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The Most Dangerous Myth for Consumers in Debt

The Most Dangerous Myth for Consumers in Debt

For a free copy of this article in PDF format, click here: the Most Dangerous Myth

Consumers who owe money – debtors – often believe a lot of myths that are bad for them. Debtors can be desperate and will look for what seems the easiest, fastest way out of trouble. That makes sense – if you’re being sued you do need immediate action. But you must be on guard for myths that will hurt you by luring you into the wrong action, or no action.

And the worst myth being played to people being sued is the idea that somehow someone else will take care of them. It shows up in many ways and is always bad news. It isn’t necessarily your fault if you have believed this destructive myth – there are a lot of people peddling it. But your chances to beat the debt collectors and protect your money depend on your taking charge.

The Myth – where does it show up and how does it do so much damage?

Let’s look at some of the biggest examples of the myth that someone ELSE will take care of you.

People Think the Debt Collectors will Try to be Fair

Everybody KNOWS this: Debt collectors make very little effort to be fair once a lawsuit is filed – and they don’t try much before that, either.

Once you’re in a debt collector’s sights, the only thing they really care about is getting your money.  At the “harassment stage,” the debt collectors are paid depending on how much they can get you to pay, and not many people think they trust them to tell the truth. And yet so many people tell me they have offered information or money to the debt collectors or asked them to give them a break in some way. They SAY they don’t trust them, but then they depend on them to make a fair or helpful offer. And when they’re talking to them about “how much they owe,” they believe the debt collector instead of demanding proof.

You’ve learned to tell the truth, so you trust and believe the debt collector on the phone will tell you the truth. And you do that even while you, yourself, might feel free to lie to them at any given point.

The debt collectors know all that, and you can’t trust a word they say. You must take care of yourself, and with debt collectors, that means checking every fact they claim and making them write down every promise they make. Anything short of those things is trusting someone you don’t know, who doesn’t care about you, and has strong financial incentive to rip you off, to do the right thing. That’s naïve and foolish – and it happens all the time.

People Think the Lawyers Will be Fair

I know, you’ve probably heard the joke: “How do you know if a lawyer is lying?” – “His lips are moving.” It’s fashionable to say bad things about lawyers, and everybody knows, in the abstract, not to trust them. But there are two major forces going against you in a debt case. First, lawyers are not all untrustworthy, and most of them don’t sound like they are. They make their living by getting people to believe and trust them, after all. The second reason is more insidious: it is power. Lawyers in debt cases have the power to make your life very difficult. They can embarrass you, put you to enormous stress and expense, and they often treat you like dirt. In addition to that, they represent large, rich companies, while you are a financially stressed individual.

Faced with such a difficult situation, it’s easy to hope for the best. And if you can hope it, you can believe it, right?

Legal Ethics

The lawyers are supposed to be careful, at least, before filing suit. They have an ethical obligation not to bring meritless suits.

Do you believe they make that effort when suing debtors?  Probably not – and you would be right. The courts wink at the collection process, allowing lawyers to “rely” on the statements of the creditors that you owe the money. In the case of debt buyers, ironically, the very agreements by which they buy debt say that the records cannot be trusted and are not guaranteed. But the lawyers forge ahead usually without the slightest idea of what’s in the case, let alone whether it’s right or not.

And the courts let them.

On a more fundamental level, a lawyer’s main and almost exclusive duty is to the advantage of his or her client. It isn’t ethical for a lawyer to “cut you a break” at the expense of his or her client. They won’t ever do it.

And yet debtors share information and throw themselves on the mercy of these sharks by the thousands per DAY. That’s trusting the myth.

Trusting the Courts

Most people trust the courts. They know that a lot of judges are bozos in black gowns, and they know that most judges come from the plaintiff’s side of the law. They know the legal system is skewed in favor of the rich even as the laws are skewed in favor of the rich. They know, theoretically, that trusting judges to take care of them is a big mistake.

And yet you would not believe how many people tell me the judge should have seen through something or not allowed the debt collector to do something – often without even having asked the judge for what they wanted.

Know this: it is not the courts’s job to take care of you. They give only the briefest look, if any at all, at the outcomes of debt cases – they don’t have time, they don’t care, and they aren’t even supposed to care. The legal system is designed as an “adversary” system. That is, it is a fight, and in any fight people could use various strategies. The court will let you use almost any strategy you choose, and if that causes you to lose it isn’t their fault or concern.

The courts will not require the debt collectors to put on admissible evidence. If they did, most debt collectors would never win their cases. Instead, it is up to you to object to evidence you don’t like and make the court keep it out. If you don’t do that, the court lets it in.

