Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ABC advises consumers not to apply for department store cards during holiday shopping season, too easy for identity thieves

ABC World News Tonight, on Wednesday November 27, 2013, gave a brief report on particular dangers of identity theft on Black Friday.

The thrust of the advice was not to sign up for store-specific credit cards, which are often pushed in order to obtain even lower prices, during the holidays.  Use regular credit cards if you have them.  I wrote about a misadventure with Macy’s here Jan. 23, 2013.  
There's a story on my main blog today about an unusual debt collection practice involving a TOS agreement that imposes a "fee" if someone writes a negative review about the vendor.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bank branch move jeopardizes safe deposit box security

Recently I noted that my Bank of America branch in Arlington VA was moving.  I went inside yesterday to check on the safe-deposit box, and was told that the box was supposed to be closed Nov. 8. 
The Bank will have boxes in the new facility, as the move happens over the weekend, but in the meantime did not really have a solution for consumers to secure their papers and valuables should they be away.  They did not have enough available boxes in nearby branches. 
They said they had sent out a letter, so maybe I should have opened the mail.  I get too much junk that is meaningless.  They did have a wrong phone number.  Maybe they did have boxes for the people who closed up in time. “Would’a Could’a Should’a”.
I got a box immediately at a nearby Wells Fargo branch and moved everything. The point is that a safe-deposit box is part of someone’s home and personal security strategy.  It needs to be there all the time, and not suddenly closed. 
What did happen is that the landlord for the building did not want to renew the lease and forced the bank to move two blocks away.   But customers are chased out and possibly put in jeopardy.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Obama administration to clamp down on companies that buy consumer debt and pursue consumers for debt they don't owe

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is planning to implement new rules regulation debt collectors. 
The biggest problems seem to occur with companies that buy the debt of other companies on pennies on the dollar and pursue consumers.  Apparently these companies have not been regulated as well as companies that recover debt as third party collectors.  I worked for one of these latter companies in St. Paul MN in 2003 (RMA, or Risk Management Associates) and found it was well run.  Other competitors in the Twin Cities then included Tri-Advantage, and Allied Interstate.  RMA was very good about following the law (FDCPA, or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) and allowing consumers to file formal disputes.

I could mention a book from Paladin by Max Edison, "Beat the Bill Collector: How to Obtain Freedom from your Debt" (1997).  I know the person and met him after moving to Minneapolis in 1997 (through the Libertarian Party of Minnesota) and he does described what it is like to work for one of these companies in suburban Minneapolis along I-494.  He also authored "Financial Freedom: How to Work Less and Live More" (1999). 
In 2000, I had checked my own credit report and found a 1980 bill, expanded to about $600, from an old Chemical Bank purchase that had been lost.  I called the company in NYC (National Credit Systems) holding it, and it immediately threatened to sue me.  I did pay, but I was  not given the chance to dispute it or find out if it was valid, and had fallen through the cracks in a relocation.  It had not surfaced in 1987 when Chilton, in Dallas, did credit checks on all its employees. 
The news story in the Washington Post by Danielle Douglas, p. A16, link here
There is also a problem with debtors being sued directly by law firms.
The news story suggests that people are chased for debts that they do not owe, because of identity theft or because of incorrect systems processing, sometimes for very old bills after bank mergers.  

Apparently this is a much bigger problem for debt that has been sold.

Medical and dental collections is also a big separate issue, which may only slowly come under control if Obamacare finally really “works”.