Fraud Alert for Bankruptcy Filers

Bankruptcy Court


“New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster issues the following caution for people who have filed or may soon file for bankruptcy. There is an on-going telephone scam related to individuals who have filed bankruptcy papers in court. The scammers, apparently using information from public filings in the bankruptcy court, will call a person who has filed for bankruptcy, claiming to be that person’s lawyer, the lawyer’s partner or a member of their law office staff. Using software that can affect a person’s caller ID system, they make it appear that the call is actually coming from the person’s lawyer. The scammers instruct the unwitting consumer to immediately wire money to satisfy a debt. The calls may be made late in the evening or during non-business hours so the person receiving the call cannot contact his or her lawyer to confirm the request. Any person who receives such a call should not wire funds and should contact their lawyer as soon as possible. Scams should also be reported to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau at 1-888-468-4454.  Consumers with consumer-related complaints or concerns can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Information Line at 1-888-468-4454 or file a complaint on-line.”

Read the entire Press Release at the NH Attorney General’s website.

Although it is possible to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney, it is not a step to be taken lightly. If you do not understand the law or if you fill out the forms incorrectly, you may unnecessarily lose property or jeopardize your discharge.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to a competent and insured bankruptcy attorney to help you decide whether bankruptcy is the right step for you.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Time-barred Debts

Some debts may be too old for a debt collector to make you pay, according to an article by Cristina Miranda, Consumer Education Specialist at the Federal Trade Commission.

Debt collectors can contact you about time-barred debts at any time. If you get a call from a debt collector, they might come right out and say they can’t take you to court to make you pay a time-barred debt. If a debt collector doesn’t tell you this, ask for the date when you made your most recent payment. Then, ask for a validation notice – a legally required letter detailing the amount owed, and the creditor name. Once you receive the notice, send a letter back within 30 days explaining that you are ‘disputing’ the debt and that you want to ‘verify’ it. Debt collectors must stop trying to collect until they give you verification.

To find out what to do if you are sued, and if you have to pay the debt, read the entire article.

This video from the FTC provides additional information:  Dealing with Debt Collectors

If you are sued over a time-barred debt (or any debt), don’t ignore it. The Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney who can assist you with defending your debt collection rights.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Consumer Protection Overview

No Credit Needed signNew Hampshire’s primary consumer protection law, “Regulation of Business Practices for Consumer Protection,” is commonly known as the Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A).   The New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of any unfair or deceptive act or practice or any unfair method of competition in trade or commerce in New Hampshire. The state law specifically identifies the following practices as unfair or deceptive:

  • Claiming that goods are new or original when they are used, secondhand, deteriorated, reconditioned or altered.
  • Claiming that goods or services have certain characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or qualities, or certain sponsorship or approval when they really do not have such, or that a person has a certain sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he or she really does not have.
  • Falsifying the place of origin of goods or services.
  • Passing off goods or services as someone else’s.
  • Disparaging another business’ goods or services by false or misleading statements.
  • Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised or failing to have a reasonable supply of goods or services provided on hand (unless the advertisement specifically says that quantities are limited).
  • Making false or misleading statements about the existence of, reasons for, or amount of price reductions.
  • Conducting “going out of business sales” which last more than 60 days or which are held more than once every two years by the same owners of the business.
  • Selling gift certificates for $100.00 or less that have expiration dates. (This does not apply to gift certificates or coupons that are given away.)
  • Dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges that have the effect of reducing the total amount for which the holder may redeem a gift certificate are prohibited. (Does not apply to season passes.)

The above list provides examples of deceptive acts and is not an exhaustive list. In addition, some entities are “exempt” from the jurisdiction of the state court regarding consumer protection statutes violations so complaints must be filed with the entities regulating agency. For example, mortgage servicers are regulated by the NH Banking Department, so any complaint against a mortgage servicer regarding violation of NH Consumer Protection statute must be filed with the NH Banking Department.

