The Smart Way To Read Your Credit Report

You might not realize but finding out the best way to read your credit report can actually save you a lot of time and money – it’s not even that hard to get started, but there are some basics that you need to get your head around all the numbers, abbreviations and unfamiliar terms before reading your credit report.

Before going to a website and getting your credit report you need to be aware that you will need to get more then one create report.

The three main credit report agencies will have a copy of your report but your information will be inconsistent across all three of them – lenders will report your information to maybe only one or two agencies and that information might be incorrect.

Your personal information is no doubt old and out of date as when past lenders reported on your personal information they will only normally report it back to one of the agencies.

You need to get a copy from each one and make sure you do this regularly through out the year, it is recommended that you get a copy from all three first and then get one copy every 4 months – but get one at a time – only by getting your report through this process can you be sure you have the correct information.

The main resign for this is that its voluntary reporting process so the lenders don’ have to by law report your information.

You need to make sure you get a consumer friendly report – don’t ask your friend who may work at a bank to get your copy for you – as you will not be able to read it correctly – you need to get a consumer version.

The Credit report layout Each report is divided into four sections falling under these categories – Identifying Information, Credit History, Public Records and Inquires.

Identifying information is quote obvious – it’;s all the key information about you but make sure you look t this closely – this is the most common place for your report to be incorrect, especially check you social security number.

Other personal information is your address, phone numbers, date of birth, drivers licenses, your employment information and your spouses name.

The following section is your Credit History – this is the most important information that your new lender will look at to assess your credit worthiness required to make an assessment. You might see that individual accounts are called trade lines.

The accounts will include each creditors name and the associated account number (this could be disguised for security reasons) Note that you may have multiple account kinds with the one lender as they will create a new one if you move.

Here you will have information like the date you opened your account, total amount of the loan, if you’ve paid off the account well and one time. It will also state how much money you owe and the credit limit, and ofcause the account status.

Look out for “charge Off.’s these are big black marks that mean that the lender has given up chasing you and has noted that they did not receive the money they were owed.

Public Recored You wan this section left totally pristine white – blank as can be. As having a report here will seriously impact your likelihood of gaining credit. bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens activities are listed here.

Inquiries – The Last Section This the place that will note each inquiry that was made you your account – noted as a soft or hard “call”so if you If you call the credit bureau and ask for a copy it will be on there. It’s great as it’s a very detailed entry record.

“Hard” inquiries are ones you initiate by filling out a credit application – you wan to avoid these as they will have a negative impact on your report if you have too many but the good news is that it also counts two or more “hard” inquiries in the same 14-day period as just one inquiry.

Read your report carefully and report any mistakes to each credit agency so you can get them all fixed and consistent as soon as possible.

I hope you know how to read your Credit Report, so you have a good handle on what your information means.

How Credit Law Protects Consumers

Consumer credit laws were designed to provide protection in a variety of ways that affect consumers fair access to credit. This can refer to the consumer’s right to understand the credit and loan terms prior to agreeing to them, every consumer’s fair and equal access to credit, limitations on loan and credit interest and terms, and so on. Even a basic understanding of these important laws and Acts can help individuals understand their rights.

Understanding consumer credit rights is the first step to ensuring that you’re being treated fairly by creditors. These credit laws also provide consumers with avenues to have their concerns addressed. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, is charged with overseeing some of these consumer credit laws.

Outlined below are several laws of particular importance for consumers. In today’s economic climate, many consumers are particularly concerned with repairing bad credit reports and scores, and for this reason, the laws of particular importance to those individuals interested in credit repair efforts are placed in their own category.

Consumer Credit Laws

Laws of special importance to credit repair services and a general overview are provided below.

The Credit Repair Organizations Act was designed to ensure that those seeking credit repair services from credit repair organizations are provided with the information necessary to make an informed decision. It aims to ensure that consumers are protected from deceptive or unfair advertising and unscrupulous business practices.

Examples of unscrupulous practices include suggestions that a consumer change their identity or that a consumer lie about their past credit history to potential creditors.

Credit Repair Organizations that violate the law can be sued for damages and attorney’s fees. Violations of the Act can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission and/or your local state attorney general. A consumer has 5 years to take action against an organization once they have learned of a violation to the Act.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits the denial of credit because of sex, marital status, race, religion, national origin, age or because a person receives public assistance. This law offers protections to consumers when they deal with any people or organizations who participates in the decision to grant credit or in setting the terms of that credit. This includes banks, credit unions, credit card companies, loan and finance companies, retail stores, and real estate brokers.

