Certain ITT Student Debt Will be Uncollectible in Class Action Settlement

Now don’t get all excited that all ITT student loan debt is going to be barred from collection. The proposed class action lawsuit settlement only concerns the $560 million ITT was holding on its books at the time of its demise. This does not include federal student loans or debt it had previously transferred to other entities.

According to the proposed class action settlement, “ITT holds approximately $560,000,000 of Student Receivables (due to adjustments made and to be made to ITT’s books and records relating to tax returns for ITT’s 2016 fiscal year). The Students dispute the validity of all Student Receivables.”

“The Trustee has confirmed with each of the collection and servicing agents known by the Trustee to have been used by ITT that each has marked the Student Receivables as paid in full or has deleted the Student Receivables from the students’ records and files and the Trustee is advised that no further reporting is being made and no further reporting will be made in the future by such servicers or collection agencies to any credit bureaus, or otherwise, relating to Student Receivables owing to the Debtors.”

The settlement would also require the bankruptcy trustee to refund nearly $3 million collected since the bankruptcy filing.

You can see the proposed class action settlement agreement here.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

What does the Coast Guard know about the GI Bill that the other services do not?

More than a hundred thousand servicemembers ship out to basic training each year. While their uniforms might be different shades of camouflage, active duty servicemembers are all given the same choice: “Should I pay $1,200 to sign-up for the Montgomery GI Bill® (MGIB)?”

A decade ago, new recruits only had two options: either pay the money or don’t qualify for VA education benefits. With the passage of the more comprehensive Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008, active duty servicemembers began to qualify for this new GI Bill program without having to pay anything up front. 

7 out of 10 new recruits still pay the $1,200 for the MGIB

New data from the Department of Defense reveal that last fiscal year 70 percent of new recruits (over 112,000 recruits) still paid the $1,200 to buy into the MGIB, even though they likely qualified for the more generous Post-9/11 GI Bill for free. This means that new enlistees and newly commissioned officers spent over $134 million last year to buy into a GI Bill benefit they will probably not use.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most generous and comprehensive GI Bill program since WWII, providing benefits that pay for tuition and fee costs, a monthly housing allowance, and an annual book stipend. The MGIB, on the other hand, pays a flat monthly benefit regardless of where a servicemember attends school, and that benefit is usually worth significantly less than the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This is probably why 96 percent of active duty servicemembers starting to use their GI Bill benefits choose the Post-9/11 GI Bill and not the MGIB to pay for their education (130,995 out of 136,569 new beneficiaries).

While there are a few instances in which the MGIB may pay more than the Post-9/11 GI Bill, they are few and far between. Check it out for yourself with the VA’s GI Bill benefit calculator, which will clearly show you the difference in the two GI Bill benefits.

What does Coast Guard know about the GI Bill that the other services do not?

Unlike the other branches of the military, only a handful of Coast Guard recruits agree to pay the $1,200 to buy-in to the MGIB (only 13 percent in FY17). The Marine Corps has the next lowest rate, but still more than half of Marine recruits buy in. 

Below is a breakdown of new recruits buying into the MGIB by military service last year, according to DoD information:

  • 13 percent Coast Guard
  • 64 percent Marine Corps
  • 70 percent Air Force
  • 74 percent Army
  • 76 percent Navy

Somebody told me I could get my MGIB money back. How do I do that?

While it is possible to get your $1,200 back, it is not very easy to do. The VA will only refund the $1,200 buy-in if you exhaust every single day of your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and meet other specific criteria. Here is a list of all the requirements servicemembers need to meet to get the refund. This is why many veterans who paid the $1,200 but used the Post-9/11 GI Bill never saw that money again. 

Investing that $1,200 in DoD’s new Blended Retirement System (BRS) could be a good choice

In January 2018, the military will transition to a new retirement program for servicemembers called blended retirement. This new retirement program expands retirement benefits to most servicemembers, not just those who served 20 years or more. 

This new retirement program strongly encourages servicemembers to contribute to their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), to which DoD will provide some matching contributions.

If newly enlisting servicemembers were to stop buying into the MGIB—whose benefits they likely won’t use—and instead invest the $1,200 in their TSP account, this investment, combined with the DoD’s matching funds, will likely produce a far greater long-term benefit. 

