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Here I plan to entertain you with interesting news and views on current events.  Your comments are welcome!

By Dan Garner, Nov 19 2015 12:53AM

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has begun cracking down on widespread violations of federal and state debt collection laws, obtaining multi-million dollar consent orders from some of the largest players including Chase Bank, Midland Funding and Portfolio Recovery Associates. Among the sins these huge companies promised to stop was (gasp!) “robo-signing court documents” in civil collection lawsuits.


Where have we heard this before? Oh, I remember now! Chase was one of 5 nationwide banks involved in a $50 billion consent agreement with 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Justice Department, settling claims that they robo-signed foreclosure related documents illegally depriving hundreds of thousands of people of their homes! Here’s a link to the national settlement webpage: http://www.nationalforeclosuresettlement.com/about


Of course, the banks never mended their ways after this massive settlement as I have reported on my facebook page citing this original article: www.politico.com/story/2015/09/foreclosures-mortgage-lenders-2012-settlement-banks-213322. So I am not sure we can believe that Chase will stop violating debt collection laws either, or that the other big banks involved in this 2012 settlement are not equally guilty of the illegal collection practices admitted to by Chase. (The other banks in the 2012 settlement are Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.) We do know that Citibank agreed in July to pay $700 million for deceptive marketing and billing practices affecting some 7 million accounts: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-orders-citibank-to-pay-700-million-in-consumer-relief-for-illegal-credit-card-practices/. Do we have any reason to believe anything these banks say in the future? But I digress.


The recent settlement with Chase over its debt collection practices requires them to pay $50 million in consumer refunds, along with $166 million in penalties to the federal government and 47 states. Here’s a link to the announcement: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-47-states-and-d-c-take-action-against-jpmorgan-chase-for-selling-bad-credit-card-debt-and-robo-signing-court-documents/. Among the unverified debts Chase sold to debt buyers were accounts for deceased borrowers. It is unknown how many of those deceased borrowers will receive refunds :).


The two largest debt collectors in the country, Midland Funding and Portfolio Recovery Associates, agreed to pay collectively $61 million in consumer refunds and $18 million in penalties. Here’s the link: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-the-two-largest-debt-buyers-for-using-deceptive-tactics-to-collect-bad-debts/. According to the CFPB, they “relied on misleading, robo-signed court filings to churn out lawsuits,” many of which were beyond statutes of limitations. But don’t weep too much for these dishonest thieves: the parent company of Midland Funding surpassed a billion dollars in revenue last year and Portfolio Recovery Associates raked in $881 million. This income is from debt deemed uncollectible by the original creditors and purchased for pennies on the dollar.


Studies have found that nearly 99 percent of lawsuits filed to collect debts result in a default judgment because the defendants do not respond. Yet in nearly every case where the defendant appears, the case is dismissed. The debt collectors are counting on the ignorance of the general public to take full advantage of default judgments which lead to garnishment of wages and bank accounts.


The takeaway for this article is NEVER ignore a summons and let a debt collector get a default judgment against you. The odds are in your favor if you stand up for your rights, and you are likely to prevail!


FLASH: This Just In!


Our representatives in the U.S. Congress, always looking out for our best interests, have decided to allow robo-calls to cellphones for the purpose of collecting debts owed to the federal government. This would include debts like student loans and a lot of mortgages. An 80-word section tucked into the bi-partisan budget bill approved November 2nd directs the FCC to write rules governing the new authority to use robo-calls to hunt down debtors.


These types of calls have been illegal since 1991 under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, but it has proven impossible to enforce. Last year, the FCC received over 215,000 complaints from consumers who had received unwanted calls, despite creation of the Do-Not-Call Registry. So in its infinite wisdom our congress just gave up fighting the wolves. Be sure to file your taxes on time!


