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We Were Referred to Consumer Debt Defense. What Do You Think? – Danielle

“Dear Steve,

We have much credit card debt- greater than 100,000- we had not defaulted but they kept raising interest rates and minimum payments and now can’t keep up and have fallen behing on taxes. We are going to have to default to save money to pay our taxes this year.

We were referred to www.consumerdebtdefense.com which is a law group specializing in debt relief versus bankruptcy. what is your experience with these firms and have you ever heard of this organization? Its so hard to know what is a scam. Not sure if we should get a lawyer to handle this mess and how to go about choosing one so we don’t get scammed. Thank you.

Danielle”

The Answer

Dear Danielle,

Whenever I see things like this the first question I ask myself is “What’s the point?”

If you are unable to pay taxes then your debt situation has slipped from an annoyance to critical. Regardless of the other issues, even by their own statements, Consumer Debt Defense says their service will take 6 to 18 months.

Do you really have a year or longer to deal with this when you are tapped out right now?

It seems like bankruptcy might be a better solution in your situation and if you file now your debt could be totally discharged in about 3 months and for far less than a service like this would charge.

It would be prudent for you to consult with a local bankruptcy attorney before you leap at any magical solution.

You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and if you’d like a second opinion about your situation or a personal consultation by another debt coach, please feel free to contact Damon Day.

Domain Research

ConsumerDebtDefense.com is last publicly disclosed as registered to:

Kevin Kerkela
PO Box 11777
Tempe, Arizona 85284

Consumer Debt Defense does not list their street address on their website which is a huge red flag for me. – Source

The area code of their fax is listed as an Arizona area code. – Source

Who Really Owns It?

There appears to be no statement or disclaimer on their website to indicate it is actually the website of an attorney or law firm.

Kevin Kerkla is not listed as an attorney with the State Bar of Arizona.

The State of Arizona does have a company registered to do business as Consumer Debt Defense, LLC and lists their address as 1354 W. Escarpa, Mesa, AZ 85201. The company registered to do business on 9-27-2010. Kind of interesting how they can claim to be able to eliminate debt in 6 to 18 months when they have not been around that long yet.

The members of the LLC are listed as Kevin Kerkela and Paul Paymaster. – Source

Paul Paymaster is not listed as an attorney by the State Bar of Arizona.

A Kevin Kerkla out of Tempe Arizona has a complaint against him online that mentions his affiliation with Desert Vista Financial and RMD Solutions. – Source

Both businesses were listed as promoting credit cards & plans. Interesting that the Consumer Debt Defense is now selling services to get rid of credit cards.

The BBB does list a company called Desert Vista FInancial at PO Box 11777, Tempe, Arizona 85284. The company has an F rating. – Source

RMD Solutions is listed by the BBB as being at the same PO Box 1777. The company has no rating. – Source

The BBB has no listing for a company called Consumer Debt Defense.

According to the State of Arizona, Paul Paymaster and Kevin Kerkla are also managers of some additional companies; Diverse Market Solutions and 21st Century Associates.

Just based on what I was able to list above I would be hesitant is suggesting this company. It does not appear to be owned or run by licensed attorneys in Arizona which makes the claims presented on the website, troublesome.

A casual reader of the website may assume it is owned and run by a licensed attorney, especially when the site makes statements like: “The law firm will not tolerate any harassment from a creditor, debt collector or debt purchaser. The law firm will make the independent decision as to whether or not a lawsuit is warranted.” – Source

Arizona Statement on Legal Advertising

If you compare the website for Consumer Debt Defense against the Arizona rules for advertising you may some similar concerns as I have.

Here is what the Arizona Bar says about attorney advertising.

Arizona Bar Ethic Rules Section 7: Information About Legal Services

Arizona Bar Ethics Rule 7.1. Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

A lawyer shall not make or knowingly permit to be made on the lawyer’s behalf a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.

Arizona Bar Ethics Rule 7.2. Advertising Rules

(a) Subject to the requirements of ERs 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media.

(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may:

(1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service that has been approved by an appropriate regulatory authority; and

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(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with ER 1.17.

(c) Any communication made pursuant to this Rule shall include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.

