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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.

Understanding Vehicle Repossession and the Impact on Credit

The hard facts about Repossession.

We all understand that when you borrow money, you need to pay it back. And if you take out an auto loan, whether it’s with a bank, credit union or other financial institution, if payments are late or missed, the lender has the right to repossess the vehicle.

Signing a loan agreement means that you agree to the terms to repay the money borrowed, plus any interest and fees, within a scheduled period of time. Opting to finance a vehicle is an important decision and carries significant responsibility and financial discipline.

Short Term v. Long Term Effects of Repossession

When the borrower defaults on an auto loan there are serious consequences. Immediately, daily life becomes upset without use of the car.  Getting to work or handling routine daily chores, such as food shopping, taking children to school, or attending doctor’s appointments, may present difficulties for the household.

But more important is the long-term consequence. Repossessions can remain on credit reports for seven-and-one-half years, beginning from the date that the account first became delinquent.  And, as long as the repossession stays on your report, it can seriously damage credit and impact the calculation of credit scores. Also, negative listings on credit reports may make it more difficult to secure new loans, and existing creditors could alter credit terms by lowering credit limits or increasing interest rates.

Factors that can Damage Credit

  • Late payments – every month a payment is missed a negative mark appears on the account’s payment history.
  • Defaults – Loan defaults carry negative weight.   i.e. charge-off or repossession.
  • Collections – Collection accounts appear as negative listings on credit reports.
  • Court Judgments – Unsuccessful collection attempts, lead to lawsuits against the borrower to obtain a judgment.

Factors Contributing to the Calculation of a Credit Score

  • Payment History – Timely payments made to an account
  • Credit Utilization – The ratio of available to used credit
  • Age of Credit – The length of time an account has been open
  • Types of Accounts – A consumer’s credit mix: mortgage, credit cards, loans, etc.
  • Application history – The number of credit applications submitted within a specific period

Legal Protections from a Wrongful Repossessions

Whether or not the borrower defaulted on the terms of the auto loan, State and Federal laws govern how lenders and repo agents are to handle repossessions properly– at the scene and afterwards. When the borrower’s consumer rights are violated, a case could be pursued against the lender, repo agent or both. Repo agents may not threaten the borrower or use physical force.  In the course of repossession, the borrower’s vehicle or property is not to be damaged.  If police are called to the scene, their job is to keep the peace, not assist with the repossession.  If personal items have been left in the repossessed vehicle, the repo agent must permit the borrower to retrieve those items.

AFTER the Repossession

Following the repossession the lender has responsibilities to the borrower.  They must provide notices that inform the borrower with steps to retrieve the vehicle and their personal property.  Once the vehicle is sold, the lender must inform the borrower of the selling price and present a calculation of any remaining balance owed to satisfy the loan.

Manage Auto Loan Payments and Credit Reporting

Monitor Credit Reports for Errors
Over the course of the auto loan, borrowers should monitor their Transunion, Experian and Equifax credit reports for accurate reporting. If incorrect information is listed, such as a late payment history, a dispute letter should be sent to the lender and the credit bureau to request correction on the report.  

Send Effective Disputes
Disputes letters must include documents that show the error, such as cancelled checks, account statements, correspondence with the lender, etc. Also, the dispute must clearly state the requested action,  an update, correction or removal of the information.

Keep Accurate Payment Records

As important as it is to make payments in full and on time, we can’t always rely on the lender to keep an accurate record of payments.  Sometimes mistakes are made. Incorrect payment amounts could be applied to the borrower’s account, or the payment could be applied to someone else’s account.  Borrowers that manage and keep accurate payment records have good documents to support disputes made to the lender and/or credit bureau.

Seek advice from a Qualified Repossession Lawyers

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters of wrongful repossessions and credit reporting accuracy and privacy disputes. When errors remain on credit reports after a dispute, Contact Us for a no cost legal review to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.  Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Why the Pandemic May Be Hurting your Credit Score

Consumer Reports, February 3, 2021
Why the Pandemic May Be Hurting Your Credit Score By Lisa L. Gill
https://www.consumerreports.org/credit-scores-reports/why-the-pandemic-may-be-hurting-your-credit-score/

Photo-illustration showing a credit score icon and finance-related terms floating above a person's head

Illustration:  Lincoln Agnew

Attorney Andy Milz, cautions consumers that COVID-19-related payment deferrals aren’t the only problem contributing to credit reporting errors and drops in credit scores since the pandemic.  He states, in this recent Consumer Reports article, that other common credit reporting errors, such as accounts or loans that have been paid off but still appear as unpaid, individual loans reported multiple times, or debt that’s listed as in collections but has been paid off, can pose hurdles, too, if you need a loan or line of credit.

