Know Your Rights: Don't be scammed into a debt payoff plan

By Richard Alderman
Oct. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.
Updated Oct. 7, 2012 at 5:07 a.m.

I was told by a friend that there are ways to discharge a loan without paying the full amount owed and without filing for bankruptcy. If fact, he said that the way it worked allows me to pay just a few cents on the dollar to settle the debt. I did some Internet research and found several companies that, for a fee, will teach me their debt erasing tricks. Are these legit?

I am glad you contacted me before you threw away your money. One of the current scams to separate you from your hard earned cash involves the sale of payoff plans that say they allow you to discharge a loan by paying much less than you owe. Scammers charge large fees for "discharge of debt plans" that involve things like "payment in full" checks, "EFT only," processing or even different colored inks to use. The scammer tells you to send everything certified and encourages you to use technical sounding things like a "notary certificate of service." This all sounds impressive, but none of it works. You cannot discharge an obligation on a loan unless you pay it in full, get the creditor to agree to take less than the full amount in full satisfaction or file bankruptcy. In fact, even bankruptcy usually won't work if the debt is a student loan.

Can a landlord tell you that you have 30 days to vacate due to him wanting to move into the house he rented to you? I've never heard of such thing. The lease has three more months left, all rent has been paid in full and on time, no damages to the house, good resident with zero complaints or problems. What good is a lease if you can still be evicted?

The simple answer is that you cannot be evicted before the end of the lease term, unless the lease says so. First, carefully read your lease. Unless it says the landlord has the right to terminate the lease with 30 days notice, he does not. If you don't see it in the lease, ask the landlord to show you where the lease allows him to evict you before the end of the term. If the landlord can't point to a provision in the lease, let him know you intend to abide by the lease for the next three months, and you assume he will as well.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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