A new buzzword, but not a new problem
Identity theft is a growing national concern. The Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline answers more than 3,000 consumer calls a week. Although no one can actually steal your identity, it’s what the thieves do with the information that’s important. While credit card fraud is the most common misuse of someone’s personal information, identity thieves may also make unauthorized bank withdrawals, take out loans, request utilities such as telephone or cable, and even use the information to obtain employment. Preventive Measures
To prevent credit card theft, you should carefully watch your bills, ensure your credit cards aren’t out of
your sight too long (for example, at a restaurant or department store), and report the theft of a card, or
receipt of an inappropriate bill, as soon as possible. Other ways to protect yourself include carefully managing your personal information. For example:
? Put passwords on your credit, bank and phone accounts Let The Legal Plan ? When creating your password, do not use the obvious, such as your Help You! birth date, social security number, or a portion of your first, middle or The legal plan can help last name protect you. You can ? Before you give out personal information, ask how it will be used receive consultation from ? Limit the number of credit cards you carry attorneys on preventing ? Leave your Social Security card in a safe place at home credit card and ―identity ? After you pay your bills, shred them before you trash them so theft,‖ and can also receive “dumpster divers” can’t use your account numbers representation in the event ? To make sure no one else has opened any accounts in your name,
the thefts actually occur. check your credit record annually and verify that the information in it
Your exclusive enrollment ? Make copies, front and back, of important information in your wallet opportunity for this new (such as credit cards and your driver’s license) and keep the copies benefit ends 11/10/04. Let in a secure location MetLaw? - the Oakland University. Group Legal Plan protect your rights and enroll today.
Hyatt Legal Plans, Inc. Implementation Guide
Sometime during your life, you will probably need a lawyer. A study by the American Bar
Association discovered that each year more than half of us have a problem a lawyer could
resolve. For most Americans, a visit to a lawyer’s office is a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Your lawyer should be your ally, a skilled professional who will help you enforce your rights under our laws. As the term “ally” implies, your lawyer doesn’t work alone. Any actions you take on your own can either help or hinder your lawyer. Here are some of the ways you can help your lawyer help you. Consider enrolling in How to Help MetLaw? - the • Keep Good Records. Keep any agreements and all other important papers in a safe place. Oakland University You should save all your warranties, deeds, insurance policies, tax returns, bank statements Legal Plan and loan papers. Pay all your bills by check or money order and save the cancelled checks While all of this or receipts as proof of payment in case there is a dispute. If you must pay by cash, be certain that you receive a receipt. information is helpful, it • Make No Admissions. Chances are, you won’t be sitting in your lawyer’s office when you assumes you have an realize that you need legal help. You may be watching a tow truck move your wrecked car attorney and know how or facing a police sergeant across a desk. In these situations, make no admissions. to access the legal Statements that you make to police or others can later be used against you in court. If the system. If you are police are questioning you as a suspect in a crime, ask to speak to a lawyer. The police enrolled in MetLaw?, must then stop their questions and allow you access to an attorney. Do not accept you have a significantly responsibility for an accident or a crime even if you feel you are responsible. The decision to improved opportunity pay for damages or plead guilty to a crime should be made only with a cool head and the advice of an attorney. for assistance with any • Act Promptly. If you receive notice that you are being sued or charged with a crime, personal legal matter. contact a lawyer immediately. Prompt action is crucial to your case because there are Your participation important deadlines that must be met. If you miss these deadlines, you may forfeit allows you and, in most important legal rights. If you receive a summons to appear in court, do not wait until the cases your family, to day before your appearance to contact a lawyer. Your attorney won’t have enough time receive help through a to prepare your case, and there is no guarantee that the judge will postpone the case at national network of your request. It is equally important to act promptly if you believe you have grounds for a more than 9,000 pre-lawsuit. Most lawsuits have time limits called Statutes of Limitations. If you miss the Statute of qualified attorneys, Limitations for your legal action, you lose your right to sue. As soon as you have been harmed in a way that you think may be grounds for a suit, contact a lawyer. available through a toll- • Be Open and Honest with Your Attorney. When you consult a lawyer, he or she will rely on free call to Hyatt Legal you for a full, unbiased, truthful statement of the facts of your case. Don’t be tempted to Plans. Please consider omit details which put you in a bad light. Your lawyer can help you only if you inform him or this benefit during your her of all the facts. The complete disclosure essential to your case includes revealing all the next open enrollment documents relevant to your case, as well as any physical evidence in your possession such period. Simply ask your as contracts, citations or loan papers. human resource • Cooperate in Preparing Your Case. The best way to help your lawyer while waiting for your representative for more day in court is by keeping your appointments and following his or her instructions. Do not information on how to discuss your case with anyone, even friends and neighbors, without your lawyer’s approval. Instruct your family to refrain from discussing the case as well. enroll. Do not sign any forms, statements or releases without consulting with your lawyer. Promptly If you have questions forward copies of all correspondence, bills or legal papers you receive regarding your case concerning coverage or to your lawyer. Above all, do not attempt to negotiate a settlement without your lawyer; use of the legal plan, this could lead to a very disadvantageous result. call Hyatt’s Client • Respect the Court. Although many legal problems do not require a court appearance for Service Center at (800) resolution, you may find yourself before a judge or jury. The impression you make will affect 821-6400 between 8 whether they believe you. You should dress appropriately—jeans, t-shirts, revealing clothing
a.m. and 7 p.m. and flashy jewelry are likely to leave a bad impression and are not appropriate. Dress as if you were going to an important business meeting. Monday – Thursday
While you are in front of the judge or jury, do not argue with or interrupt your lawyer. In and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. addition to making a bad impression, it distracts your lawyer from giving full attention to the Friday (Eastern). Or, progress of your case. Instead, keep notes of things you wish to bring to your lawyer’s visit our web site at attention. Your lawyer will confer with you during the course of the trial and you can use
your notes at those times. Act politely and with dignity during the proceedings. www.legalplans.com. Exaggerated expressions of disbelief or loud wisecracks will serve only to identify you as a
person with poor manners who does not understand the serious nature of court 2 proceedings. A calm, credible and sincere appearance on your behalf will be a great help to your lawyer. The keys to acting as your lawyer’s ally are preparation, discretion and
communication. Although there are no guarantees when you go to court, you can
increase the odds of obtaining a favorable outcome when you work together with your
Hyatt Legal Plans, Inc. Implementation Guide
Your New Home! ? Learn how MetLaw - the Oakland University legal plan can help you with
one of the largest financial transactions of your life.