For example, if an 18-year-old recruit invested their $1,200 in TSP, combined with the 1 percent DoD match, that investment, by the time they were eligible to collect Social Security, could have grown to over $35,000 (assuming a 7 percent rate of return). Check out DoD’s Blended Retirement Calculator to see for yourself and begin your journey to educational and financial success.

For help handling financial challenges at every step of a servicemember’s military career, visit the CFPB guide through the military lifecycle.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


12 Ways You Can Help Others Without Spending Money

You’re a generous person. You like to help people. But money is tight!

Even if you are in between jobs, flat broke or on a fixed income, you can still be a generous giver. Here are a dozen ways of helping others without spending a dime:

  1. Give blood – If you’re healthy and weigh at least 110 pounds, you can donate blood. One unit of blood (slightly less than a pint) saves three lives! You can donate once every two months (56 days). That’s six times a year. Contact your local blood center for details.
  2. Saving materials – Throwaway items can sometimes help others. For instance, a local charitable thrift store doesn’t buy plastic sacks for bagging merchandise; instead, it reuses bags from other stores. Its supporters bring in plastic bags along with other donations. We save cans for a teacher who recycles metal to purchase classroom supplies, trimmed/fallen tree limbs for a friend’s fireplace, and egg cartons for a farmer. Such help doesn’t cost a penny!
  3. Volunteering – If you can’t spare a dime, could you spare some time? Perhaps you can tutor a child, teach Sunday school, coach sports, or pick up litter. Unemployed folks must devote weekday work hours to job searching, but could volunteer in evenings or weekends. This is a great way to network and possibly find a job! Retirees have lots of time and experience and are valuable resources for schools, churches, civic organizations, and charities.
  4. Chores – Know an elderly person or someone in poor health? Could you do yard work, clean gutters, shovel snow, or buy groceries for them? If they can’t drive, could you give them a ride?
  5. Babysitting – Some stay-at-home mothers never get a moment’s peace. They are at their “job” 24/7. Could you give them a “Mom’s Day Out” by watching their little ones? You’ll have fun with the kiddies and mom can relax.
  6. Elder sitting – Don’t overlook helping a family with an elderly relative. When my father was terminally ill, I became his in-home caregiver. It was grueling! Dad’s friends Bob and Earl came over and told me to go rest. Dad greatly enjoyed the visit, and I got some desperately-needed sleep.
  7. Discards – Cleaning out your closet, attic, or garage? Too many books or clothes? Instead of throwing perfectly good items away, donate them to a charity or give them to someone who could use them! In the former case, you could get a tax receipt for a charitable donation; it will come in handy next April 15.
  8. Your expertise – Your knowledge may help others. Consider serving on a board of advisers for a church or charity. Retired business people volunteering for the Service Corps of Retired Executives can advise new entrepreneurs how to navigate the marketplace. Mentoring can be informal, such as a retired educator guiding a brand-new teacher or experienced parents helping first-timers care for their newborn.
  9. Garden extras – Gardens sometimes produce bumper crops of squash, tomatoes, carrots, or other veggies. Fruit trees may shower you with way too many peaches, pears, or apples. In addition to folks you know, sharing this bounty is a godsend to food banks, domestic violence shelters, Meals on Wheels, and other charities. Their clients may seldom enjoy fresh fruits or veggies.
  10. Computer help – Even in the 21st century, some people do not own computers. If an elderly or computer-less friend or neighbor needs some information, could you find it online for them? Could you contact a distant loved one via email and relay a message for them? Teach them computer basics, such as using the internet, so they can use the public library computers for job searches and emails.
  11. Hauling – There are items I need that I can’t squeeze into my compact car. If you own a pickup truck, flatbed trailer, van or SUV, hauling large items like furniture helps those who lack bigger vehicles.
  12. Prayer – We all know people with problems. Do we pray for them? We should! A medical journal once reported about a scientific study on prayer. It concluded that prayer works. It’s a way of helping that doesn’t cost you a dime.

This article by Lynn Bulmahn first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Why Does the Trump Department of Education Hate Student Loan Debtors This Much?

In July of 2015 the Department of Education reached a published decision on how they would handle the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy cases. And while some have been awarded the discharge as outlined, many others have not.

