Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

In First Move on Student Loans, Administration Announces Fee Hike on Struggling Borrowers

Education Department to Allow Debt Collectors to Charge 16% Default Penalty

The Consumer Federation of America press release

Washington, D.C. – In its first major policy decision on student loan issues, the U.S. Department of Education took action to give agencies collecting on certain defaulted student debt the right to charge a 16% fee to borrowers who promptly seek to back their loans. The action reverses previous guidance that forbid fees that lead to ballooning borrower costs.

“The Administration’s first move on the student loan default crisis will do nothing to stop the tidal wave of defaults that is sweeping across the nation,” said Rohit Chopra, Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America and the former Student Loan Ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “With more than 3,000 Americans defaulting on a student loan every day, this just adds insult to injury.”

Current guidance forbids the guaranty agencies that collect on defaulted debt to tack on large collection fees if the student loan borrower makes – and honors – a repayment arrangement within 60 days of the notice of default. Federal student loans typically enter a default status when borrowers are 270 days late on their payments. Due to servicing mistakes, many borrowers may be learning about problems with their loan for the first time. These agencies are entitled to “reasonable” collection costs under existing law, but hefty fees were considered inappropriate for borrowers who promptly seek to address their default.

The action applies only to borrowers who took out loans from banks and other institutions, not Federal Direct Loans.

One of these agencies, USA Funds, fought the Education Department for the right to charge large collection fees to these borrowers who quickly make arrangements to get out of default.

Last week, the Consumer Federation of America released an analysis that showed that 1.1 million Americans defaulted on a federal student loan in 2016. Americans are now in default on $137 billion in federal student loans.

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.

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Link for managing student loans

Deal with abuse, phishing, or spoofing in Outlook.com

We asked how to deal with suspicious emails like those from FedEx that were obviously phishing scams.  We often forward them to abuse@msn.com but wondered if that was the best method. This was the response we received.

Thank you for contacting Outlook.com Support today. I understand your concern when you are having trouble forwarding fraudulent emails that you may be receiving in your account. I will be more than happy to help you with this information.

First, I do want to provide you with information on how to forward an email. You don’t have to open the email message to forward it, first select the message you want to forward, click on the arrow (v) at the right of “Reply All” button and select “Forward”.

Just to clarify, are you receiving an email that is a phishing scam or a fraudulent email that looks to have been sent from your own email address?
We have two ways of handling a phishing scam or an email address that looks to have been sent from your own email address.

1. If you’ve received an email that appears to be a phishing scam, select the email in the inbox, click on Junk from the top menu, and select Phishing from the drop down options. 

Click image for more information

 2. If you have received a spam message that has been sent from your email account, you may be the victim of spoofing. Someone is impersonating you and we ask that you please forward those emails to abuse@outlook.com. I do want to let you know that spoofing emails are harmless but I understand that they can be troublesome. Once you have forwarded those messages to abuse@outlook.com they will then be sent to a different department for further investigations. I do want to let you know that department can get busy and it could take them up to 30 days to investigate those emails.

Thanks, Outlook.com!

Scammers even impersonate kidnappers – FTC

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March 10, 2017
by Alesha Hernandez
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Imposters will pretend to be anyone to get you to send them money. Recently, reports of the virtual child kidnapping imposter scam have resurfaced. The scam begins with a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped a child in your family. You may even hear sounds of a child in distress in the background. The scammer demands money immediately, often wanting money sent through a wire transfer service or by prepaid card.  The scammer may even insist that you keep the call a secret and not alert the police.

These calls are fake and law enforcement organizations, like the FBI, are aware of this type of scam.

If you get a call like this, resist the urge to send money immediately, no matter how dramatic the story.  These scammers are good at pressuring you to send money before you have time to think.  How do they know your information? Scammers will search the internet and social media sites to get personal information.

It’s natural to want to check on your child’s safety, even if your head tells you the call is fake. That’s OK. Contact your child or their school directly. Then you can report this fraud at ftc.gov/complaint.

Little Tikes Recalls Toddler Swings Due to Fall Hazard – CPSC

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled swings and contact Little Tikes for a refund in the form of a credit towards the purchase of another Little Tikes product.

Source: Little Tikes Recalls Toddler Swings Due to Fall Hazard

 

Units:
About 540,000
Description:

This recall involves Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug’n Secure pink toddler swings. The swings have a pink T-shaped restraint in front with a Little Tikes logo. The swing is suspended by four yellow ropes.  The model number 615573 is molded on the back of the swing seat and there is a manufacturing date code stamp on the back of the seat. The molded INNER arrow of the date code stamp points to “10”, “11”, “12” or “13”, it is included in the recall.  In addition, swings with a date code stamp of “9” on the INNER arrow combined with “43” or higher number stamped on the OUTER are included in this recall. No other date codes or other colored swings are affected.

Incidents/Injuries:

The firm has received about 140 reports of the swing breaking, including 39 injuries to children including abrasions, bruises, cuts and bumps to the head. Two of the reported injuries included children with a broken arm.

Remedy:

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled swings and contact Little Tikes for a refund in the form of a credit towards the purchase of another Little Tikes product.

Sold At:

Walmart, Toys “R” Us and other stores nationwide and online at www.littletikes.com and other websites from November 2009 through May 2014 for about $25.

Manufacturer(s): Little Tikes, of Hudson, Ohio
Manufactured In:  U.S.

Down East Credit Union issues warning and assurance to its members

From Down East Credit Union website 

Important Message for Credit Union Members

Fraudulent VISA credit and debit transactions surfacing in the New York area.

Mon, Feb 27th, 2017

Baileyville ME, February 27, 2017:  We recently learned of fraudulent activity in the New York area.  We are investigating the situation and are taking precautionary measurements to ensure the protection of our member accounts.  Please monitor your VISA debit and credit transactions for unusual activity.

