William E. Lewis Jr & Associates opens new location in Davie


As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, 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, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, 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, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates – a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity – announces the opening of a new office in Davie, Florida.

Having outgrown their former location, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates recently moved to 6099 Stirling Road, Suite 210, Davie, FL 33314. 

Formerly with Credit Restoration Consultants, Bill Lewis has been widely sought by many in the restoration of their personal credit worthiness.  As such, a new credit repair component was formed.

In tough economic times, your good name and reputation are more important than ever. Creditors have tightened their guidelines effectively barring millions of Americans from obtaining credit.  Even those with excellent credit are experiencing reduced credit limits and closed equity lines. Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers and banks have all raised the bar.

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

Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially affecting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer may hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

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

Borrowers with low credit scores can expect to be denied or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent credit.

Operating within William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a boutique credit service organization specializing in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as identity theft. Assisting consumers in achieving a favorable financial credit profile is their first priority.

Everything they do at William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is legal utilizing 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, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates will assist consumers in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies in addition to creditors, collection agencies, third-party record providers and state/federal/private regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written dispute letters monthly, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has devised a credit restoration strategy utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, in addition to laws applicable to a consumers state of residence. 

Keep in mind that anything William E. Lewis Jr & Associates can do – you can do yourself.  That means that you do not have to hire William E. Lewis Jr & Associates – or any other credit repair company – to review, investigate and/or dispute alleged discrepancies on your credit report.

Where William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may have an edge over the average consumer is that we possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that consistently yields results.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has obtained thousands of deletions and updates for its clients and can help remove erroneous and/or inaccurate judgments, liens, bankruptcies, student loans, inquiries, derogatory accounts, personal identifiers, arrests, etc.  While the credit restoration process can take anywhere from 30 days to six months, most clients see dramatic results in 45-60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and/or credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. With that said, one must understand that as a credit service organization William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is not a law firm and that none of their employees is an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.

As such, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates cannot provide legal advice nor represent any individual before any court or in any legal proceeding.  In the event that legal representation is required, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation. 

Ordering Free Credit Reports:

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 have been 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.

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. Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

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.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a 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 Commissionat www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at www.BBB.org.

For more information, please contact William E. Lewis Jr & Associates at (954) 337-1530 or visit them on the Internet at www.williamlewis.us.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, 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.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

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.

Managing Your Online Reputation


What is your good name and reputation in the community worth? Are you being represented correctly on the Internet through the Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL or Bing search engines?

Not sure how you rate on the search engines? Go ahead and check the first 20 listings on Google. Depending on how common a name you have, the results are likely to produce links to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Naymz, Twitter, MySpace or other social networking accounts. You may also find some embarrassing details or skeletons from your past or something totally inaccurate.

More and more individuals are searching cyberspace and the online reputations of those seeking employment, a romantic interest, or customers for their business. While the Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL and Bing search engines have become the de facto public record of modern time, reputation management consultants believe you have a right to control how your name is presented online.

Reputation management is not a unique concept since everyone from small business to Fortune 500 companies relies upon their reputation to protect and enhance their livelihood. Reputations can sway public opinion, have a positive or negative impact on a career or employment opportunity, a romantic interest, and wreck havoc upon businesses, whether newly established or decades old.

Online reputation management is a cross between forensic analysis, search engine optimization, and legal maneuvering. For those seeking to monitor, manipulate or correct their online reputation, a number of free or inexpensive tools are available:

Google Alerts sends keyword search results via e-mail for specific mentions in news, websites and blogs, videos, as well as group categories.

Google Blog Search is a Google beta search engine for blogs.

Technorati is the leading blog search engine indexing millions of blog posts in real time while also tracking their authority, influence and popularity.

BoardTracker monitors discussion boards and forum threads within specific categories and sends keyword search results via e-mail.

Naymz is a social network focused on reputation, personal branding, and identity verification. The basic version is free.