How to file a Complaint in NH Courts

If you feel a business has violated the Consumer Protection Act, you may file a lawsuit seeking damages in NH state courts. If the court finds a violation, you may be entitled to an award for actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000 and payment of your attorney’s fees. If the court finds a violation was willful, you may be entitled to double or treble damages.

How to file a Complaint with Attorney General’s Office

Alternatively, or in addition to a state court complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Complaints are read and reviewed in the order in which they are received by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau. The bureau responds to complaints as quickly as possible. Information about how to file a complaint and the complaint review process can be found here.  If the bureau initiates an action against the business, it initiates the investigation and complaint on its own behalf and not as your attorney.

Additional Information

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office provides a Consumer Sourcebook as a comprehensive guide with useful links to the following:

  • General information about the laws that apply to a variety of consumer transactions.
  • Examples of how the law might apply to a situation.
  • Points to keep in mind if you find yourself in a variety of circumstances.
  • Ideas for where to turn for more help.

NH Debt Collection Law

Debt collection practices in New Hampshire are governed by both state statute and federal law: The New Hampshire’s Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (RSA 358-C); and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692-1695.)

Both are designed to instruct debt collectors as well as consumers as to the limits of collection practices, while protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices. The laws are also in place to provide consumers an avenue for recourse in disputing a claim.

Both the state statute and federal act provide illustrative examples, and expressly allow consumers to sue debt collectors for violations of pertinent statutory provisions.

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must always:

  • Identify themselves and notify the consumer that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
  • Give the name and address of the original creditor
  • Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt
  • Provide verification of the debt within 30 days of request

If you believe your rights have been violated under any of these laws, consulting with an attorney who regularly handles Consumer Protection cases can make all the difference.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to the right one, at no cost to you.  Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online request form.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commonsfrankieleon

What Bankruptcy Can and Cannot Do

What Can Bankruptcy Do for Me?

Bankruptcy may make it possible for you to:

  • Eliminate the legal obligation to pay most or all of your debts. This is called a “discharge” of debts. It is designed to give you a fresh financial start.
  • Stop or substantially delay foreclosure on your house or mobile home and allow you an opportunity to catch up on missed payments.
  • In some cases, “strip off” a second mortgage if the value of your home exceeds the balance on the first mortgage.
  • Prevent repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.
  • Stop debt collection calls, harassment, lawsuits, and similar creditor actions.
  • Restore or prevent termination of utility service.
  • Challenge the claims of creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise trying to collect more than you really owe.
  • Actually improve your credit score, as your old debts, defaulted debts, and bad debts are discharged.

What Bankruptcy Cannot Do

Bankruptcy cannot, however, cure every financial problem. Nor is it the right step for every individual. In bankruptcy, it is usually not possible to:

  • Eliminate child support, alimony, other debts related to divorce, most student loans, court restitution orders, criminal fines, and some taxes.
  • Protect cosigners on your debts. When a relative or friend has co-signed a loan, even though the debt is discharges as to the debtor in bankruptcy, the cosigner may still have to repay all or part of the loan.
  • Discharge debts that arise after bankruptcy has been filed.

Bankruptcy cannot solve all money problems. If your income is insufficient to pay your mortgage and other regular bills you may need to consider making significant and painful choices, which may well include a bankruptcy filing. In addition, there are restrictions upon filing another bankruptcy proceeding after receiving a discharge.

For more information regarding bankruptcy, read the entire pamphlet entitled “Bankruptcy” from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Remember, the law often changes and each case is different.  This information was meant to give general information and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

A decision to file bankruptcy should be made only after determining that bankruptcy is the best way to deal with your financial situation.  A consultation with an experience bankruptcy attorney can help.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association today for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

In Bankruptcy, What Property Can I Keep?

Bankruptcy CourtIn a bankruptcy case, you can keep all property which the law says is “exempt” from the claims of creditors. You can choose between state law exemptions or federal law exemptions.

