Foil 6 Common Consumer Credit Complaints
That's disputable The offense: billing and fee disputes. It's hard to live without debit cards and credit cards, but mistakes in billing can cost you and harm your credit score if you don't proactively address problems.The defense: Closely examine the bill. Any charges you didn't make? Did your APR get changed without your approval? Don't delay disputing charges, because there may be a time limit for complaints.Second, review your credit report and notify the credit bureaus of any outstanding disputes. The report should reflect any bills you are contesting without impacting your credit score, says Stuart Rossman, director of litigation for the National Consumer Law Center.Third, know the law. For instance, banks can't charge ATM or debit card overdraft fees unless you opt in for the coverage, says Diane Standaert, legislative counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending. If you didn't say they could, then make sure they don't.If none of this works, contact your state or local consumer protection agency, Grant says.
Foreclosure's Poseurs The offense: confusing mortgage and foreclosure-related fraud. The potential for problems begins the minute you start shopping for a home loan and continues for 30 years or until you pay off the mortgage, whichever comes first. Meanwhile, the recession has brought a record number of foreclosures -- and complaints about foreclosure rescue scams.The defense: Shop around. You don't have to shop until you drop for a mortgage, but do enough comparisons to give you confidence that you're getting a good deal. Even government-sponsored programs like FHA can have varying fees from different lenders, says Standaert.Read the fine print -- and the big print. Most importantly, read the summary page mandatory with all home-related loans, says Ruth Susswein, a deputy director with Consumer Action. It tells the rate and under what circumstances it can change.What if you fall into foreclosure? Be careful who you ask for help. Find a HUD-certified counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. If a foreclosure specialist asks for money upfront or instructs you to pay him instead of the mortgage company, go elsewhere. And dont be afraid to ask your lender directly for a loan modification.
The offense: credit repair scams. Unemployment is rising, and so are complaints about "credit repair services" that promise you new or improved credit. The problem: There is no licensing for this industry. "You need to be very cautious," says Rossman, of the National Consumer Law Center.
The defense: Know how scammers operate. Susswein says there are three common cons. One, they falsely claim they can get lines erased from your credit report. "That's bogus," she says. Second, walk off if someone says they can get you a new Social Security number, she advises. And third, don't deal with anyone who suggests you become an 'authorized user' of a stranger's credit card account.
Rossman says another clear warning sign is when someone demands upfront payment for their services. And be skeptical if a credit repair adviser suggests you convert your unsecured debt, like credit cards, to a secured loan, like a home mortgage. You could be giving up some consumer protections.
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