August 18, 2019

FAQs About Reverse Mortgages

If you are over the age of 62 and planning on staying in your own home, a Reverse Mortgage may be for you, and you will want to read this eNewsletter very carefully because recently the Reverse Mortgage Laws have changed. Due to those changes, I sat down with an experienced Reverse Mortgage Consultant to get the latest and most important information for my clients.

Here are the highlights from our conversation:

Q: What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A: A Reverse Mortgage is a home loan that provides cash payments based on home equity; homeowners normally defer the payment of the loan until they pass away, sell or move out of the home.

Q: What are the big changes?

A: The government-insured reverse mortgage program is changing, with the introduction of a few new rules and more protection for borrowers. The changes are designed to create and even safer product or borrowers than has ever been available before. There are still plenty of product options that will allow you to access the equity in your home, while you continue to live there, with no monthly mortgage payments.

Q: What are the Payment options available?

A: With a reverse mortgage, you can still choose between a fixed-rate loan or an adjustable-rate loan. And you can receive the funds in a number of ways: as a lump sum, monthly advances, line of credit, or a combination of these options. There are new limits to the amount of money that can be taken out at the time of the loan closing and within the first 12 months of the loan, which will depend on each individual’s situation. Please contact a Reverse Mortgage Consultant to learn more as to how the restrictions may apply.

Q: How can the funds be used?

A: Reverse Mortgage funds can still be used however you see fit. In order to qualify, you must own your home outright, or have enough home equity that you can pay off your remaining mortgage balance with the loan proceeds. The Reverse Mortgage still allows you to eliminate monthly mortgage payments while remaining in your home. For example, some borrowers choose the line of credit option, keeping it available for any unexpected costs they might have in the future, such as medical expenses or in-home care. The credit line can also be used as a “standby” cash reserve that can be borrowed from when investments are underperforming. Others opt for a lump sum to pay their existing mortgage or other debts, to improve cash flow. Monthly advances can be used to supplement existing income, providing a steady stream of funds for a specified period or as long as you live in your home.

Q: What are the qualifications?

A: Currently, there are minimal credit or income requirements to qualify for a reverse mortgage.  However, there will be additional changes to the program, including a financial assessment of all applicants’ credit history, existing debt and income sources. These changes will impact some borrowers’ ability to qualify, so we encourage you to speak with us soon- before the changes go into effect. Your Reverse Mortgage Consultant can help determine whether you will qualify for a reverse mortgage, how much you can borrow, the costs involved and how the forthcoming financial assessment may affect your ability to qualify or how much you may receive.

If this information does not pertain to you, I am sure you know someone that it will help, like your parents or your friends. Please pass it along.

Does it make sense to save my home?

Whenever someone comes to see me about issues with their mortgage, the first question I ask is always: “Do you want to keep your home?”  And I always expect a very long answer because there are a lot of considerations when making that decision.  Factors include but are not limited to:

  • Can I really afford it?
  • Is it underwater?
  • Does it need a lot of work?
  • Will this disrupt my family?

Depending on the whole answer, sometimes it simply does not make sense to keep your home.

Does it make sense to save your home? | Consumer Legal Services, LLC

If you come to the conclusion that it is best for you to let your home go, you then have many options, such as:

  • Sale or Short-Sale
  • Bankruptcy
  • Deed in Lieu

Making this decision is hard and you should have as much information as you can get before coming to your final answer.  You should also have a solid exit strategy, should you decide it does not make sense to save your home.

We offer free and confidential consultations, and can help you decide if saving your home makes sense for you, and help you put together a plan for your next steps in whatever direction you choose.

If you choose to let your home go, we can help you exit gracefully.  Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your options. Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray can we reached directly at 203-713-8877.

Bankruptcy and Retirement

Here you are in your golden years and you’re also in overwhelming debt.  The question now becomes “what should you do?” If you have retirement savings, you can use that to pay down debt, but then you won’t have anything left to live on.  Or, a smarter choice, would be to keep your retirement savings, protect your pension(s) and/or retirement account(s), and declare Bankruptcy.  This is also a very wise decision if you do not have retirement savings or pensions and you are counting on social security benefits only to support yourself and your family.

Some people are under the misconception that when they reach retirement age, they become what is known as “judgment proof.”  On one hand this is correct and on another hand it is false.  Creditors can still sue you for delinquent accounts and secure judgments against you even if you are over 62 and/or retired.  If you are sued and lose, and then you fail to pay the court-ordered judgment amounts then the creditors can serve you with executions of the judgment and they can sweep your bank accounts.  You will then have the right to request the court to “exempt” the funds if they were derived from social security, pension or retirement funds, and eventually have the funds returned to your account.  Creditors cannot get attachments on your benefits from social security, pension or retirement accounts, but they can put liens on your property.  Therefore, you are not fully protected or “judgment proof” just because you are retired and no longer have “wages.”