Federal exemptions include:

  • $22,975 equity in your home;
  • $3,675 in equity in your car;
  • $575 per item in any household goods up to a total of $12,250;
  • $1,550 in jewelry;
  • $2,300 in things you need for your job (tools, books, etc,);
  • $1,225 in any property, plus part of the unused exemption in your home, up to $11,500;
  • Your right to receive certain benefits such as social security, unemployment compensation, veteran’s benefits, public assistance, and pensions—regardless of the amount;

You must have lived in New Hampshire for the last two years to use the New Hampshire exemption laws. New Hampshire exemptions include:

  • $100,000 in equity in your home
  • $4,000 equity in you car
  • Up to $3,500 in household furnishings
  • $5,000 in things you need for your job (i.e. tools, books, etc.)
  • $1,000 in any property plus up to $7,000 of unused other exemptions
  • $500 in jewelry
  • Most retirement plans, social security, unemployment and other public assistance benefits
  • New Hampshire law also protects up to 6 sheep, one hog, one pig, and either a horse a cow or a yoke of oxen.

The exemption amounts are doubled when a married couple files together.

In determining whether property is exempt, you must keep a few things in mind.  First, property value is not the amount you paid for it, but what it is worth today. Especially for furniture and cars, this may be a lot less than what you paid or what it would cost to buy a replacement.

Further, you only need to look at the equity in your property. This means that you count your exemptions against the full value minus any money that you owe on mortgages or liens. For example, if you own a $50,000 house with a $40,000 mortgage, you have $10,000 of equity in your property. Under New Hampshire exemptions, if the equity is under $100,000, the property is fully protected. In this case, the property if fully protected.

For more information regarding bankruptcy, read the entire pamphlet entitled “Bankruptcy” from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Remember, the law often changes and each case is different.  This information was meant to give general information and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

A decision to file bankruptcy should be made only after determining that bankruptcy is the best way to deal with your financial situation.  A consultation with an experience bankruptcy attorney can help.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association today for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.


LawLine: Free Legal Advice – 800-868-1212

Do you have a BRIEF LEGAL QUESTION? LawLine, the NH Bar Association’s free legal hotline is held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 6 – 8 pm.

Volunteer New Hampshire attorneys will take calls from the public and will give brief legal information and advice. This is a FREE public service. Call 1-800-868-1212.

Do you have more than a brief legal question and suspect you may need an attorney to represent you?  The NH Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to a competent local  attorney who handles your type of legal matter.  Call (603) 229-0002 today or fill out the Lawyer Referral Service request form at:

Campus Debit Cards May Carry Hidden Fees

According to a report by the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)  many banks are taking advantage of students who need campus debit cards to access their financial aid.  They may appear to be an easy low-cost solution to handling finances while in school, but many of these cards carry excessive hidden fees.

“Campus debit cards are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Rich Williams, one of the co-authors of the USPIRG report, said in a recent press release,  “Students think they can access their dollars freely, but instead their aid is being eaten up in fees.”

Although campus debit cards are not required to access a student’s financial aid, many banks market their product directly on colleges’ financial aid websites, often creating the perception of being the only option.

Debit cards have received less federal oversight. And, according to a study, by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, an advocacy organization, nearly 900 colleges and universities have card relationships with banks or other financial institutions, some of which manage student aid disbursements by turning student IDs into debit cards. Some schools save money by outsourcing administrative costs. Others receive payments from the banks.

Read the entire article by Jeff Ousley at



Few Borrowers in Foreclosure Apply for Free Review

Only a tiny percentage of the 4.3 million homeowners facing foreclosure have applied for a free foreclosure  review to check for errors, despite the fact that they could be eligible for up to $100,000 if errors are found.

The review process was put into effect as a result of the “robo-signing” scandal, where several banks admitted to mishandling some foreclosure documents, resulting in some homeowners wrongfully losing their homes.

In the wake of the scandal, federal bank regulators required 14 mortgage companies to establish the Independent Foreclosure Review process.

The review costs homeowners nothing, but at last count, only 165,000 people — fewer than 4 percent of those eligible — have applied.

The original April 30 deadline has since been extended to July 31.

Read the entire story by Yuki Noguchi at NPR.

