Protect Yourself From Credit Repair Scams


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With an improved economy and real estate prices on the rise, your good name and reputation are more important than ever when applying for new credit cards, an automobile, rental property or home mortgage. Many creditors have tightened their lending guidelines, effectively barring millions of Americans from borrowing money.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 FICO score. In most instances, a borrower will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced reduced credit lines or closed credit card accounts and equity lines. When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the existing balance due.

Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers, credit unions and traditional banks have all raised the bar. Borrowers with low FICO scores can expect to be denied credit or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent repayment histories.

With about 52 percent of credit profiles at the Equifax, Experian or TransUnion consumer reporting agencies containing some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness, some turn to credit repair to remedy low credit scores and issues that prevent them from borrowing money. Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, they hire a credit service organization in the restoration of their good name and reputation.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad repayment histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Beware, though, when hiring a credit repair company.

Most — but not all — credit service organizations specialize in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as issues related to identity. Assuming that the credit repair company is performing within established guidelines, they utilize laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, a reputable credit service organization will assist in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies. Disputes are also submitted to creditors, collection agencies, and third-party record providers, in addition to state, federal, and local regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written complaint letters monthly, a reputable credit repair company will have devised a strategy whereby disputes are submitted electronically, verbally and in writing over a long period of time to the credit reporting agencies, creditors, collection agencies and third-party record providers reporting negative, inaccurate, obsolete and erroneous information.

Keep in mind that anything a credit repair company can do, you can do yourself for little to no cost. With that said, a reputable credit service organization should have an edge over consumer driven disputes as they will possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that is generally unknown to the average consumer.

A reputable credit service organization should have a provable track record of results in the modification or removal of erroneous and inaccurate judgments, liens, mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, short-sales, student loans, credit inquiries, derogatory accounts and collection agency entries, personal identifiers and other transient data from a consumer’s credit report. Although the credit restoration process can take many months, most individuals should see some results within the first 45 to 60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. One must understand, though, that most credit service organizations are not law firms and that their employees may not be licensed to practice law. As such, even a reputable credit repair company cannot provide legal advice, nor may they represent a consumer before any court or in any legal proceeding. In the event that legal representation is required, the credit repair company should provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your credit, be sure to check them out. While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist. Consumers can check out a credit service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at http://www.BBB.org.

South Florida Credit Scores Drop in September


Credit rating agency Experian released Wednesday its second-annual “State of Credit” list of cities with the highest and lowest credit scores.

The study found that the cities with the worst average credit score were concentrated in the South, while those with the highest average score were centered in the upper Midwest.

According to CreditKarma.com, the credit scores of consumers in the Miami metropolitan statistical area dropped in September as they continued racking up significant personal debt.

The average credit score in the Miami area was 649 in September, down from a previous low of 652 in August. The trend was the same statewide, although other Floridians seemed to maintain better credit scores. The average Florida credit score was 654 in September, down from 657 in August.

The Sunshine State ranked 35th for credit score averages nationwide. California residents had the best average credit score, at 682, while those in Mississippi ranked at the bottom, at 626.

CreditKarma found that consumers in South Florida piled on debt in three significant categories.  In September, they had an average mortgage debt of $199,701, student loan obligations of $32,254, and credit card balances of $5,548.  This is an increase of 4 percent, 2.8 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, from the previous month.

The study also found that consumers in the Miami area ranked higher in mortgage and student loan debt, but had less credit card debt than others across the country.

Obtaining credit reports and correcting credit reporting errors is something for every consumer to seriously consider.  This is especially so in tough economic times.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances. 

If you are denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.  Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. 

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com.  Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

This Week on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis


Interesting guests and timely topics will be on the air the week of September 12th on AM 1470 WWNN and The Credit Report with Bill Lewis.

Florida’s 34th Senator and current U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux will discuss his candidacy in the Republican race to replace Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

Commander Michael Calderin of Broward County Crimestoppers will appear and discuss the recent reenactment of the homicide of BSO Sgt. Chris Reyka and the $267,000 reward being offered in the unsolved murder of a policeman.