So when law professor Richard Fossey wrote this recent post below, it just highlights the clearly inconsistent approach the Department of Education is taking against student loan debtors who have a clear case for a discharge of their federal student loan debt.

The only conclusion I can come to through observation is the current Department of Education is dragging their feet on cancelling student loans for defrauded students and hesitant to hold the mostly for-profit schools accountable, is attempting to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and invests energy in fighting to give people a fresh start when they need it most.

For many today, college with student loans is just a financial prison. At least you can get paroled from prison.

Coplin v. U.S. Dep’t of Education: Bankruptcy Court Orders Mentally Ill Mother of 4 Disabled Children to Repay $222,000 in Student Loans

Heather Coplin graduated from University of Pacific’s McGeorge law school in 2009 and gave birth to triplets that same year. The infants were born prematurely and all three suffer from profound disabilities. At age 8, one triplet is incontinent and requires an electric wheelchair for mobility. The other two triplets have muscular issues that impair their mobility. Two triplets have required shunts to drain spinal fluid.

Coplin also has a 15-year-old child who suffers from autism. He is six feet tall, weighs 340 pounds and engages in “anxiety-induced acting-out behavior.” Coplin has called the police on several occasions to deal with her son’s aggressiveness.

Coplin herself is bipolar and has made several suicide attempts.

Although Coplin graduated law school in 2009, she was unable to pass the state bar exam until 2012. She practiced law for a time and even established her own firm. She found, however, that family issues prevented her from working as an attorney. At time of trial, Coplin was a night-shift waitress at the Muckleshoot Casino

Coplin filed an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court to discharge almost half a million dollars in student-loan debt, some of it accruing interest at the rate of 10 percent. Navient, one of her creditors, agreed to discharge part of the debt, but three creditors opposed a discharge: ECMC, the U.S. Department of Education and University of the Pacific.

In a decision entered a few days ago, Judge Mary Jo Heston granted Coplin a partial discharge. Utilizing the three-pronged Brunner test, Judge Heston concluded Coplin only met two prongs.

First, Coplin met the first prong, which required her to show she could not pay back her student loans and maintain a minimal standard of living. She also met a second prong, requiring her to show she had handled her student loans in good faith.

Nevertheless, Judge Heston did not grant Coplin a full discharge. Coplin had about $1850 in discretionary monthly income, the judge pointed out. She could put that amount toward paying off her student loans. Judge Heston ruled that Coplin could pay back $222,000 over a ten-year period; and thus she only granted Coplin a partial discharge.

It should be pointed out that the only reason Coplin had any discretionary income was that she was living in her fiancee’s home rent free. In addition, I don’t think the bankruptcy judge accurately estimated Coplin’s ongoing medical expenses. Coplin said she visited doctors 6 or 7 times a week due to her children’s medical issues.

These are my reflections on the Coplin decision:

First, I was struck by Coplin’s strong work ethic. As Judge Heston noted, Coplin had worked continuously at a variety of jobs since graduating from law school. She practiced law, sold real estate, worked as a delivery driver, and finally wound up working the night shift as a casino waitress. No one can say she didn’t do her best to feed her family.

Second, I was shocked by the ruthlessness of Coplin’s creditors. The creditors–including the U.S. Department of Education–argued Coplin should be denied a discharge because she had not lived frugally. They pointed to the fact that she occasionally dined at fast food restaurants, had cable television, and had taken a modest vacation.

Is Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education saying that a casino waitress with four disabled children is living extravagantly because she occasionally eats at McDonald’s? Yes, it is.

Finally, I was astonished by the arrogance of University of the Pacific, where Coplin went to law school. One would think the university would be embarrassed by the fact that one of its law graduates racked up half a million dollars in student-loan debt (including accrued interest), took three years to pass the bar exam and was working as a waitress 8 years after obtaining her law degree. But no–UP wants its money–at 10 percent interest.

In sum, I found the Coplin decision disheartening. If a waitress with four disabled children can’t obtain a complete discharge of her student loans in a bankruptcy court then it is difficult to see how any student-loan debtor is entitled to bankruptcy relief. God help us. – Source

References

Coplin v. U.S. Department of Education, Case No. 13-46108, Adversary No. 16-04122, 2017 WL 6061580 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. December 6, 2017).