The law ensures that consumers have the right to know whether their applications for credit were accepted or rejected within 30 days of filing a complete application and to know the reasons why an application was rejected. It also protects the rights of consumers to know the reason(s) why they have been offered less favorable terms than requested, but only if that consumer rejects the less favorable terms being offered.

A number of federal agencies are charged with the enforcement of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, including Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Credit Union Administration, to name a few. Where a consumer directs complaints depends on the complaint itself. A starting point for consumers is to visit the Federal Reserve website or call 1-888-851-1920.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives any individual the right to know what information is being distributed about them by any credit reporting agency. It regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information. The FCRA was passed in 1970, and along with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it constitutes the core of credit law in the US.

Critical to the Fair Credit Reporting Act are the rules and responsibilities outlined that Credit Reporting Agencies must follow. Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) are the entities that collect and store credit information on every US consumer. The FCRA also provides regulations that those who provide the CRAs with information must follow. Examples of these information furnishers are creditors such as credit card companies, mortgage companies, and automobile financing companies. Other information furnishers include employers, bonders, and courts that enact judgments against individuals, such as bankruptcies.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. The FCRA is arguably the most powerful piece of legislation used by credit repair companies who seek to have out of date and/or incorrect information removed from a consumer’s credit report.

Notices of Rights and Duties under the FCRA (July 1, 1997) were published by the Federal Trade Commission as amendments for the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Notices must be distributed by Credit Reporting Agencies and include a summary of consumer rights under the FCRA; a notice that sets forth the responsibilities under the FCRA of those who furnish consumer information to consumer reporting agencies; and a notice that outlines the obligations for any person who uses information covered by the FCRA.

These Notices were designed to enhance the Fair Credit Reporting Act in an effort to promote accuracy, fairness, and the privacy of information in the credit files created by all credit reporting agencies.

The Federal Trade Commission oversees the proper implementation of the FCRA and the Notices of Rights and Duties.

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) is a US federal law that was enacted in 1968 and is contained in Title I of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. It’s intent is to protect consumers by requiring that any lender, prior to entering into a credit transaction, provide written disclosures of the costs of credit and the terms of repayment.

Excluding some high-cost mortgage loans, the TILA doesn’t regulate the charges that may be established for consumer credit. What the Act requires is standardized disclosure of costs and charges for credit. This protects consumers by helping them shop and compare the costs and terms of credit and make informed decisions about where and from whom they access credit.

Other benefits to consumers include the right to cancel particular credit transactions that involve a lien on a person’s primary dwelling and the regulation of credit card practices. It also includes mechanisms to protect a consumer’s timely resolution of credit billing disputes.

The Truth in Lending Act is enforced by the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and several other agencies. Those creditors that are not under the jurisdiction of any specific enforcement agency answer to the Federal Trade Commission.

Other Consumer Credit Rules and Acts

The Consumer Leasing Act is a federal law that requires leasing companies to inform a consumer in writing about the details involved in a contract. It outlines requirements regarding the cost and terms of any leasing agreement, including a statement of the number of lease payments and their dollar value, penalties for reneging on timely lease repayment, and whether a lump sum payment is due at the end of the lease agreement.

This Act helps consumers understand the important details of any lease agreement so that they can shop for the best leasing terms. It also helps a consumer compare the cost of leasing with actual purchase costs. In addition, it regulates lease advertising by penalizing unscrupulous or unfair advertising practices.

The Act applies to leases including personal property leased by an individual for the period of more than four months for personal or household use, long term rentals of items such as cars and appliances, and other personal property.

The Consumer Leasing Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is a US federal law that was set forth as an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act. The Act outlines guidelines and procedures for resolving billing errors that may appear on credit card and charge card accounts, and protects consumers from unfair billing practices.

The procedures outlined in the FCBA include the proper dispute process for consumers. Consumers may send via mail a written dispute of perceived billing errors to their creditor within sixty days of the statement date on the account statement. The creditor is obliged to acknowledge and investigate the dispute, and within 90 days, make the requested correction or inform the consumer in writing that no correction with be made the reasons why.

