would be held at while they were negotiating for a room block.  Now their web site has made it official; it will be held at the New York City Hilton Midtown from April 10-13, 2014, and the room rates are expected to be $279.00 per night when the room block opens later this winter.  This rate is good for three days before and after the event.  I know this might sound high, but for New York Midtown, this is really a good rate.

I expect the 10th of April (the first day) to be a group activities event day.  So, if you think you might want to participate in the group activity, you might want to show up a day early.  If you are simply there for the CLE, then showing up on the April 10th should be fine.

The Convention, with five plenary sessions, 20 breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions will cover some of today’s hottest bankruptcy topics.

Arrangements for things like pre-convention group activities, speakers, and other event related activities are still being finalized.  As I receive more information about the event, I will try to post it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Retirement Funds:A Look At The Solo 401(K) For The Self Employed

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7060/6870886851_76c9703cca.jpgTAXES -- OK, don't stop reading now, and don't start getting teary-eyed.

Of course, taxes are relevant to bankruptcy.  But, I am actually going to take a different approach than what you might be thinking concerning bankruptcy.

There are but few places where one can maintain assets in a secured place, free from the threat of creditor's claims.  One place is created by everybody's best friend, the IRS (yes, love your enemies!).  If you have a retirement account, recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, in most instances, those funds are probably protected.

OK, so now for retirement accounts.  While everyone has heard of many of the more popular retirement plans, such as an IRA, and a 401(k).  But there are actually many types and varieties of retirement plans, including one I only recently heard of referred to as a Solo 401(k).

That's right, this blog is really about something you might be interested in reading if you are self-employed and looking for a way to put aside some money.

If you are looking for a way to put aside some money for retirement, a Solo 401(k) may be just the thing for you. As you probably already know, there are limited places you can put funds to where they are protected from creditor's claims.  While it appears most self-employed individuals have an IRA as a retirement vehicle, a Solo 401(k) allows you to put away a significant chunk of change that’s protected from taxes and creditors.  It’s all in the name of retirement and long-term financial well-being.

https://taxconnections.com/taxblog/wp-content/uploads/irs-logo1.jpgFreelancers, self-employed professionals and others are used to the “feast or famine” routine.  Good years can be spectacular, but they’re largely balanced out by the not-so-good ones.

Solo 401 (k) – A Better Bet For Self-Employed

The Solo 401(k) allows much larger annual contributions than the typical IRA account.  If you (or you and your spouse) are the only employees, you get to skip all of the fairness rules that make running a 401(k) plan so expensive. For 2013, you can put away more than three times the IRA limit if you are over 50.  You can also defer some of your earnings for later years, too.  Total contributions in a year can be as much as $50,000.  That will fund lots of leisure in retirement, if you contribute regularly.

Solo 401(k) Must Be Opened By December 31. In order to take advantage of the Solo 401(k) for this year, you must open and fund your plan by December 31.  This is in contrast to the normal deadline of April 15 for opening and funding an IRA.

Contact any of the discount brokerage houses to open up your Solo 401(k) Plan.  Your future self will thank you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some Bankruptcy Fees Going Up December 1, 2013

Euro Chart 1 
What ever happened to the concept of what goes up, must come down.  I think this concept is a bit blurred when it come to government, and as of late, the Courts.

The Bankruptcy Court is at it again, that is, they are increasing fees on certain things.  

Information from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle Florida on fee increases based on recent actions taken at the Judicial Conference and Changes effective December 1, 2013 are as follows:

     - a new fee of $176.00 has been established for the filing of motions for the sale of property free and clear of liens under 11 U.S.C. § 363(f).
     - the records retrieval fee in all federal courts has been increased by $11.00 (from $53.00 to $64.00) for the first box requested from a Federal Records Center, and created a new fee of $39.00 for each additional box requested.

and for those that handle bankruptcy appeals, under the Conference increased the appellate filing fee (referred to as the "docketing fee" in the schedule) from $450.00 to $500.00.

As for the good news, most of the fees bankruptcy practitioners deal with everyday have not been touched.  At least, not yet.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How Is Social Security Income Treated in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?