Yasni is a search engine dedicated to finding people on the web through publicly available information, including images, videos, social networking profiles and posts. The basic version is free.

BackType Blog Comments Monitoring indexes conversations from blogs, social networks and other social media. It also has an alert function that e-mails updates whenever a search term is mentioned in a comment.

BackTweets is a service by BackType that provides an engine to search for specific links mentioned on Twitter.

BlogPulse is a blog search engine with several complementary tools such as Trend Search and Conversion Tracker that analyzes data it collects.

Monitter is a real-time Twitter monitor for up to three keywords at a time.

TweetBeep provides hourly Twitter alerts via e-mail on specific keywords, people and links.

Twitter Search searches all Twitter activity for keywords, links or user activity in real time.

WhoLinksToMe is a link search tool tracking backlinks making them sortable by anchor text, origination, and target URL. Links can be imported from Google Webmaster Tools for enhanced analysis.

Having a plan in place to address negative feedback is important when dealing with online reputation management. By monitoring public perception you will be able to evaluate and act should your online reputation come under fire.

At the end of the day, all you have in the community is your good name and reputation. Do what you can to protect it.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, 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, on AM 1470 WWNN.

The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, as reported in the Highlands Today, a Media General Group publication: http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2011/jan/30/managing-your-online-reputation/

Debt collection lawsuits on the rise – know your rights


Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuits are expected to reach an estimated 11,750 cases by the end of 2010. Up 42 percent from the previous record of 8,287 last year, 877 different debt collection agencies and creditors were named in 977 distinct consumer statute lawsuits in May.

Although there is no specific reason for the increasing pace of litigation, several factors have contributed to this growth industry. Whether it is consumer advocacy websites that educate debtors or the aggressive attorneys that encourage litigation, some experts suggest that a tough economy, stricter laws, and negative media coverage have fueled the fire.

Many consumer complaints relate to violations of FDCPA provisions that are no different today than when they were enacted in 1977. Abusive language, threats of violence or of sending debtors to jail and third-party disclosure are among the abuses consumers claim debt collectors engage in while attempting to collect a debt.

Other practices consumers complain of include the attempted forced payment on time-barred debts, debts discharged in bankruptcy and debts not owed by the individual contacted. Each of these actions has been illegal since the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was enacted more than three decades ago.

Many debt collectors have no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the original debt, including whether the underlying debt is legitimate. Many debt collectors purchase accounts that have been written off by creditors for pennies on the dollar. Original creditors are supposed to “scrub” their portfolios, removing disputed accounts, accounts related to identity theft, accounts belonging to deceased debtors and accounts discharged in bankruptcy, before assigning them to a third-party debt collector. When creditors fail to scrub these accounts, the result may be an attempted collection of debts not legally subject to collection.

As technology has improved, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has not. As the FDCPA was enacted prior to the emergence of cell phones, e-mail and auto dialers, it remains unclear whether and how the law applies. Under the FDCPA, creditors may not cause a phone to ring repeatedly for the purpose of harassing debtors, nor may they place calls without meaningful disclosure of the callers’ identities. The concept of auto-dialing has led to excessive contacts and thousands of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

Another debt collection abuse arising from technological advancement is finding and using debtors’ cell phone numbers to contact them, in some cases imposing a per call charge on the consumer. The use of overseas agents as debt collectors, something unheard of when the FDCPA became law, is also responsible for many of the harassment complaints.

Consumer advocacy groups such as the National Association of Consumer Advocates say tougher laws and penalties for violations, in addition to stricter enforcement are needed to stem the growing tide of collection agency abuses.

“Consumers have a whole host of rights under state and federal law they are unaware of,” says Paul Herman, an attorney with the Fair Credit Law Group, and member of NACA. “One phone call to a consumer protection attorney can often solve a problem, but debtors are often afraid to take the first step.”