The alternative to this dilemma is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If you are living on pension funds and/or social security benefits, you will likely qualify easily for Bankruptcy, and your social security benefits, pensions and retirement accounts will be totally exempt in the Bankruptcy process.  Ultimately, Bankruptcy will give you a “discharge” of your debts and you will be relieved of your obligation to pay your creditors.

Bankruptcy can also help you with delinquent or unpaid utilities, and foreclosures, as well.

Filing Bankruptcy in your golden years can help you wipe the slate clean so you can enjoy your retirement and have peace of mind.

Please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray for more detailed information and a free consultation to discuss your specific situation at 203-713-8877.

New Case Law Regarding Acceleration

DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY,TRUSTEE v.JOSEPH R. PONGER ET AL.(AC 41014) DiPentima, C. J., and Moll and Sullivan, Js.

Syllabus

The plaintiff bank sought to foreclose a mortgage on certain real property owned by the defendant T and her former spouse, P. T and P had executed a mortgage deed, and P had executed a note in favor of a predecessor in interest of the plaintiff. The note was later assigned to the plaintiff. After P failed to make payments pursuant to the note, the plaintiff advised him that the note and mortgage were in default, and mailed notice of the default addressed to him, but not to T, at the address of the property at issue, at which P no longer lived at the time that the plaintiff mailed the notice to him there. In the absence of a cure of the default, the plaintiff thereafter elected to accelerate the amount due under the note. T claimed that the plaintiff had failed to provide herewith proper notice of the default and acceleration of the note when it sent notice to the property that was addressed to P. The trial court rendered judgment of strict foreclosure for the plaintiff, concluding,inter alia, that the notice of default and acceleration was sent to T as a joint tenant of the mortgaged property and a joint obligor on the mortgage deed. On T’s appeal to this court,held that the trial court properly rendered judgment of strict foreclosure for the plaintiff, as that court correctly concluded that the notice requirement under the mortgage was satisfied because notice to one joint tenant or joint obligor constitutes notice to the other; because T conceded that, at all relevant times, she and P were joint tenants with respect to the subject property,it was not in dispute that T and P continued as joint obligors under the mortgage, and T did not dispute that her signature was on the mortgage,notice to P constituted notice to T.Argued November 29, 2018—officially released July 2, 2019Procedural History Action to foreclose a mortgage on certain real property of the named defendant et al., and for other relief,brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, where the court,Mintz, J., granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to liability as against the named defendant; thereafter, the court,Hon. A. William Mottolese, judge trial referee,accepted the parties’ stipulation of facts, and the matter was tried to the court,Hon. A. William Mottolese, judge trial referee; judgment of strict foreclosure, from which the defendant Theresa Ponger appealed to this court.Affirmed.Colin B. Connor, for the appellant (defendant Theresa Ponger). Christopher J. Picard, for the appellee (plaintiff).

