I recently read a newspaper advice column written by a Certified Financial Planner who suggested that, as a practical matter, there is no difference between ignoring your credit card debt and filing bankruptcy. Well, let’s look at the “practical effects” of ignoring your credit card debt:
First, ignoring credit card obligations will cause a persistent series of harassing telephone calls and letters from credit card companies, collection agencies, and finally law firms. Phone calls are systematically made to the debtor’s home and work, and sometimes to third parties including neighbors, extended family, and your employer. The agencies that collect credit card debt are experts at telephone harassment – it is one of their most important weapons.
Bankruptcy, on the other hand, stops all collection calls.
Second, your credit score will be ruined on a continuing basis. For each month that a credit card goes unpaid, the creditor will report negatively to the credit reporting bureau. Additionally, collection agencies will often further harm your credit score by “resetting” the date of last activity when the account is transferred to a new collector.
Bankruptcy stops all negative reporting. Discharged debts should be identified as “Discharged in Bankruptcy” with a zero balance. The debtor’s credit report and score can begin to recover from the date of the bankruptcy discharge.
Third, you can (and will) be sued. The typical consumer will undoubtedly lose a lawsuit over a legitimate debt. The resulting judgment may include substantial penalties, interest, court fees, and attorney fees. A judgment creditor can collect from your wages, your property, and your bank account. While there are some people who are judgment proof, they are the exception and not the norm. Most people have assets that a judgment creditor can attack.
Bankruptcy prevents all lawsuits and even stops collection actions from judgment creditors.
Many consumer advocates have likened credit card debt to an illness. Like any illness, the cure is not found in ignoring the problem, which will only make things worse. If you are sick from credit cards and are unable to pay your debts, get a free consultation from Haines and Krieger and find the cure!