How to Use this Resource

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.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Who knows my social security number?

Identity theft is more common than you may think. Sometimes the criminal is someone you know. It could be a family member, co-worker, or friend. But other times, it’s someone you’ve never met.

Before a criminal takes the opportunity to impersonate you and use your information, take steps to protect your identity. Extensive damage to your finances occurs when new accounts are opened without your knowledge, or when existing accounts are used without your permission.

Be cautious with your personal information. Keep your passwords for bank accounts, credit cards, loans and financial accounts in a safe place.  As well, be sure to shred statements and account records after use.

Who can I share personal information with?

Certain entities, such as financial institutions, employers, the Internal Revenue Service, government programs (i.e. workers compensation and welfare), medical providers, and insurance companies, require your Social Security Number (SSN). They often access information on credit reports to determine an applicant’s credit worthiness before approving a loan, a job or promotion, a new insurance policy, or medical coverage.

Do I have to provide personal information on request?

Legitimate businesses have privacy policies that explain why they collect personal information and the affiliates they share it with. Request a copy of this policy and review it for their list of affiliates. Consumers have the right to inquire why certain information, such as name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number, is requested on applications and forms.

Important Questions to Ask

You may not need to provide all information that is requested on a form. You may ask:
-How the information will be used
-Where and how long it will be stored
-Whether the location is secure
-How long the information will be kept on file
-Who will have access to the information
-When the information will be deleted

If your SSN is required, you may ask if  another form of identification would be acceptable.  You may be able to give a copy of your current driver’s license, a passport, or birth certificate instead.

Can I get a new social security number?

It’s not easy to get a new social security number. You can submit an application for a new SSN with the Social Security Administration under certain circumstances. For example:

  • Identity theft victims that continue to be disadvantaged by use his or her original number
  • A social security number assigned to more than one person.
  • Sequential numbers assigned to family members causing mis-merged credit reporting files.

When a new SSN is assigned, the new number is cross-referenced with the original number so that the person receives credit for all earnings under both numbers.

To request a new SSN, contact a Social Security office near you. You will need to complete an application, show documents that establish U.S. citizenship, age, identity, and evidence of any legal name change, if appropriate. The application must explain the reasons for needing a new number and provide credible evidence and documents that detail the reasons for needing a new number.

Get Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of credit report accuracy and privacy issues, and those who have experienced abusive collection tactics.  Contact us today for a free legal consultation to discuss how the consumer laws may help you.

What is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is an agency of the United States government that is responsible for consumer protection in the financial sector. Their jurisdiction includes banks, credit unions, securities firms, payday lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services, debt collectors, and other financial companies operating in the United States.

The CFPB’s creation was authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, whose passage in 2010 was a legislative response to the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the subsequent Great Recession.

The CFPB aims to make consumer financial markets work for consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole. They protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and take action against companies that break the law. By providing information, steps and tools, their goal is to help people make smart financial decisions.

Contact the CFPB concerning an issue with a financial product or service:

  • By Mail: CFPB, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, IA 52244
  • Online: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint
  • Phone: 855-411-2372
  • Fax: 855-237-2392
  • Facebook: @CFPB
  • Twitter: @CFPB
  • U.S. Senate:  senate.gov
  • U.S. House of Representatives:  house.gov

 

Spend Your Gift Card before Delaware Takes It

The state of Delaware could confiscate your gift cards’ unused balances if you wait too long to use them

Delaware state laws allow for expired or dormant gift card balances to be turned over to the state. Gift cards that haven’t been used for five years or those that have expired are considered “abandoned property.”

Consumer lawyer Cary Flitter, with the Philadelphia law firm Flitter Milz, said, “Customers can protect themselves from having their cards confiscated by learning the expiration dates. Consumers should read the disclosure on the card or jacket it comes with. The burden should be on the seller, but there is a little bit of buyer beware that helps the consumer from losing the gift card’s funds.”

Under Delaware’s escheatment or unclaimed property laws, the holder of that abandoned property – the retailers who issued the cards – is required to report to Delaware when the funds have become abandoned and turn them over to the state.

Typically, most states have laws to collect abandoned property or funds when someone passes away without any heirs.  But only about half the states include gift cards.

