student loan debt, Student Loans

Uncertainty Surrounding Debt Relief Leads to Increased Student Loan Scams

Many student loan borrowers seeking relief from their student debt burden prior to payments resuming in 2022 have found themselves on the receiving end of student loan scams. In fact, a number of consumer protection firms across the U.S. have issued warnings regarding the increase of certain student loan debt relief scams.  It is important that all consumers are aware of what red flags to look for when being offered financial assistance towards their student loan debt.

Borrowers were given some relief during the COVID-19 pandemic with federal student loan repayments being paused since March 2020, along with federal student loan interest being halted during this time. However, federal student loan payments are scheduled to resume in February 2022, meaning that millions of borrowers will be required to pay on their student loan debt for the first time in over a year. This fact has many borrowers panicking and trying to figure out how to either continue paying on their debt or find relief wherever they can find it.

Student loan relief scams are nothing new. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued millions of dollars in refunds to individuals who fell victim to student debt scams. As of 2017, it is estimated that $95 million has been paid to student loan fraud victims. As a result, financial experts predict that even more fraud reports will be coming in 2022.

One of the biggest warning signs borrowers should look for when communicating with an entity claiming to provide debt relief to student loan borrowers is when the person on the other end of the phone requests the caller’s student loan login information or his or her Social Security number. While their request may seem legitimate, providing this information could open the consumer up to having their student loan accounts hacked, also allowing the scammer to create falsified documents with this information and defraud the consumer even further.

The information being requested is often referred to as personal identifiable information or PII, and it can include the consumer’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, banking information, and credit card numbers. Providing this information allows the scammer to hack the consumer’s identity.

Another sign of a scam occurs when the alleged debt relief company requests money up front before providing a service. If a company is requesting the person pay a fee before even beginning the process of negotiating on a debt, this is a major red flag that indicates the company may not be legitimate.

Additionally, if the student loan debt relief company advertises their services on social media or reaches out to the consumer directly through cold calling, this could be another sign of a potential scam. If a consumer speaks with a company who has contacted him or her directly regarding debt relief, it is imperative that he or she does the proper research to ensure that the company is legitimate. A general Internet search of the company on reputable sources should be able to help the person ascertain whether a scam is involved.

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For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available.  Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. There are ways to file for bankruptcy with student loan debt.  It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all 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.

Foreclosure Defense, Foreclosures, Housing Market Trends

Mortgage Debt Remains a Problem for Homeowners 55 and Older

Homeowners throughout the country have struggled with staying afloat and remaining in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. With no immediate end in sight to the pandemic, it appears as if that problem will continue, especially those in the 55 and older age group.

The U.S. Census Bureau reviewed household statistics through its biweekly Household Pulse Survey to see how homeowners are faring with remaining current on their mortgage obligations. Their most recent study covered the period of September 1 through September 13, 2021. According to the Census Bureau, 1.7 million homeowners ages 55 or older were reportedly behind on their mortgage payments. Of these 1.7 million homeowners, 277,000 of them said that the possibility of facing foreclosure was likely or very likely for them.

Consumer Bankruptcy, COVID-19

Consumer Bankruptcy Filings Level Off in August 2021

Bankruptcy filings leveled off last month, according to figures from technology company, Epiq. The company compiled filings through their AACER bankruptcy program which showed that in the month of August, 32,225 new bankruptcy cases were filed, including Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 consumer bankruptcy cases. This figure is down slightly from the 32,391 reported in July 2021.

Despite the fact that consumer bankruptcy filings have decreased, commercial bankruptcy filings have increased approximately one percent from July 2021 with 1,724 cases filed.

student loan debt, Student Loans

What Is Next for Student Loans in the Covid Era?

Student loans have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 relief offered through the federal government. The biggest source of relief came in the moratorium on federal student loan repayments issued by the Biden administration and was extended through the end of 2021. However, this moratorium is expected to end January 31, 2022, leaving many student loan borrowers left to wonder what is next.

It is estimated that $1.5 trillion in student loan debt is now owed collectively by U.S. student borrowers. Therefore, these measures have widespread effects for many American consumers.

COVID-19, Foreclosure Defense, Foreclosures

Supreme Court Ends Eviction Moratorium

The U.S. Supreme Court ended the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions imposed by President Biden’s administration. This eight-page decision effectively ends a debate that has divided party lines for months now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling came down in a 6-3 decision, the court similarly divided along party and ideological lines.

The eviction moratorium was declared by Congress at the start of the pandemic. However, Congress’s moratorium expired in July 2020. The CDC then extended it by issuing a series of moratoriums under a 1944 law. The moratorium has consistently been extended, giving tenants and homeowners an opportunity to remain in their homes.