(d) Every advertisement (including advertisement by written solicitation) that contains information about the lawyer’s fees shall be subject to the following requirements:

(1) advertisements and written solicitations indicating that the charging of a fee is contingent on outcome or that the fee will be a percentage of the recovery shall disclose (A) that the client will be liable for expenses regardless of outcome unless the repayment of such is contingent upon the outcome of the matter and (B) whether the percentage fee will be computed before expenses are deducted from the recovery;

(2) range of fees or hourly rates for services may be communicated provided that the client is informed in writing at the commencement of any client-lawyer relationship that the total fee within the range which will be charged or the total hours to be devoted will vary depending upon that particular matter to be handled for each client and the client is entitled without obligation to an estimate of the fee within the range likely to be charged;

(3) fixed fees for specific routine legal services, the description of which would not be misunderstood or be deceptive, may be communicated provided that the client is informed in writing at the commencement of any client-lawyer relationship that the quoted fee will be available only to clients whose matters fall within the services described and that the client is entitled without obligation to a specific estimate of the fee likely to be charged;

(4) a lawyer who advertises a specific fee, range of fees or hourly rate for a particular service shall honor the advertised fee, or range of fees, for at least ninety (90) days unless the advertisement specifies a shorter period; provided, for advertisements in the yellow pages of telephone directories or other media not published more frequently than annually, the advertised fee or range of fees shall be honored for no less than one year following publication.

(e) Advertisements on the electronic media may contain the same information as permitted in advertisements in the print media. If a law firm advertises on electronic media and a person appears purporting to be a lawyer, such person shall in fact be a lawyer employed full-time at the advertising law firm. If a law firm advertises a particular legal service on electronic media, and a lawyer appears as the person purporting to render the service, the lawyer appearing shall be the lawyer who will actually perform the service advertised unless the advertisement discloses that the service may be performed by other lawyers in the firm.

(f) Communications required by paragraphs (c) and (d) shall be clear and conspicuous. To be “clear and conspicuous” a communication must be of such size, color, contrast, location, duration, cadence, and audibility that an ordinary person can readily notice, read, hear, and understand it.

Arizona Bar Ethics Rule 7.3. Direct Contact with Prospective Clients

(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment from a prospective client or employ or compensate another to do so when a motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted:

(1) is a lawyer; or

(2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment or knowingly permit solicitation on the lawyer’s behalf from a prospective client by written, recorded or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), if:

(1) the prospective client has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer;

(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment; or

(3) the solicitation relates to a personal injury or wrongful death and is made within thirty (30) days of such occurrence.

(c) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from a prospective client known or believed likely to be in need of legal services for a particular matter shall include the words “Advertising Material” in twice the font size of the body of the communication on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in paragraphs (a)(1) or (a)(2).

(1) At the time of dissemination of such written communication, a written copy shall be forwarded to the State Bar of Arizona at its Phoenix office.

(2) Written communications mailed to prospective clients shall be sent only by regular U.S. mail, not by registered mail or other forms of restricted delivery.

(3) If a contract for representation is mailed with the written communication, the contract shall be marked “sample” in red ink and shall contain the words “do not sign” on the client signature line.

(4) The lawyer initiating the communication shall bear the burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of all facts contained in the communication, and shall, upon request of the State Bar or the recipient of the communication, disclose how the identity and specific legal need of the potential recipient were discovered.

(d) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (a), a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer that uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.

Arizona Bar Ethics Rule 7.4. Communication of Fields of Practice

(a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is a specialist except as follows:

(1) a lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “patent attorney” or a substantially similar designation;

(2) a lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “admiralty,” “proctor in admiralty” or a substantially similar designation; and

(3) a lawyer certified by the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization or by a national entity that has standards for certification substantially the same as those established by the board may state the area or areas of specialization in which the lawyer is certified. Prior to stating that the lawyer is a specialist certified by a national entity, the entity must be recognized by the board as having standards for certification substantially the same as those established by the board. If the national entity has not been recognized by the board, it may make application for recognition by completing an application form provided by the board.

(b) Communications to the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization and its Advisory Commissions relating to an applicant’s qualifications for specialization certification shall be absolutely privileged, and no civil action predicated thereon may be instituted or maintained against any evaluator, staff or witness who communicates with or before the Board or its Advisory Commissions. Members of the Board of Legal Specialization, its Advisory Commission, and others involved in the specialization certification process shall be immune from suit for any conduct in the course of their official duties.

Arizona Bar Ethics Rule 7.5. Firm Names and Letterheads

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates ER 7.1. A trade name may not be used by a lawyer in private practice.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.

(c) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact. – Source

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Steve Rhode

    Kevin,

    On the complaint, the retraction is one the same link. I pointed out both with the one link.

    You might want to make it very clear that you are running a referral website and not a law firm. It is very hard for consumers to recognize that fact.

    BTW, the attorneys link on your site does not work and only goes to a blank page.

  • Jason Taylor

    Kevin,

    Are you licensed (meaning registered with ANY state bar) as an attorney refferal service?

