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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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Personal Finance Basics for College Students

The start of a new college semester is a busy and exciting time. As you prepare to begin new classes, it’s important to consider how you’ll manage your finances while you’re in school. Follow these tips to keep your finances in order and avoid any unnecessary additional stress.

Set a Budget

Whether you receive a stipend from financial aid, are working part-time, or get financial help from your parents, it’s important to set a monthly budget to stay on track with your finances. You should budget for mandatory expenses like room and board or rent, utilities, and groceries, but you should also consider how much you can afford to spend on dining out and entertainment. Sticking to a budget will help you stay organized and help ensure that you don’t spend above your means.

Start a Savings Account

If you work during school, make it a goal to save ten percent or more of your income and put it into a savings account. Even if it seems like a small amount, savings will help when it comes time to graduate and find an apartment or begin to pay off student loans. It’s also helpful to have some money saved up in case of an emergency.

Pay Off Loan Interest During School

Many students take out both federal and private loans in order to fund their education. If you have student loans, you likely already know that you’re not required to pay them off until after you graduate, and there is typically a six month grace period following your graduation as well.

However, it’s a good idea to pay off the interest that accrues on your loans while you’re still in school if you have the means to do so. Some of your loans may be subsidized, meaning they won’t accrue interest while you’re still in school, but unsubsidized loans begin to accrue interest from the date that they are issued. Not paying this interest means you’ll eventually have to pay interest on the interest that you didn’t pay previously.

Build Your Credit

It’s important to keep in mind that your credit history will begin to develop right away. Certain bills are included on your credit report, so it’s critical to pay them in full and on time to avoid negative marks on your credit. Student loans will also appear on your credit report and will help you establish positive history as you make payments on time.

In order to secure new lines of credit in the future, a lender will pull your report to determine your creditworthiness. It is possible to get denied for credit if you lack sufficient credit history, so it’s helpful to try to build credit while you’re still in school.

The Credit Card Act of 2009 placed restrictions on individuals under the age of 21 getting a credit card without a cosigner, but secure credit cards are still a good option. A secure credit card requires an initial deposit. This deposit then acts as your available amount of credit. You can also build credit as an authorized user on a parent’s credit card.

Check Your Credit Report Regularly

You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – every twelve months. Checking your own credit report does not reflect negatively on your credit. You may choose to request a copy from one bureau at a time so that you can check your report several times throughout the year.

Always review your report for errors and inaccurate information. Incorrect listings can have a negative impact on your credit if they aren’t addressed. Dispute any incorrect information with the bureau and with the creditor and provide any documentation that supports your claim.

Successfully managing your finances and building healthy credit requires consistency and time. With these tips you’ll be well on your way to good credit.

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 to discuss your consumer credit concern.  There is no cost for the consultation.

How a Move Can Affect Your Credit

Your credit follows you wherever you go, and that includes whether you purchase a new home or move to a new apartment. But how does the process of moving affect your credit?

Credit Inquiries

When you apply for a mortgage or fill out an application for an apartment rental, the bank or landlord will most likely perform a credit check.

There are two types of credit inquiries: hard and soft. Most financial inquiries are considered hard and have the potential to negatively affect your credit, especially if you are declined. As well, lenders may see you as a higher risk if you have several hard inquiries.

If you’re concerned about the effect of a credit inquiry on your credit score, check to see if the prospective lender or landlord would accept a copy of a credit report that you pulled yourself. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each Transunion, Experian and Equifax every twelve months. Requesting the reports yourself will not affect your credit in any way.

Avoid Breaking a Lease

The terms detailed in the lease agreement will state your options if you need to terminate a lease early.  You may have to pay extra fees or surrender your security deposit for an early termination. Make sure you pay any agreed amount on time. If you don’t, the landlord may have the right to take you to court or send the account to a debt collector. This type of activity will appear on your credit report and will damage your credit score.

Missed or Late Payments

With the stress of moving, often it is more difficult to keep track of your finances and make timely payments. Missed or late payments can be very harmful to your credit. Depending on how late the payment is, it could appear as a negative mark on your credit report and also lower your credit score significantly.

Mail Forwarding

Prior to your move, ensure that you will receive mail from your old address by taking the following steps:
-Notify the United States Postal Service to forward all mail to your new address
-Notify your creditors in writing of your address change
-Inform your landlord of your new address and contact information.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of abusive collection tactics, credit reporting privacy and accuracy violations and vehicle repossessions.  Contact Us for a free consultation.

Cary Flitter — Next Lawyer Up

Listen to the podcast here.

Cary Flitter was interviewed on Next Lawyer Up, a podcast that features discussions with consumer lawyers across the country. Led by Ron Sykstus, partner with the prominent Alabama bankruptcy firm Bond & Botes, P.C., Cary was asked to discuss his background as a born and bred Philadelphian and graduate of Central High School (231), what drove him to become an attorney, and how he chose to develop a practice in consumer protection law.

