Scam Alert

For many people and businesses, getting a threatening phone call about an outstanding debt or fine is par for the course. Debt collectors are persistent, they don’t care if you have already paid or a debt is fraudulent because you are on their list. They are often nasty and full of threats, up to and including imprisonment. When one is threatening or harassing you, you should feel free to hang up and report them to the authorities. And you should definitely take these steps if you think you are being scammed about a fake debt.

Right now, the federal courts and the U.S. Marshals Service are warning people that scammers have started to impersonate court personal, so we want to make our clients aware that this is another debt scam threat that is out there. These fraudsters are claiming that the victim has missed jury duty, and now must pay a fine or face jail time.

The callers are convincing because they are a bit more sophisticated than your average scammer. They are spoofing their phone numbers to make it look like they are calling from a courthouse or other government building. And they have done their homework and looked up the names of real judges and the addresses and names of real courthouses so they can drop those into the conversation to make themselves sound legitimate. Some of them even give out fake badge numbers since they are pretending to be U.S. Marshals.

The important thing to remember if you get one of these calls is that the courts do not call people like about jury duty. Initial communications about jury duty or a missed jury duty are made via mail. The only reason court personal might call you is if you are involved in a case, and even then, they are probably going to call your attorney instead of contacting you directly.

Furthermore, although it is true that missing jury duty can result in a fine or imprisonment, no court will take a payment over the phone. And it is especially fishy if they want the payment via gift card or pre-paid debt card as some victims of the scammers are reporting.

If a jury scammer gets you on the line, hang up immediately and report them to the authorities. Don’t just contact the local police, report the incident to your local U.S. Marshals Service office and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has the ability to detect patterns of fraud from the information collected and share that data with law enforcement. The U.S. Marshals hope the information collected by the FTC will lead to possible arrests.

If you have question about the validity of a legal-related communication you have received, the attorneys in our office would be more than happy to take a look at it for you. Scammers are getting more sophisticated every day, so there is nothing wrong with being extra cautious.

 

The Clock Is Ticking

On December 1, a new bankruptcy rule that all creditors need to know about whet into effect. The rule shortens the time period during which a creditor can file a claim against a bankrupt debtor to 70 days, and subjects secured creditors to the rules other creditors have previously had to follow.

For years, creditors in bankruptcy cases have had 90 days to announce that they have a claim against someone who has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, in which debtors liquidate assets; Chapter 12, which enables family farmers and fishermen to restructure their finances; or Chapter 13, which is sometimes known as the wage earner’s plan because it enables qualified individual filers to reschedule and make debt payments, allowing them to keep their homes and other property. Creditors now only have 70 days to make such a claim.

This new time limit also applies to secured creditors. Secured creditors were not previously mentioned in the text of Rule 3002 and that led to some confusion about when and how they should present their claims. Courts in different parts of the country had even set different timelines in different cases. The new rule provides clarity, which is a good thing, even though some secured creditors do not like the fact that the court is exerting more control over them.

Both changes to Rule 3002 are intended to make bankruptcies faster and more efficient.

The rule went into effect after a three-year rulemaking process during which comments on the proposed changes were solicited from the public. Now, we, and every other bankruptcy firm around the country, will be monitoring the new rule to see how it works in the real world. If it doesn’t do what was intended, or there are some unintended consequences, we will notify the courts and perhaps ask for additional changes to the rule.

We foresee some creditors missing the new deadline because they are not aware that it exists. Fortunately for them, the courts are allowing creditors to petition for an extension of the deadline. Hopefully judges will be liberal in granting these extensions if the creditor has a good reason for needing more time.