Because I’ve been following the ongoing story of the Federal Trade Commission investigations of credit repair businesses, I wanted to tell my Indiana bankruptcy clients about related developments in Indiana. The first thing Indiana debtors need to know is that the office of Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter is where any consumer complaints are handled. It was very interesting to see that on the Attorney General’s website, in a section titled “Be Aware Of Typical Scams”, one that is listed is Credit Repair. The website goes on to repeat what I’ve been emphasizing in my blogs: “Credit repair scams offer to erase accurate negative information from your credit file…Remember if you lie on an application for a loan, job, or credit card, you will be committing fraud.” The website repeats what I’ve been saying about debtors looking for help in the wrong places, reminding consumers that no one can guarantee to erase bad credit.
I learned that, while Indiana has not been one of 36 states directly involved with the FTC’s “Operation Clean Sweep” of credit repair operations, both the Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana are active in protecting our state’s consumers against scams and identity theft.
The main point I want to stress here is that consumers who face mounting debts need to explore all their options as quickly as possible and select a course of action. Here’s the bottom line: If you spend months of precious time looking for help in a variety of different places, certain options are going to be closed off to you.
There’s one thing I’ve found to be true of almost all the thousands of bankruptcy clients with whom I visit in my four bankruptcy law offices each year; they are not financially irresponsible folks, not at all. Usually what I learn is that a combination of negative life events – hospital bills, a breadwinner laid off work, a business reversal, a divorce, unprecedented drop in the value of their home – has derailed years of good financial management. Counseling on how to manage a budget is not really going to help those who have been hit with several of these things all at once. Meanwhile, interest and penalties on their debts continue on.
Call me biased, but after twenty five years of working with tens of thousands of bankruptcy clients, I’ve learned that thorough legal counseling is what is needed – and the earlier, the better!