Archive for the ‘Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection’ Category

In Highlighting Elder Abuse Awareness Day, State Officials Urge Mainers to Report Suspected Cases of Financial Exploitation

PRESS RELEASE
June 13, 2017
Contact:  Judith Shaw
Administrator Maine Office of Securities
1-877-624-8551
TTY:  Maine Relay 711

June 15th Observance Draws Attention to under-reported ‘Crime of the 21st Century’, and the Need for People to Report Concerns about Abuse of Seniors

AUGUSTA Officials at Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (DPFR) are focusing attention on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day–recognized each June 15th throughout the United States and in other countries, and often referred to as the ‘crime of the 21st century,’ because of its increasing prevalence and devastating impacts.

“The abuse of seniors is among the most under-reported crimes, and its impact can have devastating consequences for its victims,” DPFR Commissioner Anne Head said.  “Unfortunately, the perpetrator is often a relative or caregiver, making it more difficult for the senior to come forward.  Each of us has a responsibility to report concerns about potential abuse.”

Commissioner Head noted that financial abuse is among the most common forms of elder abuse, costing its U.S. victims an estimated $2.9 billion a year.

The Commissioner highlighted the Department’s five agencies, all of which are dedicated to educating the public and helping the victims of financial abuse.  She pointed out the Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection available through the Department’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection by calling 1-800-332-8529 or at www.Credit.Maine.gov under “Publications”.  She also highlighted the many resources available through the Bureau of Financial Institution’s online Consumer Library (www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions).

Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw, who serves on the Maine Council on Elder Abuse Prevention, noted the frequency of investment fraud and the importance of reporting suspected cases.  “Of special concern, is investment fraud of seniors,” Administrator Shaw said.  “Victims can lose their entire life-savings, with little opportunity to recover financial stability.”  For investment-related questions or concerns, the Office of Securities within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can be reached at 1-877-624-8551 and at www.investors.maine.gov.

Signs that an older adult may be vulnerable to possible abuse or exploitation may include:

  • Social isolation and/or recent loss of a spouse or partner
  • Recent decline in health or in the ability for self-care
  • Lack of familiarity with financial accounts
  • Dependence on another to provide everyday care or essential services
  • Willingness to listen to telemarketing calls or respond to solicitations from unverified charities or businesses

Red flags of possible victimization include:

  • Senior has injuries that are not adequately explained
  • Change in appearance or poor hygiene
  • Senior is missing checks, account statements or documentation regarding finances
  • Running out of money at the end of the month
  • Senior appears fearful or depressed
  • Senior is accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective or dominating

Partial List of State Agencies and Organizations in Maine providing information, services and education on elder abuse, including financial exploitation: 

Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads

1-800-262-2232 or 207-287-9200

Adult Protective Services:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/aging/aps/

Hotline: 1-800-624-8404

Legal Services for the Elderly:

www.mainelse.org

1-800-750-5353 

Maine Area Agencies on Aging:

List of regional agencies with full contact information:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oes/resource/aaa.htm

Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation:

(Five Agencies Offering a Wide Range of Assistance to Seniors and Caregivers)

www.maine.gov/pfr

Office of Securities:  1-877-624-8551

(Investment Questions or Concerns)

www.investors.maine.gov

Bureau of Financial Institutions:  1-800-965-5235

(Banking Questions or Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions

Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection:  1-800-332-8529

(Credit, Foreclosure, General Financial Scam Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit

Bureau of Insurance:  1-800-300-5000

(Insurance-related Questions or Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance

Office of Professional and Occupational Licensing: 207-624-8603

(Questions or Concerns Related to Licensed Professionals)

www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing

Do you have questions about credit cards? Check out this source.

offers news and advice.

May 22, 2017 from 6 steps to close accounts when a cardholder dies

When someone dies, the task of notifying financial institutions and closing credit card accounts can easily be forgotten or pushed aside.