Examples of billing errors covered by the Act include: charges not made by the consumer; incorrect charge amounts; charges for goods not received by the consumer; charges for goods not delivered under specified terms; charges for damaged goods; failure to update account payments made; calculation errors; charges a consumer either requests proof of or wants clarified; and payments mailed to the wrong address.

Overall enforcement of the Fair Credit Billing Act is the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission; however, enforcement for banks falls under the domain of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) sets out guidelines and procedures for collections companies that prevents debt collectors from using unfair or deceptive practices to collect overdue bills. Debt collectors regulated under this Act include collection agencies, lawyers who regularly collect debts, and companies that buy delinquent debts from others and endeavor to collect them.

The debts covered under the Act do not include debts incurred by businesses. They do include family, and household debts, such as money owed on credit card accounts, medical bills, auto loans, and mortgages.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charged with the enforcement of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) is an amendement to the Truth in Lending Act and was implemented by the Federal Reserve System in 1994. It was designed to protect consumers by restricting certain terms of high cost home loans in situations where the interest rate or fees are above specified levels.

This Act applies to the sub-prime mortgage market and home equity lending, and it has therefore been discussed at great length in recent times.

The Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act applies primarily to refinancing and home equity installment loans, provided that these loans meet certain criteria and fall under the definition of a high fee or high rate loan. The Act does not apply to reverse mortgages, loans to build or buy a home, or home equity lines of credit.

As with the Truth in Lending Act, enforcement of HOEPA falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission.

Credit law exists to protect consumers. The Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act are of particular importance to those who provide credit repair services and those seeking to repair bad credit reports on their own. Understanding these laws and where and how they are applied and enforced is critical for any consumer interested in protecting their rights in any credit or leasing arrangement.

Injury Lawyers and Legal Information (Car Accidents, Slip and Falls, Etc)

Ajax and Whitby are communities that have grown dramatically in recent times. While some injury lawyers have opened offices in the area, there is not the same presence of injury lawyers as there is in larger financial centers like Toronto, Ontario. While you may ultimately choose to retain a lawyer that practices in Ajax or Whitby, it can be a good idea to meet with at least one lawyer in Toronto or the surrounding area to see a contrast between the available law firms and the available resources to invest in your case. Injury cases often require significant financial investments by the law firm, and it can often be important to know whether the law firm has the financial resources necessary to represent you to the conclusion of the lawsuit.  

However, you do want to ensure that you hire a lawyer who is willing to come to Ajax or Whitby as necessary. Some lawyers in Toronto will commence your lawsuit in Toronto, which will mean that you will have to make a number of trips into Toronto. However, others who have a number of cases in Ajax/Whitby, are happy to start the lawsuit in Ajax/Whitby, have the discoveries in Ajax/Whitby (ie: at Durham reporting) and to have the trial there. This is an important question to ask. Some Toronto lawyers are quite willing to hold some meetings in Ajax/Whitby when necessary.

Ideally, you do not want a Toronto lawyer who thinks of themselves as a “big city lawyer”. Ajax/Whitby are still relatively small communities, and a lawyer may need to eat a “slice of humble pie” before getting up to address a jury made up of members of the community. You may well need to consider that and to consider how to strike a balance between the need for a firm with financial resources and a lawyer that a jury will listen to.

When you first speak with the lawyer, ask them whether they have cases in Ajax and Whitby. You should also ask them what types of cases they have handled (ie: car accident, slip and fall). Ask them to send you some decisions in cases that they have argued.

The Case of a Boutique Law Firm Vs A Conventional Law Firm

The legal scene for some time has been changing with increase in specialized cases. These deal with areas like immigration and environmental laws. The economic conditions have also not been very supporting of the bigger firms as they are finding it hard to manage huge administrative overheads. Out of these times has emerged the phenomenon of a boutique law firm. These have usually been formed by practicing lawyers who left bigger firms and started their own practices which focus on niche areas.

Characteristics of a Boutique law firm:

1. It is usually smaller than a general practice law firms. At times it could just consist of one or two lawyers who have come together due to a shared passion for a particular area of law.

2. Most of these have been formed by attorneys who left bigger law firms to start their own practices. A good example is Chicago Law Partners which was started by five attorneys from Chicago law firm of Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg.

3. It focuses on a niche or a few niche areas rather than all aspects of law and order. For example, Chicago Law Partners takes up cases only for not-for-profit organizations.

