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We hope the articles below help you understand your rights as a consumer. You can scroll through the titles, or sort by Practice Area or Topic. You can also use the search feature to locate information by keyword.

Flitter Milz represents people with a variety of problems involving consumer credit and collections. If you have a particular question or believe your consumer rights have been violated, Contact Us for a no cost consultation.

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.

 

 

Tips on Purchasing a Car

The decision to purchase a new vehicle is exciting. Whether it’s your first car purchase or not, the freedom of mobility and independence is invaluable. You can go anywhere, whenever you like.

But cars are expensive. Buying a vehicle that suits your needs and your budget can be a challenge. Often, the vehicle that you would like to drive may not be the one that you can afford. Become an educated buyer.

Buying a car is a two step process

Continue reading Tips on Purchasing a Car

How to Get a Job When You Have Poor Credit

Finding a new job can feel like a full time job in itself. First identifying companies and positions, then prepare your resume and cover letters.

The next most important step is to check your credit reports.

Employers usually check credit reports during the hiring process as a means to gauge the applicant’s responsibility with finances. Not all employers check credit reports during the employment screening process. But those that do, often check for positions that involve a security clearance, access to money, sensitive customer data or confidential company information.

An employment screening report only includes your account payment record, how much you owe, and your available credit. Potential employers can’t see your credit score. Follow these steps to prepare your credit before applying for a new job.

1. Obtain current credit reports

When you start looking for a new job, get a copy of your credit report. You should know appears on your report before a prospective employer obtains a copy. You can get a free report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

Review your reports for accuracy. If you see errors, dispute them directly with the reporting bureau. If you have negative listings like a car repossession or defaulted account, these should only stay on your report for 7 1/2 years.

2. Ask employer about credit checks

If you have negative credit listings and you’re concerned about the role they’ll play in your job search, contact your target companies anonymously and ask if they check credit as part of their candidate screening process. If you think it will be an issue, you might choose not to spend time on applications for a company that asks for your credit history.

3. Know your rights

Potential employers can ask for a copy of your credit file. However, there are guidelines that must be followed.
1) You must provide written permission for a company to request your report.
2) The company must notify you of the company that provide the employment screening report.
3) You may write to the screening report company to request a copy of the report that was used in the employment hiring process.

4. Take steps to improve your credit

Your job search will be easier in the future if you don’t have to worry about how your credit might affect your eligibility. Be proactive and evaluate your credit before applying for that new job.

-Review your credit file in advance.
-Make bill payments in full and on time.
-Use less than thirty percent of the credit that’s available to you.
-Maintain a healthy debt-to-income ratio.
-Dispute errors on your credit reports.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting accuracy problems.  Contact Us for a free legal review of your credit reports and an evaluation of whether your consumer rights were violated.

 

What to Do if You’re Denied a Loan

Loans are commonly used for expenses like car purchases, home improvements, medical bills, and weddings. They can also be used to consolidate debt or pay off credit card bills at a lower interest rate. Loans with reasonable interest rates can provide a means to purchase an item and pay for it over time.

But what happens if you’re denied for that car loan, or a bank loan that was to help with an unexpected expense? Review the following steps which may help provide a solution.

  1. Figure out why you were denied

A loan application could be denied for a number of reasons. It’s important to understand the bank’s reason for not approving your application. It’s possible that your income doesn’t meet the required amount or your employment history is inconsistent.

Loan applications may also be denied due to incorrect information on the application itself, or errors on the applicant’s credit report. You should verify that your identifying information like social security number and birth date are correct on the application. Check your credit report to make sure all information is accurate and dispute anything that is incorrect.

Banks also look at your debt to income ratio when you apply for a loan. If you already have significant debt, it will be more difficult to secure a loan. Your overall credit is also an important factor. If you have a history of late payments or negative listings on your credit report, the bank may deny your application.

 2. Submit an application with a different bank

If one bank denies your application, you can try applying with another. It’s generally best to apply with your own bank before trying a different one, but banks have different criteria and guidelines for loan approval. You may be able to secure a loan with another institution.

3. Consider getting a guarantor or co-signer

If you’re not able to secure a loan on your own, whether due to poor credit or insufficient income, a co-signer might be a good option. When a guarantor signs onto a loan, he or she agrees to take on financial responsibility if the borrower is unable to make payments. This helps the bank ensure that the loan will be paid back.

4. Pay down debt

If your debt to income ratio is the issue, take some time to create some attainable goals to pay down your debt. Banks typically want your debt to income ratio below 35% to approve another loan.

5. Review your budget and credit profile

Sometimes a loan denial is a sign that you need to reassess your finances and make some changes. Each time you apply for a loan, the lender performs a hard inquiry to pull your credit information. Hard inquiries can temporarily hurt your credit. Take a break from loan applications for now and work on improving your credit, paying down debt, and tracking your expenses.

6. Seek legal advice

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm representing people with credit reporting errors, wrongful car repossessions, contact from debt collectors and unwanted “robo” calls.  Whether payments were missed, or a debt is owed or not, the consumer has rights against the credit bureaus, lenders or collectors.  Contact us for a free consult to determine whether your consumer rights were violated.

