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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • Should I dispute this debt or just pay it to avoid a lawsuit?

    I opened a store credit account ten years ago. Six years ago, I lost my job and had some financial issues so I had to stop paying. Fast forward, the account has been charged off on my credit report. Last payment date was 2/22/10. Apparently the de...

    John’s Answer

    The statute of limitations should be expired if no payment has been made since February 2010.

    This should be coming off of your credit report in the next year or so.

    Has this new collection agency (a "debt buyer") threatened you with suit? If so, that would violate the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) in most cases.

    A quick and easy solution is set up a phone call with a lawyer who does this type of work and you can ask any questions and walk through your options.

    I've included a link below of an article (and there are many comments also) regarding the statute of limitations in Alabama.

    Best wishes and let me know if you would like to chat.

    John Watts

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  • How long can the second mortgage holder keep the lien on my property?

    I filed chapter 7 bankruptcy and received my discharge in November 2012. I surrendered my house and property. I am still living in the house, however one the banks is now offering a loan modification, but I had two mortgages. The second mortgage h...

    John’s Answer

    I'm assuming you did NOT reaffirm either the first or the second mortgage?

    As the others mentioned, the lien is on there until paid.

    Sometimes you can do a loan modification on a discharged debt -- you should not be personally liable if you miss payments. Remember, the debt is discharged.

    You will need to think this through carefully on whether you want to stay or leave and if you want to stay, whether you deal with the second now or in the future.

    Make sure you know the amounts -- sounds like second is higher than the first. How does this compare with the value of the property? How about both the first and second compared to the value of the property?

    Best wishes!

    John

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  • Can a company collect a bad check from 26 years ago? I am in shock. I am just hearing about this check.

    Bad check call from 26 years ago,I got a collection call from a company that guarantees bad checks. They said they were like an insurance company. Had a picture of a check from June 7, 1995 and wanted to collect 211.00 dollars. The check was 41.00...

    John’s Answer

    This is probably not legit.

    Here's the deal. The debt is beyond the statute of limitations unless you make a payment then that can restart the statute of limitations.

    Threatening to take money out of your check is illegal (violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) unless it is after a judgment. But they can only get a judgment if they sue. But to sue after the statute of limitations has expired violates the FDCPA.

    So I would send them a dispute letter (see below) and add to it that you believe this is beyond the statute of limitation and ask them to explain how they are going to sue you.

    I don't think you will hear from them again as most likely this is a scam place.

    If it is a legit place, then we sue them in Federal Court for money damages.

    Let me know who this is and I can let you know if it is legit or not.

    Best wishes and sorry having to deal with this nonsense....

    John Watts

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  • Is there a statute of limitations on returned check debt and do they have a right to pursue this debt after 13 years?

    I received a called from Data Check of America saying that I wrote a check for $51 in 2003 that was then deemed bad. They were able to show me the check and 2 letters that say that I owed $223 but they would settle for $123. Neither letter is da...

    John’s Answer

    Data Check of America will almost certainly be a "debt collector" under the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act).

    My suggestion is send them a dispute letter (sample one in link below) and add to it this: "It looks like you are trying to collect on an alleged debt that is beyond the statute of limitations. Are you going to sue me on this or credit report?"

    They can't sue you as outside the statute of limitations.

    They can't credit report as it is beyond the time to credit report.

    If they do either one or threaten to do either one, you should look at suing them under the FDCPA in Federal Court for money damages.

    Take careful notes of any conversations you have with them -- date, time, length of call (screenshot your cell phone to get this), substance of call, etc.

    I suspect they will leave you alone when they realize you are not going to pay them but if not get with a lawyer who does this type of work.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts

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  • Fighting an erranous collection account on credit report. (It's accurate but technically my case was mishandled unfairly)

    Ok -- So last year I was contacted by the Social Security Administration about an over payment and they demanded full payment be paid back. I called and asked to complete a waiver which was denied, so I asked the agency to settle with me for 60% a...

    John’s Answer

    Sorry you are dealing with this but sounds like the best solution.

    When you get the letter saying this was by mistake, you need to send that letter to the credit reporting agencies who are reporting this debt. It may not just be Equifax -- may be Experian and Transunion also.