A bill that would give state agencies more control over abusive debt collection practices was recently signed by Gov. Charlie Crist.  Appropriately termed “The Debt Collection Bill” (SB 2086), the measure provides greater authority to the state attorney general and the Office of Financial Regulation in punishing abusive debt collectors and bringing charges against them.

“With a struggling economy, many Floridians are suffering financially and are more vulnerable to abusive debt collectors,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum. “This bill takes important steps to protect consumers who are experiencing financial hardships, and I am glad to see it signed into law.”

If you are being harassed by a debt collector, file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General at www.myfloridalegal.com and the Office of Financial Regulation at www.flofr.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a consumer collection guide detailing your rights at www.ftc.gov.

William E. Lewis Jr. is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Specialty consumer reporting agencies: the ‘other’ credit bureaus


If you have ever applied for credit, you are probably familiar with the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies. Based upon creditworthiness and the likelihood of repayment, creditors will determine whether to extend you credit.

What many consumers do not realize is that “other” consumer reports exist on them. Known as specialty consumer reports, these files contain user specific information detailed toward a particular industry.

Specialty consumer reports are designed to meet the needs of the reporting agencies’ clientele. They are used by insurance companies, landlords, banks, etc., to predict how likely you are to get into a car accident, damage your apartment, or bounce a check.

The most widely used specialty consumer reports relate to:

Check-writing history – bounced checks, fraud and accounts closed due to insufficient funds.

Tenant history – rental history, including relevant information obtained from court records and previous landlords.

Insurance claims history – history on your past claims.

Medical history – routine health information and history of medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or depression.

Prescription history – prescription drugs used and dosages/refill history.

Employment background – screening for criminal history, marital status, prior addresses, driving record, and/or credit history.

While specialty consumer reports do not exist for every consumer at every agency, it is to your advantage to learn what has been reported and to whom. It is equally important to understand your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act as the information contained within a specialty consumer report may be used to deny employment, a bank account, apartment rental, health, life or auto insurance.

If you are denied based upon information contained within a specialty consumer report, be sure to obtain the required notice of adverse action. Thereafter, request a copy of the offending specialty consumer report and dispute any information deemed inaccurate, obsolete or fraudulent.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the specialty consumer reporting industry. In conjunction with other legislation, consumers have important rights:

•The right to one free report every year or upon notice of adverse action. Upon request, specialty consumer reporting agencies must provide a free copy of your report once per year or upon denial based upon information in the report.

•The right to dispute inaccurate or obsolete information. The specialty consumer reporting agency must investigate your dispute and correct or remove inaccurate or outdated records.

•The right to be advised of a background check. An employer who plans to conduct a background check must notify you and get your permission.

•In an effort to avoid unnecessary embarrassment, consumers should order a specialty consumer report prior to applying for employment, a bank account, apartment rental, health, life, or auto insurance.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends requesting specialty consumer reports under the following circumstances:

•When shopping for homeowner’s or automobile insurance. Order a copy of your CLUE (comprehensive loss underwriting exchange) or A-Plus claims report. If you filed claims on existing policies, review the report for accuracy.

•If someone has fraudulently accessed your bank account. Order a copy of your Chexsystems report.

•When applying for employment. Find out the name of the screening company and order a copy of your report prior to authorizing release to a third-party.

•If you are an identity theft victim. Order all credit and specialty consumer reports. Place a fraud alert and dispute all information related to the identity theft.

•If you plan to rent a home. Order your tenant history report.

•When applying for private health, life, long-term care, or disability insurance. Order your MIB report from the Medical Information Bureau.

Unlike the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, there is no one-stop shop for obtaining your specialty consumer reports. An individual request must be submitted to each agency.

To order your check writing history report, contact Chexsystems at (800) 428-9623; Shared Check Authorization Network at (800) 262-7771; and Telecheck at (800) 366-2425.

To order your tenant history report, contact ChoicePoint at (877) 448-5732 and SafeRent at (888) 333-2413.