4. They market themselves as “specialists” in their chosen area like immigration laws or maritime laws.

5. The fees charged by these firms are usually higher than the conventional general practice law firms.

Pros compared to a conventional law firm:

• A firm that handles all kind of cases may not have the depth and knowledge required for specialized cases say a divorce which involves child custody.

• If you find a boutique law firm which is passionate about your cause, you may be able to get their services at lower cost. And the dedication that stems from their passion for the cause is an added bonus.

• A boutique law firm because of its knowledge and involvement may be able to assist with investigating the case besides fighting it on your behalf.

• The staff at a boutique firm tends to provide more than just legal advice. Due to their vast experience, they can also provide personal and professional advice to deal with the issues you may be facing during your legal battle.

Cons compared to a conventional law firm:

• First is the cost of hiring such a firm which will be higher than that of hiring a conventional firm. This may reduce over time given their lower overheads but that is still to be seen.

• They may not have enough staff which could be deterrent at times for the case in hand.

As a concept it looks to be a better option than a conventional set-up especially for handle highly complex and specific cases. But, are firms ready to focus on just one area, is yet to be proven in the long run. Also needs to be proven is the implication that they are more than just small law firms attired in a new garb.

Top Ten Reasons Why Law Firms Should Consider Selective Legal Outsourcing

In the last quarter of 2008 America faces economic challenges never imagined even a few months ago. How will businesses manage and survive the limitations on credit, demand and growth? How does the economic downturn impact lawyers and law firms which service the business community?

It is an obvious fact that businesses can only look at modifying two revenue streams, income and expenses, in order to increase profitability. If income is down and not expected to increase markedly in the near term, clients of law firms will take the hatchet to expenses in order to survive. Legal fees will be under extreme scrutiny. Legal outsourcing, while still a nascent industry, is gaining momentum, being considered in more corporate boardrooms. As the pressures to outsource build, lawyers ponder whether they should embrace outsourcing legal work offshore or resist it. In the face of global economic challenges coupled with the increasing loss of American jobs why would a U.S. law firm want to even consider legal outsourcing? Are there valid reasons why targeted legal outsourcing should be considered by every U.S. law firm?

Several weeks ago I received an email from a lawyer who was considering outsourcing some of the legal work of his law firm. Facing resistance and challenges from many in his law firm who wanted to maintain the status quo, he asked for my advice as to what he should tell his partners. Why should the firm outsource legal work offshore, a practice seen by some as adventuresome and risky, instead of staying the course, doing it “the way we have always done it.” I answered him with the top ten reasons why every law firm should consider selective legal outsourcing:

1. PRUDENT, TARGETED OUTSOURCING WILL RESULT IN REDUCED LAW FIRM OVERHEAD

Outsourcing some legal work to qualified providers in India will result in significantly lower overhead to the outsourcing law firm. In assessing the comparative costs the law firm will be wise to carefully calculate the real costs of employing one lawyer or paralegal. Those costs include salary and bonus, health insurance, vacation and holiday pay, sick time expense, FICA, office space and equipment for the lawyer, paralegal and secretarial staff assigned to that lawyer, pension and profit sharing, auto and parking expense, CLE seminar costs, and other employment benefits such as disability and life insurance. The real annual cost of one lawyer earning a base annual salary of $150,000-$175,000 is more likely in the range of $250,000 to $300,000 per year. NONE of these customary expenses accrue to a law firm utilizing supplemental offshore legal providers.

2. OUTSOURCING WILL ENHANCE LAW FIRM EFFICIENCIES

Selective outsourcing will improve the efficiency of your law firm. Because Indian lawyers work while American lawyers sleep, it will be like your law firm has a full time, fully staffed night shift. Some work can be assigned by a partner at 6 p.m. in the evening and the completed task on his desk when he arrives at the office the next morning. Litigation cases will move more rapidly through the court system with less need for extensions of time.

3. OUTSOURCING WILL RESULT IN IMPROVED LAWYER MORALE

As a child not many of the sermons I heard from my pastor stuck with me. But one, when I was fourteen years of age still rings a bell. He said: “Ninety percent of any worthwhile endeavor is pack work, plugging, day in and day out. Only ten percent of our work tasks are necessarily fun and enjoyable.” I have always remembered that statement. In more than two decades as a trial lawyer I enjoyed strategizing and trying cases to juries. But I did not necessarily enjoy all of the trial and deposition preparation, research and briefing, document review, and other mundane essentials of the practice of law. A law firm which incorporates outsourcing into its practice will inevitably foster more contented lawyers who devote their time and energies to the more challenging, fun and rewarding parts of the practice of law. Only the “chore” legal work is outsourced with the “core” work staying onshore. This allows more time for client interaction and development by the firm’s lawyers.