So, you need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  Your earned income covers your secured payments, such as your mortgage and vehicle payments.   But you also have unearned income in the form of monthly Social Security checks.  So, do you have to include the social security checks as income in the Chapter 13 Plan?

The short answer is NO. 

Social Security income may be used, it does not have to be used in means test or the Chapter 13 Plan.  This means, this is income you can keep. Although it must be disclosed, it is not included in disposable income that must be paid to the Trustee.

If you are interested in a longer analysis of this, you would first look to the good faith test under Code § 1325(a)(3).  This does not require the contribution of Social Security benefits to a Chapter 13 plan. 42 U.S.C. § 407 was passed by Congress to protect Social Security benefits, which have a special status in
this country.
Next, you should look to Section 407, which was meant to be so wide and sweeping that § 407(b) provides that “[n]o other provision of law ... may be construed to limit, supersede, or otherwise modify the provisions of this section except to the extent that it does so by express reference to this section.”

And lastly, we should review the good faith test under § 1325(a)(3); it does not mention section 407, so §1325(a)(3) must not be meant to limit, supersede, or otherwise modify section 407.

Consequently, debtors are not in bad faith merely for doing what the Social Security Act and the Bankruptcy Code allow them to do.

In re: Canniff, --- B.R. ----, 2013 WL 5310178 (Bankr. S.D. Ind. Sept. 19, 2013)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Government Shutdown: Courts and Clerk Open

From the website of the United States Bankruptcy Court: Middle District of Florida

Until further notice, please note that the Bankruptcy Court and Clerk's Office will continue to operate under its normal schedule, including matters set for hearing and public hours, in the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013. Section §341 meetings of creditors will also continue, as noticed.

Please note, a Google search of the web reveiled many blogs stating the bankruptcy courts would be shut down if the government shut down, as the courthouse workers would be out of work.  Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

I you find any new information regarding the government shutdown as it effects the federal courts, please post it here.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Should I get Divorced Before Filing Bankruptcy?

http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/5048313/2/stock-photo-5048313-frustration.jpgMany people are contemplating divorce and bankruptcy at the same time. In fact, in some cases, ones financial position may have created stresses in their life that have contributed to the decision to file for a dissolution of marriage. But rarely have I seen financial problems, in and of themselves, cause on to get divorced. In fact, I have found just the opposite; one in financial difficulties often becomes more dependent on the other spouse to make it through hard times. 

While the question of whether to file bankruptcy before of after getting divorced may seem like a simply one on the surface, it is actually more complicated than simply giving a simple yes or no type answer. While the answer to this question is not as complicated as the bankruptcy code itself, the answer is directly tied to the bankruptcy code. Numerous things have to be considered, including the following:
  • Is there a custody issue?
  • Are both spouses working?
  • Is the household income more than the median household income for debtors of your household size in your state?
  • Is a tax refund expected at the end of the year?
  • Do you own your house (as opposed to renting)?
  • Are wages being, or going to be, garnished?
  • Is the divorce contested?
  • Are both spouses contemplating bankruptcy?
  • Which chapter of bankruptcy is most appropriate depending on when it is filed?
  • Are you behind on payments on any secured debts you might want to keep?
  • In the distribution of assets from the divorce, are there any funds to be transferred from one account to another pursuant to the judge's order?
http://www.sxc.hu/assets/5/41483/3d-maze-2-1145532-m.jpgWhile this is far from an exhaustive list, this should show you, at least on the surface, some of the things an attorney should be thinking about when such a question is posed. In fact, the question is actually complicated enough, depending you your situation, a bankruptcy attorney may need to get some information about your divorce from you divorce attorney before answering this question.

To get a proper answer to this question, I suggest you call to schedule an appointment for a consultation with a competent bankruptcy attorney in your area?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Discount Jaguar Tickets

http://s3.amazonaws.com/estock/fspid2/398600/jaguars-patriots-christmas-398698-h.jpgBelow is a public service announcement not bankruptcy related.  If you like it, please let me know.

"Where Can I Find Discount Jaguar Tickets?"

Are you ready for some Jaguars football?

As a bankruptcy attorney, and consumer advocate, I am always interested in helping others financially.  That means, in part, saving money. What does this have to do with bankruptcy or foreclosure defense?  NOTHING.  This is just good news.

