Another Day, Another Scam: Beware of Con Artists

If you use email, frequent the Internet, have a telephone, or open your door to solicitors, it’s likely that you will be targeted by con artists at some time in your life. If you are very active on the internet, that likelihood seems to increase daily. Con artists are sharp, believable, and creative, and they want your money, usually right now. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is … so says the office of State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton, Orange County, Florida.

Tips to Help You Avoid Con Artists’ Schemes …

Beware of terms, such as Cash Only, Secret Plans, Something for Nothing, Haste, Today Only and Last Chance in e-mails, Internet ads, or from telephone solicitors. If it sounds too good to be true, you are likely to be dealing with a scam artist. In addition ….

  • Work from home schemes are almost always scams.
  • Avoid “pay today” pressure tactics.
  • Get specifics from anyone who offers you something you are interested in.
  • When accommodations are included in a special offer (perhaps for a free vacation) check to make sure the hotel exists and to confirm payment and reservations.
  • Always ask about the refund policy before you buy. And get it in writing.
  • Read a contract before signing, and when in doubt, have someone you trust review it.

To Avoid Being Targeted by Online Scammers  …

  • Keep your private information private. Be very careful about information you share on Facebook and other social media. Provide as few details as possible in your online profiles, especially if they can be used to steal your identity.
  • Know the online merchants you deal with. Check out their websites and make sure you are using their official website when conducting online business.
  • Only download APPs (computer applications) from the Official Apps Store on your phone, not by clicking on an Internet ad.
  • Take nothing for granted. Always question out-of-this-world claims.
  • Make sure your transaction is secure. Look for “https” (note the s) in the URL in your browser and look for the lock symbol, as well.
  • Watch out for .exe files that can ruin your hard drive or collect information. Never open a file from a source you are not 100% certain you can trust.
  • Block inappropriate sites.

If you believe you are targeted by a con artist, contact your local State Attorney’s Consumer Protection Department. You can reach the State Attorney 9th Judicial Circuit (Orange County, FL) by ..

  • E-mail: FraudHelp@sao9.org
  • Phone: 407.836.2490
  • Mail: Orange County Consumer Fraud Unit, 415 N. Orange Avenue, P.O. Box 1673, Orlando, FL 32801

The State Attorney prosecutes criminal violations of Florida consumer protection statutes. For more information, visit the State Attorney’s consumer education website.

While the majority of businesses in Florida are honest and trustworthy, there is a small but very active minority of business people who are not the least bit interested in customer satisfaction and who resort to fraudulent, unfair or deceptive practices to maximize their profits. The Central Florida area is a favorite target of fly-by-night swindlers and itinerants who often pass through leaving a trail of unhappy victims before local law enforcement agencies are even aware of their presence.

In some cases, consumers will need to pursue their own case in court and seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. Solomita Law may be reached at 407-545-3625.

 

Welcome to the Solomita Law Blog

Alec Solomita Head Shot Not only have we just launched a new law practice, but I’m pleased to begin sharing thoughts, news, legal opinions and information with you through our new blog platform. If you like, you can share your own concerns with me, too, via the contacts form at our law practice website, www.SolomitaLaw.com. Also, feel free to share your comments with my readers and me right here on our blog site.

Mostly, the Solomita Law Blog will feature legal topics, but I’ll also address real life concerns. As an attorney, I want to help ensure that you get to enjoy your own life, so I’ve dedicated myself to helping protect my clients, their families, their assets, their reputations, and their legal rights. I want you to have the same protections and rights under the law that I would want for my own family.

Solomita Law focuses on bankruptcy and debt relief while also assisting clients with general legal services. Our experience extends to debt collection and debt negotiation, FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) violations, family law, immigration, and landlord/tenant law. I hope you’ll trust me to answer your legal questions because it’s my goal to help educate legal consumers and citizens. Feel free to submit your legal questions to me via the easy-to-use form at www.SolomitaLaw.com. Or, if you prefer, please reach out by telephone (407-535-3625) or email Staff@SolomitaLaw.com.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients who struggle with finances, fear the wrath of creditors, and want to clear a path for financial solvency. I’ve help them find their fresh start, sometimes through bankruptcy proceedings and other times through debt relief strategies. I’ve also helped numerous clients with their respective immigration issues. And I’ve assisted with basic legal concerns as well. If you have questions, I encourage you to learn what you need to know to make informed decisions.

Over my years of practice, I’ve become deeply familiar with the complicated process that the Federal Court requires when filing bankruptcy. To effectively represent clients, I work with each client to explore the specific issues relating to his/her/their qualification for a certain chapter of bankruptcy and evaluate whether and how their assets can be protected.

You might be wondering what kind of lawyer I really am, so I’ll tell you a bit about me:  I make it a point to communicate regularly with my clients and to be as accessible as possible throughout a legal engagement—from the pre-filing stage until a client receives a debt discharge through the courts, or depending on each individual case, reaches another appropriate legal remedy. I also treat clients the way I want to be treated: with honesty, sensitivity, integrity and a commitment to ensuring a positive experience. To learn more about my background, visit my About Page.

We are grateful for the opportunities this practice has already begun bringing people in need of legal support. We appreciate the many gifts of service and support that this new firm represents to me and my family. And we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead. Stay tuned …

Frequently Asked Questions by Solomita Law Clients — Part ll

In our prior article, Solomita Law answered three frequently asked questions about bankruptcy. This article addresses other common queries.