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Experts Say Be Wary of These Two Kinds of Identity Theft

Over the past few years, identity theft has become increasingly more complex as several different types of identity theft have surfaced. The 2017 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that the number of identity theft victims hit an all-time high of 15.4 million in 2016. Basically, the increase in the different types of identity theft and the advancement of technology has led to a higher number of identity theft victims. Knowing which types of identity theft you should be looking out for and taking precautions can greatly decrease your risk of being affected. Here are the top two types of identity theft that experts say you should be aware of:

Medical Identity Theft

Medical identity theft is one of the more recent types of identity theft. Identity theft and scam expert, author of “The Truth About Avoiding Scams,” and founder of Scamicide.com, Steven Weisman, said that “while there are so many variations of identity theft, by far the most dangerous is medical identity theft where your medical insurance information is stolen and then used by the identity thief or people to whom the identity thief sells this information.”

Weisman explained that “this type of identity theft is potentially deadly because the medical information of the identity thief can be commingled with the medical information of the identity theft victim’s medical reports. This can potentially result in the identity theft victim receiving a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type or other improper treatment.”

The Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft estimated that 2.32 million Americans have been victimized by medical identity theft. Since the study was released, the number of medical identity theft victims has continued to rise.

Concerning protection, Weisman warns “the best thing you can do to protect yourself from this type of identity theft is to closely guard your medical insurance information.” He suggests that people “carefully review their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) when they receive it from their health insurer after their medical insurance has been used in order to quickly recognize that there is a problem.”

In order to report medical identity theft, Weisman said “the best thing to do is to report this to your insurance company and your medical care provider immediately.” He also warned that people should “be particularly wary of offers of ‘free’ medical services or equipment if you merely provide your insurance number or Medicare number. These can often lead to fraud or identity theft.”

Child Identity Theft

Not only can identity theft ruin your life, but it can also ruin your child’s life. Information security consultant and Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, Rob Douglas, said that “other than medical identity theft, one of the most dangerous types of identity theft is child identity theft.”

Douglas explained that “the danger lies in the fact that this form of identity theft often goes undetected until the child is approaching adulthood and begins to engage in credit transactions. Those transactions—ranging from opening a cellphone account to applying for student loans—may be delayed or denied because of the damage that has been done to the victim’s credit score by the criminal who stole the child’s sensitive personal information years earlier. This damage can be compounded by the number of previously undetected fraudulent accounts and the length of time that has passed, making repair and restoration of the credit file and score a cumbersome process.”

The 2012 Child Identity Fraud Report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research proved that at least one child within 1 of 40 households has had personal information compromised.

Although many people blame child identity theft on stereotypical identity theft criminals, relatives are often the ones to blame as well. Douglas explained “another tragic reality is that a significant percentage of child identity theft is committed by a parent or other relative of the child who has access to the child’s Social Security number and other sensitive personal information that can be used to assume the child’s identity for criminal purposes.”

In regards to protection from child identity theft, Douglas suggested that “parents should place a security freeze on their child’s credit file (if one exists) at each of the four major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis. The legal right to place a security freeze on a child’s credit file is determined on a state-by-state basis with more states every year passing legislation enabling this important security feature. Additionally, parents should be on the lookout for mail (or other communications) addressed to a child that may indicate that credit accounts have been opened in the child’s name or that the child’s name is appearing on mailing lists.”

If you believe your child’s identity has been compromised,Douglas recommends you follow these steps.

  1. Contact the police in order to create an official report
  2. Go to www.IdentityTheft.gov/steps for instructions and suggestions from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
  3. When on the website mentioned above, Douglas suggests that you scroll down to “Special Forms of Identity Theft” and click on “Child Identity Theft”

Additional Precaution

If you are worried about any type of identity theft, follow the tips provided above and consider hiring a professional identity theft company. The best identity theft companies will monitor your information 24/7, provide immediate notifications if there is any suspicious or fraudulent activity, and will help you develop a recovery plan if your identity is stolen.

