Debt collectors gone wild

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No one likes the term debt collector, but most of us have encountered one or two along the way no matter how careful we are about paying our bills.  But then again some encounter them along the way because they don’t pay there bills, so they do have a place in this world.  But what they don’t have is the right to threaten, coerce, violate your privacy, or intimidate.  Don’t think it could happen?  Here is a prime example.

The Washington Post recently published “Debt collectors harassed consumers with violent threats, FTC says” and here are just a few of the things these debt collectors gone bad have allegedly done:

  • “one firm threatening to kill debtors’ pets or desecrate the bodies of their deceased children”
  • After being unable to pay the bill for her daughter’s funeral one woman was told that they would “dig up her daughter’s body and hang it from a tree.”
  • According to this report by the FTC one company being investigated  made  “bogus threats,” and  “portrayed themselves to the consumers – and even to the consumers’ employers and neighbors – as process servers trying to deliver legal papers. The company unjustly profited from the deception, making at least $9.4 million, the FTC said.”
  • One woman was called a “deadbeat” and “asked how she would feel if her son’s body was dug up and dropped outside her door.”
  • Yet another complaint is that the debt collection companies disclosed information to the debtors employers, employees, co-workers and neighbors.
Shocking?  Yes, absolutely, but anyone who has spent any time with more active debt collectors on the phone knows that there are quite a few threats and intimidation tactics used.  Are they allowed?
To find out your rights as a consumer:
Privacy offers this Fact Sheet about When debt collection practices go too far. 
Has a debt collector every gone “too far” when contacting you?
Here’s a recent example of debt collectors gone wild as investigated by ABC News.

First Person: My experience with credit card fraud and theft

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I had a chance to talk to someone first hand how a credit card theft affected their life.  Find out what she did to find who did what and how and what she did to get the money back.

Here’s single parent/freelance writer Amy’s story:

Recently, I got my credit card numbers stolen online and the thief used it to charge almost $300 worth of flowers and subscriptions. I used to think that identity theft only happened to those people who went on risky sites and should have known better.  Now I know better.

I have used online banking since 2001, and have never had a problem with someone out of my household using the card for unauthorized purchases. It simply goes to show that everyone is at risk.

I am a single mom and have been for years. In 2007, I began working as a freelance writer to support my three children and myself. My ‘paycheck’ comes from an assortment of websites and funnels into an online banking place. Typically, it stays on the card so I can pay the bills that I need to pay.

I noticed some money missing and I began to question my kids. Sometimes they use the card but they always put the money back. They never borrow much, so when I saw hundreds of dollars missing, I got very mad.

Continue reading First Person: My experience with credit card fraud and theft

Beware of Moammar Gaddafi Links and Photos

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You have heard of the saying, “There’s an app for that!”  The same could be said for many malware programs and viruses.  With the announcement of the death of Maommar Gaddafi and his family being featured prominently in the news there have been reports of links and photos containing dangerous computer viruses and malware coding.

Mashable explains, that these notices of news and photos are “easy vehicles for malicious links.”  Mashable states,

“When news like Gaddafi’s death breaks, however, there is no history for them to rely on and malicious links masquerading as news can more easily rank high in search results. Another reason is that people often seek such images from unfamiliar sources. Websites or Twitter messages promise to link to a breaking topic and then lead instead to another site or virus. The Gaddafi photo is a prime candidate for this type of malicious links, so it’s wise to use caution when clicking,” it said.

The Twitterverse exploded with messages of photos taken of a shot, wounded or hidden Gaddafi.  Other posts across the web talked about his funeral arrangements,  his children and their future.  There have been reports of cell phone photos taken of the confrontation between two political forces in Libya.

PC World reports that “The massive attack that has infected PCs by tricking users into clicking links in fake messages from shows little sign of ending soon.”  (reported on Friday, Oct. 21,2 011)  This version of malware was hidden in the links to “ Top Ten Lists” and “CNN Alerts: My Custom Alert”, which supposedly featured news and reports of Gaddafi’s demise but directed users that they had to download and install a software program to view.  The hackers disguised it as a legitimate CNN site and the malware was contained in what over 11 million searchers thought was an update to Flash Player.   After trying the download, users were caught in a hopeless loop requiring them to try to shut down their computer to stop the download before it could complete or download it and try to effect repairs to their system afterwards.

Where are you most likely to find accurate information on this story as it unfolds?  Prominent news sites and channels like MSNBC, Fox News, the Associated Press or New York Times just to name a few.  CNN warns, “Much caution should be used with these reports because false information has come out previously.”

The death of Osama bin Laden caused the same sort of interest from hackers, as interested readers flocked to their computers desperate for word or photo of the demise of one of the most wanted people on the planet.

What advice can we give to help you avoid malware?  If you receive a link, especially one from a friend or family member or an unusual source in your email don’t open it.  Look to legitimate news sources for information and photos.  Link love is not always so “loving”  and is best left avoided.


Discover the good news and bad news for Discover Card

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Many credit cards offer a selection of tools available to you in order to protect your credit card from fraud, identity theft and theft.  We have all heard the offers for just an additional $X.00 a month or an annual you can get added protection to your credit card or a one time fee. Now those all sounds like good things and many people do feel the need to take advantage of them.  However, recently it seems that some of Discover Cards really good sounding protection practices may have come under some really intensive financial scrutiny.

