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Nov 2016

Legal Alliance, PLLC—Warning Signs of a Stop Foreclosure Scam

Posted by / in Weekly Posts /

Legal Alliance, PLLC—Warning Signs of a Stop Foreclosure Scam.

Two people, just this week, brought me letters they got from an outfit calling itself Legal Alliance, PLLC. (One of the two had paid them $2500.)

This letter is chock full of the warning signs of a scam.

legal alliance, Pllc

First page of the Legal Alliance, PLLC letter claims they have “experienced real estate attorneys” but they never give you their names. Odd? A warning sign of a scam.

1. Claiming to be lawyers but no lawyer names.

Most lawyers love to put their names on stuff. (I can say that, since I’m a lawyer. And i put my name everywhere.) This Legal Alliance, PLLC has no names of any actual lawyers.  Why is that? Maybe the lawyer(s) behind it has a bad reputation. Maybe the lawyer(s) behind it has a good reputation that they don’t want mixed up with in something bad. Maybe they are unusually humble. Maybe.

2. Claiming to be lawyers but you don’t get to talk to a lawyer.

Here’s a quote from page three of the letter.

The client understands that he or she may be speaking with non-attorney staff member and that in that case all discussions are for general information and cannot be viewed or construed in any way to be legal advice. unless notified otherwise assume that you are speaking to a non-attorney.

The short version of that is, you can’t count on anything we say.

3. You promise not to sue.

This is even more spectacular.

The Client hereby agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Firm from and against any liability of any nature whatsoever arising out of, or in connection with this Agreement. In addition the client agrees to pay all the Firm’s legal costs associated with claims arising form this Agreement.

legal alliance, pllc letter with warning signs of a scam

Legal Alliance, PLLC wants you agree you will never sue then—even if they take your fee and do nothing.

Even if they take your $2500 and do absolutely nothing—and then lie about what they haven’t done—you aren’t allowed to sue them. And you agree with you sue them anyway, Legal Alliance, PLLC can sue you. 

Among other things, that provision is a legal ethics violation, in Virginia and many other states. Why would you trust someone who wanted you to sign that?

4. False claims?

Having warned you that you can’t count on their promises, what does Legal Alliance, PLLC tell you they will do?  In big letters: STOP THE FORECLOSURE SALE UNTIL THE BANK HAS PROVIDED ALL REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION, WHICH THEY MAY NOT HAVE.

“May not have?” Well anything is possible. Just  ask them, ‘can you give me the contact info on just two of your clients where you have successfully stopped the foreclosure. Just two.’ See what they say. 

They double down on that promise: We ensure they have all of the required documentation. IN MOST CASES THEY DON’T.

That I know isn’t true. And over the years, out of more than 15,000 bankruptcy clients, I’ve seen three or four cases where the mortgage papers were messed up in some way that helped save someone’s home. But that’s less than one out of a thousand. No where near “most cases.”

5. Phony time lines and useless activity.

Here’s the specific thing Legal Alliance, PLLC promises to do. They promise to send a Qualified Written Request to the mortgage company that’s foreclosing you. Sounds good, why do I say it’s phony? Your mortgage company has thirty business days—that’s six weeks, or more if there’s a holiday in there—to answer that Qualified Written Request. But, they send their letter out thirty calendar days before the foreclosure sale is set. In other words, by the time they get the documents which are supposedly gonna stop the foreclosure, they are two weeks too late.

So, they never give you any legal advice, send one letter, get no information in time to do anything to stop the foreclosure, and then? Sometimes they send you to a bankruptcy lawyer, where you should have gone to begin with. And your $2500 is down the drain.

Why do People Fall for Scams?

The purpose of bankrutpcy is to help you. But bankruptcy requires complicated, annoying paper work and it can be expensive. (In some cases I’m charging less than $2500; some cases a lot more. It depends on how complicated your situation is, and what you are trying to do.)

Some people don’t want to take the time and spend the money to get a law and a lawyer on your side. So they fall for simpler, cheaper scams.




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Oct 2016

Debt Collectors Keep Calling Me At Work

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Why do debt collectors keep calling me at work after I tell them to stop?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from debt collectors calling your workplace.  But, if you tell them you want them to stop, the debt collectors keep calling.

How’s that?

To get them to stop calling, you need to know the right words to say.

“Don’t call me here” doesn’t work. Nether does “please don’t call me at work.” On this, debt collectors do not have to pay attention to what you want. You need to tell them your employer doesn’t allow you to take debt collector calls at work.

Here’s the right way to say it.


debt collectors keep calling at work

“I told you not to call me here.” Say that, and the debt collectors keep calling.

“The boss doesn’t let me take your calls at work.”  Or, “I’m not allowed to get personal business calls at work.” 

The legal authority for this is found in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCP) at 15 usc 1692c(a)(3).  It says “a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt—at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.” 

You have to say it’s the boss—not you—who doesn’t want debt collectors calling.

What Else Works to Stop the Debt Collectors Calling?

There are three other magic word phrases that work. Two of them have to be in writing.

 “Don’t contact me any more.” On the phone, “don’t contact me  anymore” does nothing. But if you send it in writing they have to stop. That one is pretty straight forward.

