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How to rebuild credit after filing for bankruptcy

After Mississippi consumers have filed for bankruptcy, they may be concerned about rebuilding their credit. However, they should be wary of companies called credit repair agencies that offer to help with this.

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, it is not legal for a company to charge for this type of service until the repair has been done. Some credit repair agencies will send out letters to people who have filed for bankruptcy, while others will advertise online or on TV. The companies claim to be able to establish a new credit identity for people who have filed for bankruptcy, but some of them suggest applying to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number. People are then instructed to use this number in place of their Social Security number. However, this number is intended for business use, and using it in this way can be illegal.

How to deal with debt collection tactics

Mississippi residents with mounting debts often get phone calls from debt collectors. Some of these threatening callers may not be following regulations on debt collection procedures. In fact, debt collectors are sometimes accused of harassing debtors. According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), collectors have limitations as to what they are permitted to do when attempting to collect debts. The same regulations apply to credit card debts, missed payments on mortgages, vehicle loans and medical bills.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) states that the FDCPA forbids debt collectors from using unjust methods to collect debts. For example, debt collectors aren't allowed to use foul language during calls. The FDCPA covers calls made by lawyers and third parties. However, legal regulations do not enforce these rules on the original creditors. Per the official FDCPA guidelines, debt collectors aren't legally permitted to call debtors prior to 8 a.m. or later than 9 p.m.

Hospital patients often hit with surprise out-of-network bills

Most people in Mississippi choose hospitals within their insurance networks to avoid higher medical bills. Despite their best efforts, they still might end up paying surprise out-of-network fees. A nationwide study from the Health Care Cost Institute has revealed that patients using in-network hospitals frequently get unexpected charges from out-of-network physicians and laboratories.

Health care consumers have no way to protect themselves from out-of-network services even when they seek care at in-network facilities. Even if patients make inquiries in advance of an admission, the hospital likely has no ability to give a clear answer about the network status of all service providers involved in the care. The increasing complication of insurance contracts and tiered networks creates an opaque environment where consumers cannot have certainty about coverage.

What can bankruptcy’s “automatic stay” protect you against?

As someone who has decided to file for bankruptcy, you may have done so in an attempt to stop the seemingly constant onslaught of phone calls from debt collectors. Such calls can prove, at best, a nuisance, and you may also have concerns about how it looks to have debt collectors calling you up at your place of business.

By filing for bankruptcy, though, you can put a stop to these persistent phone calls, and this happens because of something called “automatic stay.” Just what is automatic stay? Once you initiate bankruptcy proceedings, the automatic stay takes effect, and your creditors can no longer attempt to collect on certain debts during this timeframe. Just what can bankruptcy’s automatic stay protect you against, in addition to creditor harassment?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is an option for wage earners

Mississippi residents who are having trouble paying off debts might look to the bankruptcy system for relief. For most individual filers, there are two options, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. There is a limit on how much debt a filer can have if they want to file bankruptcy under Chapter 13. Specifically, the filer cannot have more than $1,184,200 in secured debts or more than $394,725 in unsecured debts.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is sometimes called wage earner's bankruptcy, involves the filer paying down debts for a period of between three and five years, pursuant to the terms of a repayment plan approved by the bankruptcy court. There is no maximum income limit for people filing Chapter 13, and it does not matter where the filer's income comes from. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a good solution for people who have regular income. Typically, the filer is allowed to keep important assets like a car or house.

How some employers help with debt relief

Many working people living in Mississippi struggle with their finances. Living paycheck to paycheck, they find it difficult to get ahead of crippling debt. If an emergency strikes, such as a family illness or job loss, they may have difficulty affording food, utilities and shelter.

Some employers are aware of the situation and are working to offer financial planning benefits to their workers. These companies have contracted with third-party companies to provide benefits such as financial counseling, student loan repayment options, emergency loans and medical bill advocacy.

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Debtors in Mississippi who have significant debt and who have a lower income or no income may benefit from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, they should carefully consider their financial situation and the impact that bankruptcy will have on their credit before filing.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is the most frequently filed bankruptcy, is a liquidation bankruptcy as it uses the proceeds from the sale of secured property, such as a vehicle or home, that exceeds the exemption threshold to pay back creditors. Filing and being discharged from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a process that can take only three to six months; in comparison, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will take three to five years to be completed.

Consumer debt tops $13 trillion

Data published by credit reporting agency Equifax indicates that people in Mississippi and across the country owe $13.5 trillion in total consumer debt. Of that debt, more than $1 trillion is owed by people between the ages of 18 and 29. This debt is primarily made up of student loans, but it also includes credit card debt, mortgage debt, auto loans and other types of consumer debt. The last time people in this demographic owed over $1 trillion was just before the 2008 financial crisis during the fourth quarter of 2007.

The data was gathered and put out by Equifax and the Fed Consumer Credit Panel of New York. People between the ages of 30 and 39 owe $2.9 trillion. The demographic owing the most in consumer debt is people between 40 and 49, who owe a total of $3.4 trillion. Those between the ages of 50 and 59 are not far behind, owing $3.2 trillion, according to the data.

Rebuilding credit after bankruptcy

Many people across Mississippi struggle to support themselves and their families financially, and if you count yourself among them, you may be sorting through your options and trying to figure out if a bankruptcy filing might give you the fresh start you desire. While, in many cases, filing for bankruptcy can be a great way to get your affairs in order so you can start to dig your way out of debt, your credit will most definitely take a hit after doing so.

There are, however, certain efforts you can make to help rebuild your credit after bankruptcy, which, over time, can help you raise your credit score and otherwise get back on your feet financially. Just what types of actions can you take after a bankruptcy filing to help raise your credit score?

When to file for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy may be an option for Mississippi residents who have been overwhelmed by substantial debt. However, filing for bankruptcy can have a long-term impact on their credit. Before filing, they should consider several factors to decide whether it is the best option for them.

Debtors may want to try to negotiate a settlement with their creditors, who generally prefer obtaining a settlement rather than having the debt discharged in bankruptcy. Debtors may find it easier to negotiate a settlement if they are a few months behind on their payments, as creditors might not be inclined to reduce a debt if the payments are current.

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