Jun 26

By Bob Sullivan – Credit.com

A debt collector with ties to one of the nation’s largest private hospital chains spent years violating basic provisions of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, federal regulators say.

Consumers who dispute a debt are entitled to a response within 30 days, according to federal law. Medical debt collector Syndicated Office Systems took, on average, more than 90 days to respond to disputes, and in some cases, took more than a year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Syndicated Office Systems, which does business under the name Central Financial Control, is an “indirect subsidiary” of Conifer Health Solutions, the CFPB said. Conifer provides billing services to hundreds of hospitals nationwide; its parent company is Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which is one of the largest publicly traded hospital operators in the country.

“These violations are particularly egregious given the challenges many consumers already face who are attempting to navigate the medical debt maze,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are putting a stop to these illegal practices and getting consumers the relief they deserve.” [read more]

Jun 25

By Help Net Security

Phone fraud continues to threaten enterprises across industries and borders, with the leading financial institutions’ call centers exposed to more than $9 million to potential fraud each year.

Pindrop analyzed several million calls for threats. They found a 30 percent rise in enterprise attacks and more than 86.2 million attacks per month on U.S. consumers.

Financial and retail institutions have seen an increase in phone fraud of more than 30 percent since 2013, with one in every 2,200 calls being fraudulent. This rate increases for retailers that sell popular, expensive products with a high resell rate; one major retailer saw phone fraud rates for Apple product orders as high as one in every 300 calls.

Credit card issuers receive the highest rate of fraud attempts, with one in every 900 calls being fraudulent. [read more]

Jun 24

By Tyler Kingkade – The Huffington Post

Nine-in-ten borrowers who applied for co-signer release on their private student loans were rejected, a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report released Thursday found.

Examining 3,100 private student loan complaints received between October 2014 up to March, and another 1,100 debt collection complaints, CFPB determined that private education loan companies were often declining co-signer release due to “not meeting certain pre-application requirements, such as making a specified number of on-time payments.” However, CFPB said, these loan companies rarely made that information known in a transparent manner.

College students often need a co-signer for private student loans, typically due to the potential borrower being young and lacking a credit history. College graduates paying back their debt may want to have their co-signer, which might be a parent or grandparent, released to untangle their individual credit issues. [read more]

Jun 23

By Christine DiGangi, Credit.com – USA Today

The national foreclosure rate increased 1% in May from April and increased 16% from May 2014, reaching a 19-month high, according to RealtyTrac, a housing-data company. One in every 1,041 housing units in the U.S. had a foreclosure filing in May, which includes notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. For the third month in a row, Florida had the highest foreclosure rate of any state, including the District of Columbia.

The rising foreclosure rate was driven by annual increases in bank repossessions, as states continue to work through a glut of distressed properties.

“May foreclosure numbers are a classic good news-bad news scenario, with the number of homeowners starting the foreclosure process stabilizing at pre-housing crisis levels but the number of homeowners actually losing their homes to foreclosure still well above pre-crisis levels and on the rise,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, in a news release about the data. “Lenders and courts are pushing through stubborn foreclosure cases that have been languishing in foreclosure limbo for years as options to prevent foreclosure are exhausted or left untapped.”

Foreclosure starts (the first foreclosure filing on a property) increased 4% from last year but are below the pre-crisis levels seen in 2005 and 2006. Only 13 states had foreclosure rates higher than the national average, many of which are in the South and Midwest. [read more]

Jun 22

By Ana Swanson – The Washington Post

Debt can be invisible. Yet the stress of living with massive amounts of debt from student loans, credit cards, medical treatments or bad real estate deals can weigh on someone so much that it feels like a physical burden.

Brittany M. Powell, a San Francisco-based photographer, knows that weight firsthand. After a 15-year career as a commercial photographer, including stints for National Geographic, Powell wound up underemployed, paying most of her income toward her rent, and living off of credit cards for several years. In 2012, she finally filed for bankruptcy, another change that ultimately transformed her life.

The experience, she said in an interview, taught her a lot about living with debt – how it is a shameful and private experience, but at the same time incredibly common in the U.S. “Many of us are in the same situation, but it’s not something that we collaboratively talk about,” Powell said.

Though people don’t often talk openly about it, living with tens of thousands of dollars of debt is now a common American experience. Families have more than twice as much debt than they did in the 1950s. Mortgages make up around 70 percent of household debt, while auto loans, credit cards, student loans and other categories account for the rest.

Once Powell started talking openly about her own experience with debt, she found that many people were eager to share their similar experiences. Shortly thereafter, she began “The Debt Project,” her current effort to photograph 99 people across the U.S. and interview them about the role that debt plays in their lives.

She has so far photographed about 50 of the 99 – a nod to Occupy Wall Street’s “99 percent” – in locations including San Francisco, New Orleans, Detroit and rural Vermont. Powell says she spends about an hour chatting with her subjects about their experiences and photographs them in their houses. She also has them write a hand-written note to explain their amount of debt and how they acquired it next to each photo. [read more]

Jun 19

By Mortgage Orb

Although there aren’t as many as there used to be, there are still plenty of zombies out there in Foreclosure Land, a report from RealtyTrac reveals.

The firm’s Q2 2015 Zombie Foreclosure Report shows that there were about 127,021 zombie foreclosures in the second quarter, down 11% compared to the first quarter and down 10% compared to the second quarter of 2014.

Surprisingly, about 24% of all active foreclosures in the quarter were zombies – in other words, for about one in every four foreclosures, the homeowner had vacated the premises prior to repossession.

Although the number of zombies was down overall in the second quarter, the number of zombies was actually up from a year ago in about half of the major cities in the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlantic City, Trenton and Tampa. [read more]