“I refuse to pay.” This is another phrase where it’s easy to get the wording wrong. “I don’t know what debt you’re talking about” doesn’t help; the debt collectors keep calling. “That’s not my debt” doesn’t help. “I’m out of work and can’t pay you anything” doesn’t help either. 

To all those reasons why you are not paying, you need to add “I refuse to pay.”  Like this: “I don’t know what debt you are talking about and I refuse to pay.” The refuse to pay response, like the don’t contact me response, has to be in writing.

(One of the top FDCPA lawyers in the country, Dick Rubin, told me that sometimes telling them “I refuse to pay” can really hack off them, so instead the debt collectors keep calling. But if the debt collectors keep calling, after you put in writing that you refuse to pay, you can sue their pants off.) 

“Call my lawyer”

“Call my lawyer”—those are more magic words. “Call my lawyer” can be on the phone; it doesn’t have to be in writing. My clients often tell me that saying “call my lawyer” to pushy debt collectors can be a lot of fun. (You do have to tell them who your lawyer is. But the lawyer’s name and contact info is all you have to give them.)

This only works on debt collectors

The law assume that original creditors, like the credit card or car finance company or hospital, will be relatively polite in collecting their own debts. (They don’t want a bad reputation in the community.) But debt collector want to be known for being mean; so the law protects you against those debt collectors.  Here’s what Congress said: “Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.” 15 USC 1692. 

When debt collectors stop calling, they can still send you court papers

Stopping the phone calls is only a temporary solution. The debts are still there. If you only have one debt that’s gone bad, maybe you can work something out. If you have lots of debt problems, maybe it’s time to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer.

Some people think bankruptcy is some kind of punishment because you can’t pay your bills. But actually, the purpose of bankruptcy is to help you. If you have honest debts that you just can’t pay, call me today. You’ll like our friendly service with a smile.


Nolo has this wrong. They say, “simply tell the debt collector to stop calling you at work.” That doesn’t work.

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Sep 2016

Why Filing Bankruptcy Stops Payroll Garnishment: Virginia Law

Posted by / in Virginia Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Why Filing Bankruptcy Stops Payroll Garnishment: Virginia Law, Virginia Form

I’m surprised a couple times each month by Virginia employers who don’t know that bankruptcy stops payroll garnishment. Some employers think they need to keep on garnishing, until they get an order from a judge saying to stop. But if you read the Garnishee’s Answer Form, it tells you exactly what to do.  

(If you don’t have the form handy, please check the link so you can follow along. I’ve inserted the form down below, but it’s too small to read.)

Please Mail Checks or Responses

If you read the form, up at the top, point 4 says, “Please mail checks or responses….” That tells you right there, you can mail a “check” or a “response.” So you don’t have to mail a check. You can mail a response.

Below that, you have ten boxes you can select. The first one is “Enclosed is a check…” 

There are 9 Excuses for Not Mailing Checks

After “enclosed is a check,” there are nine other responses. Those nine are your excuses for not mailing a check. Those nine excuses are listed right on the form. They are called responses. Responses you can legally send in instead of checks.

After the “Enclosed is a check” response, look at the nine other boxes. The first one is pretty obvious: “the garnishee holds no money…” If the debtor does not work for you, or bank with you, you don’t have to send in any money. That’s clear.

The second one is slightly different: “The garnishee does not have sufficient information to reasonably identify…” If the garnishment is for John Smith, your company might have eight John Smith’s. If there’s no social security number and the address doesn’t match any of the eight, you’d select that box. (Or if your company only has one John Smith, but there’s no social security number and the address doesn’t match.) 

Then there are other boxes for: doesn’t work here anymore; the amount of the garnishment isn’t filled in; not making enough money to be garnished; already being garnished by someone else.

“The judgment debtor has filed a bankruptcy petition”

Bankruptcy stops payroll garnishment

“Judgment debtor filed bankruptcy” is one of the nine reasons to NOT send checks. Sorry this is so small, but you can see the form full size, here.

The eighth box is “the judgment debtor has filed a bankruptcy petition…” Like the other boxes, the debtor’s bankruptcy is a legal answer to the garnishment. Filing bankruptcy is a legal excuse for not sending in a check. It’s a response that’s right on the form that asks you to mail “checks or responses.” 

So if you get notice that your employee has filed bankruptcy, you don’t need to wonder what to do. Pick up the form. Select the box that says “The judgment debtor has filed a bankruptcy petition.” Mail that response. That’s it; you’ve done what the court asked you to do. Finished. You are supposed to send checks or responses. You’ve sent your response. 

You’ve checked the box you are supposed to check and done what you’re supposed to do.

Bankruptcy Stops Payroll Garnishment: Does The Form Seem Too Simple?

Even if you didn’t have the form, you should know (or your lawyer, anyway, should know) that bankruptcy stops payroll garnishment. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen S. Mitchell explained why that is, in 18 pages, in the case of Madge Lebrun. (I was Ms. Lebrun’s lawyer.) If you don’t believe the form, you—or your lawyer—can read, here how Judge Mitchell explained bankruptcy stops payroll garnishment. 

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