Opinion

SULLIVAN, J. The defendant Theresa Ponger appeals from a judgment of strict foreclosure rendered by thetrial court.1On appeal, the defendant’s principal claim isthat the court erred when it concluded that the plaintiff, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee, in Trust, for Registered Holders of Long Beach Mortgage Loan Trust 2006-WL3, Asset-Backed Certificates, Series2006-WL3, had provided notice of default and acceleration to her when it sent notice to the subject property addressed to her former spouse, Joseph R. Pongern (Ponger), who no longer resided at the property.Because the court correctly held that the notice requirement under the mortgage was satisfied because notice to one joint tenant or joint obligor constitutes noticeto the others, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.The parties stipulated to the following relevant facts.On September 7, 2005, Ponger executed a note in favor of Long Beach Mortgage Company in the principalamount of $420,000. The note was endorsed in blankand supplied to the plaintiff prior to the commencement of this action. Also on September 7, 2005, Ponger andthe defendant executed a mortgage deed in favor ofLong Beach Mortgage Company on property located at23 Macintosh Road, Norwalk. The mortgage was recorded in the Norwalk land records on September13, 2005.2The plaintiff is the present holder of the note.On or about December 6, 2013, by letter addressed to Ponger at 23 Macintosh Road, Norwalk, Connecticut06857, the plaintiff advised him that the note and mort-gage were in default due to his failure to make therequired monthly payments.3Notice of the aforemen-tioned default was not addressed to the defendant.4Inthe absence of a cure of the default, the plaintiff electedto accelerate the amount due under the note. On April15, 2014, the plaintiff provided Ponger and the defen-dant notice of their rights under the General Statutes as they relate to the Emergency Mortgage AssistanceProgram. See General Statutes § 8-265cc et seq. Therecord further indicates that Ponger failed to make pay-ments pursuant to the note from July 1, 2013, to thedate of the joint stipulation, May 9, 2017.The present action was commenced on October 13,2015, approximately eighteen months after the Emer-gency Mortgage Assistance Program notice was mailedto the subject property. On May 5, 2016, after the expira-tion of the court approved foreclosure mediation period, the defendant filed a timely answer asserting,as a special defense, that the plaintiff had failed toprovide her with proper notice of default and accelera-tion. Thereafter, on June 2, 2016, the plaintiff filed amotion for summary judgment as to both Ponger and the defendant. The court granted the motion with respect to Ponger but denied the motion with respect to the defendant. On May 16, 2017, the parties filed a joint stipulation of facts with the court as to the remaining issues in dispute. On September 6, 2017, the court issued its memorandum of decision finding in favor of the plaintiff. The court determined that ‘‘[r]esolution of this issue is controlled squarely byCiticorp Mortgage,Inc.v.Porto, 41 Conn. App. 598, 600–604, 677 A.2d 10(1996),’’5and, thus, concluded in relevant part that the‘‘notice of default and acceleration was sent to [the defendant] as a joint tenant of the mortgaged property and a joint obligor on the mortgage deed.’’ Thereafter,the court rendered judgment of strict foreclosure against both Ponger and the defendant, and set thelaw day for January 16, 2018. This appeal followed.Additional facts and procedural history will be set forthas necessary.The defendant’s principal claim on appeal is that the court erred when it concluded that the notice require-ment provision of the subject mortgage had been satis-fied as to the defendant when the plaintiff provided notice addressed exclusively to Ponger.6Specifically,the defendant claims that, because she is a ‘‘[b]orrower’’under the terms of the mortgage, and because the noticeprovision of the mortgage requires notice of defaultand acceleration to be given to the ‘‘[b]orrower,’’ the plaintiff was required to provide her individually withnotice. The defendant further claims that the courtimproperly applied the legal principles set forth inCiti-corp Mortgage, Inc. v.Porto, supra, 41 Conn. App. 600,because the present case is distinguishable, and, as aresult of the improper application ofCiticorp Mortgage,Inc., a necessary condition precedent to the foreclosure action was not met.7We disagree.As an initial matter, we note that the defendant’sclaim presents a mixed question of law and fact. ‘‘Wherethe question whether proper notice was given depends upon the construction of a written instrument or the circumstances are such as lead to only one reasonable conclusion, it will be one of law, but where the conclu-sion involves the effect of various circumstances capa-ble of diverse interpretation, it is necessarily one offact for the trier.’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.)Sunset Mortgagev.Agolio, 109 Conn. App. 198, 202,952 A.2d 65 (2008). Because the plaintiff claims ‘‘thatthe facts found were insufficient to support the court’slegal conclusion, this issue presents a mixed question of law and fact to which we apply plenary review.’’Winchesterv.McCue, 91 Conn. App. 721, 726, 882 A.2d143, cert. denied, 276 Conn. 922, 888 A.2d 91 (2005).We begin by addressing the defendant’s claim thatthe court erred when it applied the legal principles setforth inCiticorp Mortgage, Inc., to the present case. InCiticorp Mortgage, Inc., this court addressed whether notice to one joint tenant constituted notice to the oth-ers under similar, but not identical, circumstances.