I am a member of the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville, and as a fund raiser for Rotary District 6970, I am able to offer my clients and other friends discounted Jaguar tickets.



Although these tickets were made available to Rotarians, I am able to offer them to my clients and friends.  This is a fund raising effort continued from last year, with minor changes.  Now the tickets can be purchased online.

- A portion of every ticket purchased makes a donation to the Rotary Club.

- If offered a choice of Rotary Clubs when making your purchase, please select the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville.  This allows some of the proceeds to be returned to this particular Rotary Club (of which I am a member) for use in local community projects.

- Exclusive discounted ticket prices saving $15 off game day prices.http://www.brockportbbqfest.com/web_images/rotary_logo.jpg

- No minimum number of tickets required for purchase.

- Available for all remaining 8 Home games.

- FREE Shipping or direct E-mailing on all orders.


- If you have a Jaguar season (or game) PREDICTION, please let me know by commenting below.

I was hesitant about putting this on my Blog because it is not Bankruptcy or Foreclosure Defense related.  If I should post more pages like this one, let me know and/or press the "Google +" button at the top of the page.

Thanks :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Can I Keep My Tax Refund If I File Bankruptcy?

In the Middle District of Florida, the courts have generally held tax refunds should be apportioned according to a filing spouses contribution to the taxable income according to IRS guidelines.  Obviously, this is only applicable when only one spouse files.  

Well, I have some good news.  Recently the Eleventh Circuit issued a ruling regarding this.  If you are married, filing without your spouse, make sure your attorney knows of the following case.  You may be able to keep your tax refund.
Stevenson v. Uttermohlen (In re Uttermohlen), Case No. 13-10289 (11th Cir. Aug. 9, 2013) (unpublished) (per curiam).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and ruled that the debtor's right to a tax refund is exempt as tenancy-by-the-entireties property under 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(B) and Florida law, even where the refunded tax contributions relate solely to the debtor's income, and the non-filing spouse does not work.
Procedural context: 
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida (Catherine Peek McEwen, Bankruptcy Judge) sustained an exemption of tax refunds over the Chapter 7 trustee's objection. On appeal, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Virginia M. Hernandez Covington, District Judge) affirmed the Bankruptcy Court's ruling. The Chapter 7 trustee then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Debtor sought to exempt a $10,668.00 tax refund as tenancy-by-the-entireties property. The Chapter 7 trustee objected, arguing that (i) the refunded tax contributions related solely to debtor's income, business income, and losses, (ii) the non-filing spouse did not work outside the home, and (iii) the tax refund does not qualify as tenancy-by-the-entireties property, but should be apportioned on the basis of each spouse's income. The Bankruptcy Court found that all unities required to to own property as tenants-by-the-entireties existed on the date the debtor filed bankruptcy, and overruled the Chapter 7 trustee's objection.
 Barkett, Marcus, Hill

A Lawsuit Has Been Filed Against Me, What Do I Do?

http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/6318082/2/stock-photo-6318082-friendly-policeman.jpgSo, you just received some papers from a police officer, or a process server. The person asked you your name, handed you some papers, and said have a nice day. Then you told the officer you did not want them, or refused to accept them. The officer through the papers on the ground in front of you, then they “exit, stage right” as if imitating Snagglepuss in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Well, obviously this is not as comical as a cartoon, as you have just been served with a law suit. Chances are, the first or second page will have the word SUMMONS written on it, and instruct you that you have a certain number of days to respond. What in the world are you suppose to do now?

Well, first of all, upon entering this situation, don't panic. Nothing bad has actually happened yet. The papers are usually simply contain allegations against you, which may be true or not. The first thing I would HIGHLY suggest you do is to seek the advise of an attorney.

