Legal Aid to give presentation on debt Wednesday

Debt is a dangerous reality for many Americans, and for those without the proper knowledge on how to handle it, it can be outright explosive, especially for those who cannot afford to weather the damage it can cause.

Hayley Griffith, Outreach Coordinator for Legal Aid of Tennessee, said the organization is coming to the Elizabethton/Carter County Library Wednesday, April 3, as part of the library’s week-long focus on “money-wise” events.

She said this is part of the organization’s continued efforts to expand their reach in Elizabethton.

“We will be giving a presentation about debt on Wednesday,” Griffith said.

During this event, she said they will provide a focus on unsecured debt, such as credit cards and payday loans.

“We will be talking about what a collector can and cannot do and what happens if you are sued as a result of your debt.”

She said there are many misconceptions about debt these collectors perpetuate. She said these myths persist because they will do anything to get the money they are owed as soon as possible.

“Collectors will often threaten to put them in prison, which they cannot do,” Griffith said. “Many seniors are ‘judgment-proof,’ because you cannot garnish Social Security earnings.”

In addition, Tennessee’s Statute of Limitations says collectors cannot sue to obtain debt money after six years on non-payments.

“Collectors will often trick people by asking them ‘Oh, just pay us $20 or $10, and we will leave you alone,’” she said. “That resets the statute, so they can be sued again.”

Griffith said accurate knowledge about debts and debt collection is vital for everyone, but especially for those who have difficulty getting by as it is.

“Many seniors can barely pay for groceries,” she said.

She said they will remain after the presentation is over to provide one-on-one counseling and advice.

For those who may not be able to attend the presentation but could use the help, she said she had two takeaways people should know.

“You need to ask for help before a crisis happens,” Griffith said. “A lot of seniors do not call until they are at their last straw.”

She said they are always there to be a resource for people.

“It does not cost anything to ask us a question over the phone or in person,” she said.

Legal Aid’s presentation will take place at the Elizabethton/Carter County Library at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 3. No prior registration is necessary.

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