January 1, 2004
Q: In 1992, my daughter graduated from college with a $3,000 student loan, which I helped her pay. However, she had another loan I was not aware of. The company is saying I cosigned for the loan, but I did not. Now they are trying to attach a lien to my house. Whom can I contact to see if this is legal?
–J. Epson, Thousand Oaks, CA
A: This is a case for an attorney. First, get the original loan agreement from the company. Next, ask yourself if it is possible that your daughter forged your signature. Once you have the documentation, compare signatures. “If the signature is similar to yours, you may have to hire a handwriting expert [as well as an attorney],” says William A. Taylor, partner at Taylor Goins L.L.P. (The Business Lawyers) in Oakland, California.
“If the company is heading toward a lien, that means there was a judgment; a judgment only comes as a result of a lawsuit,” says Taylor. Did you or your daughter receive a complaint? “If the answer is no, then the company is bluffing.”
To scout a lawyer, contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates (www.naca.net; 202-452-1989) and the National Bar Association (www.nationalbar.org; 202-842-3900). Since state laws vary, contact a California lawyer. Remember, these organizations offer referrals, not recommendations, so do your homework.
“It may also be that debt collectors are harassing [consumers], hoping they don’t realize their rights,” says John Ventura, consumer law attorney and author of Law for Dummies (For Dummies; $21.99). The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits a debt collector from such practices. In any case, “the attorney will separate fact from fiction,” he says.