Foreclosure defense attorney Carlos Reyes will appear and discuss the latest developments in the “robo-signing” controversy and investigations started by the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

Talk show host and attorney Lisa Macci will appear and discuss her recent move to AM 1470 WWNN and “The Justice Hour with Lisa Macci.”

Tom Lauder of RedBroward will appear and discuss his political blog where “Making Broward See Red” is not such a hard job.

Chairman Richard Denapoli of the Broward Republican Party will appear and discuss Presidency 5 and the continuing commitment of the Broward Republican Executive Committee to ensure success in the 2012 presidential election.

Cooper City Commissioner John Sims will appear and discuss the David Nall libel litigation against the city as well as other local business.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Christine C. Gill will appear and discuss “September is National Coupon Month” and initiatives at maximizing your dollar when shopping for groceries and other household goods in tough economic times.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti will appear and discuss CyberVisor, the agency’s version of Twitter, and other initiatives of the largest fully accredited law enforcement agency in America.

Criminal defense attorney John Contini will appear and discuss the importance of criminal history records sealing when seeking employment in tough economic times.

Scott Spages will appear and discuss a special screening of the documentary: “Iranium the Movie” on Friday, September 16th at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, under the Faith Forum program. 

Republican Party of Broward County Executive Director Rico Petrocelli will appear and discuss initiatives to grow the local party and upcoming events.

The Credit Report with Bill Lewis is a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.  Bill can be heard weekday’s at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN in south Florida or by streaming audio at www.wwnnradio.com.  Phone lines are open at (888) 565-1470. 

Paint It Broward – Free Paint for Residents


In tough economic times, homeowners cannot afford to pass up free paint and a potential savings of several hundred dollars.  Between record foreclosures, high unemployment, and rising food and gas prices, the “Paint it Broward” program has hit all-time records in paint distribution county-wide. 

“Paint it Broward” is an initiative of Broward County’s Waste and Recycling Services allowing residents throughout the county to receive up to twenty gallons of high-quality recycled latex exterior paint yearly for residential projects.

Latex paint collected through the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Program is transported to a paint manufacturer where it is recycled into high-quality exterior latex paint.  It is then distributed through the “Paint it Broward” program and numerous municipalities throughout Broward County.

Broward County recycles and distributes an average of 70,000 gallons of latex paint per year in an effort to improve neighborhoods and benefit the citizens of Broward County.

In fiscal year 2010, a record 77,675 gallons of paint were distributed through the “Paint it Broward” program, up 25% from the previous record in fiscal year 2009 of 61,819 gallons. 

“Since the Paint it Broward program began in 2003, a total of 643,066 gallons of paint have been distributed,” said D.J. McPherson, Public Education Coordinator.

Paint colors include beige, terra-cotta, grey and turquoise.  Due to variations in paint hues, residents are encouraged to take sufficient quantities to suit their needs, with a twenty gallon maximum.

The distribution of recycled paint is accomplished through a cooperative program where Broward County distributes the paint to participating municipalities, which in turn dispense it to their residents.

To receive free paint through “Paint it Broward”, contact your city at the phone number listed below and ask for the paint recycling program coordinator. If your city is not listed, then it is not a Broward County paint recycling program participant.  You can obtain paint directly through the county.

Recycled latex paint is for non-profit or residential use only. This product is not available for commercial entities, or for re-sale.

“Faced with tough challenges in a faltering economy, Broward residents may not place a priority on house painting,” said County Commissioner Chip LaMarca.  “Paint it Broward allows you to spruce up your home while saving several hundred dollars on the cost of paint.”

The following municipalities participate in the “Paint it Broward” program.

Coconut Creek: 954-973-6780

Coral Springs: 954-344-1040

Dania Beach: 954-357-8850

Davie: 954-797-1045

Fort Lauderdale: 954-828-5770

Hollywood: 954-921-3061

Lauderdale Lakes: 954-535-2815

Lauderhill: 954-730-3060

Lighthouse Point: 954-946-7386

Margate: 954-972-0828

Miramar: 954-602-3174

North Lauderdale: 954-724-7070

Oakland Park: 954-630-4414

Pembroke Park: 954-966-4600, ext. 1215

Pembroke Pines: 954-437-1111

Plantation: 954-452-2535

Pompano Beach: 954-786-4030

Sunrise: 954-572-2385

Tamarac: 954-597-3700

Unincorporated Broward: 954-765-4999

West Park: 954-989-2688

Wilton Manors: 954-390-2190

For more information on the “Paint it Broward” program or to obtain free paint directly through Broward County, please call (954) 357-8850 and enter option 3.