Please note, being this blog is bankruptcy related, I will limit my comments to lawsuits involving money. Other lawsuits could be filed, which may also need the assistance of legal counsel.

http://image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/657637/115797652/stock-photo-facade-of-french-court-house-sarreguemines-moselle-lorraine-france-115797652.jpgThere are usually a couple a things you can do. First, do nothing. That's right, your eyes are not playing tricks on you as you are looking at the complaint through the dust of the exiting process server. What happens if you do nothing? Well, usually you may receive a judgment against you. Sometimes, depending on the situation, this may be the best course of action, as it avoids discovery that may lead to other causes of action against you. Where an initial cause of action may lead to a judgment that is able to be discharged in bankruptcy (not that I am necessarily recommending bankruptcy, as the filing of a bankruptcy should be a last case alternative), after discovery the language in the judgment from the court may include language that would make it non-dischargeable.
Second course of action is, you guessed it, do something. The something would be to respond to the complaint to let the court know why the complaint is wrong, or why you do not owe the money that is alleged. This means you would raise relevant defenses, affirmative defenses, and counter-claims.

So, how does bankruptcy fit into all this. Again, as a last case alternative, bankruptcy could be contemplated as a means of stopping the law suit, and discharging the debt. Bankruptcy may also be a means of allowing you to pay the debt over a period of time. If you think you might be interested in this course of action, you should seek the advise of a competent bankruptcy attorney in your jurisdiction.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mortgage Modification Redefault Under TARP and HAMP

http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/roller_coaster_disney_268244_l.jpgThe Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) on July 24, 2013 published figures concerning the program. According to the Special Inspector General, HAMP helped about 865,000 homeowners avoid foreclosure through permanent mortgage modifications, however, more than 306,000 of these modifications have redefaulted into private sector modifications or foreclosure. Of the homeowners still in the HAMP modification, more than 88,000 have missed one or two monthly payments.

Twenty-two percent of homeowners who have defaulted on their HAMP permanent mortgage modifications have moved into the foreclosure process. Redefault rates of the oldest 2009 HAMP permanent mortgage modifications have continued to increase as they age at a rate of 46%, while the 2010 HAMP permanent mortgage modifications are redefaulted at a rate of 38%.

The redefaults cost taxpayers money. As of April 30, 2013, $815 million has been spent on more than 163,000 HAMP permanent modifications that redefaulted.

In spite of this bad news, the HAMP program has been extended to December 31, 2015. Hopefully this will allow the program to become more efficient and figure out how to reduce the number of redefaults by looking at early warning signs which would allow the program to further help homeowners.


Data shows a pattern of homeowners that are most likely to default:
      1. Received the least reduction in their monthly mortgage payment and overall debt;
      2. Are still underwater; and
      3. have subprime credit scores and high overall debt.

The Treasury obligated $19.1 billion for the HAMP First-Lien Modification Program, however, as of April 30, 2013, the Treasury has only expended $4.4 billion, or 23%, on HAMP permanent modifications. On April 30, 2013 865,100 homeowners were in an active HAMP permanent mortgage modification. Of these, 88,813 have missed one or two payments.

The Southeastern United States (AL, FL, GA, MS, NC, PR, SC, TN and VI) have an average default rate of 28%, with Florida being slightly lower at 27%. In the area where I practice, Jacksonville, Florida, as of April 30, 2013, there were 7,784 permanent modifications, 5,199 active modifications, and 2,509 redefaulted modifications reflecting a redefault rate of 32%.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rental Property In Bankruptcy: Can I Get Rid Of It?

http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/17913993/2/stock-photo-17913993-home-in-stormy-day.jpgMost people that file bankruptcy are trying to keep everything they have, while relieving themselves of the burden of being responsible to creditors for their debts. A simpler way of stating that is, how can I keep my stuff and not have to pay my debts?

Sometimes, however, a debtor actually wants to give property back. I know what you are thinking, why would someone want to give there things away? Well, sometimes people acquire things they later do not want. For example, if you purchased a car on a note, and repairs to vehicle cost more than just getting another car, you may want to just buy another car. It sure would be nice to be able to give the car to the note holder and not owe them any more money, and not be responsible for insurance, tags, etc.

A similar example would be under performing rental property. That is, rental property, with a mortgage, that cost more to maintain it (repairs, taxes, and insurance) and pay mortgage payments than what the landlord received in rent. Again, I know what you are thinking; this could not be. But, wouldn't it be nice to be able to give the property to the mortgage holder. And yes, this actually does happen.