Protect your credit.

Don’t let inaccurate information on your credit report keep you from getting the loan you want.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act, is the federal law that helps ensure the accuracy of information on credit reports.  It is the duty of credit furnishers and the credit bureaus to report accurate information. If reported information is disputed by the consumer, the bureau and/or creditor must investigate the claim and correct the error. Consumers must take steps to keep accurate credit reports.

1. Review your Credit Report Regularly

Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report every twelve months from each of the Big 3 credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Consumers must provide two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license, pay stub or utility bill, to obtain a report.

2. Send written dispute to address errors with the Credit Bureaus

If you notice errors on your credit reports, you must send a written dispute to the bureau.  The letter should clearly identify the error and state why the listing should be updated or removed. Errors that remain on a consumer’s report could violate the consumer’s right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

3. Seek Legal Help from a Qualified Consumer Protection Law Firm

Attorneys at Fitz MilnerFlitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters where the credit bureaus or credit furnishers have continued to report errors on credit reports.  Contact Us for a no cost legal review to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.
Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Resolution for the New Year: Create a Budget and Avoid Credit Problems

Crafting a household budget is not only necessary to help evaluate spending patterns and measure income versus expenditures, but it also helps to ensure a secure financial future.

When an individual’s debt-to-income ratio rises, meaning that the person is taking on more debt than they are receiving in income, dire financial circumstances may occur for that person, and his or her family.

And if debt starts to get out of control and goes on unpaid for a period of time, debt collectors will no doubt start reaching out, your vehicle could get repossessed and credit scores could plummet.

It All Starts With Budgeting

The discipline of a budget helps keep a focus on income and payments towards all financial obligations.  Develop a plan to meet your obligations and protect your credit rating.

1. Obtain Current Credit Reports
One of the first steps toward keeping on top of your financial picture is to obtain current copies of your credit reports from the three main reporting agencies, Transunion, Experian and Equifax. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau.

2. Evaluate Credit Reports for Accuracy
A review of your report will point out any negative entries and possibly errors, which could remain as black marks on your credit reports for up to seven-and-a-half years. These listings may affect terms on existing credit or your ability to obtain favorable terms on new lines of credit. If you discover errors on your reports, dispute the errors in writing directly with the credit bureau.

3. Where is your hard-earned money spent?

If you know how much money is coming in versus going out each month, it becomes less likely that you’ll overspend to the point where payments are skipped or missed. Create the budget that you can stick to with a payment schedule that you can meet.  When you stay in charge of your finances, you decide when it’s time to make a new purchase, whether it be for a home, education, a new vehicle, or another personal expense.

4. Develop a Budget that’s right for you.
It’s all about organization and discipline. Gather all of your paperwork, create files for each account, calendar your payments and focus on meeting your financial goals.  These steps will help you meet your goals.

  • Identify your income sources
  • Compile a list of all expenditures: i.e. rent/mortgage, auto loan, insurance, food, credit cards, etc.
  • Categorize expenses: i.e. essential/necessities versus extraneous/unnecessary
  • Develop a plan to satisfy obligations within a specific time period
  • Obtain current credit reports from Transunion, Experian and Equifax
  • Establish both long and short-term financial goals.
  • Develop a plan to meet your goals.
  • Consider ways to earn or save more to help meet your goals

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with consumer credit problems, such as credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues, abusive debt collection tactics, wrongful vehicle repossession, which stem from over-spending. If you have errors on your credit reports, have received contact from debt collectors, or your auto lender has repossessed your vehicle,  Contact Us for a no-cost evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights may have been violated.

7 Ways Millennials can boost their Credit Scores

Millennials may be aware of the harmful effects of bad credit. The difficulty is in determining ways to change habits and establish financial discipline that will improve their financial outlook and their credit scores.  The following steps may show useful ways to carve a path to a brighter financial future.

Continue reading 7 Ways Millennials can boost their Credit Scores

How to Monitor Your Credit

Your credit history plays an important role in your ability to get approved for new lines of credit, whether it’s a new credit card, a personal loan, or another type of borrowing agreement. It also affects your ability to rent an apartment, or possibly be hired or promoted in your job.

