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.

Debt Collection Against Military Personnel

When an account goes into collection, it’s stressful and overwhelming for anyone. But debt collection can be especially troublesome for military service members. Financial trouble could result in negative consequences like loss or denial of security clearance.

Frequent moves and relocations can make it difficult for service members to keep up with bills and collection notices. Set up automatic payments when you can and always make sure to update your address to avoid missing bill payments.

If an account does go into collection, debt collectors often use shady tactics to try and collect payments. However, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors from threatening to reduce a service member’s rank or security clearance. They are also not allowed to threaten to contact chain of command. Learn more about what debt collectors can’t do under the FDCPA.

Military personnel are also protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This legislation provides some protections against car repossession for those in the military.

Make sure to educate yourself on how to manage your finances and learn about the laws that exist to protect you. Learn how to get a free copy of your credit report, and how to dispute errors in your credit history.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive debt collection tactics, credit reporting privacy and accuracy issues and wrongful vehicle repossessions.  Contact Us for a free legal consultation to determine whether your consumer rights have been 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.

What Debt Collectors Don’t Want You Know

It can be scary and overwhelming when a debt collector starts contacting you about unpaid bills. With household debt at $12.7 trillion in the United States, this is a reality that many Americans have to face every day. However, there are certain things that debt collectors don’t want you to know about their collection tactics. Learn more about what they can and can’t do so you’re better prepared when they contact you.

Collectors must follow the law

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from unfair debt collection practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the act, which prohibits collectors from using abusive or deceptive tactics to get you to pay. They can’t threaten you, make false statements, or misrepresent how much you owe.

Request the collector stop contacting you

If a collector is relentlessly contacting you, you can ask them to stop. Send a Certified letter to the collector and request they cease and desist contact with you.  The collector must stop contacting you. However, this doesn’t make the debt go away. The debt will most likely be reassigned to a new agency or law firm to attempt collection.

If calls are disruptive, you can also ask that the collector only contact you during certain hours of the day.

Collectors may not contact anyone but you

In some cases, debt collectors will contact family members, neighbors or friends to get your contact information. While this is acceptable, the collector is not allowed to share details about your debt. If they do so, it could be a violation of your consumer rights.

If a family member, neighbor or friend has been contacted about your debt, ask that person to write a statement with details about the contact. They should include the date, time of day, name of the collector, and details about any phone conversation or messages left. Have this statement reviewed by a qualified consumer protection attorney.

You’re entitled to a debt validation

Under the FDCPA, you should receive a letter in the mail within five days after a collector contacts you. The letter should state the amount of the debt and the name of the original creditor. If you don’t dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving this letter, the collector can assume the debt is valid.

If you dispute the debt, you can write the collector and request validation of the debt and an itemization that shows how the balance was calculated.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact Us for a free evaluation of call and letters that you’ve received from collection agencies or law firm collectors.

6 Common Questions About Debt

Many people find themselves in debt at some point in their lives, whether it’s from student loans, credit cards, medical expenses, divorce, personal loans, or other types of accounts. Here are some common questions you may have about debt.

Will my debt ever go away?

An unpaid debt never truly goes away. After seven years, it will no longer appear on your credit report, meaning you may see an improvement in your overall credit standing. Negative marks are removed from your report after seven years while accounts that are in good standing remain forever.

Collectors can continue to collect on debts even after the listing has been removed from the credit report. Some states have a statute of limitations on debt collection. If the statute of limitation has passed, the creditor can no longer get a judgment against you. However, an unpaid debt is always owed until it’s paid in full.

What if I can’t afford the minimum payments?

Many people have difficulty making bill payments at some point or another. If you can’t afford the minimum payment on your account, don’t just skip the payment that month. Skipping a payment will make it even more difficult to catch up the following month. Creditors can also report late or missing payments to the credit bureaus, meaning your credit will take a hit.

If you can’t afford to pay your bill, contact your creditor to see what your options are. Some creditors may extend the due date or waive the late fee. If you can’t work something out with the creditor, do your best to make up the missed payment as soon as possible, including any late fees.

Can the creditor repossess my belongings if I’m in debt?

There are limits as to what a creditor can and can’t repossess when you’re behind on your payments. In some loan agreements, property or possessions are listed as collateral in the terms of the loan. This means that the creditor can repossess the property or possession if you don’t meet the loan agreement’s requirements. The most common types of collateral are vehicles in auto loan agreements or homes in mortgage agreements.

