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May 2012 Archives

Identity Theft—What to do?

Many of my clients have been the victims of identity theft. Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise and it is extremely hard to recover from being a victim of it. The consequences of being a victim of identity theft can linger for years after the actual theft. Earlier this week, I appeared on KWTX Channel 10 News to talk about actions victims of identity theft need to take. While I do not have the video, I thought I would share some thoughts on my blog. Signs you might be the victim of identity theft:
  • Actual theft;
  • Unauthorized withdrawals and checks from your bank accounts;
  • Bills collectors calling you for overdue debt you never incurred;
  • Inaccuracies on your credit report;
  • Medical insurance company denying claims for benefits because you have met your benefits for the year;
  • You fail to receive your regular bills in the mail each month;
  • Your social security benefits summary shows income from jobs you never had;
  • Mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held;
  • You attempt to get a mortgage or car loan and learn about problems in your credit report.
Anyone can be the victim of identity theft. If you are a victim or suspect you are a victim, you need to act quickly to help protect yourself. Steps to take as soon as you suspect you might be the victim of identity theft:
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports
 A fraud alert will help stop new credit from being opened in your name. Contact each of the three credit agencies below to place a fraud alert and request a free copy of your credit report. An initial fraud alert is only good for 90 days, so you want to mark your calendar to call back before 90 days expire to extend the fraud alert for 7 years. TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013 
  • Close the accounts you know, or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
 Call and speak with someone in the fraud department for each company (banks, credit cards, etc.) . You will want to follow up your phone call with a letter to the company. You want to make sure to keep a copy of all letters you send and send them by certified mail, return receipt for your protection. If the company has a fraud dispute form, you want to use their form to dispute any fraudulent charges. You want to make sure you remember everyone. If your checks were stolen, call your bank. If your driver's license was stolen, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. If your social security card was stolen, call the Social Security Administration. Call all credit card companies and report the cards as stolen.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
 You can visit the Federal Trade Commission's website, www.ftc.gov, and fill out a FTC ID Theft Complaint. You can print this form and take it with you when you report the theft to local police in the next step. You can also contact the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT.
  • File a report with your local police.
Make sure to file a written report in person if possible. Bring a printed copy of the FTC ID Theft form form the previous step. Keep a copy of your police report for your records.Identity theft is a crime that hurts everyone and is difficult to stop. If you would like more information about identity theft, I encourage you to visit the Federal Trade Commission's website.If you are drowning in debt, please call the Kehl Law Firm, PC at 254-633-2876 to make a free, no-obligation consultation to learn what your options are. Let my family help yous. 

Kill all the Lawyers – Can you file bankruptcy without a lawyer? (apologies to Shakespeare)

One of the ironies about bankruptcy is that the people who need bankruptcy typically don't have much money to afford a bankruptcy attorney. They are barely about to make ends meet and pays their bills. Typically something has happened in their life like job loss, illness, divorce, and they are struggling. Many will try to file bankruptcies without an attorney as a way to save money. Congress actually requires bankruptcy attorneys to give all potential clients notice that they don't have to hire an attorney to file their bankruptcy. They can do it themselves. But is it a realistic goal if you want a successful bankruptcy?In 2005, Congress made radical changes to the bankruptcy code. When I was recently at the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney's (www.nacba.org) convention in San Antonio, I attended a session which discussed if debtors can file bankruptcy without an attorney and be successful. Unfortunately, statistics show that it is next to impossible to be successful in a bankruptcy without an attorney since the 2005 amendments regardless of which type of bankruptcy you file. (See Littwin, Angela K., The Affordability Paradox: How Consumer Bankruptcy’s Greatest Weakness May Account for Its Surprising Success (2011). William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 1933-2023, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1867566) Quite frankly I see evidence of the fact that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to be successful in bankruptcy without an attorney at the courthouse and in my office frequently.The reason I wanted to talk about this issue today is because I just attended the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association monthly meeting. Today's speaker was the Honorable Fred Biery, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas. He focused on the freedoms we have in our country and that most of those freedoms are due in part to the court system. Our courts are the guardians of freedom. They ensure that our Constitution and laws are upheld for all. And lawyers are the instruments which ensure the courts fulfill their obligations.His speech reminded me of my first day of Baylor law school. Associate Dean Leah Jackson quoted from Shakespeare's King Henry VI stating, “The first thing we must do is kill all lawyers.” Society tends to view lawyers as greedy, money hungry individuals who take advantage of the system to buy fancy houses and cars. This quote seems to support this idea. Society would be better if lawyers didn't exist. These types of comments get throw at lawyers all the time. It is one of the reasons that before I told anyone I was going to law school, I looked up some good lawyer jokes for my arsenal. However, contrary to what society teaches us about lawyers, this quote from Shakespeare is about protecting people and freedom. The speakers are plotting ensure chaos and tyranny and take away people's freedoms. Since lawyers are the guardians of freedom, it would easier to eliminate freedom if you kill all the lawyers.Our bankruptcy laws are remarkable in this country. We allow individuals and families who are struggling for whatever reason to find freedom to move on with their lives. My clients are not deadbeats who ran up credit card bills buying large screen LED TVs and pool tables and now want to get out of their obligations like Homer Simpson from The Simpsons. My clients are individuals and families who are trying to live and, due to some change in their circumstances, divorce, lay off, medical problems, they just can't do it anymore. They are drowning and the last place they want to be is in my office. They need relief and due to the complexity of the bankruptcy laws, without an attorney, they will most likely not get the relief they desperately need. Helping them obtain that relief is my responsibility as a guardian of freedom. To make sure I meet that responsibility, I have affordable rates than most of my competition and I offer a payment plan most families can meet. Because people need bankruptcy relief and they need attorneys to help them obtain it. I hope that my attempts to help people meet with Dean Jackson's hopes for us when we started law school.If you are drowning, call us at 254-633-2876 today for a free, no-obligation consultation and explore your options. Let my family help yours!

