#Slay Your Student Loan Series: Part I

Slay Student Debt

Student Loan.  It’s one of those phrases that gives you the willies just by saying it out loud.  It’s also a phrase akin to “Beetlejuice” – say it too many times and the bill collector is likely to jump out of a mirror and grab your wallet.  (Can you tell I’ve been watching horror shows lately?  Bates Motel is a fave.  Alas, I digress).  The best way to protect yourself from these monster-esque debt collectors is to understand your student loan, as well as your rights.  Grab your ax, its time to slay.

Let’s go back to basics:  you first need to figure out the nature of your loan.  The nature of your loan is either Federal or Private.  If your loan was issued directly by the U.S. Government (Department of Education), then your loan is undoubtedly FEDERAL.  If your loan was issued by a private banking institution (i.e. Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Discover, etc.), then your loan is PRIVATE.  Simple, right?  Not really.  Here are some scenarios that require a little more investigation:

  1.         You consolidated your loans.  Consolidation means that you are taking two or more loans and turning them into one big loan.  If you consolidated two or more federal loans through the federal consolidation program, congratulations (or maybe not), you still have a federal loan.  If you consolidated two or more private loans, you still have a private loan.  If you consolidated a federal loan and a private loan, you now have a private loan.  (The federal loan consolidation program only permits you to consolidate federal loans together.  Therefore, if you add any private loans, you now have a private loan.)
  2.           You have a hybrid loan.  This one is a little trickier.  And it is also called an FFELP loan.  An FFELP loan (described in more detail here) is usually a loan issued by a private institution, but has federal elements.  For example, a Stafford loan is part of the FFELP program.  Under the terms of these loans, the federal government pays for any interest that accrues while the loan is deferred.  Grab your ax folks, the waters get murkier.  Some of these loans are owned by the federal government (Department of Education) and therefore the federal government collects on these defaulted loans directly.  Some of these loans, on the other hand, are owned by a private institution (i.e. Sallie Mae).  FFELP loans that are owned by a private institution are assigned to a guaranty agency for collection.  Visit this website to identify who owns your loan and determine whether your loan is federal or private (only federally-owned loans are listed here, so if yours isn’t here, it’s private).

Whew.  This sleuthing was exhausting.  Take some time to identify whether you have a federal or private student loan.  Gather any paperwork you may have and scan or copy it for safekeeping.  Write down your investigation notes.  Create a file, and get ready to #slay your student loan throughout this series.  Remember, if you ever need help understanding your student loan, reach out to an experienced consumer attorney (like me.  duh.).

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does this article purport to give legal advice.  Everyone’s situation is different.  If you have legal questions, you should contact a licensed attorney.  Written by Shera E. Anderson, Esq. in Sunrise, Florida.

Learning the Lingo: Dockets

Plain and simple:  a docket is a timeline that shows you the history of a court case from cradle to grave.  And sometimes beyond the grave, if you are dealing with zombie debt.  Dockets are very useful tools for attorneys – and clients – to determine and develop strategy.  Pro tip:  if you meet with an attorney who has not looked at your docket or does not know how to use a docket, run.  RUN.  R. U. N.

Every time a client comes to me for help defending them in a lawsuit, my first plan of action is to pull the docket that correlates with my client’s case.  How do you “pull” a docket?  (It’s an archaic phrase for a relatively easy modern process, I know.)  Three simple steps to pull a docket in Florida:

  1.  Go to Google.  (Or your search engine of choice.)
  2. Type in the county that you were sued in (it should say it at the top of your court paperwork) followed by clerk of court.  Example:  Broward Clerk of Court, Miami Dade Clerk of Court, Brevard Clerk of Court, etc.  Click on the link to the official clerk website, and follow the directions to access Court Records.  (All counties in Florida electronically file court documents; however, the process for obtaining a docket is different for each county).
  3. Fill in the information (usually your first and last name should be sufficient, unless you have a highly common name, then you may want to try different identifying information like case number (which is also on your court paperwork) or plaintiff’s name) and press the magic button (aka submit).  And voila!  You should see a link to your court case.  Click and revel in the docket glory.

