Philadelphia Consumer Protection Law Blog

Crackdown on two abusive, phony debt collectors

The Federal Trade Commission is the federal government's consumer protection agency. As such, the FTC recently announced that it has obtained court orders to freeze assets and stop two businesses from posing as legitimate debt collection agencies in pursuit of genuine debts.

The agency said that two men pretended to be attorneys would try to collect on debts that people did not owe, threatening them with lawsuits and arrest if they did not pay up. Unfortunately, even some authentic debt collectors use abusive tactics, issuing similar threats to people who might or might not owe money.

Risks and rewards in used car buying

Over the past several years, the Philadelphia economy has gotten mixed reviews. Some aspects of the economy have been strong while others could use a bit more beefing up. For the average person, the spotty news means that it is often wise to keep the belt tight, especially when making major purchases such as automobiles.

For many car shoppers, it makes the most sense to purchase a used car. The New York Times recently listed the pros and cons of various types of used-car sellers, cautioning that making a poor choice can too often result in auto repossession.

A man of many disguises and one consumer scam

He was sometimes a government official, sometimes an investigator and sometimes an FBI agent. Sometimes when he called people on the phone, he would tell them that he was sending a police officer to arrest them and sometimes he claimed that he would come and do it personally.

Though his stories and personas frequently changed, the goal was always the same, say federal prosecutors: to wring as much money as possible out of people by using abusive debt collection practices.

Even the powerful must contend with abusive debt collectors

It began innocently enough when she changed her cellphone number. The U.S. Senator began to receive calls at her newly acquired number for a man named Gus. Elizabeth Warren didn't know who Gus might be, but she knew that the collection agency that was after him was pushing the limits of what is allowed in collections efforts.

Before she became a Senator, she had been responsible for creation and then the operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency helps educate consumers about a wide spectrum of financial matters, including abusive debt collection practices.

Car dealer fraud: rolling back the miles

They say that numbers don't lie. But recent reports suggest that the mileage numbers on the odometer in the car you buy from a Philadelphia dealer might.

There is a reported trend among private auto sellers and small-time car dealers to use an obscure federal regulation as an excuse to roll back odometers on vehicles more than 10 years old. As you undoubtedly know, it is illegal to roll back miles and can be prosecuted as fraud.

Advice for avoiding car repossession

As regular readers of our Philadelphia Consumer Protection Law Blog know, our goal is to share information that can help you protect yourself and your finances whenever possible. To that end, we are going to pass along some tips read recently for people who believe that their car might be repossessed.

Far too often, repossessions are carried out improperly, involving violations of the law, property rights or proper repossession processes. Clearly, it makes sense to try to avoid repossession entirely, which is the point of the advice from the folks at nerdwallet.com.

Sounding off on the price of privacy

Bose Corp is famous for their claims of crystal clear sound that emits from the many audio products they have sold to consumers since 1964. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company boasts that their listening experience is second to none.

What their customers are just finding out is that Bose may be doing their own form of “listening” to gain an equal level of clarity on consumer habits. And for a price.

Auto loan delinquencies and repossessions on the rise

No doubt you remember the financial crisis of 2008. Unprecedented numbers of homes were foreclosed on in Philadelphia and across the nation, unemployment surged, the stock market tanked and President Bush and his advisers openly worried that the U.S. banking system might not survive.

Back then, auto loan delinquencies also skyrocketed, hitting their all-time high value at $23.46 billion in the third quarter of 2008. According to a recent news article, car loan delinquencies of one month or greater recently hit their highest value since 2008: $23.27 billion. The implications of the numbers are clear: car repossessions are also on the rise.

More children's products recalled in 2016

When we shop for things for our children, we think of safety before we consider cost. After all, we while we normally get what we pay for, we shouldn’t have to sacrifice for safety. According to a report provided by the non-profit group Kids in Danger (KID), the number of children’s products that were recalled last year has increased dramatically.  

Using data produced by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), a total of 76 products were recalled. This amounted to more than 66 million units that were removed from store shelves or brought back to manufactures due to defects. More importantly, recalls in 2016 were up 15 percent from 2015. The 2016 recalls were based on a significant number of incidents and injuries. Nearly 5,000 incidents were reported and 394 children were reportedly injured. 

Car repossession device can wreak havoc

She and her husband needed a car to get her to dialysis five times every week. Because the couple did not have a lot of money, they had to go to a car dealer that offered financing regardless of credit history. Unsurprisingly, the terms were pretty painful: a 2007 Chevy with over 100,000 miles would cost the couple more than $21,000. The interest rate was 29 percent, which was almost six times the average.

“But I had to get to dialysis," the woman said, so she and her husband agreed to the terms. She recalls that one day when she left the treatment center and tried to drive the car, it wouldn't start. The dealer had activated a device that made it impossible to start the vehicle.

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