If you notice an unauthorized transaction, immediately call 1-800-472-3272 to block your card. You can access your account through our online banking website at http://www.downeastcu.com or by using our mobile banking site.  Please call us at 1-800-427-1223 or by calling your local branch number for additional information.

Down East Credit Union has NOT been breached.  We have the most current and robust technologies and safeguards protecting our most valuable assets – our member’s information.  Internal credit union information is SECURE.  This situation is related to an outside skimming device; which location has NOT yet been determined.  We are working with local, state and federal law agencies to identify the source of origin.

Please rest assured, your Down East Credit Union accounts are FULLY INSURED and you are WELL PROTECTED with your membership.  Down East Credit Union members have NEVER lost a dollar due to fraud.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us
Please see our branch locations directory for contact information.

State Officials Offer Auto Buying and Financing Guide In Time for Presidents’ Day Sales

Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection PRESS RELEASE

GARDINER – With annual Presidents’ Day auto sales ongoing, Governor Paul R. LePage joined staff at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, an agency within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, in offering an auto buying publication.  The Downeaster Common Sense Guide: Automobile Buying and Financing is a 32-page booklet available online or in paper copy free to Maine residents.

Auto Guide 1st Ed Web

“Maine consumers have many reputable auto dealers throughout the state who treat customers well and contribute to their communities,” Governor LePage said.  “Purchasing a car or truck, however, can be complicated.  This guide offers important information and guidance to assist buyers in making sound financial decisions when considering a new vehicle.”

David Leach, the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection Principal Examiner, who coauthored the guide, emphasized that purchasing or leasing an auto is a significant financial commitment that often involves a large number of considerations.  He outlined the topics covered in the guide:

  • Determining how much vehicle you can afford;
  • Understanding how to conduct auto buying research;
  • Learning how to check your credit reports before applying for an auto loan;
  • Determining the lowest Annual Percentage Rate or APR for your vehicle loan;
  • Learning the pros and cons of leasing an auto;
  • Understanding why “No money down” financing can be an expensive decision;
  • Learning how to negotiate the best price for your new vehicle and trade in;
  • Preparing yourself for the “closing room” at the auto dealership; and
  • Evaluating the pros and cons of add-ons like extended warranty programs and credit insurance.

“This guide explains the many important steps involved in responsible auto buying and financing,” Leach said.  “The purchase and financing of a vehicle is a significant economic decision, and one that should be made with as much thought as possible, and not an impulse decision.”

An online copy of the auto buying guide, and several other Downeaster Common Sense financial publications, can be found at www.Credit.Maine.gov by clicking “Publications.”  Copies can also be ordered by calling the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine) or 624-8527.

How to spot dirty tricks when buying a used car

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Feb. 13, 2017, at 10:12 a.m.
Click image to see 10 ways to spot a flood-damaged car

Click image to see 10 ways to spot a flood-damaged car

Buying a used car is one of the most stressful purchases a consumer can make. Here are some suggestions intended to ease the tension.

Check first with an established dealer. Maine’s used car dealers are bonded. Their vehicles must have valid inspection stickers, and sales include “clear” titles with no encumbrances. Shady Sales in Anywhere, Maine, might save you a few dollars, but there could be big headaches that follow.

Consumers can check with the attorney general’s office to see if dealers they’re considering have large numbers of complaints against them. Another source of information is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in the secretary of state’s office.

Mark Silk is chief detective at the bureau. He recommends consumers deal with known dealers, because “there are so many more protections” than dealing online or through private sales.

He suggests asking to see the title to the vehicle. It should indicate its prior use — taxi, fleet vehicle, police, etc. The title also might show some “red flags,” such as having been rebuilt after a crash.

The title also should show the odometer reading when the prior owner stopped driving it. If the odometer has been replaced, it must read either zero — with accompanying door sticker stating that fact — or the same mileage as the odometer that it replaced.

Silk also urges car shoppers to look closely at any used car, for the following signs of trouble:

— Watermarks in the engine compartment.

— Rust or flaking on the undercarriage.

— Stiff wiring under the dash.

— Mud, sediment or sand in door panels.

All of the above might be signs that the car is flood-damaged. If your nose is keen, you can likely smell trouble before you buy. In any case, have a trusted mechanic check out a car before you sign a sales agreement.

Mark also reminds buyers that there is nothing in Maine law that requires a dealer to charge a document fee. While those fees can run into hundreds of dollars, charging them is up to the dealer. If they are charged, they must be conspicuously posted.

Note to readers

A few parting words are in order, as this is the last column I’ll be writing for Consumer Forum. Since its founding in 1972, a lot has changed for Northeast CONTACT (originally named C.O.M.B.A.T., for Consumers of Maine Bringing Action Together). At its peak, our all-volunteer group helped walk-ins in need of mediation or other assistance; our assistance saw the return of thousands of dollars to wronged consumers. We counseled consumers on all manner of marketplace issues, spoke at meetings and took action when it needed to be taken.

As the information era came of age, demand for our services tapered off. Soaring oil prices forced the sale of our building eight years ago, and the volunteers who were the heart and soul of Northeast CONTACT found other ways to do good work.

Now, Jane and I are also finding a new avenue, one that we hope will assist consumers. Our hearty thanks go to those many volunteers I mentioned. We plan to continue our blog, https://necontact.wordpress.com. We’ll post news about scams, recalls and items we hope will be helpful; you can search the site for past columns. There will still be links to government and nonprofit agencies with resources beyond our means.

Finally, our thanks go to the people at the Bangor Daily News who’ve offered support, encouragement and the space for this column. And to those of you who have had kind words about the work we’ve done, you will remain in our thoughts.

 

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