Unfortunately, if card accounts are not dealt with properly and immediately, problems can crop up that make life more difficult later. Family members and others may innocently – or not so innocently – continue to use the deceased person’s card. Identity thieves troll the obituaries and online records to learn about recent deaths, so they can steal from accounts or create new ones. Banks may send out late notices and add extra fees when the next payment is missed…

Additional information provided by Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 

As the article states, creditors like a credit card company come last in priority, just in front of heirs.  Secured claims, taxes, administrative expenses and various rights of spouses and heirs all come before unsecured creditors receive anything.  If there is no money left in the estate, such creditors will receive nothing.

In Maine, a notice to creditors is published by the clerk of probate.  Creditors (other than the government) have four months to file a claim or the collection of the debt is barred.  Payment is not usually made until at least 6 months has passed and usually longer.

May 19, 2017 from Suspect card fraud? How to file a claim

If you spot an unauthorized purchase on your credit or debit card statement, will you know what to do, who to call, and how to protect your account?

Forty-seven percent of Americans have experienced card fraud in the past five years, according to the ACI Worldwide 2016 Global Consumer Card Fraud report.

Knowing what actually constitutes fraud, and what to do when it happens, is the best way to protect yourself from additional bogus charges, and potential liability for not reporting it in a timely manner…

 

More information provided by Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 

Mainers are uniquely protected by one of the finest file freeze law in the U.S.

Maine’s file freeze law went into effect on 10/15/15, and allows adult Maine residents to place a lock or freeze on their credit files with the major reporting agencies: Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-888-909-8872).   Each consumer reporting agency (CRA) has a separate file freeze number (previously listed), which allows consumers to speak on a secure, automated line—providing personal information like their name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.  The file freeze is immediate, and the length of the freeze is the option of the consumer.   The CRA then mails (10 days to 3 weeks) an envelope to the consumer containing a special personal identification number or PIN, and a dedicated toll-free number to call to lock/unlock the credit file.  A personal assistant or executor of an estate should consider locking down the decedent’s credit file upon death to reduce the chance of nefarious/illegal uses of that person’s identity. 

A national law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act or FACT Act, allows each consumer to order a free copy of their credit files (Equifax, Experian & Trans Union) once each year by calling 1-877-322-8228).   A review of the active credit accounts of a decedent, including credit cards, is a good first step in determining if the estate has any outstanding credit accounts that need to be paid off. 

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.

State Consumer Protection Officials Announce ‘Top 10’ New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Financial Health

PRESS RELEASE

GARDINER – With a New Year approaching, it’s time for resolutions.  While most people think of resolutions related to their physical health, such as eating better and getting back in shape, staff at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection are encouraging individual and families to also resolve to improve their “financial health” in 2017.

Bureau Superintendent Will Lund announced a Top 10 list of Financial Health New Year’s Resolutions, based on the agency’s discussions with hundreds of consumers who called the Bureau’s hotline (1-800-DEBT-LAW) for assistance and advice during 2016:

1) I resolve to check my credit reports with each major credit reporting agency (Trans Union, Equifax and Experian) at least once this year, which I can do for free by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

2)  I resolve to reduce or eliminate credit card balances, and to use cash or a debit card whenever possible. I resolve to consider doing business with banks or credit unions that have offices here in Maine, because then if a problem arises I can go visit a real live person to resolve it.

3)  I resolve to be suspicious of offers that involve romantic relationships with individuals I have “met” only online, and offers involving Nigerian finance ministers who claim to need my help moving large amounts of money out of their country.

4)  I resolve not to send funds in order to claim foreign “sweepstakes” winnings when I didn’t even enter the sweepstakes contest.

5)  I resolve to purchase a telephone Caller ID and an answering machine for my elderly relatives who are bothered by too many junk calls, and teach them how to use the system, reminding them that “real” friends and family who call will leave a message.

6)  I resolve to stay in touch with elderly relatives, encouraging them to tell me or their friends if they are presented with investment opportunities. Further, I will remember that investments are governed by the Maine Office of Securities, whose helpful staff can tell someone whether the investment they are being offered has been properly registered with the state.