There, the defendant and his spouse were living apart,and neither the defendant nor the spouse resided at the subject property at the time notice was delivered.Similar to the notice provision in the present case, the relevant notice provision provided: ‘‘Unless applicable law requires a different method, any notice that must be given to me under this note will be given by deliveringit or by mailing it first class to me at the property address above or at a different address if I give thenote holder notice of my different address.’’ (Internalquotation marks omitted.)Citicorp Mortgage, Inc. v.Porto, supra, 41 Conn. App. 600 n.4. Unlike like thepresent case, in which the defendant is a signatoryonly on the subject mortgage, the defendant inCiticorpMortgage, Inc., was both a signatory on the note anda signatory on the corresponding mortgage.This court concluded that, although ‘‘proper noticeof acceleration is a necessary condition precedent toan action for foreclosure . . . the plaintiff provided thedefendant with proper notice by mailing the notice ofacceleration to [a joint tenant of the defendant].’’ Id.,603. This court further concluded that, ‘‘[w]hile itappears that service of a notice upon one tenant incommon is not usually regarded as binding upon theothers, unless they are engaged in a common enterprise,the rule is different where the relation is that of a joint tenancy. In such a case, it is said that notice to one ofthem is binding upon all. 20 Am. Jur. 2d, Cotenancyand Joint Ownership § 113 (1995).’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.)Citicorp Mortgage, Inc. v.Porto, supra,41 Conn. App. 603.Largely informed by our Supreme Court’s decisioninKatzv.West Hartford, 191 Conn. 594, 600, 469 A.2d410 (1983), which reaffirmed long-standing precedent that ‘‘[i]n the case of cofiduciaries [and joint tenants]notice to one is deemed to be notice to the other,’’this court’s decision inCiticorp Mortgage, Inc., alsorestated the long-standing principle that ‘‘[n]otice toone of twojoint obligorsconveys notice to the otherwith respect to matters affecting the joint obligation.United Statesv. Fleisher Engineering & ConstructionCo., 107 F.2d 925, 929 (2d Cir. 1939).’’ (Emphasis added.)Citicorp Mortgage, Inc. v. Porto, supra, 41 Conn. App.603–604. Despite the foregoing, the defendant claimsthat the trial court misapplied the aforementioned stan-dards because, unlike the defendant inCiticorp Mort-gage, Inc., who was both a signatory on the note and corresponding mortgage, she was not a signatory onthe subject note. We find the defendant’s claim unper-suasive.In a recent decision, this court addressed a similarclaim. SeeCitibank, N.A. v. Stein, 186 Conn. App. 224,199 A.3d 57 (2018), cert. denied, 331 Conn. 903, 202A.3d 373 (2019).8InCitibank, N.A., the defendant argued that, because he was a signatory on the subject mortgage but not a signatory on the corresponding note,notice to his former spouse, who was the sole signatory on the note, was not effective as to him. Id., 250 n.21.This court held that, because the defendant signed the mortgage instrument, thereby pledging the property as security for the debt obligation created by the note,which was signed by the former spouse, the defendantwas a joint obligor as to the mortgage and that the notice provided to his former spouse, despite their contrasting endorsements, satisfied the notice requirements under the mortgage. Id., 249–50, 250 n.21.Critically, at oral argument before this court, the defendant conceded that, at all relevant times, she andPonger were joint tenants with respect to the subjectproperty. 9SeeKatzv. West Hartford, supra, 191 Conn.600. Furthermore, it is not in dispute that the defendant and Ponger continued as joint obligors under the sub-ject mortgage. SeevCiticorp Mortgage, Inc. v.Porto,supra, 41 Conn. App. 603–604. Further still, the defen-dant has not challenged the stipulation or otherwise disputed that her signature is on the mortgage. Accord-ingly, we conclude that the present case falls squarely within the ambit of this court’s decision inCiticorpMortgage, Inc., and, therefore,the notice to Pongerconstituted notice to the defendant.The judgment is affirmed and the case is remanded for the purpose of setting new law days.In this opinion the other judges concurred.1Joseph R. Ponger was also a defendant at trial but does not appeal fromthe judgment of strict foreclosure. In this opinion, we refer to Theresa Pongeras the defendant and to Joseph R. Ponger as Ponger. Several encumbrances also were named as defendants, but they are not parties to this appeal.2By virtue of assignments of the mortgage from Long Beach Mortgage Company to Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee for Long Beach Mortgage Trust 2006-WL3, dated April 7, 2010, and recorded June 11,2010, in volume 7200 at page 113 of the Norwalk land records, and thereafter from Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee for Long Beach Mortgage Trust 2006-WL3 to the plaintiff, dated August 20, 2015, and recordedOctober 9, 2015, in volume 8244 at page 101 of the Norwalk land records,the plaintiff became the mortgagee of record.3The notice provision of the subject mortgage provides in relevant part:‘‘Any notice to Borrower provided for in this Security Instrument shall be given by delivering it or by mailing it by first class mail unless applicablelaw requires use of another method. The notice shall be directed to the Property Address or any other address Borrower designates by notice toLender.’’ The subject mortgage defines the ‘‘[b]orrower’’ as ‘‘Joseph Pongerand Theresa Ponger.’’4Relatedly, the defendant claims that the court erred when it concluded that the plaintiff’s admission that notice was not individually addressed tothe defendant did not preclude judgment of strict foreclosure. Because the plaintiffs admission is not legally significant as to the defendant’s claim onappeal, we decline to address it.5The principal issue before the trial court essentially was identical to the issue now presented on appeal, namely, whether the plaintiff was required to provide the defendant with individual notice of default and acceleration pursuant to the notice provision in the subject mortgage.6In addition, the defendant claims that, even assuming arguendo that she received the notice sent by the plaintiff to Ponger, the notice failed to comply with certain requirements set forth in the mortgage deed and, thus, was deficient. The defendant failed to raise this distinct claim before the trial court and, therefore, we decline to review it. See DiMiceliv.Cheshire, 162

Conn. App. 216, 229–30, 131 A.3d 771 (2016) (‘‘Our appellate courts, as a general practice, will not review claims made for the first time on appeal.We repeatedly have held that [a] party cannot present a case to the trial court on one theory and then seek appellate relief on a different one . . . .[A]n appellate court is under no obligation to consider a claim that is not distinctly raised at the trial level. . . . [B]ecause our review is limited to matters in the record, we [also] will not address issues not decided by the trial court.’’ [Internal quotation marks omitted.]).7Additionally, in her brief the defendant argues that the court erred when it concluded that she and Ponger were joint tenants as to the subject prop-erty. At oral argument, however, the defendant conceded that, at all relevant times, she remained a joint tenant to the subject property.8Citibank, N.A. v. Stein, supra, 186 Conn. App. 224, was officially released two days prior to oral argument. We note that neither the plaintiff nor the defendant chose to submit invited post argument memoranda to address its relevancy. See Practice Book § 67-10.9See footnote 7 of this opinion.