 

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Successful Cases Helping Consumers

Since the formation of the CFPB in 2010, the Bureau has taken on the biggest banks, including those that open thousands of phony accounts, payday lenders that charge 200% or more in interest, abusive debt collectors, the credit bureaus, student loan servicers, and other irresponsible lenders.

The CFPB’s success has been undeniable in getting these entities to clean up their practices and refrain from abusing and overcharging consumers. The CFPB has recovered nearly $12 billion from these financial institutions to redress these abuses, making the CFPB one of the most efficient government agencies.

CFPB Success stories – helping all Americans.

  • 9/11 Victims:  Predatory lending to first responders.
  • Wells Fargo customers: Phony consumer accounts opened unknowingly by Wells Fargo employees.
  • Prepaid debit card users: RushCard denied customers access to their money through system failure.
  • Auto Lending Discrimination: CFPB and Department of Justice resolve action with American Honda Finance Corp. for discriminatory practices placing auto loans which resulted in African-American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers paying higher interest rates than white borrowers for their auto loans.
  • Mortgage Lending & Servicing Deception: Ocwen took advantage of borrowers at every stage of the mortgage servicing process.

Seek Legal Help from a Consumer Protection Law Firm

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm  representing victims of wrongful car repossessions, debt collection abuse, credit reporting privacy & accuracy violations, and unwanted robocalls.   Contact Us to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated.  There is No Cost for the consultation.

Don’t Get Caught in a Car Loan You Can’t Afford

It may seem easier to get a loan for the car of your dreams these days, but more people are falling behind on payments and becoming delinquent on their loans. When it becomes easier to get an auto loan, auto loan delinquencies are more common.

What does this mean?

The rise in delinquencies comes at a time when unemployment is low and borrowers typically should be able to make their payments. However, lenders may have loosened their credit standards and let borrowers take on more debt than they can afford.

Always read the information in any loan application to make sure that the information is accurate! Consumers should pay attention to whether their income is stated correctly on the auto loan application. If you find errors on your application, do not proceed with the purchase.

My car was repossessed. Now what?

Once delinquent, the lender may be able to repossess the vehicle without warning. If you think your vehicle may be repossessed, we recommend that you remove all car purchase and loan documents, and all personal items from the vehicle.

Once the vehicle has been repossessed, the lender will provide you with a notice detailing the terms for you to get your car back and where to retrieve your personal possessions from the vehicle. Follow these steps.

Does your credit report list the repossession inaccurately?

Check your credit report to see whether your loan payments were reported accurately. Consumers are permitted to receive one free credit report from each bureau within a twelve month period.

If the lender has reported your payment history inaccurately, send written disputes to the credit bureau.

Be sure to provide supporting documentation that shows why the information is not listed accurately on your credit report. The bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. If the errors have not been corrected, contact us.

Was Your Car Repossessed? Follow These Steps.

Whether you are behind on payments or not, the lender must follow a number of rules before and after a car is repossessed. These rules detail how and when they can initiate car repossession, what kind of notices must be given, and how any auction or private sale must be handled.

If any rules were overlooked during or after the repossession of your vehicle, you may be able to take legal action against the lender or car repossessor, even if you were behind on payments. If your car or motorcycle was recently repossessed, do the following.

Confirm the Repossession 

Call the lender or local police department to confirm that the vehicle was repossessed and not stolen. Ask for details, such as which repossession company called the police and when.

Gather Repo Documents

Gather all purchase, loan, and repossession documents. These include your car purchase agreement, retail installment sales contract, notice of intent to sell property, deficiency notice, loan payment history, and any collection letters claiming a deficient balance is owed.

You should receive a Notice of Intent to Sell Property from the lender after your vehicle is repossessed. This notice explains how you can retrieve the vehicle, how much you must pay, the location of the vehicle, and the time and location of a private sale or auction. You should receive this notice before the vehicle is sold at private sale or auction with enough time for you to get the car back.

The lender must also provide a notice that confirms the sale price after a vehicle is sold, called a Deficiency Notice. If the sale price does not pay off the balance that is owed on the loan, you will owe the remaining balance, even if the vehicle was voluntarily given back.

Don’t Sign a Waiver

Do not sign any waiver or release agreement to get your vehicle back. Signing a waiver could negate any legal claim for wrongful actions by the lender. The law does not require you to sign documents to retrieve your vehicle, even if the repo agent or storage yard asks for one.