By Dan Garner, Oct 4 2015 09:24PM

The World Wide Web continues to revolutionize lending processes and occasionally, I discover ideas that are more than just a scam (although there are LOTS of those!) This week I learned about two new online resources that could benefit some of my followers or former clients. One is a website featuring new private sources of refinancing student loans. The other is a website to guide those who have lost a home because of financial hardship to qualify for another mortgage. Each one features simple, step-by-step guides to give you the most relevant information for your situation.


The student loan refinancing site is http://www.LendKey.com, featuring credit unions and community banks who care more about helping their customers than making profits. If you have a good credit score and a regular job, you can consolidate both private and government loans, reduce your interest rate, or reduce the payments by lengthening the terms of your loans. They also offer a bonus referral program if you refer your friends (I am not participating in the referral program and gain nothing from this plug!) This approach strikes me as a much simpler and more market-oriented alternative to the welter of rules and regulations most borrowers have to face.


The site for homebuyer remediation assistance is http://www.afterforeclosure.com which also features clear, simple, consumer-oriented guidance without the misleading high-pressure sales pitches so common to the worldwide web. Since millions of families lost their homes in the Great Recession, this again seems like a brilliant and timely idea which should be much more helpful than the failed HAMP program (Home Affordability Modification Program.) See my facebook post 8/18/15 commenting on that program: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garner-Law-Office/146743455468579?fref=nf


If either of these new sites is of interest to you, please feel free to comment on your impressions and experiences! Best of luck to all who are trying to better their lives!


By Dan Garner, Aug 4 2015 07:29AM

In a little-publicized settlement of lawsuits brought by the attorneys general of 32 states, the three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion -- agreed in May to pay the states $6 million and to revamp their business practices significantly. The complaints came from consumers all over the country struggling with inaccurate or obsolete information causing denials of loans and even jobs. When consumers try to call the credit bureaus to correct their information, they are typically subjected to a sales pitch for fee-based credit monitoring services. Now those high-pressure sales tactics must cease until a consumer's complaint is resolved.


The changes will be implemented over three years. The states involved are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.


Among the more significant changes will be a process for resolving disputes involving identity theft, fraud or mixups related to similar names. The agencies are required to use trained employees to review documentation consumers submit to dispute errors, even if a creditor says the information is correct. Their dispute procedures must be prominently displayed on the bureaus' websites and ads are prohibited anywhere near that information. Consumers must be informed how they can elevate a dispute to other regulatory agencies if they are not satisfied with the result.


The bureaus are no longer allowed to report information about fines or tickets, and they may not include medical debt on a credit report until 180 days after it is reported to them. This waiting period allows consumers to settle with hospitals and insurance companies before the medical expenses create a black mark on their credit. Debt collectors reporting an unpaid bill must provide the name of the original creditor.


Consumers currently are allowed one free credit report per year. Under the terms of this settlement, a consumer challenging information on their report will be allowed one additional free credit report in a 12-month period if the information they challenged creates a change. The bureaus are each required to notify the other bureaus if they discover errors. The bureaus are also required to send a consumer's backup documents for a dispute to the alleged furnisher of incorrect information.


I encourage everyone reading this to check your credit report for accuracy every year. The website for doing so, http://www.annualcreditreport.com, is also published on the Resources tab of my website.

By Dan Garner, Jul 20 2015 08:49PM

Americans are carrying over $3 trillion in non-mortgage consumer debt, yet there is no central system to track the ownership of that debt, especially after accounts are put into collections, charged off or sold. Now, a new free service is being offered to consumers by Global Debt Registry, a central repository of consumer debt maintained and tracked by participating banks. It's called http://www.DebtLookup.com.


Now when you get a call from a debt collector, you can go to this site and check on them to see where the debt came from originally. It is very new and still voluntary, however, so you can't be sure to find anything in particular, but it is a free, web-based service to help consumers get better information. Check it out!

By Dan Garner, Jun 26 2015 03:52AM

Can an old dog learn new tricks? This one is trying! We all need to embrace change if we want to stay involved in the world around us. I want to help YOU make changes in YOUR life that will give you a better chance to enjoy all that life has to offer. Let's get started!

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