Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pa. bill would eliminate gift card fees, expiration dates

A Pennsylvania senator has introduced legislation to eliminate expiration dates and inactivity fees that lower the value of gift cards.

Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry) said his proposal would go beyond the protections of the federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009.

The CARD Act says money on store-issued and bank-issued cards cannot expire before five years and inactivity fees are prohibited unless the card is not used for 12 months.

Teplitz’s measure, Senate Bill 150, would prohibit the sale of gift cards and gift certificates that have an expiration date, service charge, dormancy fee, account maintenance fee, cash-out fee, replacement card fee or activation or reactivation fee.

Pa. bill would eliminate gift card fees, expiration dates

Friday, January 09, 2015

Medical debt is ruining the credit scores of millions of Americans - The Washington Post

If you have a bill in collections that is dragging down your credit score, chances are high that it’s medical.

Some 43 million Americans have delinquent medical debt on their credit reports, amounting to about one in five credit reports, according to a report released Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau is calling attention to the burden that medical debt can create for consumers and the negative effect that it can have on their credit reports. The CFPB also created new reporting rules that could make it easier to spot errors.


The CFPB also announced that major credit reporting agencies — including Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — will be required to report any complaints they receive about the accuracy of consumers’ credit reports. Such information should help the bureau to identify the types of debts that are more likely to be reported erroneously.

The report comes at a time when consumer advocates and credit reporting bureaus are trying to revamp the way credit worthiness is measured. In the fall, the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) started using a new scoring model that changes the way medical debt is weighted and no longer factors in overdue payments that have since been made. The CFPB expects to propose new rules for debt collection agencies next year, focusing on accuracy and how consumers are treated.

Medical debt is ruining the credit scores of millions of Americans - The Washington Post

See also:
  • is organized by the three large credit bureaus to provide you with your three detailed reports no credit score, just the reports).
  • the score does not sync up perfectly to the three credit
    bureaus, but it gives you a general idea of how your score compares to
    national averages.
  • is similar to CreditKarma, offers a free VantageScore 3.0 credit score and a free Equifax credit report every six months. Many tools to help gain a complete understanding of credit and provides tools to help users repair their credit and report

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required -

“I don’t think they’re really interested in anything,” Mr. Potashnik said of the prosecutors. “They just want the money.”
In some of the cases I have read, I believe the above statement to be very true,,,
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

Richard Weber, the chief of Criminal Investigation at the I.R.S., said in a written statement, “This policy update will ensure that C.I. continues to focus our limited investigative resources on identifying and investigating violations within our jurisdiction that closely align with C.I.'s mission and key priorities.” He added that making deposits under $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, called structuring, is still a crime whether the money is from legal or illegal sources. The new policy will not apply to past seizures.

The I.R.S. is one of several federal agencies that pursue such cases and then refer them to the Justice Department. The Justice Department does not track the total number of cases pursued, the amount of money seized or how many of the cases were related to other crimes, said Peter Carr, a spokesman.
Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required -

The Shackles Return: Why Debtors’ Prisons Are Making An American Comeback |

The debtors’ prison is an old, decrepit institution that many thought was abolished in the 19th century, something little more than a relic of the past. This is a problematic view for two reasons. One, debtors’ prisons are rarely explored in the classroom or the larger society. And two, these prisons are making a serious comeback in the United States, which is deeply problematic for the poor and working class.

More and more people around the country are getting sent to debtors’ prisons, but exactly how does it happen? According to National Public Radio, companies that people owe money usually sell off the debt to a collection agency, which in turn “files a lawsuit against the debtor requiring a court appearance. A notice to appear in court is supposed to be given to the debtor. If they fail to show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest.” In some cases, judges “don't even know debtors' rights, which could result in the debtor being intimidated into a pay agreement,” making an already bad situation worse. News coverage about the rise of debtors’ prisons has been picking up steam, especially in regards to judges imprisoning people for their debts. [This is way it is vitally important to know and understand your rights.] 