If you have credit card debt, the creditor can’t repossess the items that you purchased with credit. However, a creditor can sue you to recover money if there is no collateral listed in the agreement.

Am I responsible for my partner’s debt after we get married?

Whether or not you’re responsible for your spouse’s debt depends on the state you live in. In community property states, both spouses are responsible if the debt occurs during the marriage. In common law states, each individual spouse is generally responsible for his or her own debt.

What happens to debt when someone passes away?

Everything a person owns at the time of his or her death is referred to as their estate. The assets of the estate are used to pay off any debts. If the assets of the estate aren’t enough to cover the debts, a family member may become financially responsible depending on the type of debt.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics.  Contact us for a free legal evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

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.

What College Students Need to Know about Credit

As a college student, your credit is probably one of the last things on your mind. It can be a challenge to balance your classes and coursework while responsibly managing your finances, especially if this is the first time you have had to manage and budget your money.

Many students don’t realize that they start to build their credit right away once they take out student loans, or have expenses like utilities and rent.

If you continue to regularly monitor your credit report, pay bills on time, and keep your credit utilization low, your overall credit will remain in great standing. Good credit after college will make it easier for you to purchase a car, rent without a cosigner, and may even help you secure a job.

Tips for Building Credit

As a young person, you may not have a very extensive credit history. Unless a parent listed you as an authorized user on a credit card, your history is probably minimal. Sparse information may make it more difficult for you to secure new lines of credit or loans without a cosigner because lenders can’t be certain of your likeliness to make timely payments.

If you have student loans, these accounts will appear on your credit report and reflect positively as long as you make payments on time and in full. If you’re struggling with payments, look into income-based repayment options to avoid going into default.

You may also want to consider opening a credit card if you don’t already have one. Different types of accounts add diversity to your credit portfolio and will reflect positively on your score. Shop around for a card with little to no annual fees. Older accounts are more beneficial to your history, so the account will continue to positively affect your credit over time as long as you make payments in full and on time.

Tips for Monitoring Credit

Request your Credit Report
Every twelve months you are entitled to obtain a free credit report from each Transunion, Experian and Equifax. It’s important to regularly monitor your reports, even as a student, because there could be errors that negatively affect it. Write for a copy of your report and have it mailed to you.

Dispute Errors on your Credit Report
Although the credit bureaus have similar listings, the information that appears on one report may differ from another.  Be sure to obtain copies of all three reports and review them carefully.  If you find an error on your credit report, be sure to send a written dispute to those credit bureaus. You may also want to dispute the error with the creditor. Be sure to include any documents and relevant information that supports your claim.

Keep Your Credit Utilization Low
Your credit utilization also plays an important role in your overall credit health. If you regularly use more than 30% of your available credit, this may have a negative impact on your score. For example, if you have a credit card with a $1000 credit limit, you should avoid spending more than $300. This shows that you’re not only using a small amount of the credit that’s being loaned to you, but that you are using the credit responsibly and paying the amount borrowed.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims with problems involving credit reporting issues, debt collection harassment and vehicle repossessions. Contact Us for a free consultation to discuss your consumer credit issues.  If your rights have been violated, our firm will sue the credit bureau, debt collector or lender at no cost to you.

 

Credit Lessons for College Students

As a college student, this is likely the first time you’re responsible for your own finances. The way you manage your money in college can have a longstanding effect on your overall credit. Here are some important things to know about credit and what financial actions can help and hurt you.

Know the difference between your credit score and credit report

You’ve probably heard both of these terms used before, but what’s the difference between the two? Think of your credit score as an overall summary of your creditworthiness. Scores fall between 300 and 850, and the higher the number, the better the score. The average credit score is between 670 and 700, and a score above 720 is considered to be excellent. Lenders use credit scores to determine who qualifies for a loan as well as the terms of the loan agreement.

Credit reports contain more detailed information about your credit history than your score alone. They include payment history records as well as employment, legal, and bankruptcy information. Negative listings on your credit report, such as late payments, loan defaults, or a vehicle repossession, will lower your credit score.

Paying bills late will hurt your credit score

Timely payments are extremely important to your overall credit health. Late payments will appear on your credit report and have a negative effect on your credit score. Create reminders for all of your monthly bill payments like utilities, rent, student loans, and credit cards so that you don’t miss a payment and risk hurting your credit.