Get Legal Help

If you believe your vehicle was wrongfully repossessed, gather all of your documents and contact Flitter Milz for a free evaluation of your case.

Responsibilities of a Co-Signer

Sometimes a friend or relative with poor credit may ask you to co-sign on their car loan. It’s important to know that co-signers take on financial responsibilities for the duration of the loan. Co-signing does not just mean that you are a character reference for the borrower. Before you sign, keep the following in mind.

Get Familiar with the Account

Before you sign, make sure you know what you are agreeing to. Know the purpose of the account, the type of account, the terms, and why your friend or relative needs a co-signer.

If you co-sign, establish access to the account so that you can verify that payments are made on time and as agreed each month.

Understand Your Legal and Financial Obligations

Read and understand the credit contract. Be aware that a lender may be able to collect from you even when there is collateral. In the case of a car loan, for example, the lender might demand payment from you instead of repossessing the car. Sometimes, even if the car is repossessed, its value may not be sufficient to pay off the loan.

Understand that if the primary borrower defaults and has missed a payment, the lender can demand payment from you.  As well, the lender, or a debt collector, may try to collect from you.  The debt may include the principal amount, plus interest, late fees or collection costs. 

Monitor the Payment History

Get access to monthly statements, either online or through customer service, so that you can see when payments were applied to the account. Make certain the lender applied the payment properly, with specific amounts to principal and interest.

Don’t wait until a collector calls saying payments have not been made. By that time, your credit may already have been negatively impacted. Remember, one missed or late payment could mean a black mark on your credit.

Check Your Credit Reports

Check your credit reports regularly with Transunion, Experian, and Equifax to see how this loan is being reported. If there are late payments, address the problem with the co-borrower. If the reporting is inaccurate, send written disputes to the credit bureaus.

Prepare for the Worst

Create an account where you make the monthly payment. If the co-borrower misses or stops making payments on the loan, you’ll have funds readily available to cover the missed payment and keep your good credit name.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a Consumer Protection law firm that represents consumers involved with matters concerning wrongful vehicle repossession and credit reporting errors.  Contact us for a no cost consultation.

8 Steps to Better Credit

Your credit report isn’t just for loans anymore! Job offers, promotions, security clearances, and insurance quotes are now routinely affected by your credit report or other types of consumer reports.

Follow these steps to rebuild and improve your credit.

Request Current Credit Reports

You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, every twelve months under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and more often if you are the victim of identity theft or on public assistance. Request your credit report regularly and check that all information is accurate.

Address Any Credit Inaccuracies

Credit report errors are fairly common. If there is inaccurate information on your credit report, it’s important that you address it. Write and dispute directly with the bureaus. Include a current copy of the report with your dispute. It will be helpful to highlight the disputed item. Your dispute letter should briefly state why this item is listed incorrectly. Attach any supporting documentation that illustrates your claim. Send your letter to the credit bureau by Certified Mail, Return Receipt.  The bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. If the bureaus don’t correct the error, you may need to send a second dispute.  Be sure to keep copies of all dispute correspondence.

Pay Bills in Full and on Time

Falling behind on payments will have a negative impact on your credit history. Always pay your bills in full and by the date listed on the statement or invoice.

Review Current Accounts

Pay down balances on existing credit cards or loans and pay off delinquent accounts. Be strategic about closing cards; consider keeping cards that you’ve had for a long time that show a consistent payment history and consider closing those with high interest. You should only maintain credit accounts that you can afford.

Maintain Stable Employment

A lapse in employment history can harm your credit. A high debt to income ratio will also negatively impact your credit history.

Do Not Max-out Credit Cards

Part of your credit score is based on your credit utilization, or the percentage of your available credit you use. Never use the maximum amount of available credit. Doing so will hurt your credit score. It’s best to not exceed fifty percent of your available credit.

Do Not Co-sign Loans

When you agree to cosign on a loan, you are liable for payment of the loan, despite any side agreement you may have with the other borrower. If the borrower defaults, you will be responsible for making payments. Co-signing brings a significant risk that you likely don’t want to take on as you rebuild your credit.

Building Credit Takes Time and Discipline

Remember that you must be responsible with credit. Always pay on time and maintain the terms of the credit agreement.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting problems, harassment from debt collectors, and wrongful vehicle repossessions.  Whether you fell behind on payments or not, the credit bureau, debt collector and lender must follow the law.  Contact us for a free legal review to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

Does Divorce Hurt Your Credit?