To order your insurance claims history report, contact ChoicePoint at (866) 312-8076 and A-Plus Reports at (800) 709-8842.

To order your medical history report, contact Medical Information Bureau at (866) 692-6901.

To order your prescription history report, contact MedPoint at (888) 206-0335 and IntelliScript at (877) 211-4816.

To order your employment background screening report, contact ChoicePoint at (866) 312-8075.

To order your ChoicePoint Full File Disclosure, visit www.choicetrust.com

For more information on a wide range of consumer protection topics, including background checks, medical records and other privacy issues, please visit The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at www.privacyrights.org.

 

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,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Beware of Fake Debt Collectors – FDCPA May Not Protect You


Over the last several decades, America has truly transitioned into a debtor society. Despite tough economic times, consumers are more likely to borrow than they are to delay when making a purchase. With consumers having financial obligations to multiple institutions, keeping accurate records and documentation can become a challenge. Opportunistic con artists posing as “fake” debt collectors recognize this as an area of vulnerability and are more than willing to use it to their advantage.

These fake debt collectors speak English with a foreign accent and call themselves “Affidavit Consolidation Services,” Criminal Bureau of Identity,” “U.S. National Bank,” “US Justice Department/Payday Loan Division,” “Federal Investigation Bureau,” “United Legal Processing” and other phony names. They refuse to disclose real names and addresses and are believed to be operating from homes, automobiles, and foreign countries such as India. As these scammers have kept themselves well hidden, law enforcement authorities have been unsuccessful in locating or shutting them down.

Fake debt collectors typically pose as lawyers, law enforcement officers, investigators, and bankers while attempting to collect on phony debt. They threaten consumers with immediate arrest for “bank fraud” or other crimes unless funds are wired immediately. They scare and confuse consumers by using meaningless legal phrases such as “We are downloading warrants against you” or “We are filing an affidavit against you.” Consumers that do not immediately fall for the scam are warned, “Only God can help you now.”

Fake debt collectors almost always call consumers at work – sometimes several times a day – advising their supervisors, “Your employee has committed bank fraud and is about to be arrested.” Such threats have been unsettling to consumers and employers. Because the scammers make a special point of calling at work, employers should realize that their employee is an innocent victim of a criminal enterprise and cannot stop the calls voluntarily.

“My office works to protect consumers from fraudulent activities by seeking to stop deceptive practices and resolving consumer complaints,” stated Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. “However, a consumer’s best defense is to be aware of the scam so all demands for money can be resisted and personal identification information is not misused.”

In general:

A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, e-mail, telephone, telegram or fax. A collector may not contact you with such frequency that can be considered harassing. A debt collector may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves nor may they contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

A debt collector is required to send written notice within five days of first contact advising the amount due. The notice must also specify the name of the creditor and what action to take if you wish to dispute the debt.

You may stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter ceasing them from communication. Once the agency receives it, they may not make further contact except to advise there will be no further contact or to notify you of a specific action contemplated by the creditor.

A debt collector may not harass or abuse a consumer. A collector may not use threats of violence against a person, property or reputation; use obscene or profane language; advertise the debt; or repeatedly make calls with the intent to harass or abuse the person at the called number.

A debt collector may not use false statements, such as implying they are attorneys; that you have committed a crime; that they operate or work for a credit reporting agency; misrepresent the amount of a debt; or indicate that papers mailed are legal forms when they are not.

A debt collector may not threaten arrest or that they will seize property or garnish wages unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so; or that a lawsuit will be filed when they have no legal right to file or do not intend to file such a suit.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector – real or fake – file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or by visiting their website at www.myfloridalegal.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a consumer collection guide detailing your rights at www.ftc.gov.

 

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,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Beware of Credit Repair Scams


You have heard many synonyms or phrases that mean the same thing in the realm of bad credit.  The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are completely synonymous. Those with bad credit histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair.