Checking your credit doesn’t hurt your score

There’s a common myth that checking your own credit will lower your score, but this isn’t true. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – every 12 months. You can request one from a single bureau every four months to ensure that you’re always monitoring your credit for accuracy. Credit report errors are relatively common, so it’s important to monitor your information and make sure that everything is accurate.

A potential employer can perform credit checks on you

Employment screening reports have become more and more common, especially for individuals seeking employment in banking and financial services, government, or jobs that require security clearance. They may also be used in various other industries such as trucking, nursing, food, and retail.

There are, however, certain limitations when a potential employer seeks your credit information. They must request your permission by having you sign an authorization before they can access your credit or perform a background check. You’re also entitled to a copy of the report if they choose not to hire you as a result.

Diverse account types will help you

When you start out building your credit, it’s beneficial to have a variety of accounts in good standing. This could include credit cards, federal and private student loans, and other regular bill payments like utilities. This shows lenders that you can responsibly manage different types of financial accounts. The length of time the accounts have been open also affects your score. Older accounts have a more positive impact on your credit.

Secured credit cards can help you initially build credit

If you don’t have credit history, lenders may reject your application for a new line of credit because they can’t ascertain whether or not you’re a risk. Secured credit cards are a good option for those who need to build credit, or for those who have poor credit.

A secured credit card requires an initial deposit which is then used as the credit limit on your card. You’ll get this deposit back if the card graduates to a normal credit card.

You shouldn’t max out your credit cards

Many people don’t know that the amount they spend on their credit cards in relation to their available credit plays an important role in their overall credit health. If you have a credit card, avoid spending more than 30% of your available credit. Spending more can lower your credit score.

Pay close attention to your credit health

Your credit is important for your future, so it’s important to monitor it regularly and stay on top of monthly payments. Healthy credit ensures that you won’t have an issue securing new lines of credit down the road and also sets you up for financial success.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics by debt collectors and those with credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues.  Contact us for a free evaluation of your consumer credit concern.

5 Money Mistakes for Students to Avoid

College is stressful enough without having to worry about financial issues. Avoid these five common money mistakes to stay on track with your spending.

1. Not Setting a Budget

There are a lot of expenses when you’re a student. Tuition and textbooks aside, you also need money for things like rent, utilities, and going out with friends. It’s easy to quickly burn through your money without realizing how much you’re spending. This is why it’s so important to set well defined budgets.

Budgets for different spending categories will keep you on track and will help prevent you from spending above your means. Look at your recent transaction history to gauge how much you typically spend on expenses like utilities, groceries, and entertainment. Set a modest and reasonable goal for each category and work on not exceeding your budget.

2. Paying Bills Late

Many students don’t realize that late bill payments can negatively affect their credit. You start to develop credit history right away, so financial irresponsibility during school could have an impact later in life. Credit history is a factor when you’re seeking new lines of credit, applying to rent an apartment, and sometimes even in a potential employment opportunity.

Always pay your bills on time. Include all bill payments in your budget and set reminders so that you don’t lose track during a busy semester.

3. Spending Too Much on Credit Cards

Credit cards are convenient. It’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars without thinking about when you have to pay it back. But overspending on your credit card means you risk spending more than you can afford.

If you only pay the minimum balance each month, you could end up paying excessive interest fees. Spending more than 30% of your available credit can also have a negative effect on your credit overall. For example, your credit score may take a hit if you spend more than $300 on a card that has a credit limit of $1,000.

Keep your credit usage below 30% and always pay off your balance in full and on time every month.

4. Not Paying Off Student Loan Interest During School

If you have student loans, you may be wondering why you should bother making payments while you’re still in school – you aren’t required to, and there’s even a grace period after you graduate for most loans.

Unsubsidized loans start to accrue interest as soon as they’re disbursed. This means that your loan amounts are slowly creeping up even when you’re still in school. Eventually, you’ll have to pay interest on top of this interest.

Depending on your interest rates, it may be entirely manageable to keep up with these payments during school. Small payments each month now could mean thousands of dollars in savings later on.

5. Spending Money on Things You Don’t Need

It’s easy to spend money on items you don’t really need – new clothes for a party, brand new furniture, new cookware. You should have some room in your budget for unexpected expenses and fun purchases, but don’t go overboard.

Before you buy something new, decide if you really need it or if you can find it cheaper elsewhere. Not only will this help you stick to your budget, it will also mean you have fewer things to pack up and move when it comes time to graduate.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics by debt collectors, and those with credit reporting privacy and accuracy issues.  Contact us to discuss your consumer credit concern.