16 Feb “Legal Aid” Scam Victimizes Thousands Across the Country
The New York Times recently reported a story about a multi-state legal services scam operated by two brothers. The brothers placed advertisements in newspapers, in yellow pages and on Craigslist offering discount legal services.
The hook – all of the advertisements included the term “legal aid” or “legal aide.” Individuals who called one of these fake “legal aid” offices ended up talking to a boiler room office in Colorado staffed by convicted felons.
Legitimate legal aid offices, of course, offer legal services provided by licensed lawyers who live and work in a local jurisdiction.
This article resonated with me because over the years I have met with many debtors who lost hundreds or thousands of dollars at the hands of flim flam artists offering “debt relief.” Most often these situations involved pending foreclosures in which the paralegal service or foreclosure prevention service would take $500, $750, $1,000 or more, then file a 2 page emergency petition as a pro se bankruptcy filing.
The victim often had no idea that a bankruptcy case had actually been filed, would often not realize what had transpired until after the 341 hearing or even as late as confirmation, at which time no post-petition mortgage payments had been made and no trustee payments had been made.
The point here: if you are facing foreclosure or some other financial problem, you get what you pay for. Stay away from “paralegal services” and stay away from anyone who promises non-judicial remedies to legal problems like lawsuits, wage garnishments or foreclosures.
Just because someone says he is with “legal aid” or the name of the company has “legal” or “law” there is no guarantee that you are with someone who is reputable. Whether you have money or not – buyer beware!
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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