Published May 24, 2007
| FOX Fan
What would you do if you were accused of, and arrested for, a crime you didn’t commit? What if you realized you’d been scammed for thousands of dollars? Suppose your identity had been stolen — and your credit rating and reputation had been ruined?
Every day, innocent, law-abiding citizens get screwed in their dealings with others. And every day, the system lets them down. The lesson: when the government and the legal system fail to protect you, you need to know how to protect yourself.
If you think, “It couldn’t happen to me,” you are already at risk. If you think, “How bad could things be?” consider the eye-opening, true-life stories that follow — cases that started with such common misfortunes as a stolen wallet, a case of mistaken identity, a divorce, and choosing the wrong health plan.
When Janet’s wallet was stolen from her pocketbook, identity thieves used her personal information to commit fraud. What anyone might have dismissed as a mere inconvenience ruined her life. As a good citizen, after witnessing a dispute, Janet gave a police officer her personal information. She was shocked when he informed her that she was a wanted fugitive with outstanding warrants for her arrest.
Even though from that moment on, Janet did everything right — cooperating with the state prosecuting attorney, and borrowing thousands to hire good lawyers — once she got into the system, she really got screwed. Her case stalled, she lost her job, custody of her son, and her ability to move about freely. The last straw came when she was arrested as a fugitive while the television show COPS taped the entire event. Janet, an innocent woman — a victim herself — was held in prison for three days before the police, the state prosecutor and her attorney could clarify the situation and get her released.
Fortunately for Janet, she was able to regain custody of her son and find a new job. Although no one can say how long the psychological scars will linger, she is grateful that her life has returned to normal. Like Janet, most people seek legal counsel after the situation has become dire. But this does not have to be the case.
For some people, it might have simply been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For Shonda Daily it was the beginning of a nightmare. After being questioned when a mugging happened in her neighborhood, the police showed up at Shonda’s job and arrested her. According to them, the victim had identified her from a photograph. Unable to make bail, she was held in a cell for two weeks. She lost her job. Bills piled up. Her pregnant daughter delivered her first baby, and then lost the child due to complications of the birth. Shonda never saw her grandchild.
Seven weeks after she was arrested, the charges were suddenly dismissed when the court admitted a case of mistaken identity. Although she trusted that the system would straighten out their mistake, Shonda’s troubles were far from over. To the overworked attorneys staffing the public defenders office, her situation wasn’t dire. She was no longer in jail; she had her freedom. But for Shonda, things became increasingly desperate. For two years after her arrest, she fought against the system to get her records sealed. Until they were sealed, she had a record of having been arrested for a felony. Her ability to get a job and to secure affordable housing was compromised.
Shonda was a strong woman and consoled herself with the fact that she had done nothing wrong. While she was eventually able to find a job and secure safe housing for her family, she nevertheless lost two years of her life. Despite the fact that her circumstances prevented her from immediately seeking private legal counsel, if Shonda had been educated about the process, she could have been an effective advocate for herself and been spared literally years of heartache.
When her husband left her after 24 years of marriage and four kids, Jane believed that he would be accountable for supporting her and their children. But when her husband declared bankruptcy and revealed that he had underpaid income taxes for years, Jane discovered that she was responsible for all of their joint debt. Because she failed to protect herself and her family’s interests, Jane and the kids lost their house and their standard of living. Worse still, Jane was left to figure out how to make good on the years of outstanding debt she and her husband had accumulated, while he continued to screw her out of child support and maintenance by hiding behind a bankruptcy filing.
If Jane had clearly understood her legal rights and responsibilities for her shared finances, she would have been prepared to protect herself and her children when things went bad.
Dan thought he was doing the right thing, buying a health insurance plan from a company that offered small business owners an affordable deal. When he became ill with a serious liver disease, the fact that the insurance company continually misplaced bills and skipped payments to his doctors seemed like a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things. During his treatments, Dan never missed a premium payment. But when the hospital removed him from the liver transplant list because of a lack of insurance coverage, Dan realized he’d been scammed. While he struggled with his disease, his wife waged a desperate one-woman war to save her husband’s life. They had believed they were insured. They were the victims. In the end, although Dan received the surgery he needed, he was left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
If Dan had known the simple rules of being an educated consumer, he and his wife could have been spared the medical drama and saved thousands of dollars.
What to do
In my book, People Get Screwed All the Time, I share dozens of stories of ordinary people whose lives are transformed by poor judgment, inadequate preparation, lack of vigilance, an absence of information, or a disregard for simple common sense. From these cautionary tales, you will learn the simple steps you should take today to protect yourself and your family from simple legal mishaps and worst-case scenarios. Ignorance is not bliss. In order to avert catastrophe, should you find yourself caught in our flawed legal system, you need to know what to do, whom to call, and where to look for answers. In this book I will tell you exactly how the system works and all the steps you should take immediately to prevent a simple crime from spiraling into a life-altering disaster.
People Get Screwed All the Time covers seven vitally important areas in anyone’s life: Identity, Family and Relationships, Money, Finances and Debt, Home, Car, Work and Business Relationships, and Final Affairs. You’ll learn what you need to know to prevent legal mishaps and discover ways to extract yourself from a wide range of potentially damaging situations. You can buy the book at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com
Video: How did Massi come up with his book's catchy title? Listen to him tell the story to FNC's Martha MacCallum.
Robert Massi has been a FOX News legal analyst for over ten years, covering high-profile court cases. He is the host of a popular Las Vegas radio show that focuses on everyday legal issues and he runs a thriving law practice. Bob is also the founder of The Conscience of America, an organization dedicated to improving the way ordinary citizens are treated by the legal system. To find out more about Bob, visit www.bobmassi.com