May 14

By Associated Press – The Columbus Dispatch

A debt collector’s use of official Ohio attorney-general letterhead violated the federal fair-debt-collection law, a federal appeals court has ruled.

At issue are the tactics of law firms hired by the attorney general’s office to perform debt-collecting services for the state agency.

Two women who received debt-collection notices from lawyers at the firms sued, saying it was misleading for the firms to send the notices on stationery that had the name of Attorney General Mike DeWine and the seal of his office on top. [read more]

May 13

By Karin Price Mueller –

When the call comes, it sounds legit.

The caller asks for you by name. They have some personal information about you.

They say they represent a debt collection agency and they’re calling to collect a debt.

They ask you to pay. They may use a “good guy” approach, offering to accept just a percentage of what they say you owe.

As the call continues, if you don’t offer to pay, the collector may get nasty and use foul language. They may threaten to garnish your wages, Social Security or veterans benefits. They may threaten to initiate court actions or have you arrested if you don’t fork over what they say you owe.

There’s a pretty good chance the caller is a phony, and nothing but a lowlife scammer who wants to steal your money.

These thieves make themselves sound legit because they have found bits and pieces of private information about you. Maybe it came from a public database, or maybe they purchased the information on the black market.

They may know companies you’ve done business with, so the debt they claim you owe may be from a company you recognize. They may know about a real loan you have. They may even use the name of an authentic debt collection company, so if you search online for the company name, it will appear to be genuine.

But with a little knowledge about your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you can catch them in the act rather than get caught in a scam. [read more]

May 12

By ABC News

A closer look at your hospital bill could reveal that you have paid big bucks for thermal therapy (hospital jargon for ice cubes in a bag) or disposable mucous recovery systems — a.k.a. tissues.

And you’re not alone.

A group of auditors hired by insurance companies recently found errors in over 90 percent of the hospital bills they examined. An audit by Equifax found that hospital bills that totaled more than $10,000 contained an average error of $1,300.

The reasons behind the mistakes range from double billing to human error, but the bottom line is the same: Someone always pays.

Patients No Longer in Clear

In the past, the average patient didn’t have to worry about errors in billings because if a health care provider overcharged, the insurance company picked up the bills and the patient landed in the clear.

But today, any claim denied by insurance companies comes out of the patient’s pocket no matter what the policy’s out-of-pocket limit, because that limit only applies to what the insurance company agrees to cover. If they don’t agree to cover all or part of your treatment, you are responsible for paying. [read more]

May 11

By Trey Garrison – HousingWire

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has found that 26 million Americans are “credit invisible,” meaning they do not have any credit history with a nationwide consumer reporting agency.

The report also found that Black consumers, Hispanic consumers, and consumers in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have no credit history with a nationwide consumer reporting agency or not enough current credit history to produce a credit score.

“Today’s report sheds light on the millions of Americans who are credit invisible,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a release. “A limited credit history can create real barriers for consumers looking to access the credit that is often so essential to meaningful opportunity—to get an education, start a business, or buy a house. Further, some of the most economically vulnerable consumers are more likely to be credit invisible.” [read more]

May 8

By The Associated Press – Military Times

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says he has introduced legislation to help protect military service members from losing their homes to foreclosure.

The Rhode Island Democrat said Saturday he has introduced a bill to extend one that is due to expire this year. The law protects service members for a year after they return from active service. Whitehouse says that protection should be made permanent. He says National Guard members and reservists who leave their full-time civilian jobs for active service often need more time to regain their financial footing. [read more]

May 7

By The News and Observer

It’s not a business that would be attractive to a lot of people: Buy debt, credit card debt, for example, from companies that have given up trying to collect it, then try to collect it. The profit comes in that the buyer purchases the debt for pennies on the dollar. A collection can mean a big margin.

In North Carolina and elsewhere, some of those debt buyers got aggressive and deceptive in their collection techniques, including filing lawsuits that could keep consumers in court forever.

In response to such abuses, the North Carolina General Assembly in 2009 passed a consumer protection law that held the debt collectors to reasonable standards of behavior. For example, as of now those collectors have to present detailed information about the delinquent debt they’re trying to collect, including when and where it originated and the amount of fees and interest that were agreed upon by the consumer. The disclosure requirement and other consumer protections came in response to a surge in lawsuits from debt collectors targeting people who didn’t owe a debt or had resoved it.

Now a peculiar bill proposed by Sen. Mike Lee, R-New Hanover would do away with some of standards for collectors, making it easier for them to push ahead with suits. The collectors wouldn’t need to have that detailed information, for example. This seems to be just part of a pattern of anti-consumer attitudes among GOP legislators. Given the choice between helping consumers, in this case by simply leaving the law alone, they opt for sticking it to the average citizen. [read more]