ORLANDO, Fla. — A local couple struggling with debt claims a law firm pressured them into paying for bankruptcy counseling upfront. When they tried to cancel, the couple claims the company refused to send them a $1,100 refund.
Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich looked into the risks associated with online debt counseling and took action for the local couple.
The couple faced tough choices. Harold's wife had crippling credit card debt, so they looked for bankruptcy counseling online. They found the Upright Law Firm, which offered financial freedom by taking control of your debts.
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We're not using their last names.
They called, and Harold said they were told, "We're the only ones that can help you, and you need to do this now."
Harold claims the firm wanted $2,200 up front to handle his wife's Chapter 7 bankruptcy and they needed to pay half, $1,100, during the call.
"You have to start it today. Right now," Harold said he was told.
"There was pressure?" Ulrich asked.
"Right off the bat," Harold replied.
His wife paid by debit card. Then the couple says online reviews for Upright Law changed their minds.
"Didn't like reviews you saw?" Ulrich asked.
"Not one of them," Harold replied.
Upright Law sent the couple the name of a local attorney it works with. Instead, the couple canceled, and Upright Law promised a full refund. That was three months ago.
"They just want you to walk away," Harold said.
"You're not going to do that?" Ulrich asked.
"That's why we're speaking to you," Harold replied.
Action 9 found Upright Law is rated F at the Better Business Bureau. Its membership has been revoked because of a pattern of complaints. Most involve refunds not honored.
Also, Upright Law's partners were sanctioned by a Virginia bankruptcy judge for practicing without a license.
Local experts told Ulrich bankruptcy counseling should start with a meeting before you pay.
"I think it's important that you come in and meet with the attorney and they meet you because there are personal things that need to be discussed," said bankruptcy attorney Stephen Caplan.
Ulrich contacted Upright Law in Chicago. Twenty-four hours later, Harold and his wife got a full refund.
"The only way to get results is to fight," Harold said.
A spokesman for Upright Law said the firm could not respond to our questions.
It told the BBB the firm is trying to speed up procedures to close files and send refunds and it has tens of thousands of satisfied clients.
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