Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Legal Thriller Author Dissects Con Man-Inspired Courtroom Scam

In bankruptcy, a competent judge will frown mightily on a con man style shell game, any spending pattern that does not add up.

How often have you thought: If I didn't have bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all?

You go to the track to play the horses. Bad day. You lose $5,000. You try to recoup by buying 1,000 lottery tickets. With the 100,000,000 to 1 odds against you so drastically reduced, you now have an excellent chance of winning, don't you? Wrong. Next you clean out your bank accounts, borrow on your insurance policies, take a second mortgage on your house, and go to Las Vegas. Ignoring how storm clouds form, you know you can turn your run of bad luck around and come out of your mire smelling like a rose garden. You drop $10,000 at blackjack, then your last $30.000 shooting craps.

Woe is you. You now can't pay your bills. Where do you go from here? Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Moe--whoever screws you up the most, that's the way you go.

To a credit counselor, of course. After all, the ad, "Bad Credit? No Problem!," assures you of a way out, right? You must placate your base instincts, because your faith in human nature is all-consuming.

The counselor says, let's consolidate. You reconsider. You feel you've been suckered. You should have known that the "No Problem" part of the ad really meant, "Big Problem."

Life can only be understood looking backwards; unfortunately, it must be lived forwards. So, next you visit a bankruptcy lawyer. She says file for same.

You sigh, agree, and decide on one last fling before doing so. You apply for 2 additional credit cards, max them out, and go skiing in Aspen for 2 weeks.

Then you come home and file. Docket day comes and the judge says, hey, wait a minute, there are a few questions. Have you applied for any new credit cards lately? How many charges? What amounts? Over the limit? Did you consult an attorney before filing? Did you make multiple charges on the same day? Was there a sudden change in your buying habits? Were the purchases for necessities or luxuries? What's your current income and prospects? How many changes, and of what nature, in your lifestyle? Gambling? Luxury vacations?

Holed. Cornered. Trapped. You now realize that--while you are an exaggerated case--yours is somewhat typical of today's "no way out" path to Debtors' Prison, and the only thing left for you is to throw yourself on the mercy of the court. And, sadly, the newest bankruptcy law is little more than the "Credit Card Issuers' Relief Act" It tightens the screws on credit card debtors to the point many will wish for the blessed relief of a Debtors Prison.

You suddenly come to grips with your missteps. You ask yourself, is too stupid to live justifiable suicide?

How do you compensate, reform, adjust?

Work hard, long hours. Economize. Budget. Honor thy debts. Pray.

What else?

26 comments:

Swubird said...

Con Man:

Work hard. Good advice.

I sat in on the bankruptcy court one time. It was very interesting, and it was exactly how you described it. The judge caught a few people who ran up their last minute spending. To their surprise, those debts were not relieved! You should have heard the whining.

Is it true that the new bankruptcy law makes it almost impossible for the average working class American to file for Chapter 7, and be relieved of his/her debts? That's what I've heard.

Interesting and informative post as always.

Happy trails.

Jack Payne said...

Only where credit cards are involved, Swu. Tougher to go for Chapter 7? Yes. The power of the Visa, Master Card, and American Express lobbies in Washinton are stunning. So far they have been able to protect themselves by throwing a legal iron shield around themselves.

Terry said...

You sure make bankruptcy sound worse than debtors prison, Jack.

Lynn said...

I have heard that 74,000 stores will close their doors in the U.S. this year because of the economic crisis. I wonder how many of these will be pure bankruptcies as compared to reorganizations.

Julie F said...

Life can only be understood looking backwards; unfortunately, it must be lived forwards. Superb phrase that goes well beyond bankrupticies and into everything else.

Jack Payne said...

A surprisingly large number of big retail chains are wrapping it up, Lynn--taking Chapter 7, total liquidation (Mervyn's comes to mind). But, many are trying to reorganize, through Chapter 11, and come out swinging and selling again. (Example: Circuit City). I wonder how many will truly be added to this list in '09. The total could be frightening. If only from the standpoing of lost employment alone, the implications for the economy we do not want to even contemplate.

Warren M said...

I shoot craps a little when I go to Vegas, but have never lost $30,000.

Kiefers Corner said...

If you always spend less than you make, and this will never be a problem.

I had to learn this the hard way, but it was a lesson that has served me well.

The credit card companies lobbied for the new bankruptcy laws, they wanted a better way to screw the American people and they got it.

