Why you need to check if your child has a credit report

I say this time and time again, and I gan't stress this enough - you need to defend against identity theft not only for yourself, but for your children as well.


NEW YORK (AP) — They might not be old enough to swipe a credit card or take out a loan, but you still need to keep an eye on your little one’s credit.

Kids can be victims of identity theft, too, and it often goes unnoticed by parents for years. Typically, a youngster doesn’t find out something is wrong with their credit until they grow up and get rejected for a student loan or isn’t able to get a credit card. That’s why experts say more parents should monitor their child’s credit to fix issues early.

“By the time the kid finds out, their credit has already been massacred,” says Adam Levin, founder of identity theft recovery service IDT911

“By the time the kid finds out, their credit has already been massacred,” says Adam Levin, founder of identity theft recovery service IDT911 and author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.”

All thieves need to obtain a fraudulent credit card or other loan is a child’s Social Security number, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of The Identity Theft Resource Center , a non-profit that helps identity theft victims. Often, thieves will use a different name and birthday when opening the accounts, she says.

Crooks like to target children because they know they can get away with it longer and open several accounts.

“It’s very lucrative,” says Velasquez.


Putting a number on just how many minors are identity theft victims is tough, since experts say many of the crimes are unreported or not known about until years later. The Federal Trade Commission says of the more than 410,000 identity theft complaints made last year, about 5 percent were for those 19 and under , the same rate as in 2014.

See the full article at:


Daniel Tam interviewed by Local 10 ABC News Consumer Reporter Christina Vazquez

When a Local 10 News viewer spotted a letter containing consumer protection tips on social media he brought it to the "Call Christina" team for a fact check.

Local 10 News enlisted the advice of consumer protection attorney Daniel Tam of Tam Law Group.

"That letter was clearly written before the dot-com boom and doesn't take into account the speed of information in the digital age," Tam said. "You are just as likely to get your identity stolen from someone sitting in front of a computer in Russia or China as you are here in the U.S. Think about the ways we have our personal information stolen without losing our wallets -- data breaches, skimmers, hospital admission forms, license applications. Medical facilities are a hotbed. Two of Miami-Dade's largest employers, Baptist Health and the University of Miami, were targets of data breaches in recent years."


See full article here: http://www.local10.com/news/call-christina-team-fact-checks-consumer-protection-advice/34800782


Sued by Dyck-O'Neal?

We represent clients who are being sued by Dyck-O'Neal for deficiency claims. Dyck O'Neal has recently increased their collection efforts to pursue former property owners for deficiency judgment claims following foreclosure.

Take Immediate Action

It is very important that you take immediate action if you have received a collection letter or lawsuit from Dyck-O'Neal seeking to recover a deficiency judgment against you. If you have assets or income that prevent you from discharging the deficiency debt in bankruptcy, retaining counsel to defend you against Dyck ONeal may be your best option. If a deficiency judgment in entered against you, they may be able to seize your bank accounts, cars, boats, motorcycles, real estate and other personal property. They may also be able to seize your tax refunds and garnish your wages.

Deficiency Judgment Cases

You may be stunned to learn that even years after a foreclosure case is over, you can still be pursued for additional money owed on your mortgage loan even after the property was sold at foreclosure auction. Many people do not realize that the lender not only has the right to force the property to be sold at auction, but they can also pursue the borrower for the remaining balance owed on the loan (this is called the "deficiency").

Specifically, lenders can pursue the borrower for a deficiency judgment, which is the difference between the total balance owed to the lender minus the fair market value of the property as of the date of the foreclosure auction. Some lenders sell these deficiency claims to debt collectors such as Dyck O'Neal who then pursue the borrower for the deficiency amount.

We have received many phone calls in the last several weeks from former property owners who are now being pursued by Dyck O'Neal for deficiency judgment claims. Some of these callers have received collection letters. Others have been served with lawsuits recently filed by Dyck O'Neal in counties across the State of Florida.

There may be legal defenses available against a deficiency claim by Dyck O'Neal potentially including statute of limitations, improper notice, improper service issues in the underlying foreclosure, offsets for double recovery (i.e. mortgage insurance or risk-loss share agreements), and other procedural defenses. It may also be possible to challenge the amount of the deficiency claim.

In cases where there are no strong legal defenses, we may be able to settle the deficiency claim for a discounted amount, potentially saving our clients tens of thousands of dollars or more.

If you have received a collection letter from Dyck O'Neal, or if you have been served with a lawsuit filed by Dyck O'Neal seeking to recover a deficiency judgment, it is important that you take immediate action.

In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan.

“I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.

Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car.