    My suggestion -- and I've been suing credit reporting agencies for many years -- is to send your dispute letter by certified mail. Don't just do an online dispute. Send a real letter with the SSA letter. Explain what happened. Keep a signed copy your dispute letter.

    Who is reporting -- is it a collection agency or is it SSA?

    If you have questions about how to do your dispute letter, feel free to get in touch with us.

    Best wishes and hopefully you can get this cleared up shortly after you get your letter from SSA.

    John Watts

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  • If pay debt through a collection agency, should I pay the original amt. owed, or the reduced amt. offered in the letter ?

    Had a telephone bill that was never paid after moving. Tried to pay directly when I learned of the debt. from a credit report. Company rep said that the account had been turned over to collections and I could not pay direct.y. I received a letter...

    John’s Answer

    Several questions for you to consider:

    1. Is this showing up on your credit report now from the original creditor (phone company) or any debt collector?

    2. Will the debt collector agree in writing to not credit report or to delete the credit reporting if you pay?

    3. Do you agree on the amount claimed to be owed?

    The answers to these questions will help guide you on making the best decision.

    As Ron Sykstus mentioned there are a lot of issues to your very good question so my suggestion is get with one of us who practice in this area and once we know your unique situation we can give you some advice about which direction to go.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts

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  • Am I being scammed?

    I have had several calls over the last few days from a supposed debt collector. They've requested it be resolved or go to court. I did make an agreement with them to pay monthly payments. Guy says he is sending a contract for me to sign, but I hav...

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Probably so -- legitimate debt collectors (even ones who break the law) don't ask for money to be sent to a person. They want it sent to their company.

    And you should have received a letter from the debt collector company.

    Never pay any money just because someone calls you on the phone -- instead ask them questions and get them to send you proof in writing. Legitimate ones will do this -- the scammers don't want to use the mail. They want to email or fax but they are terrified of sending a fraudulent letter through the mail.

    Make sure you didn't give them your bank account info -- if you did get with your bank to let them know you were scammed.

    I'll put some links to some articles that may be helpful to you.

    Best wishes

    John Watts

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  • I am facing foreclosure and I have requested 3 times for home modification but bank has lost paperwork and more

    Only behind 5 payments but they have added a lot of fees I guess to keep me from coming up with reinstatement quote have several Misc. postings and reversal of payments

    John’s Answer

    If you are still before the foreclosure sale date, then you have a good number of options. One of the lawyers mentioned filing bankruptcy.

    You can also see about getting a loan modification or what is more broadly known as "loss mitigation" -- often the mortgage companies will violate the law in this process and that gives us an opportunity to sue them in federal court.

    We typically use the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) if it applies and RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) which applies to almost all mortgages.

    I have put a link to a free video series in Alabama about stopping and preventing a foreclosure -- feel free to go to it if you are willing to do the work to try to save your home. I mention this as some folks are NOT interested in doing anything -- I can't help those folks. But Alabama consumers that are interested in taking action give themselves a great advantage when dealing with the mortgage companies.

    Best wishes

    John Watts

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  • If you receive a summons for private student loan debt are you having a lien placed against you?

    I received a summons not to appear in court but to contact the attorney and the court house. I owe over 80k in private loan debt. I am aware of the debt but unable to pay the amounts they want me to pay due to other debts, IRS, medical, living exp...

    John’s Answer

    As the other lawyers have mentioned, you have likely been sued.

    A lien occurs after a judgment.

    A judgment occurs after you lose a case.

    So you are probably at the very beginning of your case.

    Contact an Alabama lawyer ASAP and you may want to watch the detailed student loan video I did on being sued by National Collegiate Student Loan Trust (NCSLT) who I assume sued you.

    Best wishes

    John Watts

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  • How do I prevent foreclosure of my property?

    I was 4 payments behind and I received a letter from AHFA stating my property is in foreclosure. Can I not reinstate my mortgage by making the past due payments? I am in Alabama. I am certain that I can make future payments on time but I don't wan...

    John’s Answer

    Has your house already been foreclosed? If so then your rights are much more limited.

    But if you have not yet been foreclosed, there are a number of options besides filing bankruptcy.

    Basic gist is you ask for "loss mitigation" and since you can make your payments (just not the back ones) then this will increase the chances of you qualifying for loss mitigation.

    We have a free workbook and video series for saving your home from foreclosure in Alabama in the link below.

    Best wishes

    John Watts

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