In today’s economy, a strong FICO (Fair Isaac) score is more important than ever.  Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer can hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

Credit repair companies are governed by a federal law known as the Credit Repair Organizations Act.  This law requires a credit service organization fulfill certain obligations to a consumer.  You should avoid any credit repair service that fails to follow the following rules:

  1. You are not provided with a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” advising of your right to obtain a credit report directly from Equifax, Experian and Trans Union as well as “self-help” opportunities available under the law.
  2. You are not provided a copy of the service contract for review and contemplation prior to execution.
  3. The service contract does not contain the following information: (a) the amount being charged; (b) full details about the services to be performed; (c) the start and end date by which services will be performed; (d) the full name and business address of the credit repair company; (e) a statement advising that the service contract can be cancelled within three business days.

         You are requested to pre-pay before the credit repair services have actually been performed.

         The company promises to remove accurately reported information from your credit report.

         The company promises to create, or asks you to create, a “new” identity with a new social security number or federal employer identification number (EIN).

         You are requested to execute a document specifically waiving your rights under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA).

If you are considering a credit repair service, keep in mind there is nothing legally they can do to improve your credit that you cannot do yourself.  Many of these companies promise or guarantee to remove harmful, but accurate, negative information from your credit report.  If the information is wrong or otherwise inaccurate, you have the right to dispute it yourself.  You only need to dispute the inaccurate entry to the credit reporting agency and/or creditor maintaining the record.  However, when the information is truly accurate, you do not have the right to dispute it, nor does a credit repair company.

Although you may not be prosecuted for disputing accurate information on your credit report, you can be prosecuted for fraud if you lie on a credit application.  For example, it is considered fraud to answer “no” that you have never filed bankruptcy when you actually have.  Just because you, or the credit repair company you hired, successfully removed the adverse bankruptcy entry from your credit report does not mean the bankruptcy never existed.

When the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your good name and reputation within the community, 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 repair company through their state Attorney General at http://www.naag.org, the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.FTC.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at http://www.BBB.org.  In any event, do not allow a credit repair company to get away with scams.  Take action if your rights have been violated.  Report the offending company to your state attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

FTC cracks down on advance fees to debt settlement companies


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) adopted strict new rules on Thursday that ban debt settlement companies from charging advance fees for elimination of credit card balances and other consumer debt. Effective Oct. 27, for-profit companies that sell debt relief services by telephone will no longer be allowed to charge a fee before they successfully settle or reduce a consumer’s outstanding debt obligation.

“This rule will stop companies who offer consumers false promises of reducing credit card debts by half or more in exchange for large, upfront fees,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said Thursday, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden. “Too many of these companies pick the last dollar out of consumers’ pockets — and far from leaving them better off, push them deeper into debt, even bankruptcy.”

The rule concerning upfront fees covers for-profit debt relief telemarketers, including credit counseling, debt settlement and debt negotiation services. It does not cover Internet sales or nonprofit firms, but does cover companies that falsely claim nonprofit status.

Scheduled to take effect on Sept. 27 are three additional Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) provisions that will require debt settlement companies to make specific disclosures to consumers; prohibit them from making material misrepresentations; and extending the TSR to cover calls consumers make to these firms in response to debt relief advertising.

Since the start of the recession, consumers from all 50 states have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about debt settlement companies. In addition to the BBB, angry customers have taken their complaints to their state attorney general. The FTC and state enforcers have brought a combined 259 cases in the past decade to stop deceptive and abusive practices by debt relief providers that have targeted consumers in financial distress.

Attorneys generals from Florida, Maine, Texas, Idaho, Missouri, New York, Illinois, West Virginia, Vermont and Minnesota have taken action against companies such as Debt Settlement America, Debt Rx USA, Financial Freedom of America, Clear Your Debt, Swift Rock Financial Solutions and Credit Solutions, a company that has received over 1,600 complaints in the past 36 months.

