New Page 1
Never Let A Strange Voice On The Phone Scare You! (Life's Too Short To Take Any Crap From A Tele-Terrorist)
Airdate: January 8, 2004,
A month ago today, the bodies of three Plano residents were discovered; a distraught Deborah Woolverton shot her husband and daughter while they were sleeping, and then turned the gun on herself, and according to a suicide note, this murder-suicide was apparently triggered by financial problems. The reality of the new year can sometimes be a harsh reality, and joining us this morning to talk about it is our un-common sense expert and Dallas Morning News columnist Benjamin Dover.
Question 1: Ben, today's column tackles a pretty tough subject-money and death.
Answer 1: This was unquestionably one of the most difficult columns I've ever written, and it does tackle two of the hardest subjects for consumers to openly discuss-money problems and death.
Question 2: I thought you did a good job of putting your cards on the table for your readers; you've talked many times about the personal financial challenges you experienced in the 1980s-and you even considered suicide?
Answer 2: Sorry to say it, but yes. Like Deborah Woolverton, I felt incredibly overwhelmed and helpless and came close to putting a permanent halt to the barrage of threatening phone calls I was getting pounded with from debt collectors. Apparently the Woolvertons were carrying some pretty steep credit card balances, had some tax problems and their home had been foreclosed on the week before she decided to tragically take matters into her own hands.
Question 3: We're all glad that you didn't take that fatal step, but what's great for consumers who are facing some harsh realities is that you not only survived tough financial times, you've turned it around and empower consumers with information and battle-tested strategies for getting through money-related troubles.
Answer 3: You're right and it's no secret that I've literally written the book when it comes to firing third-party debt collectors. I've got a checklist for the financially-challenged:
Never Forget: You've Got Rights! Under a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, third-party debt collectors cannot...
- Call you before 8 am or after 9 pm your local time
- Discuss your debt with a stranger, like your boss or your neighbor
- In Texas, they can't garnish your wages [Exceptions? IRS, child support and student loans]
- In Texas, they can't take away your home [Exceptions? If the overdue debt is secured by your home, like a first/second mortgage on the property...and of course, the IRS]
Go Underground! Why make it easy for the debt collectors to shoot at you? The telephone technology of today makes it much easier for consumers to insulate themselves during difficult financial times.
Services like Caller ID and Privacy Manager allow embattled debtors to see who's calling-of course you can't let curiosity get the best of you and pick-up the phone if it says it's "Anonymous" or "Out of Area".
Another low-profile tele-tool? Personalized Ring: I realize that money's tight, but this could be the smartest $2.95 month you can invest in your sanity. What it does is allow you to have up to three different phone numbers on your existing telephone line, each with a distinctive ring. This means that the debt collectors that are calling you get to continue to call your current phone number (you'll let those calls roll to voicemail), and you get a new phone or two to give to family or friends, or hopefully a new employer.
Bottom line: If you get a new phone number, make sure you tell your friends or family to NOT give out the new number to anyone with any story over the phone. You're the only person authorized to give out the new number. Period.
Fire The Debt Collectors: The law I mentioned earlier-the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act empowers consumers with the ability to fire third-party debt collectors. Remember: A third-party collector is defined as someone other than the original collector trying to collect an overdue debt. I've gotta free copy of the letter, commonly-referred to as a Cease & Desist Letter, posted on my website. Take the irritation-in this case the debt collector-out of the picture by firing them, sending them the Cease & Desist Letter via Certified Mail, and then deal with the original creditor, which is who you owe the money to, anyway.
Part of the negotiation can include:
- Re-structured payout terms, perhaps no payments for several months
- Lowering of interest rates
- And just as important, agreeing in writing how this repaid debt's going to be re-reported on your credit report when you finally pay 'em off
Get Real...(And Do It Fast) Look, I've been there. People in over their heads financially are frequently in a state of denial and what people realize is that time is just as precious as cash. They delude themselves into thinking that "a solution" to all of their financial problems is just around the corner and in the meantime, the clock continues to tick: The rent goes on...the car payments get further behind-and you're in an even deeper hole. The longer troubled debtors continue to feed those high-interest rate credit cards with what precious cash they've got left, the deeper they're digging in.
Explore All Exit Strategies: It's not popular with alotta people, but over 1.6 million Americans took bankruptcies last year. Is it right or wrong? That's not my position to tell someone-nor is it yours. Unless you're gonna write me a check to cover me while I work out of this mess, mind your own business.
I'm already hearing stories about "compassionate" employers that waited until after the holidays to fire employees-so did they really do them a favor by waiting? You tell me as they begin opening their credit card bills that are now showing up in the mailbox.
A bankruptcy might make the most sense and then again, it might not. Everybody's situation is different, but the good news is that Texas and Florida are the two best states to have financial troubles, because of our abilities to hang on to our homes and not have wages garnished.
Keep The Faith: Tough times don't last-tough people do. It's only money folks. Someday when you get back on your feet financially, you'll get another credit card. It's not the end of the world, and believe me, there's NO money-related problem worth ending your life over. Ever.
Question 4: You've got a bunch of information posted on your website, don't you?
Answer 4: I've got hundreds of pages of information, including the Cease & Desist Letter, all posted on the site for free. Also up there: The truth about non-profit credit counseling or debt renegotiation companies, how to find/hire an attorney...I've even got three full chapters of my "how to" fire the debt collectors book, all posted for free up on the site.