The Kehl Law Firm, P.C. launches Client Portal

The Kehl Law Firm, P.C. is pleased to announce the launch of our Client Portal.  The Client Portal allows our clients to have discussions with us, to request appointments, and to send us documents all from a secure website 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  More features will be coming soon.Our current clients can access the portal by clicking HERE.  Then at the bottom of the screen click on "Click Here to Register".  If you have any question please contact us at (254)870-0105.

Paws in the Park

In today's struggling economy, it is easy to forget about others. Today I am asking you to remember our four legged friends. On Saturday, May 12, 2012, at 11 a.m. the Waco Humane Society is hosting Paws in the Park to support local shelter pets. The Kehl Law Firm will be participating in the Woof Walk and other activities of the day with Wicket as our mascot. Please feel free to join us or donate to our team. If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to call us at 254-633-2876. We appreciate any support you can provide and we hope to see some of you there.

AG Settlement with Mortgage Companies, Student Loans, Tax Debt, and more

Stephen and I attended the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys 20th Annual Conference in San Antonio over the weekend. (See http://www.nacba.org/) Over the next couple of weeks I will be blogging about some of the items we learned about. Here are just a few brief highlights.We attended a session held by Joseph Smith regarding the new AG Settlement Agreement with the five major mortgage companies. See my previous blog on this settlement at http://thekehllawfirm.com/proposed-wrongful-foreclosure-settlement/. Joseph Smith is the national settlement monitor who is assigned to ensure that the mortgage companies comply with the settlement. He talked about the settlement and how attorneys can help their clients obtain the relief the settlement is supposed to offer struggling homeowners. He offered suggestions to attorneys on how to give his office feedback to ensure that the settlement is complied with properly. While the settlement will not solve everything, hopefully it will begin the healing process. I will be talking much more about the settlement in the future. While many (including myself) have been critical of the AG settlement in the past, as Prof. Katherine Porter, the California settlement monitor, stated this weekend, this settlement is what we have and we need to make it work. I want to do everything possible to help my clients obtain the best relief they can over the next 3 years.We listened to an update on the political environment in DC with a special emphasis on student loans. If you have been watching the new lately, you hear over and over that student loans may be the next economical crisis this country faces. There are many proposed solutions including extending the low interest rate (see http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-air/willis-report/blog/2012/04/24/student-loan-debt-crisis). Unfortunately, when Congress changed the bankruptcy laws in 2005, they made it impossible for me to help my clients regarding student loans. Congress is debating reversing this change to allow bankruptcy to offer some relief to clients (see http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/2012/03/28/looming-student-debt-crisis-hits-the-senate). While it is unlikely Congress will make any changes to the bankruptcy laws in an election year, we may see relief within the next few years. While these solutions do little to help with the problem of higher cost for higher education, at least the problem is being looked at.Another session discussed how to discharge (or avoid repaying) IRS debt in bankruptcy. While these rules are not new and I have helped numerous clients in the past get rid of IRS debt or repay it with less penalties and interest through bankruptcy, new cases coming out of the 5th Circuit in New Orleans and bankruptcy courts in San Antonio this year may add some new wrinkles to this complicated set of rules.That is what I love about the law. It is always changing. You have to continue to learn and grow in your abilities and practice to be a good attorney and advocate for your clients. You have to keep up with new cases and trends. That is why attending conferences like this weekend are so important. While I am tired now and didn't get a day off this weekend, I am also invigorated to grow to be the best attorney and advocate I can for my clients.If you are drowning in debt, please call 254-633-2876 today for a free, no-obligation consultation to see what an experienced (and ever learning) Waco bankruptcy attorney can do for you. Let my family help yours.
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