Articles Posted in Consumer Protection

The sweeping financial reforms instituted by the previous White House administration face serious threats as Wall Street and the politicians backed by them set their sights on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The creation of the CFPB in 2010 is intended to serve as a watchdog over large banks and corporations that threaten consumer rights – much like what we saw leading up to the housing market collapse that drove us into a recession.consumer rights lawyer

The first significant victory, of course, happened in late October, when Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate necessary to block implementation of a new landmark rule by the CFPB to ban arbitration provisions by banks and credit card firms. The rule ensured wronged consumers would still have access to the courts to settle disputes via class action litigation, which evens the playing field when consumers are wronged by large corporations and financial institutions. Now, though, the arbitration provisions will continue, and class action lawsuits will grind to a halt. The CFPB’s director put it simply, “Wall Street won and ordinary people lost.”

Now, that director is stepping down, and there is ongoing talk of shutting down the CFPB, with powerful bank and business representatives lamenting the agency’s “unchecked” power and “lack of accountability.” The truth of the matter is that although the agency has only been in existence for about 5.5 years, enforcement actions against everyone from small-time debt collectors to the world’s biggest banking giants has resulted in the return of nearly $12 billion to some 30 million consumers. Further, it’s public database of consumer complaints against lenders has resulted in a host of new rules on everything from prepaid cards to student loans to mortgages. The agency also has been able to obtain some type of solution to some 160,000 consumer complaints out of 800,000. Continue reading

The Federal Communication Commission reports U.S. consumers are on the receiving end of approximately 2.4 billion robocalls every month (as of last year). That’s an increase from the average 1.5 billion roboscam calls that were made monthly in 2015. So it’s unsurprising that robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint. These were driven in large part by internet-powered telephone systems that have allowed scammers to make massive volumes of calls cheaply and efficiently from any point on earth. consumer rights lawyer

Even though the FCC and other agencies have protections in place to help consumers avoid these unwanted (and sometimes dangerous) calls, the number of those that are received are still extremely high. These calls are more than just annoying. The reality is many people are scammed out of their hard-earned savings, retirement accounts or checking accounts. For example, just one scheme in which robocallers were pretending to be agents with the Internal Revenue Service garnered scammers more than $54 million in a single year, according to the FCC. If there was no financial incentive, people wouldn’t make these calls. Clearly, they are worth the scammers’ time.

As The New York Times recently reported, there may be several actions consumers can take to protect themselves. These ranged from not answering the phone to seeking government help.  Continue reading

Phone scams are on the rise, with the U.S. Department of Justice reporting new investigations almost weekly. Some call and pose as debt collections agencies, seeking repayment of non-existent deaths. Others pose as charity workers. These individuals can be hard to spot – and extremely difficult to catch. The DOJ made major headlines last year with its indictment last year of more than 60 people in a multi-million dollar Indian call center scam that targeted U.S. victims. Callers often threatened victims with arrest if they didn’t pay. consumer protection

Now, some consumers are fighting back. Take The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s recent account of a man who began to get so fed up with scammers who continually called claiming to be with the Canadian Revenue Agency that he decided to take matters into his own hands. He began calling them back. Every second he can troll the trolls, he explained, was time they couldn’t spend trolling someone else.

The scammers set up a voicemail, claiming to be the government agency and demanding a call back to resolve a serious matter of criminal activity. Now, if one were to call back the actual government agency, they would be pushed through a series of bureaucratic menus before you ever get to a real person. However, when you call back the phony government agency, you’ll be put right through to an “agent.” Once the Canadian man discovered this, he started calling them every spare chance he got – on his lunch break, while waiting in traffic or if he found himself bored for a few minutes. He gives them phony names and erroneous numbers. If they hang up, he calls them right back, pretending the call was disconnected. Sometimes, the scammers demand he stop “pranking” them – but he doesn’t. He figures every minute they’re on the phone with him is less time they’re swindling someone else.  Continue reading

Tens of thousands of student loan lawsuits are filed every year by creditors who allege default on collectively billions of dollars in private student loan debt. student loan attorney

Although we are teetering on the edge of a student loan debt crisis, the reality is many of these lawsuits are riddled with factual and legal errors. Some borrowers who have defaulted may assume the outcome of the case against them is a foregone conclusion – they will lose. However, those who are fighting back against student loan lawsuits are discovering there are a number of effective legal strategies that may help them fight off a large judgment against them.

Miami student loan debt attorneys are closely familiar with the defenses outlined recently by The New York Times, which detailed the top ways these lawsuits fail (and work out in your favor).  Continue reading

Spotting a single cockroach scurrying across the kitchen floor when you flip the light on is disconcerting enough. What’s even worse is the knowledge there are almost certainly more you can’t see, lurking in dark crevices, part of a systemic problem (of your own creation or otherwise). The same is true of the consumer rights violations uncovered at Wells Fargo. consumer rights

As billionaire investor Warren Buffet recently commented to CNBC, Wells Fargo’s recent woes are indicative not just of issues within that institution, but are likely reflective of more widespread problems within then banking industry as a whole. When this issues are spotlighted – as is currently being done with a third-party review of the bank’s most recent sales scandal – we’re likely to be seeing more of the same. Even the bank’s CEO in an internal message warned workers to brace for the potential onslaught of negative headlines as the independent review nears a close.