This article by Alayna Pehrson first appeared on BestCompany.com and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Fraud alert, freeze or lock after Equifax? FAQs

After the Equifax breach, some people are considering placing a fraud alert on their credit file. Others will freeze or lock their credit files to help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in their name. Here are some FAQs to help you decide what’s best for you.        

Fraud Alert
  • What is it? A fraud alert requires companies to verify your identity before extending new credit. Usually that means calling you to check if you’re really trying to open a new account.
  • How does it work? The process is easy – you contact any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and that one must notify the other two.
  • How long does it last? An initial fraud alerts last 90 days. After 90 days, you can renew your alert for an additional 90 days, as many times as you want. Military who deploy can get an active duty alert that lasts one year, renewable for the period of deployment. Identity theft victims (whose information has been misused, not just exposed in a breach) are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which lasts seven years.
  • How much does it cost? Fraud alerts are free.
  • Is this for me? With a fraud alert, you keep access to your credit and federal law protects you. But an initial fraud alert lasts only 90 days and then you’ll need to remind yourself to renew it every 90 days.   
 
Credit Freeze
  • What is it? A credit freeze limits access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until the freeze is lifted.
  • How does it work? To be fully protected, you must place a freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies. Freezes can be placed by phone or online. You’ll get a PIN to use each time you freeze or unfreeze, which may take one to three business days.
  • How long does it last? A freeze lasts until you temporarily lift or permanently remove it (except in a few states where freezes expire after seven years).   
  • How much does it cost? Fees are set by state law. Generally, it costs $5 to $10 each time you freeze or unfreeze your account with each credit reporting agency. You can get a free freeze if you are an identity theft victim, or in some states, if you’re over age 62. Equifax is offering free freezes until January 31, 2018. 
  • Is this for me? Freezes are generally best for people who aren’t planning to take out new credit. Often, that includes older adults, people under guardianship, and children. People who want to avoid monthly fees also may prefer freezes over locks.    
 
Credit Lock
  • What is it? Like a freeze, a credit lock limits access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until you unlock your credit file.
  • How does it work? Like a freeze, to be fully protected, you must place locks with all three credit reporting agencies. With locks, however, there’s no PIN and usually no wait to lock or unlock your credit file (although the current Equifax lock can take 24 to 48 hours). You can lock and unlock on a computer or mobile device through an app – but not with a phone call.
  • How long does it last? Locks last only as long as you have an ongoing lock agreement with each of the credit reporting agencies. In some cases, that means paying monthly fees to maintain your lock service.
  • How much does it cost? Credit reporting agencies can set and change lock fees at any time. As of today, Equifax offers free locks as part of its free post-breach credit monitoring. Experian and TransUnion may charge monthly fees, often about $20.  
  • Is this for me? Depending on your particular lock agreement, your fees and protections may change over time. So, if you sign up for a lock, it’s hard to be sure what your legal protections will be if something goes wrong later. Also, monthly lock fees can quickly exceed the cost of freezes, especially if the lock fees increase over time.

For more information about ways to protect your identity, check out Credit freeze FAQs, Fraud alert or credit freeze – which is right for you, and Free freezes from Equifax. Also, check out the FTC’s resource page about the Equifax data breach. And if your personal information is misused, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plan.

Initial fraud alerts, credit freezes, and credit locks:

What’s the difference?

What you should know about

Initial fraud alerts

Credit freezes

Credit locks

Purpose Verify your identity before extending new credit

Restricts access to credit file to prevent identity theft

Legal protections

Based on federal law (Fair Credit Reporting Act) Based on state law

Based on consumer’s lock agreement with each credit reporting agency (CRA)

Varies by CRA & may change over time

Fees Free
  • Free from Equifax until January 31, 2018
  • Free for id theft victims & in some states free for people over age 62
  • Otherwise, $5-$10 per credit reporting agency (CRA) each time you freeze or unfreeze
  • Free from Equifax, as part of free credit monitoring service
  • Otherwise, CRAs may charge monthly fees
  • Monthly fees may change
Links Place a fraud alert with any one of the three: Place a credit freeze with all three: Place a credit lock with all three:

Turning them on and off

A fraud alert:

  • Lasts 90 days
  • Can be renewed for free for an additional 90 days, as many times as you want
To freeze or unfreeze:

  • Online or by phone
  • Requires a PIN
To lock or unlock:

  • Online only
  • No PIN required

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Did I Paint Myself Into a Corner With My Loan Consolidation?

