Category: ‘Timothy Kingcade Posts’

Miami Residents Carry Second Highest Credit Card Debt Balance in the Country

July 5, 2018 Posted by kingcade

Credit card debt is a problem for many people and breaking the cycle can be even more of a challenge. While no one specific timeline works for every person when it comes to paying off credit card debt, it can take years of dedication and regular payments above the minimum to finally pay off a credit card. According to a recent study, it takes the average Florida resident around two years to get out of credit card debt.

The study published by CreditCards.com reported that people living in the Miami metro area, which includes both Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, carry the second-highest credit card debt balances in the country, second to San Antonio, Texas. Texas was reported as being a state with three of the five cities that reportedly had the highest credit card debt.

According to the study, Florida residents holding this much credit card debt would need an estimated 21 months to pay off the current card balance. Those living in San Antonio were reported as only needing one more month, meaning 22 months, to bring the balance to zero.

The CreditCards.com study reviewed median income across the country to average credit card debt by taking data that was provided through the credit reporting company, Experian. The data looked at high debt burdens when the balance on the card was significantly high as compared to the residents’ income being reported as average or below average.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, San Francisco, a well-known area for residents living with higher-than-average income, was reported as having the lowest-reported credit card debt. The average San Francisco resident can pay off his or her debt in 13 months. The reason that debt can be paid off so quickly is the average San Francisco resident earns enough income to pay off this debt comfortably.

Other cities that reported lower debt burdens included Minneapolis, Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The report indicated that the size of the debt was not so much the problem in the Miami area but rather the debt-to-income ratio. \South Florida residents are taking on more credit card debt than they have the income to handle.

The CreditCard.com study is not the first one that had reported that many Miami-area residents suffer from low income and high financial obligations. An additional report recently shows that Miami residents paid the highest proportions of their income on rent than any other area in the nation. In fact, it has been reported that the Miami-area is one of the least affordable places to live in the nation.

Click here to read more on this story.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

Is It Ever Too Late to Negotiate a Medical Bill?

July 3, 2018 Posted by kingcade

Medical debt continues to be a large portion of debt collection proceedings, but many individuals facing large amounts of medical debt may not believe they have rights when it comes to negotiating the bill. For this reason, these individuals may delay contacting the provider to see if the bill can be reduced or if they could be placed on an affordable repayment plan. However, even if the person owing the medical debt waits months or even years to try to make good on the debt, it is usually never too late to negotiate a medical bill.

Properly Reviewing the Bill

Before negotiating a payment schedule or amount, it is always wise to carefully review the billing statement sent to the patient. The provider needs to properly bill for all services provided within a reasonable amount of time, and not doing this can often be seen as a breach of contract. In addition, it should never be assumed that all of the items listed in the bill are correct. It is recommended that the patient review what is listed, check with his or her calendar to make sure that they line up, and if they do not, bring this discrepancy to the attention of the provider. These corrections can be made even after a period of time passes and the bill has remained unpaid.

Negotiating Past-Due Medical Bills and Bankruptcy

It is possible to negotiate a medical bill, even if it is past due. At the end of the day, most of the medical service providers want to receive some type of payment, even if it is a lower amount.

While the company is within its rights to not negotiate on a bill that is past due, it is usually in the best interest of the company to take a reduced payment, than no payment at all.  Medical debt is normally classified as an unsecured debt in a bankruptcy case meaning it is the debt that is discharged at the close of the case. Therefore, it is highly possible the medical company will walk away without receiving any payment if the individual pursues a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.

Request Financial Assistance with Medical Debt

Medical providers will often offer financial assistance for individuals who are not able to pay for their medical bills. The company will not become aware of this issue if the consumer simply leaves the bill unpaid. It often helps to reach out and be screened for other programs, including financial assistance or state aid. The assistance can make it possible for the individual to pay off these debts in a manner that is much more realistic for the patient.

Speak with a Consumer or Bankruptcy Law Attorney

Depending on how much time has passed, it is recommended that the individual contact a consumer bankruptcy attorney to see if the statute of limitations has passed for these debts. Every state has a statute of limitations which controls the time period a creditor has to collect on a debt. Florida’s statute of limitations for medical debt is five years. However, if the patient negotiates and begins paying on the debt that falls out of this five-year period, this may revive the statute of limitations and then leave the person open to a lawsuit for the balance of the debt if he or she fails to continue paying. Therefore, it helps to speak first with an attorney regarding the debt before making any other decisions.

Click here to read more on this story.

Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

What Constitutes Harassment by a Debt Collector?