Help Wanted: City of Miami Police Chief


Do you enjoy politics and care to live in sunny South Florida?  If you have a management background in law enforcement, you may be just what the City of Miami is looking for – a new police chief.

Notwithstanding the lack of occupancy in the position, the City of Miami has posted to their website an opening for police chief. 

With a salary of between $136,045.94 and $181,045.23 and benefits including health insurance, life insurance, paid leave, and a take-home car, the opportunity to lead an agency with over 1,100 employees appears to be available.

“Fifteen (15) years responsible police experience which must have included executive management experience. Bachelor’s degree or higher in Public Administration, Police Science, Criminal Justice, Management or a related field is preferred. Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy (FBINNA) certification is highly desirable,” reads the job description posted late Friday on the city’s website.

The open position was posted barely a day after one of the larger battles in Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado’s year-long attempt to oust Police Chief Miguel Exposito. 

“It was no more than coincidence,” said City Manager Johnny Martinez. “I just want to see what’s out there.  I don’t want to get caught last minute.”

Exposito is scheduled to retire from the Miami Police Department in January 2012. 

According to Martinez, he does not plan on firing Exposito before his retirement.  In advertising the position, the manager said he was simply taking the advice of former FBI field chief Paul Philip, whose evaluation of the Miami Police Department noted the city should advertise nationally for a new chief with Exposito’s pending departure.

On Wednesday, a voided check surfaced for $200,000 that was written to the Exposito in January.  Mayor Regalado explained that the check was part of a perfectly legal severance package negotiated by former CFO Larry Spring and no different than Exposito’s predecessor, former Chief John Timoney, who accepted a similar amount

Chief Exposito, who said the actual offer was $400,000, stated that he was promised another $200,000 after he actually he left the department.  In refusing the check, Exposito implied that he had contacted state and federal law enforcement officials about possible criminal activity.

As police chief:

This position directs and coordinates activities of the department, which operates on a 24-hour basis every day of the year. Promulgates departmental rules and regulations. Coordinates and administers divisions through subordinate personnel. Divisions administered may include: Field Operations, Investigations and Administration. Directly administers and monitors departmental subdivisions which report directly to the Office of the Chief of Police. Coordinates and monitors external assigned officers involved in high level and confidential federal investigations. Reviews internal investigations of members of department for alleged misconduct. Under general supervision of the City Manager and in accordance with Civil Service Rules, relevant labor contracts and departmental orders, may suspend, demote or terminate employees of the department for infraction of the rules. May mobilize force during emergencies, such as civil disturbances. Oversees development of departmental budget, activity reports, and plans for future development. May address various groups to inform the public of goals or operations of the department. Reports to the City Manager.

For more information on this exciting, but not quite available position within the Miami Police Department, please visit: www.miamigov.com

Allen West Headlines Grand Old Party BBQ


Following a successful Lincoln Day dinner that raised over $90,000, the Broward Republican Executive Committee has planned a “Grand Old Party BBQ” on Saturday June 11th, 2011 at the famed Bergeron Ranch in western Broward County.

The “Country Afternoon” will feature visits by Congressman Allen West (FL-22), Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Florida Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, Florida House Representatives Matt Hudson, George Moraitis, and Jeanette Nunez, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, and Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca.

Returning to the Grand Old Party BBQ from his appearance as Emcee at the Republican Party of Broward County – 2011 Lincoln Day Dinner is Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell.

Prior to the barbeque, BREC Chairman Richard DeNapoli will host a VIP event that will include elected officials and candidates for public office. “The reception offers an opportunity to chat one-on-one with our elected officials,” says DeNapoli. “You’ll also have an opportunity to talk with some of the candidates who have filed to run for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, the Florida House and Senate, as well as Broward County offices.”

