I’ve never heard of the company that is suing me, can I ignore it?

No you should not.  If you ignore a lawsuit that is filed against you, the person (or company) suing you will get the Court to issue a ‘Default Judgment.’  (this means that, even though they sent you a copy of the lawsuit, you did not appear in Court. Or – in Legal terms – you ‘Defaulted’).  Once this occurs, you will lose the ability to fight for yourself.  (there are times, when you can ask the Court to re-open the case if you ‘Defaulted.’  But, the Court does not have to do that.  Don’t ignore any lawsuit!)

Here are some reasons to fight back (or, at least, to appear in the lawsuit) if you are sued:

  • They may be actually looking for a different person
  • The amount that they are suing you for might be wrong
  • They might be telling the Court the wrong story. But, if you aren’t there to ‘set the record straight’, the Court will not find out.

If you are sued, contact an attorney.  Legal Aid exists to help people who cannot afford their own attorney.  If you get a copy of a lawsuit in the mail, call Legal Aid (in Cleveland, the number is 216-687-1900) and try to get help.

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Which steps should I take before I buy a car?

Before you buy any car, you should be concerned with these important things:

  • The condition of the car;  
  • The condition of your credit;
  • The reputation of the dealer

Research the condition of the make/model and year of the car you are interested in

  • Consumer Reports is one of the best places to go to research the car you want.

Research the condition of your credit

  • Take time to pull your credit report and try to improve the score (see ‘Credit Reports and Scores’ on this website);
  • Know what your credit score is BEFORE you go to any car lot to look at a car;
  • Be prepared to tell the car lot’s finance person what your credit score is and demand a better interest rate;

Car dealerships make just as much money (many times, they make a whole lot more) when they get you to borrow money to buy the car.  Inflated interest rates, ‘extras’ for the car, and fees that you never dreamed of are all part of the bottom-line for car dealers.  Before you buy a car, spend some serious time doing research about the car dealer industry and how it works.

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If I give my car back do I still have to pay for it?

You’d better believe it.  In nearly every car deal, the finance company (the people who lend you the money to buy the car) is a totally different company than the car dealer.  This means that even if you give the car back to the dealer, you still owe all of the money to the finance company.  Many used-car lots make tons of money by selling cars that they know are going to break down in a few months (or weeks).  They spend time trying to fix the car.  When the buyer loses patience, they say “Just bring it back and we’ll give you another car.”  The only problem is, most buyers don’t realize that their name is still on a financing agreement for the first car.  If you don’t get a release from the finance company, you STILL OWE THE MONEY! 

If you are having problems with a car that you bought and someone at the dealership tells you “Just turn the car back in and forget about it”, don’t do it, unless you get a letter that says that you don’t owe the money for the car. 

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I just got a credit card offer in the mail, how lucky am I?

Maybe not so lucky.  Credit card companies are allowed to buy lists that contain  names of people who have certain credit types.  Sometimes, they buy a list of people with good credit.  But, sometimes, they buy a list of people who have bad credit. (the credit card companies actually want to give credit cards to folks with bad credit, because they know that they can charge these people higher interest rates.  They also know that the folks with bad credit don’t get too many offers for credit cards in the mail).

So, before you think you’re lucky and sign that credit card offer, look REALLY hard at the application and see what the interest rate is. It just might be too high!

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Which of my bills should I pay first?

  • Pay your Rent (or mortgage) first.
  • Pay your car payment next.
  • Figure out which bills charge you interest on an unpaid balance. 
    • Pay – at least – the minimum payment (on time!) for these ‘bills with interest’
    • Take care not to miss any of these minimum payments, and stay away from the nasty ‘Default interest rate’
  • Figure out which bills do NOT charge interest on an unpaid balance. 
    • Pay these bills on time, if you can.
  • Try to put any utility bills on a ‘budget plan’.  Every utility company will offer this service. 

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How do I fix my credit?

See ‘What if there are mistakes on my Credit Report?’ in section on Credit

What is Payday Lending?

See section on ‘Quick Cash Lending – Payday Loans, Auto-Title Loans, Check Cashing Stores.’