7 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Finances

Many people view a new year as a chance for a fresh start. It’s a great time to evaluate your financial health and set some goals for improvement. When you make resolutions, it’s important to set realistic, achievable goals so that you don’t get discouraged. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Create a budget and stick to it

Budgeting, or analyzing spending habits, is the best thing you can do for your finances. When you see how much money is spent on mandatory expenses, such as mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries, or loans, versus non-essential expenses, such as dining out, parties, gifts or vacations, you may find a way to reorganize expenses to make spending cuts, begin saving and start to pay off debt.

Once you’ve determined how much you spend on the necessities, compare what’s left over to your monthly income. Avoid setting budgets that are unrealistic.  You want to establish a budget that you will stick to and be able to feel success.

Grow your savings account

The amount of savings you have ultimately depends on your financial situation, but most experts say you should have enough to cover six to nine months of living expenses. Unless you already have a substantial amount saved, it isn’t realistic to make this your goal for the year. Instead, work on small progress over time. Refer back to your budget and determine how much you can save each month. Ideally, you should save at least 10% every month. By the end of the year, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy savings account.

Pay down your debt

You already know that the sooner you can pay off your debt, the better. You’ll end up paying less overall by avoiding extra interest accrual.

If you’re able to, set a goal to aggressively pay down your debt this year. Pay more than the minimum amount due to see progress more quickly. Try to trim extra expenses from other budget categories so you can prioritize your debt.

Pay on time

If you’ve struggled with timely bill payments in the past, make it your goal this year to always pay on time. Set up automatic payments if you can, or create recurring reminders on your calendar or in your phone. You’ll save money because you won’t be hit with late payment fees, and your credit will improve.

Check your credit regularly

The best way to know where you stand financially is to regularly check your credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every 12 months. Your report has information about your current credit account standing and payment history. It also includes any negative occurrences, like car repossessions or accounts in default. Check your report regularly to make sure the information is accurate and up to date.

Improve your credit score

If your credit score is on the lower end, set a goal to improve it this year. Pay any overdue bill payments, and make sure you make all payments on time moving forward. Keep credit usage below 30% of your available credit. This means you shouldn’t spend more than $300 on a card with a limit of $1,000.

Keep in mind that if you apply for new credit this year, whether it’s an auto loan or a credit card, the lender will most likely perform a hard inquiry, which could lower your score.

Become more financially literate

Are there certain aspects of your finances that you struggle to understand? Take the time this year to learn more. Whether you want to do research into different ways to invest your money, or you want to have a better understanding of how interest accrues on your loans, having a solid understanding paves the way for healthier financial well being.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting problems, those that have received contact from abusive debt collectors, and have had vehicles wrongfully repossessed.  Contact us for a free consultation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

8 Things To Do When Buying a Car

Before any major purchase, it’s important to do some research to make sure you stay within your budget and get the most for your money… and cars are no exception. A new vehicle is a large expense and requires some planning. This is especially true if you choose to secure an auto loan to make it more affordable. Here are some steps you should take before you finance an auto loan.

1) Request your credit reports and score 

Continue reading 8 Things To Do When Buying a Car

How to Prepare Your Credit Accounts During the Holidays

It’s the season for gift giving, and that means extra spending. Credit cards can be a convenient way to purchase gifts for family and friends, but it’s important to stay organized and make sure you have a plan to pay them off. Take these steps before you do your shopping to ensure that you’re prepared.

Check Your Credit Report

Your credit report provides the best summary of your overall financial standing. Your report will list all of your credit accounts, loans, and credit inquiries and will also list any delinquencies. To get a copy of your credit report, write to the credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax – and include two forms of identification such as a current driver’s license and utility bill. You can get a free copy of your report from each of the bureaus every 12 months.

You may also want to check your credit score. This information will give you an idea of your overall financial standing and will alert you to any areas that could be improved. If your score is lower due to late payments or a lot of spending on credit accounts, you may choose to adjust your spending to fit your budget.

Keep an Eye on Credit Utilization

Now that you know the credit limits on each of your accounts, try to avoid spending more than 30% of your available credit on each of them. For example, if you have a credit card with a limit of $1,000, you should do your best to avoid spending more than $300. Your credit utilization factors into your credit score, so spending more than 30% of your available credit could lower your score.

Set a budget for each of your cards to avoid overspending. This will also make it easier and more manageable when it comes time to pay them off.

Pay Your Balances in Full and On Time

Set reminders to pay off credit accounts in full and on time. Carrying a balance in to the next month will mean paying more in interest fees. Your budgets will help you stay on track and help ensure that you’re always able to make your bill payments.

Taking the time to prepare your credit accounts for holiday spending will allow you to enjoy the season without extra financial stress and will set you up for success in the new year.

Seek the Help from a Consumer Protection Lawyer

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers who have been contacted by debt collectors, or that have issues with listings that appear on credit reports.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

6 Tips for Holiday Shopping

The holidays are a busy time of year. Many people have difficulty staying on track with spending or forget that scammers may take advantage of the busy season. Follow these tips to stay financially responsible and to avoid common shopping scams that occur this time of year.