The RSVP only event will be held at the scenic Bergeron Ranch, located at 21111 SW 16th Street, Weston, Florida 33322.  The ranch will open for VIP admission at noon with general admission at 1pm.

The Broward Republican Executive Committee is expecting a record crowd for its inaugural Grand Old Party BBQ.  “It is my honor to chair the Grand Old Party BBQ,” says Sally Musser. “We have an amazing venue in the Bergeron Ranch, great speakers and a program that will honor and thank our elected officials.”

Tickets for the VIP event (with photo opportunity) are $100.00 while general admission tickets are available at $35.00 each. Children 5-17 are $10.00 while those under 5 are free.  Admission includes the picnic, food (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.), games, fun, and prizes.

Numerous sponsorship opportunities are still available.

“I hope that you can join us on Saturday, June 11, 2011 because you won’t want to miss this event,” says former Plantation Councilman and BREC Executive Director Rico Petrocelli.

Website: http://www.donationpages.com/donationpages/ecard.asp?guidEvent=5E5C5F5F

For more information, call Executive Director Rico Petrocelli at (954) 941-7775 or go to http://www.browardgop.org.

_________________________________________

The Broward Republican Executive Committee (BREC) is the governing body of the Republican Party of Broward County.  Because counties are divided into precincts for purposes of elections and voting, the BREC membership is made up of one man and woman from each precinct, otherwise known as Precinct Committeeman and Precinct Committeewoman.

The idea of a Precinct Committee member is that a person living within a precinct knows his/her neighbors, the issues that affect that community and is familiar with the area.  In essence, the precinct committee member becomes the liaison between the county party and the voters in that precinct. 

The goal of a committee member is to be able to effectively mobilize Republican voters in that precinct, get out the vote, disseminate the Republican message, implement the strategy there, make sure neighbors and friends are registered, and in turn, be your community’s voice in the Republican Executive Committee.

Florida Minimum Wage Increased to $7.31 an Hour


What would an extra 48 cents a day, $2.40 a week, or $124.80 a year mean to you?  Six-cents an hour may seem like small change, but for nearly two hundred thousand minimum wage workers in Florida, it has resulted in litigation and an increased paycheck. 

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled early this week that the State of Florida violated Florida’s Constitution by failing to raise the state minimum wage on January 1 to reflect last year’s increase in the cost of living.  As a result, the rate will be increased from $7.25 to $7.31 an hour effective June 1st.

In 2004, Floridians voted by a 72 percent to 28 percent margin to amend the Constitution to enact a state minimum wage.  Under the voter-approved amendment, the minimum wage would increase every January to keep pace with any cost of living increase the past year.   In those rare instances where the cost of living decreased, the minimum wage would remain the same.

In January, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) filed suit against Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) for not raising Florida’s minimum wage to keep pace with the cost of living.

Eight states have laws that tier their minimum wage to the federal rate, the cost of living and inflation.  With the exception of Florida, each of these states – Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Oregon, Montana, Vermont, and Washington – raised their minimum wage for 2011 to account for inflation. 

Impacted are approximately 647,000 Americans who earn minimum wage.  Two hundred thousand of these low-wage workers live in Florida.  Considering that the lower rate will continue until June 1st, the mistake will cost each of the state’s minimum-wage workers about $52.00.  

According to the AWI, the lower rate was the result of bad accounting.  For the year 2009, Florida reduced the minimum wage due to a rare period of deflation.  According to the ruling, the rate should have held steady during a deflationary period.  No one noticed the mistake because the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour exceeded the lower state rate.

When the AWI announced no cost of living increase for 2011 and its intent to maintain the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, worker advocates began to take notice.  When the state failed to respond to complaints, four low-wage earners – a restaurant worker and three farm workers – sued claiming the minimum rate should be $7.31 an hour. 

In his ruling, Judge Lewis stated that the minimum wage can never be decreased and that the state must use the formula laid out in the Florida Constitution to calculate future wages.  

The same six-cent increase will apply to minimum-wage tipped employees, whose rates will go from $4.23 to $4.29 an hour.