Pulling a docket is also a useful tool to determine whether you have actually been sued.  Sometimes people are sued and they don’t even know it.  Shocker, I know.  But it happens more often than you think.  Many times a person is not served with process or not properly served, and therefore that person has no clue that they were even sued.  If you suspect that someone has sued you, check to see if there is a docket.  If there is no docket, you weren’t sued.  If there is, well, time to speak to an attorney.  And if you were sued by a creditor, you can speak with an attorney like me!

Sidenote:  I love dealing with consumer cases.  They are like really awesomely awesome jigsaw puzzles just waiting to be solved.  Bring me your toughest student loan or credit card or garnishment or judgment questions – I would love the opportunity to try and solve the puzzle!  And my family would appreciate it too, because I would be too busy to nag them to clean up.

But, I digress.  The moral of this story is CHECK THE DOCKET.  Use it.  Love it.  Understand it.  Or find an attorney that does.  Like me.  (Shameless plug).

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does this article purport to give legal advice.  Everyone’s situation is different.  If you have legal questions, you should contact a licensed attorney.  Written by Shera E. Anderson, Esq. in Sunrise, Florida.

 

 

Your Credit Report and the Zombie Apocalypse.

Zombie Debt

I know what you’re thinking.  Why on this green Earth should I worry about my credit report when I am busy fighting off man-eating zombies with half of a 2 x 4 and a candlestick?  OK.  Well.  When you put it that way, forget about the credit report.

I’m not talking about actual man-eating zombies.  I am talking about what we in the industry refer to as “zombie debt” aka debt that is so old that you forgot you even owed it.  Old debt dies and goes away, right?  Wrong.  Old debt dies, and then comes back to life as a zombie and uses debt buyers to haunt you until you are scared and pay.

Here’s the DL:

You took out a credit card when you were 18.  You needed it for essentials:  rent, textbooks, beer.  You know.  Survival.  Well you weren’t employed when you got the credit card, and since you majored in underwater basket weaving, you were unemployed for quite some time.  You made a few minimal payments, and then stopped paying altogether.  And that was twenty five years ago.  Now you are a successful underwater basket weaver with your own basket weaving practice.  And suddenly you get a call (or a letter) from Mr. Debt Collector saying that they purchased the debt from your original credit card issuer and you must pay.

DO NOT PAY.  IT IS LIKELY A TRAP.

Unless we are talking about a federal student loan, or other items of that nature with no limitations period, the situation above is a trap.  It’s a zombie debt trying to get revived.  If you make one measly little payment because you “feel bad” you are restarting the statute of limitations (which expired twenty one years ago) and giving your new zombie friend another opportunity to sue you for your unpaid credit card.

Like most claims, the rule for suing for an unpaid credit card is simple:

YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE.

If your original creditor took too long to collect on the debt (i.e. more than three or four years depending on the terms of your credit card agreement), they CANNOT SUE YOU (of course, unless there is some tolling issue, but that is not really a mainstream problem).  Plus, it may not even be showing on your credit report any more due to the age of the debt.  (Keep in mind it is ALWAYS good idea to check your credit report to make sure).

My suggestion?  Ask a consumer attorney.  (Like me, duh).  A consumer attorney should be able to tell you immediately whether you are being attacked by a zombie, or whether the collection attempt is legit.  Basically, consumer attorneys are super-awesome zombie-fighting heroes that can save your ass-ets.  Your assets.  Your financial assets.  Put down the 2×4 and call a consumer attorney before you try to fight off zombie debt on your own.

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does this article purport to give legal advice.  Everyone’s situation is different.  If you have legal questions, you should contact a licensed attorney.  Written by Shera E. Anderson, Esq. in Sunrise, Florida.