Consumer Protection Laws – Helping Consumers from Deceptive Business Practices

What do all of these things have in common?

  •        A business that misleads its customers through false advertising.

  •        A group of people who try to set up a pyramid scheme.

  •        An auto dealership that winds back the odometer before selling a used car.

 

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How can a Credit Report Lawyer help me?

Mistake on Credit Report

Credit report errors happen more often than most of us would like to think. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has listed credit report errors as one of the top complaints filed.  Believe it or not, one out of every 20 of us have errors on one of our three major credit reports.

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How Will Borrowing Money Affect My Credit?

Getting a Loan

Taking out a loan can help you build your credit.  But remember, to get that benefit, loans must be paid back in full and on time, and according to the terms of the loan agreement.  When these terms are not met, the lender can take steps to repossess collateral and collect any money that is owed.  As a result, the defaulted loan can be listed negatively on credit reports and lower your credit scores.

Let’s take a closer look at how this all works.

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What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

FCRA Fair Credit Reporting Act on a table.

October 26, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important pieces of consumer protection legislation in the country’s history: The Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed. It gives consumers the right to see what’s on their credit reports and dispute errors and inaccurate information.

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How Debt Collection Laws Help Pennsylvanians

Past due bills debt

When you owe money to a debt collection agency, its employees have the right to contact you and try to recoup that debt.

But those rights only go so far. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulates what debt collectors, or law firms acting as collectors, can do when contacting Pennsylvania consumers, and bars them from engaging in deception while trying to recover money that is owed.

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How to Report Telemarketers

The advent of the Do Not Call registry was supposed to put an end to unwanted  robocalls from telemarketers, lenders and debt collectors. Unfortunately, there are always new companies, with new phone numbers, placing new calls.  However, there are ways you can stop unwanted robocalls.  Read on to learn how to get yourself off telemarketers’ lists and how to report do no call violations.

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E-Signing Your Rights Away

In our increasingly paperless society, more and more companies are requiring consumers to sign contracts electronically, called “e-signing.”  You may have encountered this yourself.  A door-to-door salesperson promises you a deal that sounds almost too good to be true, but only if you sign their electronic tablet on the spot.  An online lender guarantees to get you money now, but only after you check the boxes on the website.  The convenience seems hard to pass on.  You don’t even have to deal with the finicky fine print! Instead, you get what you want, and you can get it now.

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Get to Know Your Credit Report

Checking your credit report regularly helps you understand where you stand when it comes to your finances. Many organizations, especially lenders, use credit reports as a way to get to know a consumer’s spending habits. They can be used to determine whether or not to approve someone for a new line of credit, a home loan, or a rental property. Although credit reports include a significant amount of information about you, there are certain things that will not be included.

What’s On Your Report

Credit reports contain the following information:

  1. Identifying information, including your name, address, social security number, employment information, and birthdate.
  2. All credit accounts you’ve opened, such as credit cards and loans. This section includes both open and closed accounts and provides details on each account, such as the type of account, date it was opened, credit limit, account balance, and all past payments made.
  3. All inquiries regarding your report from the past two years. Inquiries often come from lenders checking your credit before approving you for a loan or line of credit.
  4. Negative information, such as late payments, car repossessions, foreclosures, defaults, tax liens, collection accounts, judgments and bankruptcies.

What’s Not On Your Report

While credit reports have a majority of your financial information included, there are certain items that will not appear.

For example, credit reports list your employers but do not contain further information regarding your employment status or salary.

While information regarding lines of credit are listed, bank account balances, retirement accounts, 401k, and investment or brokerage account information is not included.

Also, your credit report will not be affected by marriage. After you’re married, your credit report and credit score remains independent of your spouse’s. Marriage will only affect your credit for accounts you and your spouse open together.

How to Obtain Your Credit Report

The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to provide one free credit report to consumers every 12 months. In order to obtain these reports, write a letter to the bureaus and request your report. Be sure to include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill, with your letter.  You should receive your report within approximately two weeks.

