Nothing makes me more frustrated than finding out someone read something on the internet that was wrong and then it influenced that person’s decision.
Last week, I had a colleague reach out to me regarding a company that his client hired to help him with some debt issues. The client thought he had done debt consolidation, but the company’s information on their website says that they only do debt settlement or debt negotiation. So, the first issue was the client likely did not fully understand what he had signed up for in the first place.
Then, I started looking at the company’s website. It gave wrong information about the benefits of their program and also very wrong information about the difference between debt settlement and bankruptcy. Here is the paragraph from their site that I am going to pick apart:
“Bankruptcy is an option that is generally treated as a last resort and if you need to protect appreciating assets. It will remain on your credit report for as long as 10 years & you can be denied employment, state licenses, insurance, as well as tenancy of an apartment. Most importantly, you can be denied virtually any type of credit with a bankruptcy on your report for several years. In addition, since the bankruptcy laws have changed recently, it is even more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7, the method of liquidating assets to eliminate your debt. You will not be allowed to discharge alimony, child support, taxes, student loans, judgments, or any loan on the bankruptcy petition. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debt payments are simply restructured meaning you will still have to pay a percentage of your debts while you suffer the consequences of bankruptcy. Debt negotiation is an alternative to bankruptcy.”
How is this wrong? Let me count the ways.
- There are very specific situations where a bankruptcy can be used against you in employment and they are very few. I did an interview on this topic with Kira Feick of Ignite HR because it’s such a misconception.
- For insurance, your credit score cannot be used to raise your rate or deny you insurance in California. If you consent to using your credit score, the only thing the insurance company can do with it is lower your rate.
- You can be denied credit for anything at any time, whether you have a bankruptcy or not. However, you qualify for a mortgage a year after bankruptcy and a car loan immediately after bankruptcy. You will receive credit card offers BEFORE your bankruptcy is completed. If you are in a debt settlement program, you will not get credit because all of your accounts are in collections.
- The bankruptcy laws have not recently changed. The last time there was a significant change in qualifying for bankruptcy was 2005 (14 years ago…). There are also a number of ways to qualify for Chapter 7 (and sometimes Chapter 13 is a better route – see last week’s post).
- The list of things they say you cannot discharge is pretty much wrong. You can discharge taxes in many circumstances, judgments, and all personal loans.
- Finally, they try to scare you by saying that in Chapter 13, you still have to pay your debts back. Shocking. You have to pay more back with “debt negotiation” than with Chapter 13 in most cases. Again, see my recent post on what’s so great about Chapter 13, because people generally recover much more quickly from filing Chapter 13 than trying a multi-year debt settlement program.
Researching online can be a good thing, but make sure that you make your final decision based on knowing all of your rights and options, not just the one they are trying to sell you.
This is just a basic overview and is not legal advice specific to your situation. If you have questions about your rights when it comes to debt and credit, you should speak with an attorney in your area for legal advice. If you live in California or North Dakota and would like to speak with Jen Lee Law regarding your situation, please schedule an appointment.