Find out if you are eligible for an independent foreclosure review.

If you are facing foreclosure and would like assistance with reviewing your options, contact a home ownership and loss mitigation counseling agency for free counseling on the options available to you to prevent or mitigate the foreclosure.

If it is determined that you will need the assistance of an attorney, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who specifically handles foreclosure matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.


Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight Created

For immediate release:  April 5, 2012
Contact:  Laura Brewer – 919-508-7821

Mortgage Settlement Monitor Begins Work
Joseph Smith appointed to oversee 49-state, five-bank pact; opens office in Raleigh
RALEIGH, N.C. – Joseph A. Smith, Jr. today officially assumed his position as the monitor of the mortgage servicing settlement among 49 states, the federal government and five major banks. In this role, Smith will work to ensure that the banks follow the requirements outlined in the settlement agreement. Today also marks the formal creation of the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight (OMSO), the body Smith has set up to facilitate his work.

Participants in the settlement unofficially named Smith as their choice in early February when news of the agreement became public, but both the settlement and Smith’s appointment became official when the United States District Court for the District of Columbia made final consent judgments affecting each of the banks.

In response to the agreement, Smith said, “Today, in keeping with the charge I’ve received from the Court and the parties to the settlement, I have opened the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight and begun to carry out my duties as Monitor.

“The mortgage settlement is a bipartisan achievement that holds promise for millions of people. Our nation depends on its home financing system not only to function properly, but also to inspire confidence in the people who use it. By itself, this settlement will not remedy every problem that system faces. But trust in our mortgage system can move forward if we use this opportunity to show fairness, transparency and accountability. This is a responsibility I take seriously.”

Smith will receive periodic reports from the settlement participants and oversee bank compliance with the agreement. The Monitor will then report his findings, determinations and actions to the Court and a Monitoring Committee of state and federal government representatives. The Monitor is empowered to work with noncompliant institutions to establish corrective plans, or, if necessary, to recommend penalties or to seek injunctive relief to enforce the settlement.

“Since the settlement was announced last month, people have understandably paid a great deal of attention to the specifics of the consent judgment – who will pay, who will receive, and how much,” Smith said. “Those are important matters to determine. But this settlement also serves those who do not participate in the transfer of money: the neighbors of distressed borrowers whose property values stand at risk because of foreclosed properties in their midst, the communities in which they live, the people saving now toward the goal of home ownership, and everyone whose living depends on a robust housing and home finance industry.”

More information about the mortgage settlement.

More information about the Office of Mortgage Settlement.

If you believe your home was illegally foreclosed on and you have not been contacted by a settlement administrator, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association may be able to help with a referral to an attorney who can review your situation.  A consultation with a competent attorney can make all the difference!  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

File Your Taxes Before Identity Thieves Do

Elisabeth Leamy, ABC NEWS Consumer Correspondent reports:

Tax day is a week away and I hope you’ve already filed, because if you haven’t, it’s quite possible con artists have filed FOR you, using your Social Security number to claim refunds for themselves. Tax-related identity theft has doubled over the past two years and now makes up the single largest category of the crime. In 2009, only 12 percent of identity theft was related to taxes. Now tax identity theft makes up 24 percent of all ID theft crimes reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Crooks have found that Uncle Sam is a pretty easy target and they can scoop up tax refunds using YOUR good name.

Here’s the ugly part: if a crook files a tax return using your name and SSN before you file your own return, you’ll be stuck having to prove YOU really are yourself and THEY really are the criminals. There’s also another twist in which criminals use other people’s SSNs when they get jobs. The income from that job then shows up as yours, and when you don’t account for it on your tax return, the IRS may come after you. The third twist is when crooks steal the SSN of a child or elderly dependent of yours, and then you have to prove that person really belongs on your tax return. Not only will your refund be delayed, it’s possible you may end up spending money to clear your name.

Read the entire story.

If your identity is ever stolen, hiring an experienced attorney may be the quickest route to recovering your good name.   The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who specifically handles identity theft issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.