McAlee said...

It's hard to believe anyone would blow this kind of money, but I guess it happens. A friend's son ran up nearly $25,000 on his credit card, and he says he has no idea where all that money went. He has nothing to show for it.

Mina Tillison said...

Horse racing is a good trip wire to get started on, in running up debt. An old neighbor of mine did exactly this. He lost a big amount one day and started overusing his credit card to cover. Ran up a lot of debts and finally had to declare bankruptcy.

Will B said...

It looks like the bankruptcy courts are really going to be busy this year. I understand that totals will be up triple or maybe even quadruple last year.

HEALTH NUT WANNABEE MOM said...

oh no! This sounds awful and I am sure many have done it. I know from personal experience that financial problems are like a prison themselves. As always it is fun to stop by. Enjoy you so much!

Bern said...

They had better expand the bankruptcy courts quickly. I can see a big rush of business for them coming.

Ellen's Tea Room said...

Your writing as always is informative, entertaining, and it keeps me on my toes, Jack, but this one, in this terrible economic climate, is particularly depressing. And yes, this is in spite of your usual good humor.

Earl T. Clydson said...

Everywhere I go these days I hear talk of bankruptcy, either personal or corporate, either Chapter 11 or 7. It's frightening.

Warmer said...

I wonder what it would feel like to lose $10,000 playing Blackjack, a game I dearly love.

Jack Payne said...

Oh, boy, Kiefer, you hit it--right on. You think Citigroup and Bank of America have it tough now. Just wait till the next leg of this current economic downturn falls into place--all the sub-prime credit card users--once unemployment adds on up. You ain't seen nuthin' yet. It's people like your friend's son, McAlee, who are going to add much to this problem.

Yeah, Mina, a credit card is an easy thing to fall back on--to bail one out of special financial problems. a "Quick Fix" for far too many people. It's this sort of thinking that will exacerbate the current banking problems, no end.

Will, your figures sound about right.

Jack Payne said...

Thanks, Heidi. As a Wannabee Health Perfectionist, I enjoy your Blog too.

2,000,000 home foreclosures in the U.S. in 2008. 6,000,000 expected by the end of this year. Yes indeed, Bern, you'd better believe that a rush of bankrupticies will follow.

Ellen and Earl, the way you describe the current state of thinking is pretty much the same as the way I would describe it. It's intense. It's nerve-wracking. It's a "Downer," if ever their was one. We must all brace ourselves for the Hard Times that are coming.

Orinsee said...

Bankruptcy will become very popular.

Jack Payne said...

Check out, closely, the Minimum Bet signs at the tables in Vegas some time, Warmer. It's easy to quickly drop $10,000 playing the $500 tables.

And, you are still another one of them, Orinsee. Startling how many people on this thread are preoccupied with the bankruptcy tie-in with the current economic times. I concur. Plenty to worry about.

Dee said...

What's with the high living on the credit cards Jack? I have had one credit card for as long as i can remember.
Some of these people really deserve no mercy. Then again their are those who do work and budget and who just can't make ends meet. I can't blame them for trying the lotto, just a buck though. One ticket is all you need.

Gene Kranik said...

I personally know of three people who have declared bankruptcy in the past two months. This is not good.

Nardeeisms said...

Hi Jack! Just got finished reading this post and as I alternately shook, then nodded my head in agreement, I thanked God that our family had the foresight to understand the potential trap of overspending and credit card debt years ago. Bankruptcy court is not a place that we would like to be at this time. Thanks for sharing ~Nards

JD Beaudoin said...

"Life can only be understood looking backwards; unfortunately, it must be lived forwards."
Truly an excellent quote forged by years of wisdom. Love it.

What a great post Jack.

Now I just wish my kids would adopt the "Work hard, long hours. Economize. Budget. Honor thy debts. Pray" attitude.
~JD

Robin Easton said...

Wow! This is wild. I can't imagine going deeper and deeper just to get out. I'd cut back, reuse, sell, save, etc. I have only once been to casino out here in NM Jack and I went in with $10 in quarter with two friends. I put in one quarter and out shot $60 bucks. I went home. Beginner's luck! :) But both my friends used all their quarters and made more $$ but instead of quitting while ahead they kept trying for more and more, both lost everything. Then tried to con my MY $60 from me to earn it back. Lol!

Stas said...

Great post! Interesting and informative!