Review Credit Reports & Dispute Errors

Do not wait until you’re ready to apply for a loan to check your credit. Monitor your credit reports regularly to see that your information is accurately reported.  If there is an error, send written disputes to the credit bureau.  You do not want to be denied for a loan because of someone else’s error. Credit applications are considered hard inquiries on your credit file, and denials could result in lowering your credit score.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting privacy and accuracy problems. Contact Us for a free consultation to discuss errors on your credit reports.

Credit Report Listings with Negative Impact

Your credit report plays a critical role in your overall financial health. The information that it contains will affect your ability to get new lines of credit for auto or personal loans, rent an apartment, and sometimes even get a job or promotion. It’s important to understand all of the information on your report and what types of negative listings may appear.

Every person’s credit report has the following:

  • Personal information.  Your name, current and previous addresses, social security number, date of birth, and possibly current and previous employers.
  • Credit accounts.  Current and previous credit accounts including details such as payment history, credit limit, monthly payment amount, and current balance. Auto loans, student loans, credit cards, and any other type of credit accounts in your name will be listed.
  • Inquiries. Hard inquiries are listed on your report when there is an application for new credit, and may remain on your report for up to two years. Several hard inquiries, which may be viewed by a lender as high risk, may lower your credit score and impact your ability to be approved for credit.  Soft inquiries are listed by companies offering to promote a special product or service and do not hold negative weight on your report.
  • Negative listings and public records. Late payments, debt, accounts in collection, repossessions, accounts in default, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and judgments are all listed on your credit report. Negative information can stay on your report for up to seven years and will lower your credit score. It may make it more difficult to get approved for new credit, or could result in higher interest rates on any loans or credit.

What you can do about negative listings

Negative listings on your credit report are frustrating, especially if you’re making an effort to improve your financial situation.  Take steps to pay down debt over time.

-Monitor your credit reports
-Dispute errors with the credit bureau and credit furnisher
-Pay your bills in full and on time
-Make a budget and stick to it

These positive actions will help improve your credit and show that you’re on the right track, even while the negative listings remain.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of car repossession, credit reporting errors and unfair debt collection practices.  Contact Us for a free consultation to determine whether your consumer rights were violated.

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.

 

Check Your Credit Score Before Submitting New Applications

Before you applying for new credit or a job, or submitting a lease application for a new home or apartment, check your credit reports and score. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report every twelve months by writing to the credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

How to Obtain your Credit Score

Your credit score, which is a number that tells a lender how likely you are to pay credit back on time and is based on your credit history, can be obtained in various ways.

  1. Purchase your score from the credit reporting companies, like FICO.
  2. Many credit cards companies have started to include an offer to obtain credit scores in monthly statements. Check with your credit card issuer to see if your score is available.
  3. A credit counselor may also be able to give you your score.
  4. There are a number of websites that offer free credit scores, but be sure to read the fine print before you sign up. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:
    “Many services and websites advertise a “free credit score.” Some sites may be funded through advertising and not charge a fee. Other sites may require that you sign up for a credit monitoring service with a monthly subscription fee in order to get your “free” score. These services are often advertised as “free” trials, but if you don’t cancel within the specified period (often as short as one week), you could be on the hook for a monthly fee. Before you sign up to try one of these services, be sure you know what you are signing up for and how much it really costs.”

Get Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents victims of credit reporting problems. Whether you are facing loan denials, lowered credit limits, increased interest rates, the consumer protection laws may provide protections. Contact Us today to discuss your credit report problems and find out how we can help.  There is no cost for the legal evaluation.

Avoid Credit Damage During Divorce

Divorce is an emotionally challenging time when you may be preoccupied with child custody, property and insurance issues.  However, your finances are just as important.

While a divorce alone won’t hurt your credit, certain consequences of divorce could. When a relationship ends on bad terms, joint accounts with missed or late payments will tarnish your credit.

Protect accounts in your name

  • Obtain current credit reports so that you can see all accounts listed in your name, and those listed jointly. The value of an accurate report is priceless.
  • Establish a budget and payment plan for your obligations. Pay attention to obligations that you must pay, such as mortgages and utilities, and those that may be considered as luxuries.
  • Evaluate accounts in joint names. Discuss with your attorney whether these accounts can be closed and/or reassigned to you or your spouse.
  • Learn the difference between credit score and credit report.

For more detailed information on how to handle your finances during a divorce, consult with a family law attorney that is aware of the types of consumer protection issues that divorce clients face.

Get Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of credit reporting errors and abusive collectors tactics.  Contact Us to discuss inaccuracies on your credit report, or letters and phone calls from collectors.  There is no cost for the legal review.