Consumer Tips: Grocery Shopping on a Budget (and a Special Offer!)

Each month, the one thing that people spend a significant amount of money on is food. Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and expensive – but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve created a list of my best grocery shopping hacks to make sure that you keep the costs down and save money when grocery shopping!

  1. Download the apps! Nowadays each store has it’s own app.  Some apps will allow you to enjoy discounts and coupons that you couldn’t find in the circular at the store. It’s also a great time saver, so you don’t have to clip coupons.  Some stores allow you to do your deli order on the app and then pick up in store. Other apps track your points for you.  Save money and time with apps!
  1. Know what you have at home. There’s nothing worse than buying something expensive only to come home, rummage through the pantry, and realize that you already have it. Take inventory of what you already have on hand to avoid these mix-ups.
  1. Plan out your meals. In order to know exactly what you are spending, plan out what you need to buy and calculate the cost of your trip before you go. If you create a budget, you can stick to it by planning in advance.
  1. Decide when you are going to eat out, and resist temptation. We’ve all been there. You had to get up early to finish a project for your boss, you spent the whole day running around the office, and a solid hour at the gym. You haven’t stopped moving for the past 12 hours – the last thing that you want to do is cook dinner. Put a little wiggle room in the budget for occasions like these so that you don’t have to cook. But you also have to realize when there is no room in your budget for wasting food that you have at home and going out instead. Come up with some quick recipes so that you can whip something up when you’re in a situation like this.
  1. Don’t waste food. Don’t just buy food because you think you should eat it. Yes, it’s great to have tons of fresh produce on hand, and you should be eating it, but if it goes to waste every week because you don’t feel like having it, you’re throwing money down the drain. Take baby steps when it comes to incorporating a new food into your diet so that you don’t end up wasting it.
  1. Eat before you go to the grocery store. This is a psychological trick. Shopping on an empty stomach increases our likelihood to make impulse buys. As we walk through a grocery store, we are blinded by our hunger and end up grabbing whatever looks good. If you shop on a full stomach, it will reduce these impulses.
  1. Buy in bulk, when it makes sense. If you’re willing to do some research, you can calculate when it will save you money to buy items in bulk. Taking advantage of bulk items can be helpful in reducing costs in the long run.
  1. And last but not least, bring your own reusable bags.  With the new law going into effect on August 1, 2019, avoid the fee to buy bags – and use one of ours instead.

Contact us if you would like a “Consumer Legal Services, LLC” reusable bag, provided by my friend and colleague, Erin Eberhardt at West Shore Associates, LLC.  (Please note that this is a special offer; supplies are limited; the offer is valid only while supplies last on a first come, first served basis, and you must pick-up your bag at our Milford, CT office.)

June 2019 Bankruptcy Filings Fall 0.3 Percent

Bankruptcy filings fell 0.3 percent for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2019, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Annual bankruptcy filings totaled 773,361, compared with 775,578 cases in the year ending June 2018.

Business filings rose by 1.1 percent, just the third time since 2010 that business bankruptcies increased over a 12-month period. Non-business bankruptcy filings fell by 0.3 percent, the smallest percentage change since March 2011.

The following bankruptcy filings statistics tables are available:

SOURCE: https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2019/07/26/june-2019-bankruptcy-filings-fall-03-percent?utm_medium=email&utm_name=usc-news&utm_source=govdelivery

Passwords: 6 Best Practices (Guest Blog by Scott Gombar)

Passwords – Hate Them or Love Them, You’re Stuck with Them

Passwords are the bane of every person who uses multiple social media and email platforms.  At your job many people (including you maybe?) hate them and do their best to circumvent best practices.

Meanwhile people like me can’t fathom why anyone would use password123 as a password.  I wholeheartedly believe in a strong password policy, and practice what I preach.  I often run into computer users with very lax passwords (and in some cases none).

A lot of people simply don’t understand the consequences of an easy password.  Using a one word, all lowercase passwords, often a word associated with them, is extremely easy to crack.

The password 123456 is still one of the most commonly used passwords.  I run dark web breach assessments for business owners all the time and find their very simple passwords have been cracked and are added to lists on the dark web.

I have had clients tell me that they know their password is not strong, and then half-jokingly say “Why would anyone want my password?”

Then there’s the dreaded sticky note or notepad right next to their computer, with all their passwords.