7)  I resolve to take my time when making a big purchase like an automobile or major appliance, learning all I can about the product beforehand, visiting more than one retailer, negotiating the best price, getting all aspects of the deal in writing, and walking away if the sales pitch becomes pressured.

8)  I resolve not be intimidated by collection calls demanding payment for debts I do not owe. I will remember that debt collectors must be licensed by the state, and that the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection stands ready to provide assistance and to enforce the laws.

9)   I resolve to be suspicious of any phone call I receive from someone I don’t know, including callers who tell me that a virus has been detected on my computer and that I must turn on my computer and give the caller access in order to fix the problem.

10)  If I find myself providing credit card numbers over the phone to someone I don’t know on a call I did not initiate, or if I find myself at the Western Union window or purchasing prepaid cash cards to send money to someone I don’t know, I resolve to recognize that I am likely being scammed, and I will seek advice and assistance.

 Superintendent Lund urges people with questions about items in this Top 10 list, or any other issues related to consumer credit or financial concerns to contact the Bureau.  The website is www.Credit.Maine.gov and the phone number is 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine) or 624-8527.

Avoid paying interest while shopping for holidays

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Nov. 28, 2016, at 6:14 a.m.

Consumer revolving debt — mainly credit card balances — grew by $4.2 billion in September, according to the Federal Reserve. America’s total revolving debt reached $978.8 billion, the highest level since April 2009, when the economy was going downhill fast.

Projections of spending during this holiday season vary, but it’s likely that many of us will charge more for holiday gifts than we should. Here are some suggestions for preventing the buyer’s remorse — and interest charges — that can follow aggressive use of credit cards.

Pay cash. The simplest solution to avoiding interest charges is buying with cash. Parting with real money can also help to keep impulse spending in check.

Make a list. Check it as many times as you like, but write stuff down before you visit the stores, real or online. Itemizing what you intend to buy helps to keep your shopping focused, and that can minimize stress as well as curb impulse buying. While you’re writing, devise a place to keep all your receipts, whether they’re paper or digital.

Charge only what you can afford. Buy something with a credit card and you get what amounts to an interest-free loan. However, that’s true only if you pay off your balance in full by the due date after you receive your monthly statement — what’s termed a grace period. If you pay in full month after month, you’ll get a break on new purchases but NOT on cash advances or convenience checks. Those generally start accruing interest immediately. Some balance transfers may also not be included in a grace period; read the terms of your card carefully to see what terms apply.

Plan your payback. If you carry any balance into the next billing cycle, there’s no grace period on purchases you make during that cycle. Your card company will start charging interest the moment you make a purchase. Some card companies require you to pay your balance in full for two straight months to get your grace period back.

If you have carried a balance, you might get hit with something referred to as “trailing interest” or “residual interest.” Those terms refer to interest that accrues on your balance before you have a chance to pay it off, even if you’re paying the full balance that’s shown on your statement. The trailing or residual interest might have accrued between the time your statement was printed and the time your received it in the mail.

David Leach, principal examiner at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, has some realistic advice about holiday shopping. He suggests a cooling-off period when considering major purchases.

“Your friends and family don’t want you to incur excessive debt to buy them presents,” Leach said recently.

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 https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

How to protect yourself from the Yahoo hackers

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Sept. 26, 2016, at 9:22 a.m.

At this writing, the full impact of the massive Yahoo data breach announced Sept. 22 was not known. However, it appears that hundreds of millions of consumers have had private information exposed in what’s believed to be the biggest data breach to date.

Yahoo said hackers had stolen information from at least 500 million users’ accounts, including names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords. Yahoo said the breach took place in 2014. Technology reporters had written earlier that stolen data from millions of accounts were being sold on the dark web.