This is the face of the new subprime boom. Mr. Durham is one of millions of Americans with shoddy credit who are easily obtainingauto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. The loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers. The surge in lending and the lack of caution resemble the frenzied subprime mortgage market before its implosion set off the 2008 financial crisis.

Read more at the New York Times

Dealing With Debt Collectors

If you’ve ever been dunned by a debt collector, you’re not alone: Roughly one in seven American adults is being pursued by a collector, for amounts averaging about $1,500.

That’s according to a report from the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit research group.

Complicating the situation is that debt collection has become a larger, more complex industry. If you have trouble paying a personal debt — whether it’s a credit card balance, a student loan, a utility bill or a medical bill — and you are deemed to be in default, your account is likely to be handled eventually by someone other than the original creditor. Banks, hospitals, utilities and other businesses often sell debts at a steep discount to third-party buyers, who try to collect the payment themselves or hire outside firms to do so; often, the same debt is resold multiple times, and sometimes debts are packaged and sold in bulk.

Along the way, details of the original debt may be lost or become outdated, meaning that collectors may try to demand payment of debts that have already been settled or belong to someone else. It’s unclear exactly what proportion of consumers is wrongly pursued, said Leslie Parrish, deputy director of research with the Center for Responsible Lending and a co-author of the report. But the report notes that as little as 6 percent of debts purchased by the largest debt-buying firms in 2009 came with any sort of documentation.

“What people don’t know is that their debt can be sold to a debt buyer, who may sell it to another, and another,” said Ms. Parrish.

It’s usually best to contact creditors yourself if you run into financial difficulties, to try to work out payment arrangements and avoid having the debt sent to collection. But you do have certain rights when dealing with a debt collector, under a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/your-money/dealing-with-debt-collectors.html

Co-signers can cause surprise defaults on private student loans

From the CFPB:

Today, we released a report that describes complaints we received related to the private student loan industry’s practice of placing borrowers in default even when their loans are current and in good standing. We’re also warning consumers that they can avoid surprise defaults by pursuing a co-signer release.

The vast majority of private student loans today have a co-signer (typically a parent or a grandparent). Having a co-signer can often lead to a lower interest rate, which can save you money in the long-term, because the co-signer will have to repay the loan if you don’t.

However, your loan might also contain provisions that allow your student loan servicer to put you in default — even if you’ve been making your payments on time.

That’s because your co-signer is also on the hook for your loan and therefore changes in their behavior can impact your loan, causing your loan to default and making your entire balance due all at once. We’ve received complaints that private student loan servicers are placing borrowers into default when their co-signer dies or files for bankruptcy.

Read more at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/consumer-advisory-co-signers-can-cause-surprise-defaults-on-your-private-student-loans/

Data brokers disciplined over consumer protections

It's tough enough landing a job these days.

So imagine if that background check provided to your potential employer wrongly identified you as a possible sex offender. That's what the Federal Trade Commission says happened in a case it's settling with InfoTrack Information Services of Deerfield, Ill. The company provides employment background screening services.

The commission said Wednesday that InfoTrack gave inaccurate information suggesting that job applicants potentially were registered sex offenders.

In many instances, the FTC said, InfoTrack would search the National Sex Offender Registry with a first and last name, say for example "John Smith." But often, there wasn't a birth date — so in its report to the employer, InfoTrack would turn over all John Smiths in the database as "possible matches."

The civil penalty against InfoTrack and its owner, Steve Kaplan, calls for a $1 million payment. But everything except $60,000 is suspended for inability to pay.

A call to the company seeking comment Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Read more at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-04-09/data-brokers-disciplined-over-consumer-protections

The ‘Credit Scores’ You’ve Never Heard Of

Even some of the most financially savvy consumers find credit scoring confusing — the numbers change all the time, there are dozens of scoring models, and you never know which score a lender will use when reviewing your credit application.

Yet of all the consumer scores out there, credit scores are the most widely known and understood. Reassuring, isn’t it?

Not to harp on depressing realities, but to most industries out there, you’re not a name, you’re a number. Unlike credit scores, a lot of these ratings systems are not accessible to you, and many aren’t subject to regulation. That brings up a slew of questions about privacy and the legality of using these scores in decision-making situations, a topic explored by the World Privacy Forum in an 80-page report on consumer scores called “The Scoring of America: How Secret Consumer Scores Threaten Your Privacy and Your Future.”

About 40 of those pages outline consumer scores that assess the meaning of hundreds of tendencies you may have, and you probably haven’t heard of most of the scores. Some fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which allows consumers access to the reports scores are based on and gives them the right to correct inaccurate information. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act bars credit scoring companies from including race, sex, marital status, religion or national origin in credit scores. But that’s just it — ECOA is limited to credit scoring.

