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Massachusetts residents should investigate credit card suits

As residents of Massachusetts and other states continue to struggle in this difficult economy to pay off their credit card debts, judges have discovered that many credit card companies that sue in order to collect these debts often come to court without enough evidence to prove their claims. Judges have at times even dismissed these companies' suits for a lack of evidence, one time after a cardholder claimed that the company had overcharged her.

Unlike mortgage foreclosures, consumers usually do not respond when a credit card company sues them. Some judges explain that unless a cardholder shows up in court to challenge their credit card bills, the court simply does not have the means to investigate the company's calculations independently. Absent an obvious error, the court will rely on the company's evidence and will give the company permission to freeze debtors' assets, garnish their wages and use other legal means to collect the debt.

Other judges will insist that the company give specific proof of both the amount of the debt and who owes it. These judges generally will not accept a credit company's broad statements about their recordkeeping policies.

A Massachusetts resident who falls behind on one or two credit cards may want to review the company's evidence if they face a lawsuit, and, if appropriate, challenge the suit in court. However, others may owe money to multiple credit card companies and know that they are hopelessly behind and will not be able to pay, even if one credit card company has overcharged them.

In these cases, cardholders may want to consider a bankruptcy. A typical bankruptcy will temporarily prevent credit card companies from continuing their lawsuits, and may permanently stop collection efforts. Even in cases where a bankrupt debtor may have to surrender some income or property to pay the debts, the credit card company will still have to prove its right to have a share of these funds by filing with the bankruptcy court (and defending) what is called a proof of claim.

Source:, "Problems riddle moves to collect credit card debt," Jessica Silver-Greenburg, Aug. 13, 2012

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