Russ and Joy discuss work-at-home scams.
The State of Wisconsin published a guide detailing work-at-home scams. You can find this guide online at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WorkAtHome189.pdf
Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Russ and Joy discuss work-at-home scams.
GARDINER — Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, an agency within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, announces the release of a new, comprehensive mortgage guide, titled The Downeaster Common Sense Guide to Finding, Buying and Keeping Your Maine Home. Free to Maine residents, this 32-page booklet provides information for those contemplating the purchase and financing of a home. Covered topics include:
How to evaluate whether renting or buying makes the most sense, given income and future plans;
- How to use current income, debt load and credit reports to predict if a loan may be approved;
- How to select a mortgage lender or loan broker;
- How to choose the type of loan product that best fits your needs; and
- Understanding your obligations after the loan closes
Governor Paul R. LePage commented on the timeliness of the guide and the information it offers. “With interest rates near historically low levels and the Maine economy improving, this is an excellent time to purchase a home,” Governor LePage said. “But it’s important to know if you’re in a good position to make a significant purchase of this kind and to fully understand the home-buying process. This new booklet provides thorough, step-by-step guidance.”
“This publication will help Maine residents to become better-informed mortgage borrowers,” David Leach, principal examiner with the Bureau and one of the booklet’s co-authors, said. “One thing we’ve learned from assisting hundreds of homeowners avoid foreclosure is that some did not know the right questions to ask when they were deciding to get a mortgage.”
An online copy can be found at www.Credit.Maine.gov by clicking “Publications” or “Consumer Guides” (directly at www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit/documents/MortgageGuide_RevisedOnline.pdf). Printed copies are available free of charge by calling the Bureau at 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine).
“With federal regulators setting tougher borrowing standards this year for so-called ‘qualified mortgages’ (QMs), it’s more important than ever that potential borrowers understand how lenders calculate debt-to-income ratios,” Edward Myslik, Bureau senior consumer credit examiner and co-author of the guide, said. “This booklet demystifies the process. Understanding how current debt loads factor into lenders’ decisions will help consumers make prudent decisions, such as avoiding taking on additional financial obligations if they plan to apply for a mortgage.”
The Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, which is part of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, was established in 1975 to administer the state’s consumer financial services laws. The agency investigates consumer complaints, conducts compliance examinations, licenses companies that offer financial products to Maine residents, and performs outreach to advise consumers and creditors of their legal rights and responsibilities.
Russ and Joy talk about elder financial abuse. VIDEO
Senior$afe will be training bank and credit union employees to spot signs of elder financial abuse when elderly people are making transactions.
If you suspect a senior is being abused, financially or otherwise you can call Maine Adult Protective Services at 1-800-624-8404.
By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director Northeast CONTACT
Posted Feb. 08, 2014, at 1:42 p.m.
With school vacation week fast approaching, many families are thinking about getting away. For some, that might mean renting a car. Here are some factors consumers should consider.
Rental car companies are joining the “fee-ing frenzy” and adding fees onto the damages you have to pay if you damage their vehicle in an accident. They’ll likely press you to buy collision damage waiver insurance. Your auto insurance policy may cover the rental car as if it were your own, and paying with a credit card may fill any gaps.
So, the question is, should you take out extra insurance when you rent a car or truck? The answer is, it depends. As with many consumer issues, easy answers are hard to come by. That’s true, even when you call and ask directly.
Major credit cards offer some protection for customers who rent vehicles. Let’s say you call with a question about coverage; a customer service representative assures you that, if you pay the full cost of the rental with their card, you’re all set. However, the fine print in the card contract might say otherwise.
While their damaged vehicle is being repaired, rental companies typically charge loss-of-use fees and administrative fees. A case that went to the Colorado Supreme Court in 2012 upheld companies’ rights to charge such fees. That ruling applies only in Colorado, and many insurers and credit card companies refuse to pay the fees.
Some consumer advocates say car rental companies should be forced to turn over “fleet utilization logs,” to prove they had no other cars available to rent and were therefore entitled to loss-of-use fees. The rental companies generally disagree; one company spokesman called those logs “proprietary and confidential.” Without seeing those logs, it’s hard for consumers to dispute a rental company’s claim of lost use.
Then there are the diminution-in-value charges. A car that’s been damaged in an accident will have a lower resale value, and rental companies may seek to have someone else pay the tab. That might be your insurance company, or it might be you.
Visit the website http://www.creditcards.com, and search “car rental insurance” for the ins and outs of buying added protection. The site offers a side-by-side comparison chart for coverage offered by the major credit cards.
