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Credit card debt illegal? Don't you believe it!

You're paying your bills online one night and those nasty credit card statements are making you ill. If only there was some way to get rid of them, you daydream.

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PING. As if the advertisers were reading your mind up pops an e-mail that reads something like this:

"Eliminate credit card debt totally -- canceled, terminated -- legally! If you are heavily in DEBT to credit card companies, we can help you. Student loans or tax liens? Discharge these debts quickly, painlessly, legally and without damaging your credit report!"

Naah -- can't be, you think. Or could it? Should you look into it?

Absolutely not, say credit and legal experts. These kinds of spam and Web ads are just the latest versions of a long-running scheme. Companies promise they'll help you fight the legality of your credit card debt (or mortgage, student loan, tax bill or other debt) for a "small fee," which often is several thousand dollars.

The icing on the cake is that some companies even tell you they'll charge their service fee to your credit card, and then wipe out that debt for you, too.

With the proposed new bankruptcy law on the verge of approval, it will become far more difficult for consumers to qualify for bankruptcy protection -- a development that is almost certain to send more and more consumers scurrying for other answers. The notion that through some obscure law there might be a quick and legal way out of debt will no doubt lure people with credit card problems into these scams.

"Quite frankly, many of these ads and Web sites look legitimate and sound very good," says Bill Hodor, staff attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. "But if a promise sounds too good to be true, it usually is. As a consumer, you really have to be skeptical of these ads."

Hodor says the companies behind these schemes use a variety of tactics to convince consumers that it's possible to erase huge amounts of debt. The so-called legal basis for how this mysterious debt-elimination process can work is said to be based on Title 15 United States Code, Section 1692; the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, Section 1601; the Fair Credit Billing Act; and the Uniform Commercial Code, Section 203. But the ads never say exactly what it is about those laws that render credit card debt illegal.

 
 
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