4. OUTSOURCING WILL RESULT IN OVERALL SAVINGS IN LEGAL FEES TO CLIENTS

Clients of law firms, particularly business clients, are searching far and wide for ways to cut their legal expenses. Many ask why they should pay, for example, $200 to $300 hourly for document review. Gone are the days when legal bills are simply paid without scrutiny. Likewise, the annual increases in hourly rates will not be well received by clients looking to cut costs. Wise law firms put the interests of their clients above their own. What is good for the client will ultimately be good for the law firm itself.

5. THE RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT REQUIRE OUTSOURCING CONSIDERATION

The Rules of Professional Conduct of require that: a. “A lawyer should seek to achieve the lawful objectives of a client through reasonable permissible means.” (Rule 1.2) b. “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions about the representation.” (Rule 1.4 b) c. “A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client.” (Rule 3.2)

A lawyer is required to explore and discuss with his client all reasonable means of accomplishing the client’s objectives. A lawyer is not permitted to charge an unreasonable or excessive fee. It would seem that a lawyer is arguably required to discuss selective outsourcing as a way of reducing the client’s ultimate fee obligation and furthering the interests of the client.

6. OUTSOURCING “CHORE” LEGAL WORK PROMOTES CLIENT RETENTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Clients have long questioned ever-increasing legal fees for basic, “chore” legal work. However, they felt as if they had no alternative. They needed the legal representation and wanted good quality work. As there was not a significant degree of fee variance from law firm to law firm, clients tended to “stay put.” This trend is beginning to change as clients learn that they have options. Lawyers who outsource selectively are reporting a more contented, loyal client base. Clients who perceive that their lawyers are looking out for the entirety of the their interests, including fee costs, tend to remain committed to their existing law firms and even refer other clients (whose lawyers refuse to outsource).

7. THE COMPETITION IS OUTSOURCING

If your law firm is not outsourcing, be certain that your competition is. On August 21, 2007 Bloomberg. com reported that even long-established AMLAW 100 law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis are outsourcing under pressure from clients.

8. OUTSOURCING U.S. LAW FIRMS MAY CHARGE A REASONABLE SUPERVISORY FEE

It is reasonable and acceptable for U.S. law firms outsourcing legal work offshore to charge a reasonable supervisory fee in conjunction with outsourced legal work. It is axiomatic that a lawyer who outsources legal work, whether to an associate, contract lawyer or offshore provider, ultimately remains responsible to his client for the quality and timeliness of delivery of the legal product. If a lawyer assigns the research and writing of a brief to a junior associate, the assigning lawyer will not customarily submit the final work product to the court without review and supervision. So it is with offshore legal outsourcing. Published ethics opinions of the San Diego, New York and American Bar Associations indicate that a lawyer who outsources offshore may charge a reasonable supervisory fee.

9. CLIENTS ARE INSISTING ON SELECTIVE OUTSOURCING TO ACHIEVE COST SAVINGS

Clients talk to one another. Executives of major companies golf and have lunch with one another. Corporate General Counsel attend meetings and CLE seminars, sharing information and ways to increase efficiencies and cut costs. They know about offshore outsourcing and the dramatic cost savings that can be achieved. It is unacceptable, therefore, to ignore legal outsourcing and, as one managing law firm partner told me, have “no appetite” for it.

10. OUTSOURCING WILL HAPPEN.

Doing nothing is not an option. Some are outsourcing. Many more are considering it, whether prompted by keen business sense or financial realities. Outsourcing is like a large, ominous wave a few miles offshore. It is preferable to surf the wave than wait to be engulfed, overwhelmed by its power and left wondering what happened.

British economist Herbert Spencer is credited with originating the term “survival of the fittest” in the mid 19th century. Although also having application to biology, Spencer applied the concept of survival of the fittest to free market economics. In a free market, companies and businesses will do what is necessary to survive. If that means outsourcing some U.S. legal jobs for the greater good of survival of the entity itself, then so be it. The model of ever increasing salaries and expenses for law firms followed by even higher legal fees charged clients cannot sustain itself any longer. Legal outsourcing is here to stay. The wise will take notice, survive and flourish.