Create a Budget for Holiday Gifts

It can be easy to overspend when you’re buying gifts for others during the holiday season. Before you make your shopping list, create a budget for how much you can afford to spend this year and do your best to stick to it. If your budget is tight, consider gifts like baked goods or homemade items.

Pay off Credit Cards in Full and on Time

If you plan to use a credit card for your holiday spending, make sure to pay off your balance in full and on time. Carrying a balance over from month to month means that you’ll end up paying more for all of your gifts because of the interest that accrues on your account.

Use Secure Passwords when Shopping Online

If you shop online, use different passwords for each of your accounts and make sure they’re strong and secure. Use a password storing tool so that you don’t have to worry about remembering them all. These accounts include your credit card information and billing information, so it’s important to keep them safe.

Watch for Scams Online

Unfortunately, the holidays are a popular time for new scams to pop up. Scammers take advantage of the busy season and use the opportunity to create fake products or to steal identities. If the price of an online item seems too good to be true, it probably is. You should always verify that you’re purchasing from a valid website and that the payment portal is secure before you buy anything.

Don’t Leave Personal Information in Plain Sight

It’s important to remember not to leave personal documents or identifying information in easily accessible places or in plain sight in your vehicle, especially when parked in a busy shopping lot. Criminals could use this opportunity to steal your information. You also shouldn’t carry personal information, like your social security card, in your wallet or purse.

Keep an Eye on Your Belongings

Always keep your belongings, like shopping bags, purse, or wallet, on your person when you’re holiday shopping. Busy stores or restaurants can provide an opportunity for someone to take your things unnoticed. Keep shopping bags in the trunk of your vehicle so they’re hidden from view.

Seek Legal Help

Identity theft victims may need help from a consumer lawyer when collectors begin to call, or there are listings on credit reports that are a result of the theft.  Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers against debt collectors and the credit bureaus.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of whether your consumer rights were violated.

How to Spend Responsibly on Credit Cards

It’s hard to argue with the convenience of a credit card. Credit provides you with flexibility when it comes to spending. Your card is always available to use regardless of when you expect your next paycheck. Owning a credit card and making timely payments also helps your credit because it shows lenders that you’re a trustworthy and responsible borrower.

It’s important to establish responsible spending habits early so that you don’t find yourself with significant amounts of debt later in life. Carrying a balance each month can make it difficult to stay on top of payments. Here are some credit spending tips that you should practice now to keep your finances healthy for your future.

Set a Budget

The perk of using a credit card is having the ability to spend money you may not necessarily have at the moment. But this can be a dangerous. It can lead to spending above your means. Create a reasonable spending budget for your card to ensure that you don’t overspend.

Pay the Balance in Full Each Month

Carrying a balance from month to month like so many consumers do isn’t ideal. Many cards have high interest rates, which make it even more difficult to keep up with payments every month. Set a goal to pay your balance in full and on time each month so that you don’t end up paying exorbitant late fees and interest.

Keep Your Credit Utilization Low

It’s never a good idea to max out a credit card. Your credit utilization plays a major factor in your credit score. Ideally, you don’t want to spend more than 30% of your credit limit. This means if you have a $1,000 credit limit on a card, you shouldn’t spend more than $300. If you have a higher budget and want to use your card more, pay the existing balance before it’s due to bring your available credit back to its full amount.

Find a Card with No Annual Fees

When you shop around for a new credit card, look for ones with lower interest rates, no annual fees, and useful perks. Many cards offer cash back on any amount that you spend with your card. Others offer travel perks like airline miles.

Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Get control over credit card debt as soon as possible. Making minimum payments will mean paying excessive amounts of interest over time and can make you feel as if you’ll never get out of debt. Cut your spending wherever you can so that you can focus on paying off your debt as quickly as possible.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics, credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues and wrongful vehicle repossessions.  Contact Us with your consumer credit concerns.  There is no cost for the consultation.

How do I Get a Better Auto Loan?

Shopping for a new vehicle can be overwhelming on its own without even considering the auto loan application process. But if you don’t take the time to research and compare auto loans, you may end up with a bad deal.

Before you begin to shop around for the best deal, check your credit report. Your overall credit will give you a general idea of what interest rates to expect. You should also consider your budget and how much you can afford to spend each month on vehicle loan payments. It’s important to make a purchase that you can afford. If you fall behind on loan payments, your vehicle may be at risk for repossession. A vehicle repossession negatively affects your credit for up to seven years. You should also keep in mind that shorter term loans will mean that you pay higher monthly payments, but less over the course of the loan.

When you apply for an auto loan, your credit score will take a slight hit. The credit bureaus will treat several loan applications made within a short time frame as a single application. If you were to receive credit denials from several potential lenders, your credit report could be impacted negatively and your credit score may drop.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims of vehicle repossession.  If a borrower defaults on a bad auto loan and the vehicle is repossessed, Flitter Milz will evaluate whether the lender violated the borrower’s consumer rights.  If your vehicle has been repossessed in the past six years, Contact Us for a free evaluation.