Buffet commented that anytime an organization with thousands of employees is heavily scrutinized, issues will be uncovered. This is especially true when there have already been notable systemic problems. Such issues highlight the culture of a place, which can set the tone for other shady practices.  Continue reading

Wells Fargo and home warranty company American Home Shield (AHS) have been accused in dozens of consumer complaints filed online and with the Federal Trade Commission of charging unsuspecting mortgage customers with a bill for an “optional” home warranty product.consumer protection lawyer

The issue was first reported by The Capitol Forum, a paywall-blocked investigative outfit catering to investors and policymakers. Customers who were surprised to discover the bill on their mortgage payments found it difficult if not impossible for Wells Fargo to remove it.

One customer told investigators he had never been contacted with any offer, nor did he approve it. Yet he was billed an extra almost $50 on his mortgage bill. The bank promised to fix the issue, but the charge showed up again the next month too. Continue reading

In the wake of the economic crisis largely fueled by weak financial regulations and poor consumer protections, the federal government enacted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was part of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act, which included a number of elements that shielded consumers from abusive and predatory practices and extended power to hold violators to account. consumer protection

Now, the Trump administration and Republican Congress have made it clear they intend to weaken the CFPB, and slash other consumer protection too.

Just recently, the Treasury Department issued a report that proposes a major weakening of the act, dramatically reducing the role of the federal government in overseeing the consumer financial services market. In particular, the CFPB would be constrained to a major degree. Republicans have been after the CFPB since it was created and began providing regulatory oversight for seven different federal agencies. While even lenders have seen the value in consolidation of regulatory compliance, conservative lawmakers continue to try to undercut the act and the consumer protection it provides.  Continue reading

Since 2010, there has been a rapid growth in the U.S. car loan industry. A new report from Bloomberg indicates borrower fraud is soaring, and we may soon near a bursting bubble, similar to what we saw with the housing crisis. car accident

It’s estimated as many as 1 percent of car loan applications in the U.S. contain some type of material misrepresentation, according to Point Predictive, a data analytics company cited by Bloomberg. That’s close to the just-over-1-percent of fraud we saw in U.S. mortgages back in 2009, when the housing market financial crisis was in full swing.

The good news is the economic fallout is likely to be much less earth-shattering (for most of us) because there is simply less outstanding debt on automobiles as there are on houses. Still, there are some uncanny parallels between the mortgage and auto industries in terms of the growth of this type of fraud. While we don’t know just how widespread the problem was prior to 2009 (lenders weren’t reporting information to each other and often weren’t investigating such incidents on their own), it does seem as if we may be on a similar track.

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We are now slightly more than a month in to the Trump presidency, and Democrats are already gearing up for the next election, setting their sights on the next mid-term. However, if they want to prevail, they are first going to have to acknowledge and accept that the Obama administration did not oversee a golden era of financial and economic policies – no matter what kind of challenges he inherited.miami

The reality is Obama had many opportunities to help those in the working class, and he repeatedly declined to seize them.

The two main areas to which we refer:

  • Obama’s handling of the foreclosure crisis/ subsequent bank bailouts. The end result of the policies adhered to on these fronts resulted in concentrated financial power, rather than support of the American middle class.
  • Enactment of pro-monopoly policies. This approach crushed rural area economies, so it was unsurprising many of those voters – even those who had previously voted for Obama – swung to the side of Donald Trump.

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In the wake of Wells Fargo’s most recent scandal, in which the financial firm was caught red-handed creating two million fraudulent accounts by customers, the bank promised it would clean up its act. It promised to change its practices and do its best to protect its customers. But as a New York Times‘ investigation shows, the bank has been – and still is – actively trying to kill off lawsuits stemming from its fraud by forcing customers affected to settle their claims via arbitration, rather than be allowed to have their day in court. So much for accountability. credit cards

Highlighting these actions are critical now that we have leaders intent on gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its regulations – proposed and existing.

We should start by explaining first what forced arbitration is. It is part of a binding contract that bank consumers “agree” to by virtue of having an account, and it requires that all disputes arising with the firm must be handled with a private arbitrator, rather than in a court of law with a judge or jury. There is very good reason banks (and many other businesses) push so hard for these provisions, and its that the outcomes are most often favorable to defendants. Even where decisions are made in favor of consumers, they tend to be for far less than what they might have received in litigation. What’s more, the process is not transparent. It’s all confidential, so it does nothing to help others similarly situated. It effectively quashes the ability of wronged consumers to engage in a class action, which is sometimes the only way to truly hold these large firms accountable.  Continue reading