July 2, 2018 Posted by kingcade

For an individual struggling with insurmountable debt, the continuous calls and communications can be overwhelming and stressful. However, at what point do these communications constitute harassment? And if an individual believes that he or she is being harassed by a debt collector, what is the recourse this person has against the debt collector?

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Debtors have protection from harassment from third-party debt collectors under a federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under this law, debt collectors are prohibited from harassing, oppressing or abusing debtors while trying to collect upon a debt. This behavior includes continuous phone calls meant to annoy or harass the individual, use of obscene language and making threats of violence or retaliation against the debtor.

Specifically, the FDCPA prohibits the following:

  • Repeated phone calls annoying, abusing or harassing the debtor or anyone answering the phone;
  • Use of obscene or profane language in these communications;
  • Threats of violence or causing harm to the debtor or other person on the phone;
  • Publishing a list of individuals who refuse to pay debts, not including reporting the information to a credit reporting company;
  • Not disclosing the debt collector’s information when communicating with someone;
  • Contacting third-parties connected to the debtor and giving them information regarding the debt and/or why they are calling;
  • Contacting the debtor at work or showing up at the debtor’s work.

The FDCPA prohibits misrepresentations from being made about the debt. Essentially, the FDCPA makes it so debt collectors cannot use false, misleading or fraudulent practices when collecting on the debt. This means the debt collector cannot lie about how much is owed, cannot make false threats that the company will have the debtor arrested, cannot make false statements that the person on the phone is an attorney when he or she is not, cannot make threats to do things that are not legal, and cannot make threats to do something that the debt collector, in fact, has no intention of doing or right to do.

After the debtor has experienced a series of these violations, the FDCPA requires the debtor to send written notification to the debt collector to stop communicating with him or her and informing the debt collector that this communication is in violation of the FDCPA. If the debt collector continues to push and communicate with the person after this notification, it is recommended that the debtor file a claim for an FDCPA violation. If the individual does file an FDCPA claim and wins, the debt collector will pay the debtor damages, as well as attorney’s fees for having to file the claim.

It is highly recommended that the debtor keep a file of all communication received by the debt collector and keep all recordings of voicemails or other communications. It is also recommended that the debtor write down all dates and times that these conversations have occurred, along with notes about what was discussed in the event a legal claim needs to be filed.

Our firm works to hold creditors accountable for violating the protections allotted by the U.S. bankruptcy laws.  Recently, our firm’s motion was granted by a Florida judge in a case that held the creditor in contempt of court for violating the automatic stay in a Miami bankruptcy case. The Order directed the creditor to cease and desist all eviction proceedings until further order of the court.  The creditor in this case was also required to pay attorneys’ fees for our firm having to bring forth the motion to enforce the automatic stay to protect our client.

If you are dealing with a creditor you think may have violated the automatic stay, contact your attorney immediately.  An experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney will know whether the contact was innocent in nature or a willful violation worth pursuing.

Click here to read more on this story.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

 

Debt Collectors’ Dialing Strategies Come Under Scrutiny in State Supreme Court Ruling

June 28, 2018 Posted by kingcade

A recent Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling has given consumers more protection from creditors seeking payment on outstanding debts while leaving some questions unanswered for creditors. The court has ruled in Armata v. Target Corporation, that creditors are not exempt from rules that limit contact with consumers who owe them money.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

In this case, the consumer, Debra Armata, incurred debt through her Target-brand debit card, and this debt became more than 30 days past due. Target then began to collect on the debt and contacted Armata using a predictive dialer. These devices transfer the cardholders who do answer the phone to a live representative about 95 percent of the time with the other five percent of the time leading the person to a recorded message.  There are no voicemails left if the person does not answer the phone.

Under Massachusetts law, debt collection laws limit how many times a creditor can try to contact a consumer telephonically to collect on a debt, limiting these calls to two every seven days. However, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General, any unsuccessful attempts by the creditor do not constitute initiation of communication if the creditor was “truly unable” to reach the debtor or leave a message.

Target did not argue that it contacted the plaintiff more than two times in seven days. However, the company argued it did not initiate communications because it uses an auto dialer and does not leave voicemails if no one answers. The company stated it was exempt from these regulations for this reason as it was “truly unable” to reach Armata.

The Court disputed this argument stating that Target was trying to create too large of a loophole that would essentially allow any creditor to avoid the limits imposed by state law by using auto dialing technology. It would leave debtors unprotected from these continuous communications.