And yet people expect the court to try to make the outcome of cases fair. They do not. Believing they will is believing the myth that someone else will take care of you.

In daily life, people do look out for each other quite a bit. In legal life, NEVER.

You wouldn’t believe how many people do not even show up in court “because they don’t owe the money.” They somehow trust someone to see that and care, but this is just foolish.

The Myth, outside of Court

People in debt frequently look to other people for help in the belief that those people will, in fact, help them. On the internet, there are people earnestly telling you that no one owes anybody anything (the “Accept for Value” idea), yet they’d be outraged if you didn’t pay them – just as you would be outraged if you went to work and your boss told you that. To believe the A4V theory is to believe that someone is taking care of you. More than that, to believe the people hawking that, or any other program, is also to believe the myth.

Even Me

Everything I’m saying here applies to me, too.  You might be surprised how often I get emails or messages asking me what they should do and presenting pages of facts or laws. They want me to take care of them – they are trusting me to take care of them.

Representing yourself pro se means developing your OWN judgment. It requires carefully weighing facts and motivations and coming to your own conclusions. It means figuring out the facts and how to get them.

It takes work, and it takes time.

When debt collectors sue you for debt, you have a very good chance to win. But it is up to you to make that happen. Our materials and memberships exist to help you know what you need to do and to help you do it. We want to teach you how to defend yourself. Once you learn that, it changes your whole view of the world. It frees you from the myth that someone else will do it for you and lets you soar on your own wings.

Your Legal Leg Up

Your Legal Leg Up is dedicated to helping people defend themselves from debt lawsuits without having to hire a lawyer. Lawsuits have a number of points where specific action is called or, and we have products to help you deal with most of these situations. We also have memberships that give you access to more materials and better training, and also provide a regular opportunity to ask questions and get answers in real-time. You can use this time to find out what the debt collectors are trying to do and what you might do in response, and you can get guidance on the issues that matter and how to think about and address them.

In addition to that, our website is a resource for all. Many of the articles and materials are reserved for members, but many others are available to everyone. Every page has a site search button in both the header and footer. Put in a key word – a word you think relates to what you’re looking for – and enter. You will get a page of results.

Products Related to this Article

Because this is a general article, there are not any products specifically related to this post. I do suggest asserting your rights early and often, and you might find our Take Control of your Life product helpful in that. I also suggest great care in researching and analyzing facts and law. You might find our Guide to Legal Research and Analysis product helpful for that.

Beyond that, if you are facing significant debt problems, I’d suggest our memberships.

Memberships

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Scam Report – Free Credit Report Dot Com

Like a lot of scams, this one may not be illegal, but I would argue that FreeCreditReport.com, which advertises “free” credit reporting, is deceptively marketed and designed to take advantage of people who are worried about their credit scores.

The Product: Freecreditreport.com

First, what is the product sold by the company? It is monitoring of your credit report created by Experion, including alerts warning you of new information which might harm your score. Since Experion is just one of the three main credit reporting agencies, and since these agencies may report different information on your report, the product is of very limited utility.

Second, there’s nothing free about this “free” credit reporting “service.” You can sign up for a trial offer of seven days. It costs a buck and gives you pretty much what you could get for free if you followed links provided by the government. Credit agencies are required to give you a free credit report once a year. At the end of the seven-day “trial” period (but the service may be inactive for the first two of those days), if you forget to cancel the service, they’ll be billing you for $16.95 per month until you do cancel.

Why It’s a Scam

I believe that setting up and heavily advertising something as free when it isn’t free is deceptive marketing. A trial period of only seven days – two days of which don’t even work – is clearly designed to trap and rip off people who aren’t on their toes. And it isn’t even free.

Maybe most important of all is the whole service anyway. To suggest that constantly monitoring one credit bureau is enough is false because the credit bureaus can have different information and you would need to check all three. Ironically, it is also true that getting your credit report every month is also much more than you need – you won’t need your report nearly that often if you are in process of repairing your report (as i suggest how to do in this month’s Life after Litigation article). The process moves much more slowly than that.So your actual need of the product is very limited. The service costs far more than it is worth in my opinion.

And finally, the who marketing of the service is designed to create impulse buys. The ads raise the prospect of identity theft or sudden action by credit bureaus and offer FreeCreditReport.com as some sort of solution. It would not in fact help much with either of these problems. Simply knowing that you’ve suffered identity theft or negative credit reports is only the small tip of the iceberg in protecting your rights.