This latest breach comes at a time when cybercrime is booming. For years, crooks have opened phony accounts to buy all sorts of things using other people’s good credit records. The thieves don’t pay their bills, and the law-abiding consumers are left to dispute the charges. It can cost time and money to straighten out a credit report following such an incident.

Click to access site

All of this leaves millions of consumers with another reason to review their credit reports. William Lund, superintendent of Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection or BCCP, said recently all consumers should look for signs of trouble and act quickly.

“A single phone call for an alleged debt that’s not yours should be looked into since it may be the tip of a larger iceberg. Start by checking your credit reports,” Lund said.

Federal law says that each of the major reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — is required to provide every consumer with a free credit report once per year. Consumers can call each company’s toll-free phone number to request a free report.

To start the process online, go to the truly free website AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t deal with online websites that promise “free” reports; you might be pressured into buying a credit report, credit monitoring or other services.

Anyone with concerns about her or his credit should pick one of the three reporting agencies and ask for a free report right away. In four months, ask another agency; four months after that, ask the third agency. Rinse and repeat forever.

If your credit report shows accounts were opened that you did not authorize, you may be a victim of identity theft. In fact, accounts may have been opened in the name of any family member. You can freeze your account, meaning no one else can open an account in your name. Get help from Maine’s BCCP by calling toll-free 1-800-332-8529.

Privacy experts say too many of us use too few passwords. A breach that reveals a password securing one account may put other accounts at risk. For that reason, it’s wise to change ALL of your passwords at least once per year. If you know an account has been breached, change right away.

Get more tips on safeguarding your personal and financial information from the U.S. Department of Justice at justice.gov/criminal-fraud/identity-theft/identity-theft-and-identity-fraud.

The nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, privacyrights.org, is another good resource.

Find details of the Maine law covering consumers’ rights when data breaches occur at maine.gov/pfr/insurance/faq/data_breach_faq.htm.

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, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

Answering these text messages could lead to empty bank accounts

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Sept. 19, 2016, at 9:55 a.m.
gone-phishing

Click to access booklet

Customers at some Maine banks and credit unions have been receiving fraudulent text messages. The messages are from scammers falsely claiming that there’s a problem with the customer’s account or debit card.

You can guess at the rest. There are frantic-sounding instructions to click on a link or phone number contained in the message. Failure to do so will cause some horrendous problem with the account, card or the customer’s credit rating.

The fix is easy, says the text. Just type in your account or card information and any passwords that you can remember. The sender will take care of everything — like emptying your account or running up bogus charges.

The message seems to come from a customer’s financial institution. On its website, the Maine Credit Union League said members of at least two credit unions in eastern and central Maine appear to have been targeted.

The phony text message said their debit cards had been compromised and to call either 844-334-6152 or 844-611-0709. People who called either number were asked for their card numbers and CVV codes. Divulging that or other personal or financial information is a bad idea.

The superintendent of Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions says consumers should not fall for the hoax.

“Banks and credit unions will not text, call or email customers asking them to divulge account numbers, PINs or Social Security numbers,” Lloyd LaFountain III said.

LaFountain said if a consumer believes he or she has received a scam text, the consumer should:

— Not return the text or call the number provided.

— Never provide personal or financial information following such a request. Banks and credit unions will never request personal account information that way.

The Bureau of Financial Institutions has a consumer library containing hints about spotting and avoiding financial scams. There’s also a consumer specialist on staff who can answer questions about scams or accounts in general.

If you’re unsure after receiving an unsolicited email, call someone at the bureau, instead of clicking on anything in the message. The bureau’s phone number is 207-624-8570, and its website is maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions/index.shtml.

Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection has published the Downeaster Common Sense Guide: Gone Phishing. It also contains tips to detect and avoid scams.

Find it online at Credit.Maine.gov; it’s listed under “Consumer Guides.” Call the bureau (1-800-332-8529) with any questions about protecting your credit.

The Federal Trade Commission also has a wealth of information on its website. Learn about phishing and other scams at consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

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, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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