Well, through bankruptcy, you can absolve yourself of being personally liable for the debt. I have never heard of the giving back of a car to be a problem in bankruptcy, however, real property could be a different story.

http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/17800658/2/stock-photo-17800658-bank.jpgThe owner of real property could be responsible for ongoing debts associated with the ownership of the property after the filing of the bankruptcy. Sometimes the debtor does not want the property, and the mortgagee also does not want the property. The mortgagee could get stuck with unmarketable property, such as contaminated property, or be subjected to high association fees.

So, can you make a creditor take the property. The simple answer is NO. The giving back of property associated with the filing of a bankruptcy takes planing. Although the giving back of a car is usually simple, when it comes to real property, I highly suggest you seek the advise of competent bankruptcy attorney in your area.

You should keep in mind the bankruptcy law is not necessarily logical. Trying to plan for bankruptcy without consulting an attorney could easily and unintentionally cause you to be put into a situation you do not want to be in. Seeking advise from a bankruptcy attorney early is highly advised.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Will I Loose My Home If I File Bankruptcy?

So, you are trying to relieve yourself of debt so you can move on with the rest of your life. You are also putting off the bankruptcy because you heard from someone you will loose your house you have so diligently been paying for over the years, you should seek the advise of a competent bankruptcy attorney that practices in the area in which you live.
I receive calls on a regular basis asking if they are going to loose their home if they file bankruptcy.  In some cases, they are telling me they can not file because they do not want to loose their home.  If you are one of these people, don't feel bad, as I even have other attorneys asking questions related to this topic that seem to somehow be cloaked in a whirlwind of misstatements.
The Answer: well, that depends on where you file, and the value of your home. 

That is, unless you file in Florida, where the light shines (I know, cheesy right?).

This blog is directed towards debtors filing if Florida, as that is where I practice.  As a general rule, if you have homestead property in Florida, that is, real property that is exempt from creditors claims pursuant to the Florida Constitution, then you can claim a homestead exemption on Schedule C of your bankruptcy, and keep you home. 
So, what happens if you live in a mobile home?  If you live in a mobile home, and do not own the land under it, you may have to wait a couple of years after moving to Florida in order to claim an exemption, as this is a statutory rather than constitutional exemption that needs to be claimed. 

As a side note, if you are planning on moving to another state, you should speak with bankruptcy attorneys in both the state you are moving from, and the state you are moving to, about where you should file bankruptcy. There may be significant advantages in filing in one state over another. This should be done well before moving, in order to arrange for proper planning.

You may wish to review some related blogs, including

Friday, July 26, 2013

Members Only Workshop ~ Hyatt Regency  
New Orleans, LA ~ October 24-26, 2013
Registration Information

  • Registration is open to current NACBA Members and their support staff.
  • Early Bird discount ends at 5:00 p.m. PST on Friday, September 6th, 2013.
  • Support staff may attend without member attorney if employed by member firm.
  • Registration fee includes: breakfast, lunch, Friday night Reception, printed materials for one pre-selected Track, and a flash drive containing materials for all Tracks.
  • Workshop registrants DO NOT need to purchase a meal ticket. Meals tickets for guests of Workshop attendees are available for $100.
  • You may attend any session in any of the three concurrent tracks. When you register, you will be asked to identify the one Track that you plan to attend and for which you will receive written materials. You may attend any session from any Track that you wish, however, and will be able to pre-purchase the written materials for the other two tracks when you register.  If you own an iPad, iPhone or any tablet using the Droid operating system, you will be able to download an app that will allow you to access the materials and take notes during the sessions.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Received Extra Income After Filing Chapter 7