Before signing your rental agreement, find out how tolls are paid. Some rental vehicles are equipped to have tolls paid electronically, and companies might charge a few dollars per day for the convenience of not having to fish around for change at toll booths. However, some companies may apply the charge every day, whether the car is in use or not. Find out before you sign.
Rental companies offer the option of prepaying for gas; this saves you the hassle of heading for a gas station when you’re anxious to begin your drive. It may be convenient, but you may end up paying for gas you haven’t used. You might also find a better deal yourself than the rental company employee who filled the tank.
You might also be charged for a GPS device, satellite radio and child safety seats. If you think you’ve been charged a fee that wasn’t disclosed, fight it. Paying with a credit card gives you time to do that.
Check out a top ten list of car rental tips at www.edmunds.com.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email email@example.com.
Russ and Joy chat about the recent computer breaches effecting credit cards. Russ also warned about the $9.84 credit card scam slipped into consumers’ credit card bills. Rather than steal your identity, scammer’s profits can be made adding small charges to everyone’s bill. People seldom check the charge if it seems too small to bother with. Multiply that amount by the number of compromised credit cards. $$$$$$$$$
Get your free credit report here
Russ and Joy talk about and remind people of Maine’s Move Over Law. VIDEO
This law was put in place in 2007, and requires drivers to be cautious when passing emergency responders on the roadway. Drivers are to move over if possible or slow down when going by emergency responders.
Department of Professional and Financial Regulation Offers Guidance for End of Year Charitable Contributions
Charitable Scams Can be More Prevalent This Time of Year
GARDINER – As many Maine families consider holiday season and end of year charitable contributions, Governor Paul R. LePage and Commissioner Anne Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation are encouraging Maine residents to check the legitimacy of unknown charities. Potential donors are urged to always research charitable organizations before making a donation. A quick check with the Department can provide information to help in determining whether a charity is legitimate or a scam.
“Maine people are well known for lending a hand to others and for supporting charities,” Governor LePage said. “We saw that earlier this week with the successful conclusion of the Maine State Employees Combined Charitable, which has raised nearly $270,000 to help those in need. We always encourage charitable giving and want to assist donors in directing their support to legitimate charities.”
Charitable organizations are required to be licensed with the Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, which collects information about charitable activity in Maine and makes it available to the public.
“Charitable solicitation scams aren’t new, but they sometimes increase during the holiday season, at the end of the year, and in the aftermath of tragedies,” Commissioner Head said. “It’s important for the public to know that guidance and resources are available to assist people in making sure their contributions are going to real charities.”
Commissioner Head advises individuals to ask questions and seek printed information about unknown charities; to confirm their legitimacy with regulators; to never send cash or wire money when requested to do so; to always keep receipts of donations; and to report concerns or complaints about questionable solicitations with the Department and law enforcement.
Information about charities can be obtained through the Department’s website (www.maine.gov/pfr), specifically atwww.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/charitable. Links allow for the search of licensed charitable organizations, as well as disciplinary actions. Questions and complaints can also be made by calling the Charitable Solicitations Program at 207-624-8525.
Additional tips and advice accompany this news release and can also be obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/).
The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation protects the citizens of Maine and supports the economy through the oversight of State-chartered financial institutions, the insurance industry, grantors of consumer credit, the securities industry, and numerous professions providing services to the public. More information is available at www.maine.gov/pfr.
Tips and Advice When Considering Charitable Giving
- Always research unknown charities before contributing. And whether the charity is new or well established, you may wish to know what percentage of your contribution is spent on fundraising, employee compensation, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated purpose.
- Not all organizations with names that sound like charities are actually charities. Some organizations select names that are similar to those of well-known charities.
- Be cautious when contacted by telephone for a contribution. Ask that the request be put in writing. You may also want to ask if the caller is a paid solicitor or a volunteer for the charity.
- Never give your bank account information or credit/debit card numbers to a caller. And be wary if the person soliciting the contribution is willing to have someone rush to your home or business to meet with you and pick up a contribution.
- If you wish to receive a tax deduction, make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit,” and “tax deductible” mean different things. Only “tax deductible” means contributions are deductible on your income tax return. Visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov/charities) for more information.
- Be wary of organizations which list only post office boxes or mail drop suite numbers as their address. You may wish to inquire about the charity’s location.
Last modified Dec. 22, 2013, at 9:39 a.m.
If you swiped your credit or debit card at a Target store between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and you haven’t checked your account, do it now. Especially if you used a debit card.
The breach of computer data Target announced last week affected 40 million card accounts. Stolen data included customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the code that’s embedded on the magnetic stripe on the rear of the card. There’s no evidence that three- or four-digit security codes on the back of the cards were revealed.