    If so are you registered with in all of the states that you do business? If not, I am sure the state bars of any state where you refer clients to attorneys and recieve compensation would like to register before doing business there as an attorney refferal service.

    There is no national attorney service registration.

    The answer to this should be interesting….

  • Kevin Kerkela

    Actually we are an attorney referral service. There is a network of attorneys that specialize in credit card litigation and defending consumer rights and we refer clients to a licensed attorney licensed to practice in their area. Banks and collection agencies routinely violate laws that are designed to protect the consumer as well as the Common Law of Contracts. An experienced attorney is capable of eliminating credit card debt when such violations occur. “How to Defend a Credit Card Case” by Craig Jordan is well written, very explanatory, and a great source of information.

    http://www.txconsumerlawyers.o

    It is possible to eliminate debt legally. We have been referring clients as of September 2010 but attorneys have been successfully eliminating credit card debt for many years so the claim of 6 to 18 months is accurate even though we recently became legal expense agents, not attorneys ourselves. The clients will not be represented by us, but they will be represented by an attorney licensed to practice in their state. There are many attorney referral companies providing similar services and any consumer in credit card debt is welcome to use them if they feel at all uncomfortable with us.

    You were also quick to point out a complaint against me but neglected to post the retraction. I made a purchase of stone molds for $1060 but never received the molds and the company would not return my calls. Six months later I filed a complaint and then owner of the company filed a similar complaint in retaliation. I managed to get in touch with the owner and work everything out. If you read further down you will see he retracted the complaint but you don’t mention that. And yes, there is one unresolved complaint with the BBB to go along with it. You are also quick to point out the F rating with the BBB but fail to mention one unresolved complaint. I could pay to have that complaint removed, but perhaps you should go to Google and type in “2020 BBB”. At the top you will see youtube videos of the 20/20 investigation into the BBB. After watching that you will never view them the same.

    We are not here to hurt anyone and we never take any money from a potential client. Ever. They deal directly with their particular attorney once they choose to receive representation. I hope this clears things up.

    Kevin Kerkela

  • http://www.consumerdebtdefense.com Kevin Kerkela

    Actually we are an attorney referral service. There is a network of attorneys that specialize in credit card litigation and defending consumer rights and we refer clients to a licensed attorney licensed to practice in their area. Banks and collection agencies routinely violate laws that are designed to protect the consumer as well as the Common Law of Contracts. An experienced attorney is capable of eliminating credit card debt when such violations occur. “How to Defend a Credit Card Case” by Craig Jordan is well written, very explanatory, and a great source of information.

    http://www.txconsumerlawyers.org/papers/defending_credit_card_cases_2009_04.pdf

    It is possible to eliminate debt legally. We have been referring clients as of September 2010 but attorneys have been successfully eliminating credit card debt for many years so the claim of 6 to 18 months is accurate even though we recently became legal expense agents, not attorneys ourselves. The clients will not be represented by us, but they will be represented by an attorney licensed to practice in their state. There are many attorney referral companies providing similar services and any consumer in credit card debt is welcome to use them if they feel at all uncomfortable with us.

    You were also quick to point out a complaint against me but neglected to post the retraction. I made a purchase of stone molds for $1060 but never received the molds and the company would not return my calls. Six months later I filed a complaint and then owner of the company filed a similar complaint in retaliation. I managed to get in touch with the owner and work everything out. If you read further down you will see he retracted the complaint but you don’t mention that. And yes, there is one unresolved complaint with the BBB to go along with it. You are also quick to point out the F rating with the BBB but fail to mention one unresolved complaint. I could pay to have that complaint removed, but perhaps you should go to Google and type in “2020 BBB”. At the top you will see youtube videos of the 20/20 investigation into the BBB. After watching that you will never view them the same.

    We are not here to hurt anyone and we never take any money from a potential client. Ever. They deal directly with their particular attorney once they choose to receive representation. I hope this clears things up.

    Kevin Kerkela

    • Jason Taylor

      Kevin,

      Are you licensed (meaning registered with ANY state bar) as an attorney refferal service?

      If so are you registered with in all of the states that you do business? If not, I am sure the state bars of any state where you refer clients to attorneys and recieve compensation would like to register before doing business there as an attorney refferal service.

      There is no national attorney service registration.

      The answer to this should be interesting….

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Kevin,

      On the complaint, the retraction is one the same link. I pointed out both with the one link.

      You might want to make it very clear that you are running a referral website and not a law firm. It is very hard for consumers to recognize that fact.

      BTW, the attorneys link on your site does not work and only goes to a blank page.

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