The reinstatement of debtors’ prisons has a serious impact on the poor and unemployed who can even be sent to prison for nonpayment of regular bills, due to the fact that “a creditor can petition a court to issue a summons for nonpayment of a bill. If you fail to appear, for one reason or another – and life gets pretty disorganized when you lose your job and possibly your home – then you're in contempt of court. Next stop, jail.” It’s rather ridiculous that this is legal if you considers the fact that half of Americans are poor or near poor, and 48 million Americanslive in poverty. More than a third of U.S. states allow debtors to be jailed. In conjunction with debtors’ prisons, there's also been a rise in collection firms using the courts to force people to pay up on their debts. This has quickly become a problem in some cases where “the debt collection agencies have used threats and lies to get consumers to pay back their debts,” and the collectors have “allegedly pressured consumers who didn't owe anything at all.” In sum, people who are already having a difficult time paying bills are now being subject to harassment and intimidation from collectors.

The Shackles Return: Why Debtors’ Prisons Are Making An American Comeback |

Saturday, March 22, 2014

IRS Scam Largest of Its Kind Yet, What Taxpayers Should Know – AARP

At least 20,000 taxpayers have been contacted in this sophisticated ruse, added Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George, with “thousands of victims” having already paid more than $1 million to fraudsters posing as IRS agents.

The scheme goes like this: The Taxman tricksters claim you owe taxes, and demand immediate payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. Refuse and you’re threatened with arrest, deportation or the loss of your business or driver’s license.

To suggest further authenticity for their phony phone calls, the scammers have been known to also spoof an IRS toll-free phone number on your caller ID, give common names and fake IRS badge numbers, and follow up their calls with emails purporting to be from the agency.

“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” George said in a statement.

Here’s why,,,

IRS Scam Largest of Its Kind Yet, What Taxpayers Should Know – AARP

Friday, March 21, 2014

SCAM ALERT::Check Your Debit, Credit Card Statements For “BLS WebLearn” Scam Transactions – Consumerist

In the last week, there have been a flurry of complaints online about mysterious transactions attributed to a company called “BLS WebLearn” with a phone number of 888-461-2032.

The charges made by this company are relatively low in value, hovering in the $10-15 vicinity.

Over at, one writer recently shared his story about how the scam started as a questionable transaction for $12.96 and ended with his bank account being cleaned out. According to this unfortunate soul, the source of the original purchase was supposedly in Malta, but once the scammers realized that this credit card number was legitimate, someone in The Netherlands enjoyed themselves with his funds.

We attempted to call the number associated with this transaction but it only leads to an automated recording that promises to be with you shortly. Matt Ryan at 94.3 FM in New Jersey had the same non-result when he tried to call.

Check Your Debit, Credit Card Statements For “BLS WebLearn” Scam Transactions – Consumerist

Monday, March 03, 2014

Southfield charity telemarketer to pay $45,000 fine for misleading seniors | Detroit Free Press |

The Southfield-based charity telemarketing firm Associated Community Services, which has come under fire in several states, has reached a settlement with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to pay $45,000 for misleading senior citizens it called to solicit donations.

ACS was accused of 430 violations.

According to Attorney General Bill Schuette, telemarketers told would-be donors that the company was on file with the AG’s Office in an effort to allay any fears about handing over their credit card information.

Being “on file” simply means the company is licensed to raise funds for charities. It’s not an endorsement of the firm’s credit card security system.

In an e-mailed statement, ACS said it “is pleased to have reached a settlement and looks forward to the spirit of cooperation expressed in the terms of the agreement. However, the Attorney General’s office is misrepresenting the central issue. This was never about senior citizens. ACS does not and never has targeted any specific segment of the population through its marketing campaigns. Moreover, we have a system of checks and balances in place to ensure that all donors are followed up with to confirm their desire to pledge.”

Southfield charity telemarketer to pay $45,000 fine for misleading seniors | Detroit Free Press |