In a prepared statement, the Agency for Workforce Innovation said the agency is “surprised and disappointed at the judge’s ruling in the minimum wage lawsuit.  However, we respect the judge’s order and effective June 1, 2011 Florida’s minimum wage will be $7.31 per hour.”

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, said she and her colleagues were celebrating a victory for the state’s most vulnerable workers.  “We’re just glad that workers are going to see that six-cent increase in their paycheck,” said Gebreselassie. “Nobody disputes that the cost of food and gas and rent is going up a lot.  It’s hard to make ends meet on $7.25 an hour, and it’s hard to make it on $7.31.  But every little bit counts.”

According to NELP, the six cent an hour increase will result in $28 million more wages for low-income Floridians during 2011, and more than twice that amount in 2012.

For more information on the Agency for Workplace Innovation, please visit http://www.floridajobs.org.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, please visit http://www.williamlewis.us.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

Miramar Based JLF University Sued for Fraudulent Practices


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced on Tuesday that her office has sued JLF University School of Medicine and its affiliated entities for defrauding medical and nursing students.

Students were promised that they would eligible for licensure in Florida.  Following graduation, students learned they would not be eligible for licensure as the JLF University medical and nursing programs were not accredited or approved by any entity. 

JLF University School of Medicine is based in Haiti with a local office in Miramar.  Their local and Washington state phone numbers have been disconnected with no forwarding information.

Named after its founder, Joseph LaFortune, the “University” offered online courses for their non-accredited medical and nursing schools.  Students enrolled in the nursing program were required to pay anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 for the year-long program and several weeks of clinical practice in Jamaica.

When students demanded refunds, Mr. LaFortune allegedly offered them an opportunity to “transfer” to Green Cross School of Nursing for an additional payment of $7,000.  Owned by LaFortune’s wife, Aline, graduates of Green Cross are eligible to be licensed by the Florida Board of Nursing. 

“Defrauding hardworking students who are aspiring to become nurses or doctors is appalling,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I am committed to holding schools accountable, and misrepresentation of credentials, which robs students of time and money, will not be tolerated.”

The lawsuit was filed in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court for Broward County in Fort Lauderdale.  It seeks an order enjoining the school from misrepresenting its qualifications and programs, requiring restitution for the students, and imposing civil penalties for alleged violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

For more information or to file a complaint on JLF University, please visit www.myfloridalegal.com or call (866) 9-No-Scam or (888) 966-7226.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit www.williamlewis.us.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

A Slap on the Wrist for Mortgage Servicers


While negotiations continue between mortgage servicers and the Multistate Mortgage Foreclosure Group, enforcement action has been taken by the Office of the Comptroller (OCC), the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), and the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) against 14 U.S. bank and two third-party mortgage servicers.

Amid allegations of unsafe and unsound practices in the processing of foreclosures, enforcement action has been taken against bank servicers: Ally Financial, Aurora Bank, Bank of America, Citibank, Citigroup, EverBank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, MetLife Bank, OneWest Bank, PNC, Sovereign Bank, SunTrust Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo and third-party servicers: Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS), and MERSCORP also known as Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (MERS).

“These comprehensive enforcement actions, coordinated among the federal banking regulators, require major reforms in mortgage servicing operations,” said acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh. “These reforms will not only fix the problems we found in foreclosure processing, but will also correct failures in governance and the loan modification process and address financial harm to borrowers. Our enforcement actions are intended to fix what is broken, identify and compensate borrowers who suffered financial harm, and ensure a fair and orderly mortgage servicing process going forward.”

As part of the enforcement action by the OCC, OTS and FRB, servicers must significantly improve residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing.  This includes borrower communication and “dual-tracking,” which will prohibit foreclosure during the loan modification process. 

Mortgage servicers are also required to promptly correct deficiencies in residential mortgage loan servicing that were identified by examiners in reviews conducted during the fourth quarter of 2010. 