What happens if I receive extra income after filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Well, as in most things concerning bankruptcy, there is not a clear cut answer.
In a Chapter 7, most assets of the case are viewed as a snap shot.  The debtor must list all assets as of the date of filing the Chapter 7 petition with the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court.  If the debtor was entitled to an income stream prior to the filing, then this right would probably be property of the bankruptcy estate, and must be listed regardless of whether or not it was received.  In fact, if you simply have the realistic expectation of your income changing after filing, it should be disclosed to the Court.  However, as long as the income stream was not foreseen until after filing, it would not be an asset. 
http://www.sxc.hu/pic/m/p/pi/pipp/43616_ruin_open_door.jpgOf course, this has exceptions. Most notably, the receipt of an inheritance. In that case, we would have to look at the right to receive an inheritance up to 6 months after filing.
As you might imagine, the Court also does not look kindly upon fraud and bad faith. For example, lets say Mom, that just won the lottery, wanted her daughter to benefit from it, so pre-petition they arranged to sign a lease post-petition for a room in a modest house for $10K per month. I think this is obviously a filing in bad faith. This filing was probably designed to keep creditors from receiving funds, and the debtor had at least the expectation of having the ability to pay a substantial portion of debt owed to creditors.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chapter 13 Payment Missing: Maybe It was HOT Mail

I recently received an email from a bankruptcy attorney in Jacksonville, indicating he received an email with an attached letter. The letter purported to be from the United States Postal Service, and was advising the recipient that a mail truck carrying letter bound for Tennessee had crashed and burned. That is, all the mail in the truck was burned.

A few things, right off the back, struck me as strange. The letter was sent to the address of the recipient of the supposed burned mail. How would the post office know what address the burned mail was bound for?

Anyway, if you recently mailed a payment to the Chapter 13 Trustee, with a delivery address of Memphis, TN, and it did not arrive, you may want to check out the story of the mail truck.

And, I know what you are thinking. Sure, a mail truck burned! Like, really. Well, that was my reaction too. So, to be able to tell you this was a joke, I went to Google and did a brief search. What do you know...there actually was a fire involving a crash between a dump truck and a mail truck. The only thing that did not match up was the date. The crash was March 21, 2013, whereas the letter indicated the crash was May 7. If you would like to see the article, just click ---> Click Here

If the link does not work, you can copy and paste this link:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student Loan Debt Media Inquiry

I recently received an email from the National Association of Consumer 
Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), of which I am a member, asking for a 
response to their inquiry, as to clients with unmanageable student loan debt. More specifically, they are looking for students who are

1.  Relatively recent graduates;
2.  Unable to find jobs; and
3On the brink of bankruptcy because of their student loan debt. 

Their request is in response to a media request from a major national news outlet.

The NACBA is an advocate of student loan reform in the bankruptcy code. Currently, the bankruptcy code does not allow for the discharge of student loans.

If the above description describes you, and you are willing to share your story, please give me a call at 904-652-0060. The media deadline is April 3, 2013.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Identity Theft: Part 3, Create an Identity Theft Report

This is Part 3 in a short series on Identity Theft

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, an Identity Theft Report, I thought that's what I just did. Well, there is a little more to it. The report I am referring to here is one that will assist you in dealing with the company that improperly opened an account in your name. This could include any number of credit reporting companies, businesses, and debt collectors.

You should find this report useful when working with companies to get fraudulent information removed from your credit report and prevent the company from initiating or continuing debt collection efforts. It will help you place an extended fraud alert on your credit reports, and assist you in getting information from companies about your improperly opened and improperly used accounts.

So, how do you create this report? :Like most things, the steps are relatively simple, but they will take up some of you time. First, you should submit a report to the Federal Trade Commission. Print a copy of the report for your safe keeping, and it will be referred to as the Identity Theft Affidavit. Secondly, with your Identity Theft Affidavit in hand, contact the police and file out a police report. Again, keep a copy of the police report and report number. These 2 documents make up your Identity Theft Report.

So, how do you get hold of the FTC. My first suggestion is to look online, and see if there is a process for completing these steps on their web site. The internet is rapidly changing, and this seems to be the way of the future.

If looking online does not work, you can call them at

1-866-653-4261 (TTY)

Simply follow the directions of the person on the phone (which will probably be to go to the internet). Submit the information, and save the complaint reference number.

Of course, as always, update your files as to when you filed the complaint, and make sure to keep a copy of everything, including the affidavit.

From time to time you may find you will need to update your file. How do you do this? Well, call the number above. Make sure you have your reference number ready.