Here are some of the protection that Discover Card users are offered: payment protection, identity theft protection, wallet protection, and credit score tracker.  Users will choose between a monthly or annual billing, and fees for these services vary based on your credit and score changes.

Apparently it’s not the practices that are under fire, but how the practices are sold that are at issue. “An important point is that it’s not the actual product that’s in question, it’s the way that it was sold,” said analyst Sanjay Sakhrani of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.


Several class action law suits are being settled, but the details have not been released, however it has been stated that their sales practices have been changed.

So, I am wondering what were these sales practices and what went wrong with them?  I know that the protection doesn’t come cheap, not even for someone with an outstanding credit score and may vary according not only to your credit score but your credit balance.

How can we know what companies are doing wrong if we don’t know what is the right way to do it?  I personally have found the sales calls annoying when I go to update, change or check on my credit card.  It seems like far too often they try to sell it to you, even when you have said no several times.  But normally it just takes a few times saying “No” and they move on to the work that actually needs done.

What do you think?  Have you every felt pressured to purchase credit card protection, found your protection plan payment to be unreasonable or had a plan that just didn’t work out the way you planned?

For more information on the Discover Card investigation watch this video on CBS “The Early Show.”




No Contracts And Unlimited Use – Finally Available at a Reasonable Price

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Identity theft makes strange bedfellows

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Swiper no swiping!  This story of identity theft reminds me of the story where “Dora the Explorer” traveled around the work to share her friendship bracelets and encountered a number of thieves in every country that were trying to steal her friendship bracelets.  Okay, yes I have children but when you hear the details about what is being called the largest identity theft bust of its kind in the United States you may see the similarities.

Reports of 111 suspects, including 25 people that are being sought in connection for these crimes were targeted for their involvement in “Operation Swiper.”  While arrested by authorities in New York, this identity theft ring came from across the globe with connections to Russia, India, China, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  Their take was approximately 13 million dollars stolen from victims in Europe and the United States.  Queens County District Attorney calls it “called it the largest and perhaps most sophisticated ring of its kind in U.S. history.”

How did Operation Swiper work?

“The schemes and the imagination of these thieves is mind boggling,” said New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a press conference.  “These crimes are getting more sophisticated and thieves have amazing knowledge of how to use technology.” Continue reading Identity theft makes strange bedfellows

How much credit card security is too much?

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Fox Business recently published an article on “How to avoid credit card security overkill.”  And I started wondering how much security was too much?  This article mentions:

“Refusing to give your credit card to a waiter.”

Is this security or silly?  I admit that in our household we prefer to operate on a cash basis when it comes to going out to dinner, but that is a personal finance decision not a security issue.  The fear that some credit card users may have is that a waiter could “skim” the credit card number and create clones.   However, the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association director of media relations for Annika Stensson,  says to relax. “Like every other merchant, they must comply with standards, and those requirements have double and triple security,” says Stensson. Restaurants “don’t store PIN data, the point-of-sale (POS) systems are customized, and they don’t use passwords.” Bad eggs are weeded out, too. “It’s in the best interest of restaurants to keep transactions safe since they rely on repeat customers,” says Stensson, stressing that owners and managers aren’t afraid to press criminal charges against thieves.”

I was wondering how many of you think twice about giving your credit card to a waiter.

Next it discusses “Not purchasing anything online.”

Does this really happen?  I admit my mother doesn’t like to, but I think it’s because she hates computers, and yes does distrust most places security measures.  But oddly enough, she pays her bills online.  There are many benefits to shopping online, as long as you do it safely.  Use reputable stores, like the brick and mortar ones that have gone into the virtual world and look for the “S” or TRUSTe symbol to indicate security on the site.  As identitytheftsecrets has warned before, never give out your credit card information in an email.

(What’s in your email? Could it be your credit card number?) Continue reading How much credit card security is too much?

The CARD Act: College Student Consumer Protection or a Card Trick?

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7 Tricks YOU Will Have to Teach Your College Student

The CARD Act refers to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.  In a nut shell, the act was intended to protect college students from unscrupulous practices that ended up weighing down college students with debt that they had no way to repay.  That pizza they charged for $11.99 freshman would incur interest, and interest on the interest, not to mention late fees until they owed a couple hundred bucks on the pepperoni and cheese by their junior year.

What were the ground rules for credit card companies laid out by the Credit CARD Act?

The Act placed limits on the ability of those under the age 21 to get a credit card.  Or another way to look at it is that it limited the credit card company’s abilities to issue credit cards to college students under 21.

Credit card companies can no longer issue cards to students who cannot prove an income that allows them to repay the charges.  Other than this, college students will have to have a co-signer.  For college students, that means someone else to hold them accountable for their credit card debt and for credit card companies it means someone else to go after for the debt.

A new report released by the Federal Reserve does show some curtailing that can likely be correlated to the CARD Act. Payments to colleges and alumni associations made by credit card companies for the privilege of marketing to students or alumnus were down by 13% in 2010 and also after a year the total of new accounts opened by students dropped 17%.  It’s certainly a start.  Issuing credit cards to college students is still big business though because colleges raked in $73 million last year from credit card issuers.

Here are 7 things every college student should know about money, credit, debt and identity theft Continue reading The CARD Act: College Student Consumer Protection or a Card Trick?