Debt is everywhere we turn. Student loan debt, credit card debt, medical debt, small business debt. As a debt settlement attorney, I meet people every day who feel overwhelmed and are vulnerable to “debt relief” companies trying to take advantage of their situation. It’s often difficult to weed out who is a legitimate debt relief company versus who is preying on those in a difficult situation.

A recent debt relief scam that I heard about involves Orange County residents Athena Maldanado and Christopher Harati. They worked for Nelson Gamble & Associates in Irvine. Maldanado and Harati just copped to conspiracy for falsely telling customers that they work for a law firm and could favorably negotiate debt settlements with creditors. In reality, they were a debt relief company and not a law firm.

Benefits of Working with a Debt Settlement Law Firm vs. Debt Settlement Company

The reason Maldanado and Harati lied in portraying their company as a law firm is that there are substantial benefits of working with a debt settlement law firm versus a company:

    1. The Center for Responsible Lending has reported that some creditors won’t even talk to a debt settlement company. They don’t have that choice when a consumer hires an attorney. A law firm client signs a power of attorney, which not only permits, but requires creditors to discuss the accounts with the attorney.
    2. Creditors who don’t talk to debt settlement companies may eventually file a suit against the consumer for failing to make payments when due. If you are working with a debt settlement company and not a law firm, the company cannot represent you in your lawsuit. An attorney can. In fact, representation of clients is usually part of the deal when you are working with an attorney that focuses on this area of law.

Preying on those who are already in a vulnerable position is nothing new. If you are interested in debt settlement then make sure you are being represented by a debt settlement attorney and not a debt settlement company. After all, wouldn’t you want to hire an attorney who has an ethical obligation to put his client’s interests first?

Daniel R. Gamez, an attorney focusing exclusively in debt settlement, is licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in California and Texas. Mr. Gamez owns and operates the Gamez Law Firm in La Jolla, CA. For more information, please contact Daniel Gamez at 858-217-5051, or visit