There’s laptop and iPad owners who have no password on their device.  I can easily pick it up, walk away and likely have access to their entire life in a matter of minutes.

I get it.  Passwords are a pain in the…..

Unfortunately, they’re not going anywhere.

There have been some cool advances in authentication.  Biometrics, RFID cards, tokens, and QR codes to name a few.

If you have purchased a smart phone in the last few years you know that facial recognition and/or fingerprint scanning are now standard on most phones.

But ultimately passwords are here to stay.  Have you ever tried unlocking your phone with a wet thumbprint?  And my son was able to bypass the facial recognition on my phone.  Most people say he looks like my wife but not according to my Samsung phone.

The Great Password Debate

In the Infosec world we usually get our guidelines and best practices from NIST.  NIST recently published a study on whether recycling passwords worked.

Many businesses require you to change your password every 30 or 45 days and won’t allow you to reuse a password for 12-18 months.  Many security experts recommend changing your social media and email passwords every few months.  Some sites even prompt you to do this.

It has been determined that this practice is not effective, meaning it does nothing to improve account compromise.

What it does do is ensure that any unauthorized individual who has gained access with a compromised account will no longer have access once that password is changed.  But by then the damage is done.

There have been lots of debates on what makes a secure password.  Random letters/numbers/special characters are great but who can remember them?

Using something you can remember makes it easier to crack or even guess the password.  I have successfully guessed a network password for a major cable provider’s supposedly secured modem/router.  Meaning I did not use specialized tools to crack the password.  I simply used information available to me to make an educated guess.

Things to consider include length, complexity, time until expiration, and account lockout rules.

Password Best Practices for Your Business

Despite the introduction of alternative authentication methods passwords are still necessary.  The alternative methods should be used as multifactor authentication (MFA).  Meaning you should use a password and another method.

I will get to those methods in a few paragraphs.

Password Best Practices:

  1. Use Passwords of at Least 8 Characters – The more the better. For each additional character the time it takes to brute force the password increases exponentially.  A password of 8 lowercase letters can take 5 hours to brute force.  By comparison a password of 12 lowercase characters can take 200 years.
  2. Use a combination of UPPERCASE, lowercase, numbers and special characters. Above I mentioned that a password of 8 lowercase characters can be cracked in 5 hours. If you add UPPERCASE, numbers and special characters it will take a lot longer.
  3. Force Yourself to Use Complex Password Policies – Doing this will also greatly decrease the likelihood of a compromise.  Complex passwords mean in addition to requiring UPPERCASE, lowercase, numbers and special characters you also avoid dictionary words and variations, proper names, using the account name in the password, and reusing the same or similar passwords across different platforms.
  4. Use MFA – This is also referred to 2FA or TFA (Two-Factor Authentication). There are a few different methods for multifactor authentication available. The most common is the use of a token.  It is becoming more popular to use a soft token.  Using an app on your smartphone that generates a time-based code is easy to set up in most cases, and almost always free.  Microsoft and Google offer apps to manage the codes for you.  There is also an app called Authy that works great.  This means you need to make sure your phone has a lock on it, preferably a biometric lock such as facial recognition or thumb print.  Other methods of MFA (depending on what you’re logging in to) include text message, biometrics (retina scanner, fingerprint, facial recognition) and RFID cards.
  5. Password Manager – I use LastPass and Keepass. Both tools store my complex passwords so that I don’t need to remember them all.  They’re both available for free.
    If you put a gun to my head and ask for my Facebook password, I can’t give it to you because I don’t know it.  Even better is if you do somehow get it, I still need to approve the log in on my phone.  LastPass is a website that works with your browser, computer and smartphone.  Once you log in to LastPass your passwords can automatically fill in wherever you need it.  Keepass is a tool you can download to your computer if you’re not comfortable with a website knowing all your passwords.  There are plenty of other tools out there.  I have personally used these two for years without any problems.
  6. Stop Sharing so Much Information – We’ve all seen them, and many of us are guilty of participating in them. 20 questions about you that you share (often publicly) on the internet.  This can be used to social engineer you.  Social engineering makes it easier to make an educated guess as to what your password might be, or perform further social engineering.  I’ve done it to prove a point on multiple occasions.  It’s not hard to gain access to someone’s info given enough information, and if a less than secure personal password policy is in use.

Get Comfortable with Passwords

Passwords are a necessary evil that are not going away anytime soon. It’s best to get comfortable with having to use them in a secure manner.

One last note.  There are websites on the internet dedicated to hosting dictionary files filled with passwords that have been used, Security professionals and not so ethical people can purchase these lists to use for brute force attacks.  They don’t even cost that much money…pennies on the dollar for tens of thousands of passwords.

I recently discovered that a password I was using was on this list.  I don’t normally use the same password in multiple places (call me paranoid) but this password was used in a couple of applications.  The password consisted of a nickname of someone I know (that most people would not know) random numbers and a special character.

