Before I present any options for legal help for scams, I will always tell you to try the Attorney Generals Office first. The most important reason is because it is the easiest, and best method to try to get your money back. It doesn’t cost anything to ask the Attorney Generals office for help. But, sometimes it doesn’t help you. If that happens, you need to be prepared to proceed with all the legal proceedings you will encounter.
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Legal Help For Scams Overview
The main idea is to find ways to get your money back without spending more than it is worth.You can start with my checklist and use the Attorney Generals Office to attempt to do that. They work for you, and it doesn’t cost you anything. But what if they don’t work? Then,the next step is the courtroom.However, The cost of an attorney could make scams of several thousand dollars nothing more than a meal ticket for the lawyer. Even if you win the case, the attorney will get paid first.
Going to court brings up the possibility of representing yourself. You can act as your own attorney. I know, because I have done it myself. It is not as hard as you may think. However, it does require some preparation and legwork. Thinking about how much a lawyer would charge you to do these things, helps to make the task easier.
The court system allows for all of us to represent ourselves in small claims court, as well as the higher court systems of the land. But, you are ultimately responsible to know how to do it. However, to be clear, I am talking about simple small claims, period.
Do It Yourself Legal Help For Scams
When we represent ourselves, it is referred to as Pro se. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf”. It is also know as propria persona and referred to as ( abbreviated) “pro per”.
You will see signs in all the court offices everywhere stating “We are not permitted to give legal advice” Well, what about procedures necessary to get your money back?
You may ask for legal procedures on filing properly with the courts to get your money.
Most clerks will assist you in the proper way to fill out forms if you have any questions. But, they do not always provide the forms you may need. You may need to visit the court library.
Know The Rules
Remember, the judges, court employees, officers and agencies cannot provide you with any legal assistance. You will be held responsible for knowing the rules of the courts in your own state.
Most states offer libraries in their courthouses, and some have the procedural laws online. Once you get past the proper paperwork, it is more about proper respect for the Judge and courtroom.
They may also have any forms required to properly file your case. But, it could be up to you to discover which forms to use.
Acting Pro Se Can Be Suitable For Small Claims
Representing yourself Pro se can be helpful in small claims court, where the value of the claim makes it almost impossible to hire an attorney. If the amount is small, the cost of an attorney is prohibitive to reclaiming any loss without incurring costs over and above the amount involved.
For instance, if you got scammed for $1000, and you went through the Attorney Generals Office in your state, and you do not get a resolution. Then, you can try to get a legal judgement. Since it is such a small amount, you may choose to try to recover you loss by representing yourself “Pro se”, in small claims court. Sometimes this is your only choice to recover your money.
Also, it is possible that if you proceed with obtaining a judgement, the guilty party may not show up. Normally, this results in a judgement in your favor.
You Have The Right To Represent Yourself
The rights of a party to represent themselves in a court of law in the U.S. was recognized even before the Constitution was ratified. Many courts take extra care in advising Pro se litigants of the need to respond to a Motion for Summary Judgement.
This is a sure way for you to lose your case, just because you did not respond or appear in court. Always appear in court anyway, regardless. The other party may not show up. If that is the case, normally the case will be awarded to you or dismissed.
Sometimes, you need time to figure out what to do, or how to do it. You can request a new trial date if this happens. If you don’t understand and need time to research your defense, You can ask for an extension on your case. Most judges will allow an extension if it is not a frivolous reason for delay.
Judgments By Default
If you file for a civil suit and the party does not appear, you are normally awarded your monetary loss by default as a judgement. This is a common outcome, because a large percentage of the time the guilty party does not appear. This may or may not happen, so you have to be prepared to present your case to the judge.
If you are awarded the judgement, the process of collection is entirely up to you. This is not something the court does for you. Different states have different laws, and it will require education and research on your part.
People who owe money to a creditor, have specific rights, and you have to follow the rules to avoid breaking the laws. Otherwise, you could end up in court on different charges. Most importantly, you can’t harass the debtor.
Legal Help For Scams And Do It Yourself Books
The Nolo books on How to Represent Yourself in Court are worth looking into. Also, books on collecting on summary judgments, could be very helpful.
In the U.S. Court System, we have a legal right to represent ourselves in court. However, be forewarned, the courts and judges try to do all they can to make you feel you need an attorney. They cannot offer legal advice! You will be expected to know the rules of the courtroom, and operate under those guidelines. Some judges will help you with explanation and guide you somewhat. Other judges will not tolerate ignorance of courtroom law. In all cases, you absolutely must treat the judge with respect. It is his courtroom.
The state of the economy is forcing more and more people to try to defend themselves in court. Here is a link to an article of a Connecticut mother in court Pro se.
Do some research, their are quite a few options for help available:
- Self help legal aid books are available from Nolo Books on Amazon
- All legal forms can be found in the legal Library of you local courthouse.
- Westlaw offers a free trial of their law site: Thomas Reuters Westlaw
- An online service providing legal forms is Standard Legal
- Read More about Scams and Frauds Here
Legal aid is available for low income individuals in most states. However, funding is limited. The cases that qualify may or may not include civil lawsuits. There are some voluntary lawyers who offer Pro Bono(free or reduced legal help) attorneys. Check with your state Pro Bono law agencies.
Special needs information and help is also available for hearing and sight impaired. The local state and federal courts will make reasonable accommodations for proceedings for individuals who are deaf, hearing impaired, or have other communications disabilities.
The bottom line is simple. You have been scammed! So, to prove your case, you can take them to court and and you can win. It is not something anyone wants to do, but it is something you can do. However, you must do your own due diligence! You must prepare for the other party hiring a lawyer. The worst case is you lose, and you still have the right to appeal.
I would love to hear any questions or comments you may have. Feel free to leave them below.
The purpose of this article is to inform people of possible legal self-help for scams. It is intended for people considering representing themselves. And persons who have been scammed or involved in some fraud scheme, that may not be able to afford a lawyer. I am not a lawyer. The advice I present here is provided for public information, and not intended to be legal advice. If you have any legal questions, please consult an attorney to advise you on your specific case and the need of having legal counsel, or advice on acting as your own attorney. No claim is made for accuracy or completeness of information.
My only intention is to present you with some possible options that may be available to you. It is not a substitute for legal counsel. This information is free for you to use at your own risk. This information is only intended to be useful in helping you do your own research.
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