Question:

Dear Steve,

I went through Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 2016 and all credit card debt was discharged. My Stafford student loans were, of course, not included in the discharge and so I’m back to paying those off slowly. However, while I was pursuing an MA degree in 2006, I needed loans above and beyond what Stafford could provide, so I used Sallie Mae’s Tuition Answer loans to use for living expenses. I’ve read that these loans can sometimes be discharged because they were loans provided directly to me and not to the educational institution for tuition or room & board, etc., but correct me if I’m wrong about that. In 2008, I consolidated these Sallie Mae loans at a lower interest rate with Key Bank. Looking at the original paperwork, I now see that there was a provision in the consolidation loan that it couldn’t be discharged in chapter 7. I don’t think my bankruptcy lawyer in 2016 included this consolidation loan in the list of debts to be discharged and I’m now getting calls for collection on this debt.

My questions are two-fold: 1) Did I paint myself into a corner by consolidating what could potentially have been discharged into a consolidation loan with a different lender that had that “no chapter 7 discharge” provision? and 2) What, if anything, could I do to retroactively apply the discharge decision by the bankruptcy court to this loan if it was mistakenly omitted?

I’m anticipating the answer is I will have to deal with collections and set up a payment plan and luckily I’ve found steady employment. Frustratingly, unlike Stafford loans, there was no option with the consolidation loan to defer payments while I was unemployed. Their rigidness was disheartening and the letters demanding payment in full of $40,000 while I was beginning the bankruptcy process were infuriating.

Any advice would be appreciated. I’m also reaching out to the lawyer who assisted me with the bankruptcy filing last year, but I would like another opinion. Thanks!

Ryan

Answer:

Dear Ryan,

I don’t think all hope is lost. Just because the paperwork has that provision in it does not make it so. I’ve never heard of anyone being able to contract themselves out of their legal right to discharge debt through federal law.

You should direct your attorney to look at these posts. Even Sallie Mae admitted the loans were vulnerable to discharge in bankruptcy and then putting them into the new loan that was also not a qualified educational loan should not change that fact.

If your attorney has additional questions they could contact one of the attorneys on this list. Attorney Austin Smith in New York is an expert in this exact issue.

Your attorney will probably need to file an Adversary Proceeding on this matter but I would be surprised if it did not result in a discharge of that loan.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

6 Facts Baby Boomers Need to Know About Credit

From their first gas credit card after high school graduation to a financial world filled with rewards cards and penalty rates, baby boomers have seen the use of credit change dramatically in their lifetimes. And now they wonder how all these changes will affect them as they head into retirement. So let’s take a look at six credit questions all boomers will need to answer.

How do boomers credit scores stack up? According to Experian’s Generational Credit Trends Report, they do pretty well. Boomers credit scores were about 4% above average. They score higher than average in most categories measured except they are more likely to have a second mortgage.

How did this get on my report? Credit scores include a lot of different inputs. So it’s not unusual for boomers to make financial decisions without recognizing their credit score effect. Sometimes the result is a surprising entry on their credit report.

Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.com, points to a couple of common situations. “Boomers often find themselves saddled with other people’s debts, especially their kid’s. This may include cosigning for cars, student loans, or even homes. The big danger is that if the primary borrower can’t pay, the cosigner ends up responsible for the debt. Even if the bills are paid on time, the debt will usually be included on their credit reports and affect their debt ratios and credit scores.”

Could my credit score get sick? Just as a sudden illness is more likely to strike as you get older, the same holds true for boomer credit scores. That’s because medical bills can seriously affect boomers’ finances. According to Ms. Detweiler, if a medical bill goes to collection, expect a big hit on your score. “One study found that medical bills accounted for about half of all collection accounts on credit reports.”

Can I have too much credit? Many boomers find that they don’t need much of the credit that they have built up over the years and that is still available to them. Naturally they wonder if their credit score would improve if they cancelled some available credit.

Ms. Detweiler believes that’s not necessary. “Those big credit lines don’t hurt. If you get your credit reports and see open available credit lines totaling tens of thousands of dollars, you may be tempted to close some, thinking all that available credit makes you a greater credit risk. But that’s not the case with most scoring models, which are more concerned with the debt you are carrying than your available credit. So you’re usually best off just leaving them alone.”