OK, so that's the FTC side of this. Now, lets move forward with the filing of the Police Report. Again, you can give them a call and find out if you should go down to the police station, or if they will send an officer to you. When you tell them why you are calling, they will give you the proper steps to take. They will probably want to see a government issued ID with a photo, some form of proof of the theft, a copy of the FTC documents you just completed above, and some proof of your address (like a utility bill).

And of course, UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE your records.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Identity Theft: Part 2, Order Credit Report

This is Part 2 in a short series on Identity Theft.

Part 2. Order Your Credit Report

That's right. Order your credit report. Why?

Now that you’ve placed an initial fraud alert (see Part 1), you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. The credit reporting company you call will explain your rights and how you can get a free copy of your credit report. Order the report and ask the company to show only the last four digits of your Social Security number on your report.

If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing. Send your letters by certified mail; return receipt requested; doing so creates a record of when they received your communication.

When you review the credit reports, you may find unauthorized charges or accounts. You will need to learn how to review your credit report and dispute errors. Later I will post a short article on disputing errors, and post a link here to that page.

Order a Credit Report for FREE.

1. Contact each of the credit reporting agencies and order a credit report.
          Equifax 1-800-525-6285,
          Experian 1-888-397-3742
          TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

     When calling each of the above, explain you have already filed an “initial fraud alert”.

     Order a free copy of your credit report.

      Request the company only show the last 4 digits of your social security number on your report.

2. Record the dates you placed the calls and letters sent and received.
    Keep a copy of all letters sent and received.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Identity Theft: Part 1, Place Fraud Alert

What should you do if you have had you ID stolen? The following is Part 1 of a multi-part series on what you should do regarding ID theft.

PART 1. Place a Fraud Alert.

There are three national credit reporting companies keeping records of your credit history. If someone has misused your personal or financial information, call one (1) of the companies and ask for an initial fraud alert be placed on your credit report. The fraud alert is FREE. The credit reporting company will ask you to provide proof of your identity. This you must do. After reporting to the company you choose to call, that company must tell the other companies about your alert.

An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit, so it may try to contact you. The initial fraud alert stays on your report for at least 90 days, and you can renew it after the 90 days has passed. It also allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies, even if you have received a free copy within the passed 12 months. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you.

So, how do you do this?
Lets take it step by step.

  1. CONTACT one (1) credit reporting company.
           Report you are an identiy theft victim.
           Ask the company to put a fraud alert on your credit line.
           Confirm that the company you call will contact the other 2 companies.

  1. Update your files. Order a free credit report. The company you speak with will explain to you how you can do this. They should also explain to you some rights you have.
  2. Mark you calendar. The fraud alert is good for 90 days. You can renew it.
  3. Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
  4. Keep a copy of ALL letters you send out.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Where Should I File Bankruptcy: A Guide For The Middle District Of Florida

So, you need to file bankruptcy, but where should you file?  Bankruptcies are filed according to where you reside, or if you have been there for less than 180 days, then it is according to where you have lived.  The below assumes you have lived within a particular area, called a Division (which is part of a District) for at least 180 days before filing.

The state of Florida is broken up into 3 Districts, known as the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts. Each District is further broken up into Divisions. The Middle District is divided into four Divisions known as the Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, Tampa and Ft. Myers Divisions.

You would file in the District, subject to certain residency requirements, as follows: 

You would file in the JACKSONVILLE Division if you reside in one of the following counties: Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Hamilton, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns,  Suwannee, and Union . The place of holding court is Jacksonville.

You would file in the OCALA Division if you reside in one of the following counties: Citrus, Lake, Marion and Sumter.  This place for holding court is Ocala.

You would file in the ORLANDO Division if you reside in one of the following counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia. The place of holding court is Orlando. 

You would file in the TAMPA Division if you reside in one of the following counties: Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota. The place of holding court is Tampa. 

You would file in the FT. MYERS Division if you reside in one of the following counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry and Lee. The place of holding court is Ft. Myers.

If you plan on filing bankruptcy having lived within a particular District for less than 180 days, you should seek the advise of an attorney to determine where you need to file.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bankruptcy Attorney Jacksonville: How To Find

I recently received an advertisement from a well known internet service provider letting me know my web site (www.bankruptcyjax.com) would not be found if someone typed in Bankruptcy Attorney Jacksonville. Sure enough, I tried it, and my listing was not found. I am a little surprised they did not include a phrase, such as 

Best Bankruptcy Attorney in Jacksonville.

