Archive for the ‘consumer protection’ Category

Popular Passwords

Popularity may be welcome, but make sure it does not apply to your online passwords.

Splashdata has released its annual list of the most commonly used passwords and the top three remained unchanged from 2011.

What was number one on the list of the Worst Passwords of 2012?

“PASSWORD” followed by “123456,” and “12345678”.

“SplashData’s top 25 list was compiled from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers. The company advises consumers or businesses using any of the passwords on the list to change them immediately.”

It advises using passwords with eight or more mixed-up characters.  Include numbers, underscores and punctuation marks.  It also recommends creating a new password for each website and more importantly do not use the same user name/password combination for your online financial transactions that you do for social media sites.

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Know your Cards

Consumer-Action.org has introduced a new website to help consumers understand the current laws that regulate all forms of plastic payment such as credit, debit, prepaid and gift cards.

KnowYourCard.org “presents key payment card changes, explains how they could affect cardholders and offers tips to help consumers make the right moves”.

The At-a-Glance Card Rulebook provides more detailed information and an overview of changes for each type of payment card.

Explore the database of Q&As. Use the search box, browse by category, or send your  question to Consumer Action via a form on the site. Feedback is appreciated, so let them know about your experience with the website and how it can be improved.

Frank Talk

Financial Literacy at the Library concluded its Speaker series on July 16 with a standing- room only crowd gathered to hear Congressman Barney Frank discuss Financial Reform and the Economy.

Congressman Frank highlighted the consumer protection laws that have been enacted under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act)  such as the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Under the current leadership of  Richard Cordray, the CFPB was established to “ensure American consumers get the clear, accurate information they need to shop for mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products, and protect them from hidden fees, abusive terms, and deceptive practices.”

As part of Dodd-Frank, the CFPB  oversees mortgage settlement rules and enforces compliance under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).   It is now simpler for consumers  to compare mortgage fees and closing costs before committing to a lender and settlement day surprises are far less likely.  It also prohibits institutions from providing a mortgage that the  borrower cannot repay.

Frank offered some history on the causes of the financial crisis.  He cited two primary sources: securitization and information technology.

Securitization refers to the conversion of mortgages into bundled  securities (mortgage-backed securities or MBS) which are then sold on the secondary market.  With securitization, banks no longer keep mortgage loans, but sell them shortly after creation.  Consequently, they become less concerned with the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. Loan quality suffered and the subsequent mass defaults led to a crisis in the financial markets which had been gobbling up the “low risk” mortgage-backed securities.

Reform under the new law requires that the securitizer (packager) retain a portion of the investment risk as an incentive to produce a higher quality MBS.

Information Technology made securitization possible by enabling the expeditious packaging of  thousands of loans to create and market as attractive investments.

For a good summary of the Dodd-Frank act, click here.

To see a video of Congressman Frank’s talk, please visit the Newton Free Library YouTube page or check our catalog for the DVD.

Financial Literacy at the Library is grateful to all those who participated in our monthly Speaker series, as audience members,  staff and consultants.  We would like to express a particular thank you to Roberto Mighty and Michael Yip of Celestial Media whose expert filming of our events extended our ability to provide financial education outside the walls of the Newton Free Library to the virtual world.

What is your Scam IQ

How clever do you think you are at spotting scam emails?

Check out this list from mint.com on frequently used subject lines in scam emails.  Some like:

Congratulation!!! You have just won $USD 1,000,000

are blatantly suspicious, but others such as

Postal Notification

can be tougher to recognize.

One way to avoid a Facebook-related scam is to turn off your email notification option.

See the article  here.

National Consumer Protection Week

In connection with National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 4-10, the FDIC has published a Quick Guide for Consumers on Credit, Debit, and Prepaid Cards to “help consumers, who routinely use cards to pay for goods and services but who don’t always understand the differences in how these cards work or the applicable consumer protections”.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is participating in NCPW by holding a series of “informational workshops in a number of high schools, local community centers, senior centers, and colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth. These workshops are designed to help residents make informed financial decisions, avoid becoming the victims of fraud and safeguard their finances”.

For a schedule and list of locations, go to Mass.gov or click here.

FDIC has also prepared a list of “10 things to know about credit, debit and prepaid cards ” which includes:

  • Be aware of overdraft fees
  • Your liability on unauthorized use of credit cards is usually limited to $50
  • Your liability on unauthorized use of debit cards can vary
  • Make sure you know all the fees associated with your prepaid card
  • Some prepaid cards are covered by consumer protection laws and others are not

For more on FDIC NCPW resources, click here.

Consumer Rights Reviewed

Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary, Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR)  was our featured Guest Speaker at our November 16th Financial Literacy at the Library event.

Ms. Anthony,  assisted by her knowledgeable staff, presented a helpful overview of the many ways in which OCABR supports the needs of Massachusetts consumers.

We learned about the Home Improvement Contractor Program which regulates more than 28,000 registered contractors.  Homeowners are encouraged to contact the OCABR with complaints about incomplete or unsatisfactory work or to utilize contractor arbitration services.

Massachusetts car buyers benefit from the state’s Lemon Laws which cover new, used and leased vehicles.

During this holiday season, be cautious when shopping online.  Look out for additional charges such as shipping and handling costs.  Understand the return policy and who pays for return shipping and restocking fees.

When shopping in person, check your receipt in the store to confirm the price charged is what you expected.

Know your shopping rights and protection under the Massachusetts Implied Warranty of Merchantability.  You have a right to receive a replacement or full refund if a product you buy does not work for a “reasonable period of time”.

To protect yourself from Identity Theft, it is important to review your credit report at least annually.  You are entitled to a free credit report, one from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Order your report from annualcreditreport.com. This is the only authorized website to request a report for free.

Have a complaint? Go to www.mass.gov/consumer to file your grievance.

Ms. Anthony reminded us to call the Consumer Hotline at 617-973-8787 or toll free at 888-283-3757 to speak to a live Consumer Information Specialist for all our consumer questions and concerns.

CFPB Talk 7:30 Tonight

At 7:30p.m. tonight (Wednesday October 26) the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB)  is hosting a town hall meeting at the Minneapolis Public Library.  Listen to a live stream of the event at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/live-from-minneapolis/.

People will be sharing their concerns and experiences with the consumer finance marketplace.

Raj Date,  Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, and a panel including local leaders will be participating.