Mike and Mary saved for years to buy their dream home. At last, they thought they had found it. It had everything they wanted: a yard with room for a Buying a new home can garden, plenty of bedrooms for their growing family, even a “hobby room” for be a dream come true! their model railroad. But, unless you get the Unfortunately, the house also came with a number of things Mike and Mary professional help you didn’t want or expect. The roof needed $3,000 in repairs, a fast food restaurant need, it can also become was planned for the open field across the street and the former owners left a a nightmare. $400 utility bill for them to pay. Purchasing a home is Sadly, thousand of families run into problems just like these every day. But you one of the most can avoid some of the pitfalls of purchasing a new home by following these important and expensive simple guidelines: decisions of your life.
Without the protective Consult with a lawyer before signing the sales contract. Although a sales eye of an attorney to • contract may seem like a simple agreement, you give up valuable legal rights look after the details and when you sign it. The fine print can force you to accept certain unfavorable your best interests, you financing arrangements you may not be aware of. It may also limit your ability may find yourself with to break the contract if the seller doesn’t live up to his or her end of the some unexpected and bargain. costly pitfalls. • Insist on a mechanical and structural inspection by a professional. The sales contract should specify that if the inspection shows a major flaw, the seller will fix it or the buyer can cancel the contract and get the deposit back. A good When choosing your inspection should cover the basement, plumbing, hot water heater, electrical benefit options, be sure system, heating and cooling systems and foundation. Some states require a to consider the legal termite inspection, but if your state doesn’t, insist on one anyway. plan. For only pennies a • Put in writing all essential information and promises made by the real estate day, you can have a agent. Don’t accept a real estate agent’s oral assurance about schools or a lawyer on retainer to statement that there are no plans to locate a freeway in your neighborhood. If help you buy or sell your a statement isn’t in writing, it’s more difficult to collect reimbursement for the home and to provide you losses caused by an agent’s misleading statements. with many other vital • Have your lawyer check the zoning laws in your new area. Don’t assume that legal services. Call 800-your neighborhood is zoned strictly for residential use. A lawyer familiar with 821-6400 or visit our local zoning laws can save you from a big financial loss. web site at • Have a lawyer or professional firm perform a title search. The deed is the legal www.legalplans.com document that officially transfers the property from the seller to you. But a deed for more information. may not tell the full story. There might be a legal dispute over the ownership, a property line or even a lien on the property. A title search can guarantee that you will face no unpleasant surprises.
• Make sure the deed is filled out correctly. Even if you are contemplating a
simple property transfer, you should still consult an attorney about the wording
of the deed. You need to decide what type of ownership you want. This
decision may affect your ability to sell the property at a later date. And it will
also determine what happens to the property in the event you or your spouse
• List any repairs or alterations that the seller needs to make before the sale is
3 final. Make this list a part of your contract. Before the final closing, make sure all
repairs have been made to your satisfaction. Also, make sure that the contract
specifies that the seller is to pay for any unpaid taxes or utility bills.
Hyatt Legal Plans, Inc. Implementation Guide
Do You Have a Will? A Will is Essential!
The laws that distribute the property of a person who dies without a will vary from state to state,
but one fact remains constant—if you do not have a will, the laws of your state will direct how
your property will be divided and a court will decide who will become the guardian of your
children. If you have a spouse or children, you should have a will to protect them. If you already
have a will, but your income and property have changed over the years, you need to update your
will. Without a will, you leave your family at the mercy of the state. Benefits of a Will
In general, any person who meets minimum age requirements can (and should) make a
will. Your will enables you to dispose of your property exactly as you wish.