Monitor Your Report Regularly

Credit reports are an effective way to determine if you’ve been a victim of fraud or if any mistakes have been made regarding your credit history. You should carefully review your credit file and report any suspicious listings. If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, you should take steps by notifying the police, the credit bureaus and the creditors. If you have disputed errors and the credit bureau has not corrected your report, you can contact an attorney to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated. Checking your report regularly is a good idea so that you can dispute errors as soon as possible.

Why It Matters

Credit reports are essentially a compilation of your credit activity. They allow lenders and other organizations to get to know you. When you learn how to read and interpret your credit reports, you will become confident to dispute any inaccuracies, and handle the errors in a timely fashion.  Viewing your reports regularly, helps to eliminate any surprises when you apply for loans or other lines of credit, apply for a job, or attempt to rent an apartment.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm based in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that represents consumers in cases involving credit reporting accuracy and privacy violations.   Contact us for a free consultation to discuss problems with your credit reports.

U.S. Servicemembers: Strengthen Your Credit

Military life is one of frequent transitions. Each deployment, promotion, and change in duty status brings the need to make money-related decisions. These financial decisions can have long-term effects on family life, mission readiness, and security clearances.

Service members often run into trouble because of the irregularities in their daily life. They may tend to overspend and receive contact from debt collectors. They may fall for financial scams and become a victim of identity theft. Or, due to errors on credit reports, they may be denied loans or have a vehicle repossessed. Learning more about consumer credit and how to build a strong credit history can help servicemembers and veterans improve their financial health.

Take Advantage of Free Credit Reports

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re allowed one free credit report from each bureau – Transunion, Experian, and Equifax – within a twelve month period. Send a letter to one of the bureaus and request your reports. Review them carefully to ensure that there are no errors and that you recognize all of the listed accounts. 

Credit Accuracy

Credit reports include personal information, credit history, credit inquiries, and public records.  Credit cards, mortgages, and loans are all listed along with the payment status. If you fall behind on payments or default on a loan, your credit report will list this negatively. Negative entries may make it more difficult for you to open a new line of credit, be approved for a new loan, or receive a promotion or security clearance. It may also mean that you will be approved for a loan, but with a higher interest rate.

Credit Privacy

Regular credit report checks help you monitor your accounts and determine whether someone has accessed your credit report without your permission or opened accounts in your name. If you notice suspicious activity, information that does not belong to you, or believe you have become a victim of identity theft, follow these steps:
  -Contact the Bank or Creditor
  -File a Police Report
  -File a Fraud Alert
  -Request your current credit reports
  -File an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission
  -Keep an organized file with all correspondence and records
  -Protect your personal information.  Keep it private.

Know How Much You Spend

A budget helps you see where you can cut back on spending and create a workable plan to pay off debt.Take the time to set a budget. Divide your regular expenses into categories for housing, food, transportation, health care, personal & family and finances. Determine how much you can afford to spend on each category every month. Use a spreadsheet or online tool to keep track of all of your accounts and expenses. 

Be Aware of Scams

Follow your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Unfortunately, service members are frequent targets for various scams. Companies or organizations could call and claim to belong to a veterans group or another legitimate sounding organization. Be sure to research the organization, find out where they’re located, see if there is a complaint board online, and investigate whether the company is reputable. 

Be cautious. If you receive a call from someone, do not provide any personal identifying information, such as your social security number or date of birth, or access to bank accounts or credit and debit cards.  Require them to provide you with something in writing that states who they are and where they are located.

Financial Guidance for Service Members

Remember, you’re not alone. There are many services offered through the Department of Defense and veterans organizations to help service members keep finances on track. Do your research and make a financial plan that is right for you.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that assists victims of identity theft that have suffered from credit report harm, abusive debt collectors and wrongful vehicle repossessions by aggressive lenders and repo agents.  Contact Us for a no cost consultation to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated.