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Foreclosure Scams: Beware the Kindness of Strangers

     Foreclosure is one of the most intimidating threats a homeowner might face in his or her lifetime.  Once an individual falls behind on mortgage payments, a river of frightening letters, phone calls and legal notices are unleashed upon the cash-strapped debtor.  These communications portray a sense of great urgency, they might describe impending legal action, acceleration of debts, eviction, an upcoming forced sale of one’s home and the possibility of personal liability for mortgage debts.  Some of these communications, such as notices of default and notices of trustee’s sale, are made public, thereby stoking a sense of embarrassment and isolation in their recipients.  People targeted by such communications are typically already in financial distress and constant threats can push them to sheer desperation.  Isolation, desperation and a sense of urgency set the stage for a parade of characters far more dangerous than the prospect of foreclosure.      “Foreclosure consultants,” “foreclosure prevention specialists,” “foreclosure experts” and a variety of other self-styled titles describe a group of individuals who make...

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Elder Law & Advocacy Participates in the “Know Your Rights” Workshop

On October 29, 2012, Elder Law & Advocacy was represented by staff attorney, Bob Martin, at the “Know Your Rights” workshop. This session was held in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego and was assembled to promote healing of residents from trauma suffered due to recent heinous criminal activity. The City of San Diego Human Relations Commission sponsored the workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to gather knowledgeable individuals to speak to traumatized neighbors about issues that are most pressing to their community at this time. Among the issues discussed were immigration, contact with the police, reentry, expungement of criminal records, managing the criminal justice system, fair housing, and landlord-tenant issues. Mr. Martin’s presentation focused on elder abuse. He also addressed numerous other relevant topics. In the elder abuse segment of his presentation, Mr. Martin described to the audience the different types of elder abuse, including physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, neglect by a caregiver, and financial elder abuse.  Mr. Martin then discussed victim’s options for remedying and...

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On Debt and Bankruptcy

On Debt and Bankruptcy (in a Nutshell) Credit card, medical and other debt causes San Diego seniors no small measure of grief.  If you can’t repay your debt, you simply can’t expect sympathy from creditors. Even if an account is decades old and you’ve essentially paid back the principal debt many times over, creditors do not consider your present hardship.  They will harass, intimidate and take all legal measures to collect your dues.   Fortunately, we are not left to the wolves.  Bankruptcy protection is available to eliminate the debt and the overwhelming stress it causes.  Bankruptcy is almost always the most cost-effective means of canceling your debt. What is Bankruptcy? Bankruptcy is a complex but powerful legal mechanism (provided for in the United States Code Title 11) to permanently get rid of debt AND keep your property. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy are the primary avenues for the consumer and small business-person to obtain comprehensive freedom from back-breaking debt. What’s the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter...

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“Protected Party” Statutes Provide Extra Protection to California Seniors

California has very strong laws protecting seniors – both in the civil realm and in the criminal realm. As soon as any California resident reaches the age of 65, he or she is considered to be a “protected party”. Jaime Levine, Directing Attorney for Elder Law & Advocacy’s Senior Legal Services program explains what this means for seniors, and describes one statue that gives seniors and their advocates access to heightened damages and lower thresholds in terms of what constitutes a wrong against a victim. One statute Levine describes as particularly effective in assisting seniors who have been taken advantage of is Civil Code §3345b. This statute establishes that any “protected party” who would be successful in a civil cause of action, is eligible to receive significantly elevated damages if a judge believes that the senior was targeted due to their vulnerability. Says Levine, “It is a very effective tool for any attorney who represents victimized seniors. When I write a demand letter, for example, I often structure it in such...

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Escheated No More: Homeless Senior Reunited with $744 by Generous Officials

A recent ELA client, age 64 and homeless, caused a stir for San Diego County Officials and illuminated the rules of escheatment for the public.  The client contacted ELA in September 2011 after he discovered that San Diego County had escheated $744 left over from the sale of a storage facility to the General Fund.  ELA’s Managing Attorney, Lois Kelly, Esq. took the case knowing that she would be making an equitable argument on his behalf, and could not have foreseen such a surprising outcome. In 2004, the client experienced severe financial problems – he lost his job and placed his personal property with a value over $50,000 into storage.  Now homeless, he eventually could no longer afford the storage unit rent.   The facility sold his property at a fraction of its worth but was never able to make contact with him regarding the $744 owed to him after the sale.  Living on the streets and in shelters, he never saw the County’s newspaper announcements about the monies owed to him.  Per escheatment rules, the $744 was...

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Caregivers Need Help When Debt Collectors Call

Debtors aged 65+ are the fastest growing group of bankruptcy filers, up 6.5% since 2006 and 184% since 1991 (Source:  Institute for Financial Literacy).  What can a caregiver do to stop the harassing calls of a debt collector to their parent or loved one?    ELA’s Managing Attorney,  Lois B, Kelly answers the question: “You will be able to stop the calls when the debtor sends a letter to the creditor telling them not to call any more, only send information by mail.  But this does not make the debt go away.  Fortunately, if you are the caregiver, you are not liable for this debt unless it is your debt also.” What happens next? The debtor will then get a letter from an attorney asking if they wish to dispute the debt.  The caregiver can request records of the debt if they are not sure what the debt is for.  If the debtor has the funds, the lawsuit can be answered by paying the debt.  But what if your parent or loved one exists on Social Security,...

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