Except for those scores under Fair Credit Reporting Act, most consumer scores are not regulated for privacy or fairness. Here are a few of the most interesting, weirdest and surprising consumer scores out there.

Read more at: http://blog.credit.com/2014/04/credit-scores-youve-never-heard-of-80051/

New Legislation Aims To Ensure Accurate Credit Reports

Even a small inaccuracy on a consumer’s credit report can have long-lasting negative affects. From the most simple computer error to mixing up individual’s data, credit reporting agencies have been known to be hard to work with when trying to fix incorrect data. But that could all change under legislation introduced today that aims to ensure issues like these don’t happen.
Today, Senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced the Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act of 2014, which would require credit bureaus to follow tighter rules for ensuring credit reports are accurate and give consumers free access to reliable credit scores each year.
Credit reports and credit scores are often used by bankers, lenders, and others to determine a consumers’ creditworthiness and the rates they will pay for services. Today, the scores and reports are even used to determine a consumer’s employability.
A Federal Trade Commission study found that nearly one in five, or 40 million consumers, have had an error on one of their credit reports. Of those, nearly 5% or 10 million consumers had errors that would likely lead them to paying more for interest on a loan.
The problem is compounded by the fact that it’s difficult for consumers to prevent and correct errors on their credit reports. The SECURE Act proposes to revamp the current Fair Credit Reporting Act and make common sense fixes to the credit reporting industry.
SECURE establishes clear procedures for assuring accuracy of all consumer reports furnished by Consumer Reporting Agencies:
• Requires CRAs to pass along documentation sent by consumers to data furnishers and requires data furnishers to consider the documentation in their re-investigation;
• Requires CRAs to gather and report information on disputes and their resolution;
• Directs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to establish minimum procedures that a CRA must follow to ensure maximum possible accuracy of consumer reports;
• Prevents CRAs from ignoring new or additional information provided by a consumer that is relevant to an on-going dispute.

Read more at: http://consumerist.com/2014/04/09/new-legislation-aims-to-ensure-accurate-credit-reports-provide-free-credit-scores/

Another Bank Official Pleads Guilty in Collection Agency Bribery Case

A former officer at Washington Mutual Bank late last week waived his right to indictment and entered a guilty plea to receiving kickbacks from a debt collection agency while he was in charge of the bank’s collection agency outsourcing network.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut announced that Michael Gesimondo of Farmingdale, N.Y. pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to accept money as a reward in connection with a business transaction of a bank.

Gesimondo was employed as Collection Manager of Business Banking at Washington Mutual Bank, and was in charge of outsourcing collection accounts to collection agencies.  Washington Mutual Bank contracted with the Oxford Collection Agency to collect debts owed to it by consumers.  Between May 2008 and May 2009, Gesimondo received kickbacks from Oxford Collection Agency as a reward for providing Oxford with the bank’s debt collection business, often providing Gesimondo with a percentage of the collected debt amount.

 Read more at InsideARM

Target offers free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance

Target's efforts to regain customers’ trust after a massive data breach include an offer of daily credit card monitoring, identity theft insurance and access to a fraud resolution agent.

Any Target customer who shopped in one of its U.S. stores is eligible for a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection, Target announced this week. The service is called ProtectMyID from Experian, a credit monitoring company.

Those who sign up before April 23 and enroll with a code by April 30 will receive a free copy of their credit report along with the other services.

Target’s free offer is typical of those offered by most retailers after a security breach, said Dianne Cutter, CEO of Asurency Protection in Chaska, an identity theft and fraud protection company.

“It’s a good idea to take them up on it,” she said. “But consumers should still look at their credit report to look for any changes.”

Read more at: http://www.startribune.com/business/240212221.html

Five ways to boost your credit score

Low credit scores result in higher interest charges for all types of debt, including credit cards and home loans. Borrowers with a FICO credit score (the score used for most consumer lending decisions) of 700 save an average of $648 in interest on their credit card, $1,392 on their car loan and $2,340 on their mortgage each year, compared with borrowers who have scores below 620, according to a study by CardHub.com, a credit-card comparison website. Those savings get even larger for borrowers whose credit score is above 700. Separately, lower scores can lead to larger home and car insurance bills and make it harder to rent or buy a home.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve a low credit score and most involve scaling back on credit-card usage. That’s because in the world of credit scores, all debt is not treated equally. FICO scores tend to drop as consumers rack up more credit-card debt but don’t decline as much if someone signs up for a student loan, car loan or mortgage. Here are five steps to improving your credit score.

Read more at marketwatch.com