If you have a will, it is also likely that more of your property will go to those you want to
receive it, and less to fees and expenses. A well-drafted will can reduce the amount of taxes your family will pay, and actually decrease the expense of probating your estate.
A will is especially important for parents of young children. Without a will, the court will
appoint a guardian for your children. Even if the guardian is your spouse, the court may
insist on approving every major expenditure of the children’s funds. Your spouse may even be required to post a performance bond with the court.
And, in the event you and your spouse die simultaneously, the court might appoint a
guardian you would not have chosen—an older relative perhaps, or one in a distant
city, away from home and friends.
A will can prevent all these unfortunate occurrences. Clearly, if you do not have a will,
you should have your attorney prepare one. And if you already have a will, you may
want to update it. Under your legal plan, wills and codicils (which are updates to wills) are provided at no cost to the enrolled employee and, in most cases, to his or her
In one case, a 55-year-old man died without a will, leaving his wife and two grown
children to deal with the estate. The state in which the family lived decided how the
property was to be distributed. The wife and children each got a share, but the man’s
home had to be sold to cover the children’s share. The wife was forced to move into an
apartment, and the husband’s estate was reduced by thousands of dollars in taxes, fees
and other expenses.
If the man had obtained a will, most of his estate could have been given to his survivors,
and the house probably would not have been sold.
Easy to Use
Eligible members of the legal plan simply call Hyatt Legal Plans’ toll-free number 800-821-
6400 or visit our web site at www.legalplans.com. We encourage you to take advantage of this important benefit.
BUYING OR SELLING A HOME?
GETTING MARRIED THIS YEAR?
PLANNING RETIREMENT? If so, you should consider having a will prepared or updating the one you already 4 have. Preparation of wills, living wills and trusts are covered in full under ? MetLaw - the Oakland University legal plan.
Hyatt Legal Plans, Inc. Implementation Guide
What to Do When the Creditor Knocks
Debt problems are not uncommon. The important thing to remember is to realize that debt
problems are legal problems and a lawyer can help! People often feel humiliated, helpless
and angry when debts pile up and debt collectors begin to call. With an attorney’s advice,
you can find solutions, that make you and your creditors happy. Case Studies
• Jeff Smith has two young children. His wife, Ellen, recently lost her job as a teacher’s aide. With two incomes, they
were meeting all of their bills. But with Ellen unemployed, they cannot. Jeff and Ellen are several months behind on
their payments to a local appliance store, which turned their bill over to a collection agency. The agency made
harassing telephone calls to Jeff’s supervisor, to the Smiths’ neighbors and to the school where Ellen used to work. In
each of these calls, the agency indicated that Jeff and Ellen have a past due bill. The agency is also calling them
late at night concerning the bill.
• Bill Brown is working on the construction of a commercial building during the summer and expects to continue
through the fall until the building is completed. On payday, the foreman tells him that his wages have been
“garnished” and that he will not receive a paycheck. The foreman also tells Bill that he will be fired unless the problem with the creditor is cleared up.
What can these people do? The worst thing would be to ignore the situation and hope Credit and Debt
it will go away. It will not. Delay will only make their problems worse and may lead to Problems Are Covered
repossession of their appliances, foreclosure on their home, bankruptcy and the Legal Services Under ?complete loss of credit for any purpose. MetLaw When choosing your Fortunately, there are solutions for these problems. An attorney can lead people out flexible benefit options, be of the credit “jungle.” For example, Jeff and Ellen Smith have a variety of rights and sure to consider the legal protections under the law. First, an attorney may be able to stop the collection plan. For just pennies a agency from making harassing calls to the Smiths’ employers and neighbors and day, you can have a from telling other people that they are in debt. Also, collection agencies may not lawyer on retainer to call people late at night, early in the morning or constantly ring the telephone at any assist you with debt time. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act makes these practices illegal. Most problems and to provide importantly, once the Smiths have an attorney, the attorney will contact the you with many other vital collection agency and the agency then may communicate only with the Smiths’ and necessary legal attorney—not their friends, neighbors or employers. services. Take advantage of this important benefit. In the case of Bill Brown, he has some idea what “garnishment” is, but he is not sure of his rights. Garnishment refers to a court proceeding in which a portion of a Call 1-800-821-6400 for worker’s wages are set aside to pay a creditor for a debt owed by the worker after a more information or visit court judgment has been taken. Like the Smiths, Bill Brown has many legal rights and our web site at protections. Mr. Brown’s attorney will determine if the creditor took all the required www.legalplans.com steps in court to obtain the garnishment of his wages. It is possible that the
garnishment is improper, and the attorney may be able to set it aside. In addition,
most states will not allow garnishment of an entire paycheck. Some portion must remain for the worker to support himself. Even if the garnishment is valid, the attorney
may be able to reduce the amount deducted from Mr. Brown’s check. Finally, many
states have laws which protect a worker from being fired solely because his wages have been garnished.
Like many other Americans, the Smiths and Bill Brown did not know what to do when
the “bill collector knocked” at their doors. Fortunately, there are many laws to
protect consumers and those in debt. With an attorney’s help, they and others like them can often find a solution to their credit problems.