Each mortgage servicer must, among other things, submit plans acceptable to the FRB that:

►Strengthen coordination of communications with borrowers by providing them with the name of the person who is their primary point of contact at the servicer;

►Ensure that foreclosures are not pursued once a mortgage modification has been approved, unless repayments under the modified loan are not made;

►Establish robust controls and oversight over the activities of third-party vendors that provide residential mortgage loan servicing, loss mitigation, or foreclosure-related support, including local counsel in foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings;

►Provide remediation to borrowers who have suffered financial injury as a result of wrongful foreclosures or other deficiencies identified in their review of the foreclosure process; and

►Strengthen their programs to ensure compliance with state and federal laws regarding mortgage servicing and the processing of foreclosures.

“This settlement provides that if you’re negotiating or in the midst of a trial modification, a lender is prohibited from seizing the property,” says Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale.  “Defense attorneys now have a basis to go forward to try and save a property in litigation with the additional argument that failing to modify or settle is a breach of the lender settlement with federal regulators.”

The enforcement action is based upon an OCC, OTS and FRB review of foreclosure practices that found mortgage servicers “failed to conform to state legal requirements.”  The review stopped short at robo-signing and other forms of document fraud.  It did not investigate the illegal imposition of fees, the failure to comply with loan modification requirements or other alleged servicer abuses.  In fact, federal regulators only reviewed a small sample of loan files containing key information on foreclosure practices.

Many believe that the settlement by federal regulators will undermine the investigation of foreclosure fraud by the Multistate Mortgage Foreclosure Group.  Initially, there were hopes of a “global settlement” covering state and federal regulators, but the agencies, led by the OCC, broke off and delivered their own enforcement action.  

While federal regulators and the various state attorneys general maintain this enforcement action will not affect the AG probe or ongoing negotiations, mortgage servicers can now report they have been punished for alleged violations of law.  Although an independent review is determining damages, they may reject any additional settlement since they have already been punished by their regulators.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, please visit http://www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

The Evolving Nation of Facebook


With over 600 million members and hundreds joining every hour, if Facebook were a nation, they would be the world’s third largest behind only China and India.  At seven years old, Facebook continues to develop an existence within society.

With that said, “change” is once again occurring at the social media utility as Facebook has released a cleaver and convenient way for users to convert non-personal profiles into business pages all without losing the social presence previously established.  A key difference between the two features is the fact that users can “like” a page while they must “friend” a profile.  Facebook believes that a page is a much better solution for businesses and public figures.

Over the last couple of years, numerous profile and privacy policy changes have occurred at the world’s largest social media network.  Most of these changes have been in relation to personal profiles and not those of businesses. Facebook’s main target with this move appears to be businesses and public figures that have previously setup a profile instead of a page.  In addition to a somewhat different feature set, personal profiles also have a 5,000 friend limit.

A Facebook personal profile created for a business, band, brand, organization, cause or product is a direct violation of the social network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and could result in the removal of all content and the connections the user has built over time.

Facebook business accounts offer page administrators special features that allow them to better connect with fans and customers while allowing them to manage their social ads and presence on the Internet.  Facebook blocks business accounts from viewing fans’ personal profiles and content and restricts businesses from “friending” personal accounts.

In an effort to “change” its position on such personal profiles while no longer simply removing those that violate its stated policy, Facebook has developed a new business type page.  This change is a welcome move for those who want to move their friends to a page and setup a new profile to maintain a more personal relationship with people they actually know.  It can also help those who should have exercised better judgment when they accepted certain people into their Facebook network.

When a “personal” user converts an account, all friends will migrate with the profile and will become “fans” on the new business page. The profile picture will also migrate, but all other content (photo albums, wall posts, notes, links, etc.) will be lost.  Inside Facebook recommends using the “Download Your Information” tool before converting an account to retain its contents for use elsewhere.

If the personal profile has more than 100 friends, a new page name will have to be chosen.  All login, email and password data will remain the same on the new business page.

Facebook has created a profile migration portal to help users make the change. Users can assign a page to the category (local or place; company, organization or institution; brand or product; artist, band or public figure; entertainment; cause or community) that will best define the page’s content and audience.

Facebook also has a Help Page to guide users through the process of converting personal accounts to business accounts.  It is important to note that profile migrating is irreversible, so be sure you really want to make the switch before completing all the steps.

To learn more about Facebook business accounts and profile migration, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php?migrate.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit http://www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.