Needless to say, I do not use this password anymore.  Using the exclamation point as your one and only special character seems to be the default for a lot of people.  Don’t do it.

I should also note these password suggestions can (and should) be used on most internet applications today (Google, Facebook, PayPal, Banking, etc.)   They all have multi-factor authentication options but don’t always make it easy to find that option (PayPal!).

Bottom line, make peace with using a more complex personal password policy.  They’re not going anywhere.

 

THANK YOU to Scott Gombar for this Guest Post.  To get a FREE RISK ASSESSMENT click HERE!

Contact Scott: web: support@nwaj.tech, phone: 203.680.8151.

Life After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: A Serious Process for a Fresh Start

You have come a very long way, and I want to be the first person to CONGRATULATE you on completing all of your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payments, and successfully receiving a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge!  I understand what an incredible accomplishment this is and admire your determination to clean up your debt and get a Fresh Start!

The day you receive your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge is the first Debt-Free day of the rest of your life.  I know, as awesome as that may sound, it may also seem a bit scary to think you will have no credit and not be able to fall back on credit cards in an emergency after the long years of being in the Chapter 13 Process, but it’s not forever and there is a healthy and productive way about living cash-only during and after the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.

“Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a process for people serious about getting a second chance at a financially healthy life.”

Through your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process you completed a Debtor Education/Personal Financial Management Course that taught you effective ways of rebuilding your credit.  One of those ways is by obtaining a secured credit card, which you can do almost immediately upon receiving your Discharge.  This is great for two reasons: (1) it will immediately help you rebuild your credit (as long as you pay at least the minimum payment on time each month) and (2) it will give you that safety net back of having a credit card (but it should be strictly for emergencies only).  The beauty of a getting a secured credit card  right after Bankruptcy is that you will only be allowed a very small limit (usually $200 at first), this will help you police your spending habits and force you to learn to live life cash-only.

After you start your new debt-free financial journey you will become confident that you can support yourself and have a healthy financial life without the crutch of credit cards and having the burden of the crushing debt that results from those credit cards.

The number one worry my clients have is that Bankruptcy is public information and it will be used against them.  Although Bankruptcy is public information, your filing is not printed in the newspaper or easily accessible to the community.

Your Bankruptcy filing will show up on your Credit Report and it will show up on a financial background search, however, filing for Bankruptcy is a constitutional right and you cannot be discriminated against solely on the basis of your Bankruptcy.

A few years after you are discharged from Bankruptcy you will able to obtain car loans and mortgages for real estate.  As time goes on, you will be given more favorable interest rates and your credit score will begin to grow.  In fact, some creditors even look favorably on people who have completed a Chapter 13 Repayment Plan, because they know you have the determination, perseverance and ability to make monthly payments on time.

The bottom line is that once you start over in Bankruptcy, learn healthy money management skills and begin to regain your credit, you can live a life of abundance with peace of mind and security.

I tell all of my clients: do not let the potential after-effects of Bankruptcy deter you from filing and getting your second chance at life.

For more information on the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, please contactAttorney Theresa DeGray, at 203-713-8877.

Chapter 13 Discharge

Congratulations, you have successfully completed your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case and received your Discharge! 

But…just what is a Discharge anyway!?!

 

The most frequently asked question I get from my clients is “WHAT IS A DISCHARGE?” So, in this Chapter 13 Series Blog installment I am going to fully explain what a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge is and what it means to you and your creditors going forward.

“The goal of Bankruptcy is to give you a ‘fresh start.’ The Supreme Court made this point about the purpose of the bankruptcy law in the 1934 decision of the case Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244, ‘it gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor…a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.’  This goal is accomplished through the Bankruptcy Discharge, which releases debtors from personal liability from specific debts and prohibits creditors from ever taking any action against the debtor to collect those debts.”  –www.USCourts.gov

 

First let’s start with the definition: a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge is a court order stating that you completed your Plan payments, and are no longer responsible to repay the any outstanding unsecured debts listed on your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition.

Next, we will explore what a Discharge means to you.

Once you have completed all of the steps in the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, (credit counseling, filing your petition, attending your Section 341 Meeting and Confirmation Hearing, completing your personal financial management course and paying all of your Plan payments), you will then receive in the mail a 2 page document entitled “Discharge of Debtor.”

When most people receive this final document they expect it to be very specific and state exactly what debts have been discharged.  Unfortunately, the document simply states “it appearing that the debtor is entitled to a discharge, it is ordered: the debtor is granted a discharge under section 1328(a) of title 11, United States Code, (the Bankruptcy Code).”  It does not list the debts that have been discharged in detail, but rather applies to all of the debts that you listed on your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition, unless otherwise ordered by the Bankruptcy Court.