Landlords have consistently fought the moratorium, arguing that the longer it has been extended, the more they have suffered financially without any legal recourse.

The majority opinion stated that they believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exceeded their authority. They claim the CDC has relied on a statute that is decades-old that authorizes the CDC to implement emergency measures, such as fumigation and pest extermination, not a nationwide months-long moratorium on evictions.

Consumer Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy Filings Fall to Levels Not Seen Since 1985

Bankruptcy filings have fallen to levels not seen since the mid-1980’s. The low number of filings are credited to the government aid and stimulus checks issued since the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, 462,309 individuals and companies filed for bankruptcy in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, which is a 32 percent decrease from the previous year. The office also noted that this figure was the lowest one reported for a 12-month period since 1985.

Personal bankruptcy filings decreased 33 percent to approximately 444,000 over the course of a year. Business filings similarly declined, although by a lower percentage. Business bankruptcy cases dropped by 17 percent to approximately 22,500 filings.

student loan debt, Student Loans

Student Loan Payment Pause Extended to 2022

The Biden administration has announced that the moratorium on federal student loan payments would be extended through January 31, 2022. This announcement came just over a month before the pause was set to expire at the end of September. According to the Department of Education, this extension is the final one that will be issued.

The moratorium was first put in place in March 2020 after Congress passed the CARES Act. The moratorium paused payments through the end of September 2020, keeping all federal student loan interest rates at zero percent, affecting approximately 42 million federal borrowers. President Trump then issued an executive order to extend the student loan payment pause through January 2021. As soon as President Biden took office, he issued another executive order extending the pause through September 30, 2021.

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Consumer Bankruptcy

Post-COVID Debt Continues to Grow as Bankruptcy Filings Fall in 2021

Financial analysts had predicted a bankruptcy surge following the COVID-19 pandemic. Courts were closed for the majority of 2020, but as they began to reopen, it was believed that a massive wave of bankruptcy filings would follow. Oddly enough, that surge never came, and the number of consumer bankruptcy filings continue to drop.

According to figures from the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), 181,000 bankruptcy cases were filed in the U.S. by May 2021, which is 29 percent lower than the number of cases filed by that time in 2020. As many people were forced out of jobs or laid off with businesses temporarily or even permanently closing, consumers are continuing to rely on credit cards to cover expenses.

Medical Debt

COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Medical Debt Crisis

Medical debt is a financial stressor for many Americans, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with the pandemic well into its second year, countless Americans are becoming overwhelmed with medical bills with no end in sight. 

Scientists are studying the long-term effects of COVID-19 on those who contract the virus. Many of them have suffered through several hospital stays, multiple treatments, and several referrals to various specialists. Each of these events, of course, comes with its own set of medical bills. 

According to Credit Karma, medical debt spiked 6.5 percent since the pandemic first hit at the start of 2020, increasing by approximately $2.8 billion. The number of individuals with past due medical debt increased by nine percent during this time, jumping from 19.6 million to 21.4 million.   

Another medical debt survey conducted by Lending Tree found that 60 percent of Americans polled carried some level of medical debt. Fifty-three percent (53%) of them saying that this debt was more than $5,000. Of those surveyed, 72 percent surveyed said that their medical debt has kept them from purchasing a home or having a child in the near future.    

Many consumers have felt forced to rely on credit to pay off their outstanding medical debts caused by a COVID diagnosis. However, paying these debts via credit card only delays payment of what is owed.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumers and businesses hard. According to a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and the W.E. Upton Institute, 7.7 million American workers lost their employee-sponsored health insurance benefits by June 2020, affecting not just the 7.7 million workers but also their 6.9 million dependents. Due to the loss of this insurance coverage, overall cost of medical care has skyrocketed. On top of losing that health insurance coverage, many Americans also lost their job and thus their income source, making paying these high costs nearly impossible.  

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to offset these high medical costs. The bill’s protections provide a short-term solution for those struggling with medical debt. Democratic lawmakers are pushing heavily towards expanding health care and addressing the costs of medical treatment. Some of these efforts have been to reduce the negative effects medical debt has on a person’s credit score. 

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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 McMaken, P.A. website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Consumer Bankruptcy, COVID-19

Personal Bankruptcy Filings Drop in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic Relief

Personal bankruptcy filings are down, leaving many financial analysts questioning whether the drop in filings can be attributed to financial relief offered from governmental pandemic relief programs or to other economic factorsThis stimulus relief offered consumers a much-needed financial boost, but the question remains how long this boost will hold off future bankruptcy filings.