More good news for future home buyers (and their credit reports): Didja hear about the mortgage company that was able to step in and close a tough loan on less than 24 hours notice? Despite all of the paperwork and (perceived) brain-damage that goes with the home buying process, the first mortgage company that was supposed to close fell apart and set the stage for the save of the century by my friends at W.R. Starkey Mortgage. And what's really amazing about this story are the facts of the deal: A pock-marked credit report, a non-conforming loan and a short-fuse couldn't keep Starkey from delivering the goods for a grateful homeowner, which brings me to the moral of the story...
Don't screw around with a buncha pikers that make mortgage promises they'll never be able to keep! You might think you're getting a good deal, but it'll likely blow up in your face when push-comes-to-shove and they can't close. Then your problems really begin. W.R. Starkey has the Dover Seal of Approval because they're the best, no-B.S. mortgage company in the nation...period.
They deliver and make home buyers the winners and long-term beneficiaries of Starkey's commitment to their company positioning statement: "A different kind or mortgage company where people come first." You really can bank on it, folks.
Take the Dover-proven route to stress-free finance, and take advantage while interest rates are STILL at incredibly-low levels! Ben's no-brainer choice for any/all of your mortgage needs? Easy...do it all on-line or on the phone with the official mortgage company of www.benjamindover.com and your first (and only) stop: W.R. Starkey Mortgage. Hit their website or call their main Dallas-Fort Worth office toll-free: (888) 282-6632.
It's easy to get educated about the process first...(plus the price is right...how about free?!?) Everything you need to know is only a click away. Get your copy of Bens' 2004 Home Buyer's Guide by clicking here.
What's in your credit files? How do you know? Yeah-I've heard the faulty logic: "I get dozens of pre-approved credit card applications every month, so I must have great credit." Wrong, Einstein: Don't come cryin' to me if your file's loaded with credit crapola. Get to work and find out what's in your file-here's how.
It's time to wake up and check your FICO scores! I can't make it any easier for you, either. Click here for some credit hand-holding from your pal Bennie...
Since we're on the subject of credit scores, it's time to learn more about the inner-workings of that black hole known as the credit reporting bureaus: Get a digital copy of Ben's 1993 (#5) bestseller
Life After Debt on-line, right here. Here's how.....
If you (or someone you know) is even remotely thinking about paying some non- profit credit counseling service, hiring a debt re-negotiation company or filing for bankruptcy, you might wanna read this first: Trust me, you'll be more informed and a lot more grateful 10-minutes (or less) from now.....
Don't get suckered in by countless radio-commercial claims from car leasing companies out to hook you, wear you down...and beat you into an emotional (and maybe financial) pulp! Check out Ben's free Smart Car Seminar automotive acquisition tips rightem>here!
This is a no-brainer, and they're the first and last automobile leasing company you'll ever need to deal with, no matter where you live...Benjamin Dover-endorsed Manufacturers Auto Leasing! They have loyal clients across the entire state of Texas and around the nation. Why? Because they'll take care of you better than anyone else out there!
By the way: If you're facing one of those upside-down scenarios (car business term meaning you're financially buried), or maybe you simply want to bail on your current vehicle and need someone to get creative on your behalf, Manufacturers Auto Leasing is the best in the business. Period.
Help Mom & Dad (or Grandma & Grandpa) do a little fancy financial footwork and allow them to live in their homes until they pass on without a mortgage payment...Or even pull a wad of cash outta the deal while they're at it! I've already done the research for you on reverse mortgages. Now it's your turn to help an older homeowner take advantage of this fantastic financial product.
Still looking for a cool holiday, birthday (or other special occasion) gift that'll keep on giving, all year long? Give 'em a subscription to the Dose of Dover...the most reliable source of insight and no s*** ideas available on the planet. (You can afford it...it's free!) Time to share the wealth! Sign-up for a subscription to the weekly Dose of Dover Newsletter right here!
Plan a getaway romantic weekend this year for Valentine's Day...it's only 37 days away!) Get more bang for your sleep away from the rest of the family buck...check out Ben's reliable, no-brainer choice for consistently affordable and competitively priced hotel room or condo deals: www.hotels.com.
Diamonds are still a girl's best friend, something to remember with Valentine's Day coming up fast. Here's how to buy 'em right, and get maximum bang-for-your-buck: It doesn't matter where you live on the planet, I've got the absolute best, Internet-based resource for diamond rings, tennis bracelets...or even high-end watches like Rolexes.
How deep are your pockets? Wanna get that significant other a Valentine's Day gift that'll even-up the gift-giving score for the next coupla years? Okay, so this one's not for everyone's budget...
Is getting right with the IRS on your list of New Year's Resolutions for '04? Don't even think about trying to make a deal with them on your own! Lousy advice could not only cost you dearly, it could really jack up your total tax bill...late fees, interest and/or fines can jump to levels that'll make you think about heading south of the border. If you've got some tax-related challenges, make 2004 your year to tie down those loose-ends on your terms and get a deal worked out before it's too late. Non-filers...innocent spouses...941 (payroll taxes) for the entrepreneurs amongst us: Know all your options and learn why hiring an Enrolled Agent probably makes the most sense.
Valentine's Day is only 37 days away...looking for some gift ideas? Why not...
Give the lady in your life something she'll like for a change?
Reverse the hands of time--for him or for her?
Find out if your home, office or that tanning booth have a hidden camera/hidden mike--for less than $35!
Send a gift that they'll love (and you can afford)?