The second page (or back side, depending on how the Court prints the document) of your Discharge will have the Court’s “explanation of Bankruptcy Discharge in a Chapter 13 Case.”  This is an official Form from the Court and the Court disclaims that “this information is only general…there are some exceptions…you may want to consult an attorney.”

The Court’s explanation contains three main points of information summarized below:

1-Collection of Discharged Debts Prohibited: No creditor is allowed to contact or harass you in an attempt to collect a debt that was discharged.  However, you are allowed to make voluntary payments on any discharged debt.  Normally people do this for doctors or service providers that they want to maintain relationships with.

2-Debts that are Discharged: Debts that are dischargeable in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy usually include unsecured debts like credit cards, medical debt and personal loans not secured by property and that have not been paid in full through your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan.

3-Debts that are NOT Discharged: Debts that are not discharged in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case usually include most secured debts, most taxes, domestic support obligations (such as child support and/or alimony), most student loans, most fines, penalties or criminal restitution obligations, reaffirmed debts, debts owed to certain pensions, profit sharing plans and other retirements plans, and all other debts that the Bankruptcy Court may specifically decide are not dischargeable.

And finally, we will conclude with a discussion of what a Discharge means to your creditors, and more importantly, your credit report.

As stated above, the Bankruptcy Discharge (a Court Order) prohibits any creditors to attempt to collect on a discharged debt.  Therefore, if creditors continue to harass you after receipt of your Discharge, you will want to call us right away, as it is illegal.

Keep in mind that a creditor may still have the right to enforce a lien against your property after your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy has concluded and you have been discharged, if the lien was not specifically listed on your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and discharged.

You Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Filing and subsequent Discharge will be reported on your credit report.  This will likely remain on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.  However, that will not stop you from rebuilding healthy credit during those years.

In my next Blog and final installment of this Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Blog Series, I will discuss what getting/having a Bankruptcy Discharge means in the next phase of your life.

Contact Attorney Theresa DeGray with any questions you may have about Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharges at 203-713-8877.

Debtor Education Course

The last action you must take in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process will be taking the Debtor Personal Financial Management Education Course.  This is actually fun and will be your first step on the road to a healthy financial life!

In order to receive your Discharge you must complete an “instructional course concerning personal financial management”1 after your Chapter 13 Petition is filed and before you make your last Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payment.  I suggest that you take the course before your 341 Meeting of the Creditors or shortly thereafter so you do not forget to do it, as the Chapter 13 Process is a lengthy one and you may not be making your last payment for 5 years.

This is the second and final course you must take to complete your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.  The first course was “credit counseling.”  This second and final Debtor Education course is different as you will see below.

The Debtor Education course must be administered by an agency that is approved by the United States Trustee Program for the District that you reside in.  I will give you a list of the currently approved agencies during our initial consultation and gently remind you during the process when you should take the course.

The course may be taken in person or online.  It takes approximately two hours to complete, and costs anywhere from $15 to $50 depending on which agency you choose and if they have special promotional offers running at the time.  All you need to take the course is your Case Number.

I call this course “fun” because it teaches you some great tips on rehabilitating your damaged credit and can help you rebuild your credit to better than ever before with simple steps that you can take as soon as you receive your Discharge.

What you will learn in the Debtor Personal Financial Management Education Course is priceless, so if you take it in person, I strongly suggest that you take notes for future reference, and if you choose to take it on the internet, I urge you to save the information to your hard drive or print it out and create a reference guide for yourself.

Here is what you will learn in the Debtor Financial Management Education Course to help you rebuild strong credit:

  • How to Budget: The course will teach you the fundamentals of making a household budget.
  • Money Management: Unlike budgeting, which is big-picture and long-term, managing money is a daily activity in the short-term, and the course will offer you tips on how to manage your money, balance your checkbook and keep up with daily purchases.
  • Why You Should Get a Secured Credit Card: I know this sounds like contradictory advice but the best way to rebuild credit is to get another credit card! But not just any old credit card, you will be taught why and how to get a secured credit card.
  • Building Credit One Month at a Time: The only real way to build strong credit is to pay your bills ON TIME each and every month. By doing that, month after month, your credit builds back stronger and stronger and you will see results year after year as your credit score improves.
  • Saving for the Future: You will learn the importance of taking the money you would have otherwise been spending on credit card payments and saving portions of it to build some security and peace of mind in the form of a savings account, investments and a retirement account.
  • Other Important Consumer Information: You will also receive additional pre-discharge counseling to assist you in life after Bankruptcy.

At the end of your Debtor Personal Financial Management Education Course you will be given a Certificate of Completion.  You can instruct the agency to deliver a copy to me electronically and I will file it, along with your Official Form B23, with the Court for you.

The sooner you take this course during your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, the better.  I believe it will serve you well in being able to budget around your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payments.

Check in again soon for the next installment in this Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Blog Series to learn all about your Discharge!

Questions? Contact Theresa Rose DeGray at 203-713-8877.

11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(11)

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.