Ron met Cary several years ago at a national consumer law conference where Cary spoke on consumer law issues. Ron found him to be a very engaging speaker. He liked Cary’s straightforward speaking style and ability to explain complex legal issues in a simple and understandable fashion.

Cary is regarded as a well-respected consumer law attorney whose advice and counsel is sought nationwide. He has been advocating for consumer rights for over 30 years. Building a practice around litigating cases on behalf of consumers against debt collectors, banks and finance companies, insurance companies, car dealers and credit reporting agencies, Cary has been recognized for litigating cases that have broken new ground, helped to shape the law itself and set precedent for future legal decisions.

Cary’s firm, Flitter Milz, P.C., is based in the suburban Philadelphia town of Narberth, with offices in Northeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He represents clients as individuals and class actions in consumer lending, unfair debt collection, vehicle financing and leasing overcharges, wrongful car repossessions, credit reporting, credit privacy, unwanted “robo” calls and other consumer cases.

Cary currently serves on the adjunct faculty at Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law and Delaware Law School of Widener University where he teaches Consumer Law & Litigation. He has accepted invitations to guest lecture on consumer law topics at Harvard Law School, University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and many other venues.

Cary is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and regularly presents at seminars around the country to train fellow lawyers and law students on developments and strategies in consumer law. As an author, Cary has contributed to Pennsylvania Consumer Law, the leading legal treatise in Pennsylvania on consumer law issues, and Consumer Class Actions published by the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

 

How to Build an Emergency Savings Fund

Unfortunately, emergencies happen to all of us. Maybe your pet is suddenly sick and you have to pay an expensive vet bill. Or, you get into a fender bender and need to pay to get your car fixed. Emergencies are serious, unexpected situations that require immediate action. Many Americans don’t have enough money in savings to cover the cost of these unexpected expenses.   More often than not, they turn to credit cards to pay for emergencies.

While using credit is fine from time to time, it can be detrimental to rely on it, especially if you can’t keep up with the minimum payments. If you fall behind on payments, your account could go into default and negatively affect your credit report and credit score.

To set up an emergency fund that can help to avoid using credit cards in the future, follow these steps.

1. Establish a Specific Savings Goal

Start with a savings goal of $1000 and set aggressive benchmarks to reach your goal. Create a budget for your expenses and determine where you can cut costs for a few months. Food, entertainment, and transportation expenses are a good place to start.

2. Deduct a Set Amount from Your Paycheck

Deduct a set amount of money from every paycheck and put this into a savings account. Many online banking accounts allow you to set this up automatically so that it’s easier to stay on track.

$1000 is enough to cover many emergencies. Once you reach this goal, you can set more modest goals and work on building a more substantial savings account over time.

3. Consider Other Sources of Income

If you can’t find areas to cut expenses and are having difficulty saving a portion of each paycheck, consider potential sources for additional income. Babysitting, dog sitting, and house cleaning, or seasonal work such as cutting grass, raking leaves or shoveling snow, are all good part time options that are always in demand.

4. Take Charge of Your Finances

Assess your overall financial well-being. Request your current credit report and address any issues or inaccurate information.

If you’ve relied on credit for emergencies in the past and find yourself in debt as a result, take steps to pay off credit card debt over time. If you begin to receive contact from debt collectors, make sure you’re familiar with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under this law, debt collectors are not allowed to threaten or harass you, provide false information about your debt, or contact friends, neighbors or family about your debt.

Get Legal Help from Abusive Debt Collectors

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents people that have become victim to debt collector’s abusive practices.  If you have been contacted by a collection agency or law firm collector, we will evaluate whether your consumer rights have been violated – whether you fell behind on payments or not.  Contact us for a free legal evaluation.

Financial Tips for New College Graduates

Graduating from college is a huge achievement. It means you’re done with studying, exams, and essays. But it also means you have to be more responsible with your finances and make sure to maintain healthy credit.

Your credit will affect many aspects of your future, like your ability to rent an apartment, secure a new loan, and even get hired for a new job. If you haven’t already, check your credit report. See what information is currently listed and make sure it’s all accurate. Dispute credit report errors with the reporting bureau to ensure that your credit history is reflected correctly.

If your credit history is relatively short, consider how you can continue to build your credit. If you have student loans, making your payments on time and in full each month will reflect positively on your credit. Obtaining a credit card and paying it off in full each month will also contribute to a higher credit score.

Seek Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of credit reporting privacy and accuracy issues, abusive debt collectors and lenders that have wrongfully repossessed vehicles.  Contact Us for a free legal evaluation of your consumer credit problem.