LAW OF THE LAND: Get advice if struggling financially

William L. Martin III
William L. Martin III

The foreclosure crisis is close to an end, but there are still folks who are saddled with massive debts who are looking for some help. Unfortunately, there are entities looking to profit from the situation by offering “debt relief” assistance.

In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi is taking action and recently announced the filing of a $7 million stipulated consent judgment against Bobby R. Blackmon, Financial Help Services, Inc., and Nation Wide Consumer Debt Relief, Inc. based on alleged unfair and deceptive business practices. A stipulated consent judgment means that the defendants agreed to a judgment against them.

The AG’s complaint alleged that both companies, and Blackmon as principal, provided credit counseling and debt management services to consumers in 48 states.

According to the Attorney General’s release, her staff pored over stacks of consumer complaints. A typical complaint alleged that the Blackmon defendants withdrew customers’ monthly funds to pay creditors, but did not pay the creditors within 30 days as required by law or failed to paid the creditors at all.

Florida’s attorney general is not the only one looking into this serious issue. According to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, "Financially strapped homeowners are the most vulnerable to mortgage 'rescue' schemes. In most cases, the only thing these so-called businesses accomplish is taking money from already struggling homeowners."

It may be a good idea to get someone to help you out if you are financially struggling; however, be careful whom you get help from. Be suspicious if the company wants a big upfront fee.

Bill Martin is a former United States Air Force pilot and senior attorney for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He is currently a partner in the law firm of Keefe, Anchors & Gordon in Fort Walton Beach.