“My office works to protect Floridians from misleading debt relief activities by seeking to stop deceptive practices and resolving consumer complaints,” stated Attorney General Bill McCollum. “In these tough economic times, aconsumer’s best defense is to be aware of misleading advertisements and avoid sending money to companies offering such services.”

The rule further specifies that fees for debt settlement services may not be collected until a debt has been successfully renegotiated, settled, reduced or the contract terms have been changed. Moreover, there must be a written settlement agreement, debt management plan or other agreement between the consumer and the creditor and the consumer must have made at least one payment as a result of the agreement negotiated by the debt relief provider.

If a consumer has enrolled multiple debts in one debt relief program, the rule specifies how debt relief providers can collect their fee for each settled debt. To ensure providers do not front-load their fees, the fee for a single debt must be in proportion to the total fee that would be charged if all of the debts had been settled. Alternatively, if the fee is based upon a percentage of what the consumer saves, the percentage charged must be the same for each of the debts.

The rule further specifies that consumer’s maintain fees and savings for debt repayment in a “dedicated account.” However, providers may only require a dedicated account under the following five conditions: the dedicated account is maintained at an insured financial institution; the consumer owns the funds (including any interest accrued); the consumer can withdraw the funds at any time without penalty; the provider does not own or control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account.

If you have been victimized by a debt relief program, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or visiting their website at http://www.myfloridalegal.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a variety of resources detailing consumer rights at http://www.ftc.gov.

William E. Lewis Jr. is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Florida Attorney General cracking down on foreclosure mills


Homeowners, attorneys, and Florida’s judiciary have long sounded the alarm over insufficient or fraudulent documents being used to take thousands of properties from unsuspecting homeowners in the foreclosure process. Not only has the Florida Supreme Court amended the rules of civil procedure in relation to home foreclosures, judges throughout the state have reversed foreclosure sales, dismissed cases for insufficiency, and created additional steps to ensure the proper filing and disposition of cases.

 

Coming on the heels of an investigation into the Florida Default Law Group, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Tuesday that his office has launched a new investigation into allegations of unfair and deceptive actions by three law firms handling residential foreclosure cases in the Sunshine State.

Handling over 35 percent of all foreclosure cases in the state of Florida, the investigation names the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A.; the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A.; and Shapiro & Fishman, LLP. The Florida based law firms were hired by loan servicers to begin foreclosure proceedings when consumers were in default on their mortgages.

The Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division is investigating whether documentation may have been fictitiously created and filed with Florida courts to speed up foreclosure processes, potentially without the knowledge or consent of the homeowners involved. Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure against Florida homeowners may have been the result of the alleged improper actions of the law firms under investigation.

Because many mortgages have been bought and sold by different institutions multiple times, key paperwork involved in the process to obtain foreclosure judgments is often missing. On numerous occasions, fabricated documents have allegedly been presented to courts in support of a final judgment against homeowners. The investigation will focus on whether these law firms created and filed improper documentation with Florida courts in an effort to deceptively strip Floridian’s of their homes.

The attorney general’s investigation will also look at whether the law firms created affiliated companies outside the United States where the alleged false documents are being prepared and then submitted to the law firms for use within the Florida court system.

“On numerous occasions, allegedly fabricated documents have been presented to the courts in foreclosure actions to obtain final judgments against homeowners,” stated Attorney General Bill McCollum. “As Attorney General, my job is to protect the rights of all Floridian’s by investigating unlawful activities and putting a stop to deceptive practices. To this end, my office will continue to investigate.”

News of the Florida Default Law Group investigation led to a number of complaints from homeowners and attorneys about the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A.; the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A.; and Shapiro & Fishman, LLP. Subpoenas were served on each of the law firms demanding documents dating back to Jan. 1, 2008. The subpoenas also seek information on 18 specific foreclosure cases, in addition to general information about the law firms’ operations.

