Jul 17

By Whitney Mallett – Fast Company

Lindsey Ellis had received phone calls from a debt collector when one of her acquaintances and a distant family member reported getting peculiar messages on Facebook.

“Hey Girl,” began a private message sent by Erika Edington Brinkley to Ellis’s cousin’s ex-girlfriend and her brother-in-law’s sister. Brinkley’s profile identified her as a TitleMax employee based in Alabama. “I’m looking for her veh[icle]. She’s been hiding it for some months, never paid on it.”

Ellis had taken out a loan from the title lending business TitleMax in April 2014 in order to pay $2,500 for a new transmission. TitleMax specializes in auto-title loans, whereby customers borrow cash against the value of their existing car. To people for whom traditional credit isn’t an option—borrowers with bad credit, little savings, or few family resources—these loans offer an easy alternative. But consumer advocates say that title loans, like payday loans, tend to carry a high price: astronomical interest rates, sometimes reaching into the triple digits.

At the time of the Facebook messages, Ellis was two weeks late on a payment for her loan. The company “seemed to be reputable,” she says, but once the messages began, it had crossed a line. “I said, ‘This is bull crap for her to breach my privacy like that.’”

Ellis complained to TitleMax management, and a representative told her that Brinkley had broken company policy in her use of social media. Brinkley, who still works at TitleMax, declined to comment, and referred me to TitleMax’s corporate offices. The company failed to respond to my inquiry regarding their social media policy. [read more]

Jul 16

By Paul Ausick – 24/7 Wall St.

In the month of May, 41,000 U.S. home foreclosures were completed, up 4.1% month over month and down 19.2% from a total of 51,000 in May 2014, according to research firm CoreLogic. The firm notes that the current foreclosure inventory totals 1.3% of all homes with a mortgage in the United States, down from 1.7% in May of 2014.

The number of U.S. homes currently in some stage of foreclosure totals 491,000, compared with 676,000 in May 2014. That represents a decline in the national foreclosure inventory of 27.4% compared with May a year ago.

The four states and the District of Columbia with the largest foreclosed inventory as a percentage of mortgaged properties are New Jersey (4.9%), New York (3.7%), Florida (2.9%), Hawaii (2.5%) and D.C. (2.4%). The five states with the lowest inventories of foreclosed properties are Alaska (0.3%), Nebraska (0.4%), North Dakota (0.4%), Minnesota (0.4%) and Colorado (0.4%).

The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures in the past 12 months were Florida (104,000), Michigan (46,000), Texas (33,000), California (28,000) and Ohio (27,000). The five states with the fewest foreclosures in the prior 12 months through May were South Dakota (19), District of Columbia (105), North Dakota (326), Wyoming (498) and West Virginia (500). [read more]

Jul 15

By Gary Harper – AZFamily.com

If there’s anyone who knows Internet scams, it’s Ken Colburn, an Internet and technology expert.

“Some percentage of people are going to see this email and in their mind, they assume it’s their debt and they just fall for it,” he told 3 On Your Side as he was reviewing an email we brought to his attention. “This is what we call the ‘scam du jour.’ This is what they are doing today. Tomorrow, they will be doing something else.”

The email initially was sent to a 3 On Your Side viewer who became worried and forwarded it to us.

It’s purportedly from a company called Financial Legal Services, and it even has a toll-free number. [read more]

Jul 14

By Erin O’Neil – NJ.com

A greater share of homes in New Jersey are facing foreclosure than anywhere else in the country, according to a report released Tuesday morning.

The report from the Irvine, Calif.-based firm CoreLogic shows 4.9 percent of mortgaged homes in New Jersey were in the foreclosure process in May, which is nearly quadruple the national rate of 1.3 percent. In May 2014, 5.8 percent of mortgaged homes in New Jersey were in foreclosure, compared to 1.7 percent of homes nationwide.

New Jersey has been dealing with a backlog of foreclosures, which are slowly winding their way through the state’s judicial process.

New York (3.7 percent), Florida (2.9 percent), Hawaii (2.5 percent) and the District of Columbia (2.4 percent) also have among the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, according the CoreLogic report.

Roughly 9,200 foreclosures were completed in New Jersey over the last year, according to the report, up from more than 6,300 completed foreclosure in the year ending in May 2014. That’s counter to the national trend. The number of completed foreclosures declined between those time frames 595,000 to roughly 528,000. [read more]

Jul 13

By Jordain Carney – The Hill

Sen. Charles Schumer wants violators of a ban on robocalls to face stiffer penalties, including potential jail time.

The New York Democrat has rolled out legislation that would subject telemarketing companies or individuals that use robocalls without getting prior written consent with up to a $20,000 fine per violation, up to 10 years in jail or both.

Currently, telemarketers who violate the national Do Not Call list face a potential fine of $1,500 per call.

Schumer’s bill, known as the Quell Unnecessary, Intentional, and Encroaching Telephone Calls — or QUIET — Act, would offer a few loopholes, including not requiring consent for emergency calls or those made on behalf of non-profits. [read more]

Jul 9

By Jonathan Stempel – Reuters

Many people dislike receiving robocalls. Araceli King disliked receiving 153 of them from a single company.

Time Warner Cable Inc must pay the insurance claims specialist $229,500 for placing 153 automated calls meant for someone else to her cellphone in less than a year, even after she told it to stop, a Manhattan federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

King, of Irving, Texas, accused Time Warner Cable of harassing her by leaving messages for Luiz Perez, who once held her cellphone number, even after she made clear who she was in a seven-minute discussion with a company representative.

The calls were made through an “interactive voice response” system meant for customers who were late paying bills.

Time Warner Cable countered that it was not liable to King under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law meant to curb robocall and telemarketing abuses, because it believed it was calling Perez, who had consented to the calls. [read more]