Or how about Best, Stupendous, Outrageous...well, you get the idea.

What did I find? I found a lot of advertising various attorneys are paying for, followed by sites Google has ranked pursuant to the search criteria.

So, how should you search for the results you are looking for.  I do not have a solid answer, but if you would like a couple of suggestions from someone that knows next to nothing about SEO (that's Search Engine Optimization, not some slanted phrase you are probably thinking of), then here we go.

My suggestion, if you are looking for a bankruptcy attorney in your area, do some research. This involves typing words into search engines various ways. For example, if you type in 

Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney
Bankruptcy Attorney Jacksonville
Attorney Bankruptcy Jacksonville

you will get different results. The words are the same, but search engines view these entries as being different, resulting in different results. To narrow the results, you may want to include the name of the area of the city or town you are in, or in larger cities, a general direction. My office happens to be in a more rural area of Jacksonville, so one has a better chance of finding my site if they add the word West to the search criteria.

I recently read that Google tends to place businesses that advertise with them (yep, send them money) in a better position within their search engine. So if you want to find an attorney in your area of town, that has the qualifications you are looking for, you may want to go past the firms that throw money at the search engines, and start looking at the more meaningful ranking of websites.

If you have discovered a good way to bring up the search results you are looking for, please post your suggestions below.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Student Loans: Greater Than 15% While Americans Live Paycheck-To-Paycheck

I recently did a quick search on the internet to see how close Americans are, in general, to needing to file bankruptcy, and whether or not there have been any changes to the default in student loans. This, a least in part, is a reflection on our economy.

If you are contemplating bankruptcy, read the articles below. Hopefully you will not feel as if you are the only one in such a predicament. Even though I have not verified the facts listed within the articles, I find them interesting.

You need to know this. Welcome to America, where half the nation lives right on the razor’s edge. A stunning new report out of the Corporation for Enterprise Development, finds that 44% of Americans are just one financial shock away from complete ruin. Nearly half the nation doesn’t have enough savings to keep them out of poverty for more than 3 months, should they suffer a job loss, an accident, a sickness, or other financial setback. Another recent study out of the Consumer Federation of American, found that 40% of all American households live paycheck-to-paycheck, with virtually no savings. This is what’s become of the once valued American middle class after thirty years of trickle-down Reaganomics. And it’s the main reason why our economy continues to falter – our nation's working people and consumers don’t have enough money to spend. Let’s roll back the Reagan tax cuts – put in place a new wealth tax on everyone making over a billion dollars and redistribute some of that wealth down to working people, who will actually spend it.
The situation for college students in America continues to deteriorate. A new report published by FICO Labs, finds that the student-loan delinquency rate rose 22% from 2005 to 2007 – with more than 15% of all students being forced into default on their loans. The rapidly increasing price of college tuition, the cutbacks in government assistance for students, and the non-existent job market, are all conspiring together to saddle our next generation of leaders with enormous piles of debt. As the report notes, “in 2005, the average U.S. student loan debt was $17,233. By 2012, it had ballooned to more than $27,253 – an increase of 58 percent in seven years." How are our American workers supposed to compete with the rest of the world, and take risks, when they’re so deep in the hole by the time they graduate? We need to be sending our young people to college for free, like many advanced European nations already do.

Source: Truth-Out.org/news; On the News With Thom Hartmann: New Reports Finds 44 Percent of Americans One Financial Shock Away From Ruin, and More, January 31, 2013.

The bankruptcy code states, in general, student loans can not be discharged.  This means you will continue to owe the debt even after going through bankruptcy.  However, the bankruptcy code also provides for the discharge of a student loan if it is an "undue hardship".  The interpretation of what an undue hardship is varies greatly from court to court around the country.  If you owe a student loan and are contemplating filing bankruptcy, you should seek the advise of a competent bankruptcy attorney in your area.  You may also want to contact an attorney member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) to find out where their efforts stand with congress in getting student loans discharged through bankruptcy.