Target hasn’t said how the breach happened but did say it has fixed the problem. Gregg Steinhafel, Chairman, President and CEO of Target, said in a statement, “Target’s first priority is preserving the trust of our guests, and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence.” However, a lot of Target shoppers must be feeling less than confident over the second-largest data breach in U.S. history.
Maine officials were quick to urge customers of the chain to be on guard. People with the Bureau of Financial Institutions and Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation say in cases like the Target breach, consumers can be their own best advocates.
Target customers should check their debit and credit accounts for any irregular activity; that’s true if a card was used in a store, or if it is unclear whether a card was used (no problems have surfaced with online transactions). Customers who can access their account information online should do so at once, rather than waiting for a statement to come in the mail.
If there’s unfamiliar or suspicious activity on the account, consumers should notify the financial institution that issued the credit or debit card. They do not need to contact Target; the store has added extra workers due to a crush of calls at its customer service number, 1-866-852-8680. People who have Target’s own debit and credit cards — called Red Cards — should contact the company (many reportedly had trouble getting through soon after the breach was announced).
On credit cards, consumers’ liability for unauthorized use is capped at $50. If consumers report a lost card to the issuer before the credit card is used, the customer can’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges. When a card hasn’t been lost but account numbers were stolen, consumers have no liability for unauthorized use. Your cardholder agreement may give you added information.
Holders of debit cards who spot unauthorized activity due to a data breach have 60 days from when the bank or credit union sent the statement to report the matter. If consumers don’t meet that deadline, they are liable for the amount of the unauthorized transactions.
Consumers whose debit card has been lost or stolen have two business days after discovering the loss or theft to notify the financial institution to limit their liability to $50. If they miss that deadline, consumers can be held liable for up to $500 of unauthorized transactions. If consumers don’t notify their institutions within 60 days of getting a monthly statement that lists a fraudulent debit, they could be liable for ANY unauthorized withdrawals after the 60-day period.
Consumers who are hit with unauthorized charges or withdrawals should first call the credit union or bank that issued the card, then follow up in writing to detail the problem. Some banks and credit unions may issue new cards to customers whose accounts were known to have been breached. And consumers can ask to have a card re-issued if they’re concerned about their accounts.
For more information, call Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions toll-free at 1-800-965-5235 or the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visithttp://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 9, 2013
Now that the holiday season is in full swing, you may be thinking about donating to your favorite charities. This time of year also brings more attention to our deployed personnel, their families living stateside and our veterans. Lots of folks wonder how they can support the troops. Many organizations tout themselves as a way to give back to those who serve. But not all charities are legitimate – some are out to make a buck for themselves. Some spend more money paying their fundraisers than supporting the military community. Here are a few things you can do to prevent shady groups from cashing in on the cachet of the military.
Find out if they’re playing the name game. Just because an organization has the words “veterans” or “military families” in its name is no guarantee that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from your donation. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations – or they may claim veteran status themselves as a way to gain your trust. You may see a small difference in the name of the charity from the one you mean to deal with; in that case, call the organization you know to be legitimate and check it out. The U.S. Department of Defense doesn’t endorse any charity, but recommends contacting Military One Source to get information about military relief societies.
Dig into the facts before you dig into your wallet. Check out an organization before parting with your money. Donate to charities with a track record. Scam artists follow the headlines and charities that spring up literally overnight in connection with military conflicts and related news stories may disappear just as quickly – with your donation funding their next move. In many cases, those “instant charities” don’t have the infrastructure to get donated money or products to the right place.
Trust your gut. Check your records if you have any doubt about whether you’ve made a pledge or a contribution. Callers may try to trick you by thanking you for a pledge you didn’t make. If you don’t remember making the donation or don’t have a record of your pledge, resist the pressure to give.
Confirm their registration. Call the office that regulates charitable organizations and charitable solicitations to see if a charity or fundraising organization has to be registered in your state. If so, confirm whether the organization you’re considering is registered. For a list of state offices, visit the National Association of State Charity Officials. The organization also can verify how much of each donation goes to the charity, and how much goes to fundraising and management expenses. You also can check out charities with theBetter Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar.
Ask so you shall not be deceived. If you’re solicited for a donation, ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for and the percentage of your donation that will go to the charity and to the fundraiser. You may want to take your time to research this organization and other charitable groups. Then, you can make the best decision about what groups you want to support.
Learn more about making the most of your charitable donations. If you choose to support the troops this season, don’t let your donations fall fa-la-la-la flat.