Financing company won't stop harassing me about old car loan

September 1, 2011 19:02 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:   
 
A financing company is harassing me about an old loan on a car I voluntarily surrendered.  I've been paying them $75 a month to stay off my back, but they are relentless.  How do I make them leave me alone?  

Consumer Ed says: 

First, it is important to understand the repercussions of voluntarily surrendering your car to the dealer or financial institution that carries your loan. The owner of your loan will sell your car at auction for what is often much less than what it would bring at a retail sale. You may be faced with large fees as well.  After your car is surrendered and sold, you become responsible for the difference between the amount you owed on your loan at the time the car was surrendered, plus fees, minus the amount for which the car sold at auction.  What happens is that you are now paying for a car that you can no longer drive and will never own.
 
Because you have had a prior business relationship with this financing company, calls are still permitted by the company even if you have your telephone number added to the "do not call" database.  If it is a debt collector who is calling on behalf of your financing company, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") may apply.  The FDCPA does not apply to a creditor collecting its own past-due accounts; so, if the company calling you is the company that lent the money to you, the FDCPA does not apply.  However, if the company is using a third-party debt collector to contact you, you have the right to request that they not contact you again.  This request must be in writing.  Make sure to include a statement that your letter is not meant in any way to acknowledge that you owe this or any other sum of money.  Mail your letter certified, requesting a return receipt so that you have proof of its delivery.  Once the agency receives your letter, its employees can only contact you one more time to explain what action they plan to take.  After that, they must not contact you.
 
You can also request that a collection agency not call you at your place of work.  Send the same type of letter discussed above and instruct the debt collector to refrain from contacting you at work.  By law, the debt collector must comply.  Remember, though, stopping the contact does not stop the debt-collection activities.  The debt collector can still send negative information to the credit-reporting agencies, sue you in court, and garnish your wages or file a lien against your property once a judgment is issued by the court.

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Mortgage company not reporting loan payments to credit bureau

August 25, 2011 20:17 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

My mortgage company is not reporting my payments to the credit bureaus.  I always pay on time, and I feel this information would boost my credit score.  Are mortgage companies legally required to report this information to the credit bureaus?

Consumer Ed says:

Although mortgage companies usually report mortgage loans and ongoing payments to one of the major credit bureaus, they are not legally required to do so.

It is possible that your mortgage payment information is not being reported because of a clerical error. If you have not already done so, contact your mortgage lender, explain the situation and request that it furnish your payment information to a credit reporting agency. If your lender refuses to do so, there are some other things you can do to improve your credit score:

  • Review the information on your credit report to make sure there are no errors or collection items that you are unaware of.  You can access your credit report for free by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find  an error on your credit report, contact the credit reporting agency directly to dispute it.
  • Pay your bills on time, as late payments and collection items can send your credit score tumbling down.
  • Having a low debt-to-credit ratio will boost your credit score. So try to pay down credit cards that have balances at or near the credit limit. 
  • You shouldn’t necessarily cancel a credit card when it’s paid off, especially if you have had that credit card account for a long time. Keeping the account open, even if you don’t use the card, could help your score by improving your debt-to-credit limit ratio. In addition, older accounts contribute positively towards your credit score. 


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Can I get a grant or rebate for doing a home energy audit?

August 13, 2011 00:13 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a call from a company that said I could get a $3,000 federal grant if I had them do an energy audit of my home.  They then requested my social security number and bank account information so they could check my credit rating. I got suspicious and hung up. Do you think this was a scam? Are there really grants or rebates available for doing an energy audit of your home?

Consumer Ed says:

You were wise to be suspicious of the caller. Unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal or financial information are usually attempts at identity theft.  There has also been a scam reported in Florida where con artists posing as utility workers have been going around neighborhoods and calling consumers offering free energy audits. To ensure you’re contacting the actual utility company, you should call the number on your power bill.

There are several legitimate programs that offer Georgia residents rebates or financial assistance with energy audits or energy-efficient home improvements. However, they generally require you to initiate contact with them, not vice versa.  Here are some programs that you may be able to take advantage of:

Weatherization Assistance Program - Low-income homeowners may be eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which provides weatherization services allowing income-eligible households to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  For more information and to apply for Weatherization Assistance, visit www.gefa.org.

Free Online Energy Audit - Georgia Power offers a free online energy audit tool to help residential customers determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes and what they can do to lower their monthly bill.  Go to www.georgiapower.com to access this tool.

Free In-Home Energy Audit - Georgia Power also offers customers a free in-home energy audit. An Energy Expert will visit and visually inspect your home and help show you how much you can save on your energy bill. To schedule a free energy audit, call 1-800-524-2421 ext. 200, or visit www.georgiapower.com.

Zero-Interest Financing for Energy Improvements - The residential energy efficiency financing programs, which are funded through Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allow homeowners to apply for funding to complete a number of energy-efficiency improvement projects, and for the purchase of eligible ENERGY STAR appliances. Financing is available through Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Electric Cities of Georgia, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and Estes Heating & Air. Contact your electric and/or gas provider for more information on available energy-efficiency loan programs.

Georgia Power Rebates – Georgia Power customers may qualify for rebates of up to $2,200 on energy-efficient home improvements. To be eligible, you must get an energy assessment by a participating contractor (for a fee), and the improvements must be done by a qualified contractor participating in the Georgia Power Home Energy Improvement Program. Rebates are based on actual energy savings achieved. For more information, visit www.georgiapower.com.

Federal Income Tax Credits - As a homeowner, you may also qualify for federal income tax credits if you purchase certain energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems for your home during 2011. For more information on what products qualify, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at www.energysavers.gov.

One final note:  If you hire a contractor to make home improvements, ask people you know for names of contractors they would recommend. You can also check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).  Ask the contractor for his license number so you can verify that he is licensed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Make sure the contractor provides you with a detailed written contract before any work is begun, and don’t pay for work that is incomplete.

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