Getting divorced can come with plenty of heartache, paperwork, and even financial burden. But one of those struggles does not have to include a dip in your credit score just because you signed divorce papers

Be proactive.  Take the following steps to evaluate your personal credit and those accounts that are shared jointly with your ex-husband or wife.  If there are errors on your report, dispute them by sending a letter to the credit bureau(s).  It is important to maintain a report with accurate information. 

Obtain current credit reports

Write to Transunion, Experian and Equifax for a current copy of your credit files.  You are entitled to one free copy every twelve months.  You may have to pay a fee if you want to receive a copy more frequently.

Review your credit reports

Although the credit bureaus share information about your credit history, the actual information reported from one bureau may differ from another.  Obtain a copy from each bureau and review the listings.

 Dispute Errors on your report

Send a written dispute to the bureau(s) that list inaccurate information on your credit file. Be sure to enclose documents that support your claim of an error on the report.  The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute.  If the information is not corrected, you may need to send a second, or sometimes third, dispute to the credit bureau.

Get Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims of inaccurate credit reporting.  Contact us for a free evaluation of your reports and correspondence you’ve had with the credit bureaus.  If your consumer rights have been violated, you may have a lawsuit to bring against the credit reporting agency.

 

Co-signing a Loan: All Risk, Little Reward

Co-signers lend their names and good credit histories to the primary borrower, usually when the other borrower cannot obtain credit on his or her own.  For example, a parent may co-sign for a child who does not yet have a credit history. Or, someone may be asked to co-sign by a friend or relative whose credit is tarnished, has negative marks in their credit history, or a low credit score.

Co-signing a loan does not mean that you are serving as a character reference for someone else. Here’s what you should know before you co-sign a loan.

You’re Liable

When you agree to co-sign on a loan, you are liable for payment of the loan. You risk having to repay any missed payments immediately, or having to pay the full loan balance if your co-borrower defaults.

If the co-borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can use the same collection methods against the co-signer, such as demanding repayment of the entire loan, filing a lawsuit, and garnishing bank accounts after a judgment.

Credit scores may be impacted negatively by any late payments or defaults by either co-borrower. If the primary borrower dies, loses a job, goes through divorce, files bankruptcy, or otherwise fails to make payments, all responsibility for meeting the terms of the account generally transfers to the co-signer.

In some cases, the person who thought they were merely a co-borrower or guarantor was really listed in auto finance documents as the primary borrower. Be aware that if your co-borrower is primarily irresponsible for timely monthly payments, your credit score could suffer if he or she pays late, even if the lender did not give you a timely notification of the missed payment.

You Could Be Sued if Payments Aren’t Made

Failure to pay on the loan (or another breach of the loan agreement, like not keeping up the car insurance) means the lender can come after you for the entire balance. The co-signer often gets sued first because their credit is stronger and the bank believes they’re more likely to repay the debt.

It’s Difficult to Remove Your Name from the Loan

Once the account is opened, it’s very tough to remove a co-signer from the loan. We often hear stories of car buyers being told by the salesman to return after four to six months, at which time the dealer will supposedly remove one of the borrowers from the paperwork. This is not true, but rather a tactic to sell cars. Both the primary borrower and co-signer need to satisfy the loan in order to terminate the loan agreement, or obtain the lender’s express permission to remove one of two co-borrowers.

Tax Consequences of Settled or Unpaid Debt

The lender might not want to go through the trouble of suing you, so they agree to settle a post-repo deficiency balance for less than the balance owed. This means that you could have tax liability for the difference.

For example, if you owe $10,000 and settle for $4,000, you may have to report the remaining $6,000 as “debt forgiveness income” on your tax returns and pay tax on it. Settling on the account for less than the full sum may also leave a negative mark on your credit report. You may need to seek professional tax advice on this.

Co-signing Could Make it More Difficult for You to Get a Loan

Before you co-sign for someone, think about whether or not you’ll need to use your credit for your own needs. A lender may deny a credit application if there is too much credit in your name or the balances are too high relative to your income.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm representing people in matters against lenders, debt collectors and the credit bureaus.  Whether you or the co-borrower has fallen behind on payments or not, Contact Us for a FREE evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.