The attorney general’s term “truly unable” was better defined in the opinion. One example given by the court was if the person did not answer the phone and did not set up his or her voicemail. If that situation occurred or the person’s voicemail was full, or phone disconnected, then the company would qualify as being “truly unable” to reach the consumer.

The court also clarified that creditors who use automatic dialers or those who voluntarily decide to not leave voicemail messages, such as Target, are subject to the state’s regulations.

Target had also argued that the company was not able to leave voicemail messages because doing this would risk violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The court pointed out that the company did not fall within the restrictions of the FDCPA, since that law covers third-party debt collection agencies and not the actual creditors themselves, such as Target.

Click here to read more on this story.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

 

Private Debt Collectors a ‘Most Serious Problem’ at the IRS – Here’s what you need to Know

June 25, 2018 Posted by kingcade

The IRS reactivated a program previously instituted where private debt collectors are used to collect upon unpaid taxes owed by individuals with delinquent tax debts. This IRS Private Debt Collection (PDC) program, however, has been identified as a serious problem, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate.

According to a recent report, taxpayers who had debts assigned recently from the IRS to these private debt collection agencies ended up entering into repayment agreements they simply could not afford. Approximately 43 percent of them were earning income well below their allowable living expenses.

The PDC program also ends up costing the U.S. Treasury Department more than it is worth. In fact, experts criticize these programs as the private collection companies are allowed to keep 25 percent of what they end up collecting, which means the programs cost the Treasury more than the money that comes in after all is said and done.

This brings the question to many taxpayers of how they know whether they are likely to be contacted by a PDC. The taxpayers who are normally chosen are those who have IRS debts that are considered by the IRS as an inactive tax receivable. A tax debt is declared “inactive” after the IRS removes it from the active case list due to either lack of resources or the inability to find the individual. If more than a year has passed since the taxpayer had any communication with the IRS for the collection of the over-due tax, the debt will be considered “inactive,” as well.

When a PDC contacts a debtor, they will normally request full payment of the debt from the taxpayer first. If the taxpayer is not able to make full payment immediately, the private collection agency will then offer the person an installment agreement. However, many times, the installment agreements that are offered and later accepted by the taxpayer end up being more than that person can handle.

What Agencies Have IRS Authorization?

Currently, four PDC agencies have been selected by the IRS to operate the private debt collection program. Only these four firms should be contacting taxpayers, and they include:

  • CBE Group in Cedar Falls, Iowa;
  • Conserve in Fairport, New York;
  • Performant in Livermore, California; and
  • Pioneer in Horseheads, New York.

Phone Scams

Phone scams have been on the rise after individuals have reported being contacted via phone by a person who claims to be affiliated with the IRS and receiving demands for immediate payment. The IRS will not call taxpayers to collect on a debt. Rather, any demand for payment from the IRS will be by a letter on official IRS letterhead, called a Notice CP40. The letter will tell the taxpayer that the tax debt has been assigned to a PDC. The PDC will then confirm in a separate letter that the tax case has been assigned to them. In both of these letters, the taxpayer should see a 10-digit identifier number in place of the taxpayer’s Social Security number. The purpose of this number is to allow for two-party authentication between the taxpayer and the PDC.

Other Red Flags 

The IRS has also provided other red flags taxpayers should be aware of when receiving any questionable communication from someone claiming to be from the IRS. These red flags include the following: 

  • PDCs will not ask the taxpayer to pay them for any fees or owed taxes, and they will not accept payments from the taxpayer. Rather, these companies will inform the taxpayer that any payments for these tax debts should be paid by check directly to the IRS or paid online through the IRS website.
  • If a payment is made by check, it should be written payable to the “United States Treasury.” The IRS nor the PDC will take payment in the form of a gift card, prepaid debit card or iTunes gift cards. Scammers have been known to regularly request payment in these forms.
  • If a taxpayer is contacted by a tax collector, the taxpayer should call the IRS to confirm first that the debt has been assigned to a PDC before working with that company.
  • The PDC cannot enforce collection actions against the taxpayer, including issuing a levy or filing a notice of federal tax lien. Instead, they must follow all IRS rules per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Tax Debts That Cannot Be Assigned

Lastly, the IRS cannot legally assign a tax debt to a PDC in cases where the taxpayer is deceased; the person is under the age of 18-years-old, or to a person in the military who is in a designated combat zone. If someone is the victim of tax-related identity theft, is classified as an innocent spouse and is currently involved in an exam, installment agreement or offer in compromise, he or she is exempt.

Click here to read more on this story.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.