Defense attorneys who have long reported widespread fraud in home foreclosure cases called Tuesday’s announcement from the state’s chief law enforcement officer a “bombshell” for Florida’s foreclosure system.  “The fact that Bill McCollum is expanding his investigation into potentially unfair and deceptive practices should be commended” said Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense attorney Scott Kleiman of Kalis & Kleiman. “The attorney general doesn’t spend limited state resources investigating these types of cases without reason.”

According to McCollum, 245 complaints have been filed against the Florida Default Law Group while 48 complaints have been filed against The Law Offices of David Stern. The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson and Shapiro & Fishman each have 12 complaints pending. A number of other complaints are under review and additional subpoenas may be issued.

If you are the victim of a mortgage foreclosure fraud, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or by visiting their website at http://www.myfloridalegal.com.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Foreclosure defense: Court rules bank must prove ownership


Following foreclosure moratoriums by PNC Bank, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Ally Financial, the settlement of deceptive marketing charges by Wells Fargo Bank, and the Attorney General’s investigation into faulty foreclosure practices at the Florida Default Law Group, the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A.; the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A.; and Shapiro & Fishman, LLP., a Florida court ruled that banks must provide evidence of ownership when attempting to foreclose on a property.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach overturned an earlier summary judgment by Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Thomas Barkdull, allowing repossession of a Boca Raton couple’s home by US Bank National Association. The foreclosure went through even though the lender did not provide an original note or other acceptable proof of ownership.

In the case of Guiseppe Servedio, the court ruled that banks must provide evidence they actually own and hold the mortgage when seeking to foreclose on a property. “Some judges have been lax about the rules of evidence,” stated Peter Snyder, his attorney. “I think that what this case says is you better have the original note.”

The decision comes following an earlier ruling against Deutsche Bank where the court stated that “[a] summary judgment should not be granted where there are issues of fact raised by [the] affirmative defense[s] which have not been effectively factually challenged and refuted.” In this matter, a homeowner asserted several defenses that were ignored by Deutsche Bank and the lower court.

The recent decisions come amid critical reports of judicial foreclosures receiving “rocket docket” processing despite missing and/or poorly prepared documents. Last week, Wells Fargo admitted making mistakes in 55,000 foreclosure cases but promised to expeditiously address them.

The San Francisco-based bank said it plans to resubmit documents in Florida and 22 other states by mid-November. This move comes two weeks after Wells Fargo officials issued a statement saying its affidavit procedures and daily auditing “demonstrate our foreclosure affidavits are accurate.”

Officials at Wells Fargo claim the mistakes were technical and that it had no plans to halt the foreclosure process as PNC Bank, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Ally Financial did. “We don’t believe that there are instances in which the foreclosures would not have occurred otherwise,” says Teri Schrettenbrunner, a bank spokeswoman.

Through the Mortgage Foreclosure Multi State Group, attorneys general in all 50 states are investigating whether legal procedures and documents were handled properly in judicial foreclosures. As the probe widens, a number of attorneys general have opened separate investigations on “robo-signers” as well as law firms and banks.

Shapiro & Fishman, LLP, one of the four Florida foreclosure firms being investigated by the Florida attorney general for allegedly providing inaccurate or false documents, represented US Bank against the Servedio’s. Lawyers at the firm could not be reached for comment, but in the past have denied any wrongdoing.

In the appellate opinion, the judges said that even though US Bank later provided the court with a copy of the original note, it was insufficient because it was submitted after Barkdull finalized the foreclosure. “Without evidence demonstrating [the bank’s] status as holder and owner of the note, genuine issues of material fact remain,” the judges wrote.

“Unfortunately, for the sake of expediency and reduction of overloaded dockets, judges are granting summary judgments without full consideration of a homeowners affirmative defenses and the evidence presented,” says Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale. “In some cases, the appellate courts have now found that banks did not provide a note or prove ownership of the property being foreclosed upon.”

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune (Media General Group) – http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/oct/31/foreclosure-defense-court-rules-bank-must-prove-ow/news-newbusiness/ To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.