Must I include every one of my debts in a bankruptcy filing or may I elect to pay off certain debts without applying for a discharge?
All debts must be included in the bankruptcy petition. Certain debts such as student loans and child support (among others) will not qualify for discharge. Other debts, like mortgage and vehicle loans, can be repaid during the bankruptcy and after the discharge is entered as well.

Can a creditor file a new claim after I have filed a bankruptcy petition? What happens to new claims?
When you file for a bankruptcy judgment, the courts issue an automatic stay that will prevent additional creditor actions during the time of bankruptcy. This can buy you valuable time to stay in your home while exploring your financial options, finding a new place to live, preparing your belongings for a move, conducting your move, and/or applying for a mortgage modification.

An automatic stay also stops creditors from harassing you for payments and/or making claims during that time. However, creditors may elect to pursue you for debts that were not discharged during bankruptcy. During bankruptcy, the judge may discharge non-secure debts in full or in part (depending on circumstances and rules of the bankruptcy chapter under which you qualify). If debt remains, the judge also may establish a plan and order you to continue paying secured debts and non-dischargeable debts. Generally, the plan will be based on what the court determines you can afford to pay based on the total you owe and will establish a three-to-five year payment plan.

Will I lose my home if I file bankruptcy?
The answer depends on your mortgage history, the state in which you reside and the bankruptcy chapter under which you file. If you file under Chapter 13 in the State of Florida where Solomita Law operates, you have a good chance of keeping your home. The bankruptcy court’s Mortgage Modification Mediation Program has proven to be very successful for debtors in the Central Florida area. This program can help make your payments more affordable so you can stay in your home—particularly if you continued to make regular, on-time mortgage payments before filing for bankruptcy.

Will I be allowed to keep my furniture, car or other personal property?
The court provides each debtor with exemptions that they can use to protect their assets. If the exemptions used do not shield the full value of your assets, as the debtor, you will have to repay the unexempt amount to the Court or surrender possession of the unprotected asset. Please contact Solomita Law for further information on this topic.

Can I sell or transfer property before filing bankruptcy?
The courts will look at your financial transactions over the year prior to your bankruptcy to ensure those transactions did not occur with intent to commit fraud. If, for example, you sold a car six months earlier, and used the money to pay attorney fees or to purchase or repair an old car and use the remaining money to continue paying your bills, the court may consider those transactions an appropriate part of your debt management plan.

If you are considering a bankruptcy petition, speak to an attorney who can help you protect your assets and your standing in court. It’s important to make informed decisions before selling or transferring property so you do not jeopardize your opportunity to discharge debts through bankruptcy proceedings.

For more information, contact Solomita Law at 407-545-3625, or send email to Staff@SolomitaLaw.com. We will respond to your questions as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions by Solomita Law Clients — Part l

Many people under financial duress avoid filing for bankruptcy because they don’t understand how bankruptcy works, don’t know where to turn for information, or fear that they will not be able to live a normal life after bankruptcy. In fact, bankruptcy law provides a means for recovering from excessive debt, and many (possibly even most) people who qualify to file bankruptcy wish they hadn’t waited so long.

Below, Solomita Law provides answers to three of the most frequently asked questions from clients considering bankruptcy.

Will I be free and clear of debts if the court approves my bankruptcy filing?

Not all debts are dischargeable through bankruptcy. Typically, in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, qualified debtors may be released from all unsecured debts. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, a debtor may be relieved of certain debts, depending on individual circumstances,, and in general, most debts managed under Chapter 13 include a repayment plan that allows the borrower more affordable payments each month, until those debts are paid, typically within three to five years.

Recent tax debts, as well as child support, criminal restitution and student loans will not be discharged through bankruptcy court; and, in certain cases, the Court may order a borrower to repay these debts in full during the course of the bankruptcy.

How can I protect my assets under bankruptcy?
Your ability to protect assets under rules of law depends on your individual case and the bankruptcy chapter under which you qualify for relief. For specific advice on the merits of your case, speak with a qualified bankruptcy attorney.

Certain assets, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are protected under 11 U.S.C § 522(d) and cannot be involuntarily used to repay creditors in a bankruptcy. Do not allow a creditor to harass you into using your retirement savings to pay a debt! Creditors are not allowed to demand or place a lien against your retirement savings. Varying levels of home equity and motor vehicles (depending on their monetary value) also may be protected from creditors provided that payments are not in arrears and continue to be made regularly according to your loan agreement.

Is there any way to stop creditors from harassing me through bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy court offers debtors relief from creditor harassment by order of an “automatic stay” that goes into effect when a bankruptcy petition is filed. The automatic stay essentially freezes your estate in time and protects you against further creditor actions while your attorney presents your case and advocates on your behalf with the bankruptcy trustee and judge.

The automatic stay stops a creditor from proceeding against a debtor to recover a claim that arose before the bankruptcy filing. During the stay (usually for the length of the bankruptcy proceeding), creditors are prohibited from any act to obtain possession of property of the debtor’s estate or to exercise control over the property of the estate. Creditors may not create, perfect (complete), or enforce any lien against the property, nor may they act to collect, assess or recover a claim that arose before the case.

After a bankruptcy discharge or plan is entered by the Court, the automatic stay is lifted; at that point, creditors must abide by the terms established by the judge. In some cases, debts may be entirely discharged (eliminated). In other cases, the court will establish a debt repayment plan based on the court’s judgment of your ability to pay.

Watch for answers to other common questions in Part II of this article. Or, if you are considering filing bankruptcy and wish to discuss your needs, feel free to contact Solomita Law at 407-545-3625 or send email to Staff@SolomitaLaw.com. We will respond to your questions as soon as possible.