Will being close to retirement hurt my credit score? Actually, the opposite is true. Detweiler explains, “The fact that you have been using credit for many years helps your credit scores. Most scoring models take into account the average age of your accounts as well as the age of your oldest account. So be glad you have all that experience under your belt. It’s something you can’t fake.”

And a lower retirement income level does not affect your score. So while a drop in income might make paying bills more challenging, that alone won’t hurt your credit score, but it is a good warning about debt. Ideally you’ll have houses, cars, and credit cards paid off prior to retirement.

I don’t need to borrow money anymore. Why should I care what my score is? Tempting as this is, you probably don’t want to blow off your credit score. Credit scores are used for much more than just issuing credit.

For instance, you may be a boomer who chooses to work for a few more years. Don’t be surprised if a potential employer checks your score. If you have an auto or homeowners insurance policy, there’s better than a 50/50 chance that the insurer will consider your credit score in determining rates and discounts.

As boomers head into retirement, they may be able to leave the daily grind behind them. But they’ll still need to monitor and manage their credit to avoid unpleasant outcomes.

This article by Gary Foreman first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Does the Statute of Limitations Protect Me From My Co-Signed Student Loan?

Question:

Dear Steve,

I was the co-signer for a student loan for my daughter. I made the last payment in June 2014. The loan has been sold several times. I live in Maryland and a collection agency who bought the loan is trying to sue me. I haven’t been officially served but it’s been filed in District Court. I keep reading that in MD, the statute of limitations is 3 years. This lawsuit was filed with the court on October 26, 2017. Do I count from June 2014 for the statute of limitations?

When does the statute of limitations start in MD for a debt? Does it start based on when I made the last payment (acknowledged the debt)?

Cindy

Answer:

Dear Cindy,

The Statute of Limitations is a tricky beast. It’s not always so clearcut. The biggest misunderstanding is even if the debt is time barred under the Statute of Limitations that does not prevent you from being sued over a debt. It is a defense you would have to raise if sued.

So understanding that you must realize there is no substitution for good assistance from a licensed attorney in your state.

I publish a list of student loan attorneys that have experience in dealing with student loan issues. But this is not necessarily a purely student loan situation if you think the Statute of Limitations might apply.

You could contact an attorney who is experienced in dealing with debt collection issues.

I don’t care what anybody on the internet might say, the only way to protect yourself from a legal action is with good legal advice from a licensed attorney. Beware of any debt relief company that might claim they can protect with with some one-size-fits-all solution at this point.

Please go contact a Maryland attorney and let me know what they say by posting an update in the comments below. And do it now.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Defendants Who Sold Business Coaching Program Settle FTC Charges

Banned from selling business coaching services and business opportunities

Three individuals and the company they control have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceived consumers in a telemarketing scheme that took millions of dollars from thousands of people who were trying to start home-based Internet businesses.  The settlement order bans them from selling business coaching services and business opportunities.

According to the FTC, Internet Teaching and Training Specialists LLC (ITT) sold a business coaching program provided by Guidance Interactive, which settled with the FTC in June 2017 for alleged deceptive practices. Most people who bought the business coaching program did not develop a successful online business as ITT promised, and instead ended up heavily in debt.

As alleged in the FTC’s complaint, the defendants used a variety of deceptive sales tactics and falsely promised that their clients were likely to earn substantial income, their training programs were personalized and open only to qualified participants, and they needed consumers’ financial information to determine if they qualified.

The defendants are Victoria A. Hansen, David R. Coffin, Jr. and Devan W. Leonard, also known as Devin Leonard, and ITT, also doing business as Internet Teaching and Training and as ITT Specialists. They were charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

In addition to the bans imposed on the defendants, the settlement order imposes a $10.2 million judgment that will be partially suspended upon payment of $660,000 and the surrender of certain assets. The full judgment will become due if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for Nevada entered the order on January 2, 2017.

The FTC would like to acknowledge the assistance of the State of Utah Department of Commerce, Division of Consumer Protection, and the State of Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Consumer Affairs Division during the investigation of this case.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.