Foreclosure Squatters Force “Produce the Note” Issue

January 30, 2009

CNN’s Special Investigative Unit did this great story on the “Produce the Note” strategy to fight foreclosure.  It appeared on  Lou Dobbs Tonight.  Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur tells her constituents to use squatter’s rights and stay in their homes, because lenders can’t “produce the note.”

Profiled By Your Credit Card Company?

January 30, 2009

If someone were to look at your recent credit card statement what kind of judgments and assumptions could they make?

Spending habits, products and services you buy, even the places where you like to shop can reveal a lot about you. Most people don’t think much of it – but credit card companies have always been paying attention.

Traditionally card companies used a customer’s purchasing history to flag suspicious transactions and intercept fraud. For example a large transaction at a casino might set off red flags if a consumer lives on the East Coast and never gambles.

Now credit card companies – seemingly without warning – have changed the rules and started using this information in a much more insulting and unethical way. Would you be surprised to see your credit limit drastically reduced just because you used your American Express to charge something at Wal-Mart?

That’s just what happened to Kevin Johnson, 29, of Atlanta. He recently returned from a trip to find his new American Express Blue card’s credit limit slashed from $10,800 to $3,800. The explanation?

Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.

“I think offended is an understatement,” Johnson said of his reaction. “It was more like completely disgusted, offended, appalled. And I didn’t even know what to do.”

Behavioral Scoring is what it’s called in the industry and it is becoming more and more widely adopted by credit card companies. If this practice continues, consumers hit by foreclosures, job loss, and hardship by the recession will be greatly affected when they shop at discount stores trying to save money… only to find out they’re hurting their already troubled credit.

Johnson hopes he can make a difference by helping consumers be aware of these types of practices by credit card companies. He’s setup a website called You can read more about Kevin’s story at ABC News.

The Safest Cars For 2009 and Guess Which One is the Top Pick

January 28, 2009

Drum-roll please … FORD TAURUS!

Yes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just released its annual list of Top Safety Picks. To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a car has to receive the highest rating in front, side, and rear protection along with the highest rating in head restraint and offer electronic stability control.

In the Large Car category 8 automobiles received Top Safety Ratings. However, the Ford Taurus is by far the best buy. A 2009 Ford Taurus has a MSRP of $23,485. By contrast, other cars in the Large Car category list for over $55,000 such as the Cadillac CTS and the Audi A6.

It is worth mentioning that the Ford Fusion also earned a Top Safety Pick in midsize cars.

So just when you think American manufacturing can’t compete in the world market, we build a better and less expensive car than both Japan and Germany.

Congratulations to FORD!

Foreclosure Help Run-Around

January 26, 2009

Despite all the rallying cries of foreclosure help by the banks, people actually losing their homes say they’re being met with a different reality.  Instead of help, they get the run-around.  The Consumer Warning Network’s Angie Moreschi reports on the frustration and road-blocks homeowners face when they try to negotiate with their lenders.  Click here to find your elected officials in Washington and write to them, if you’re facing this problem.

ABC’s Chief Investigative Reporter Brian Ross exposed the run-around homeowners get in an eye-opening report for Nightline.  Even when it’s a Congresswoman on the line, trying to negotiate with lenders is nearly impossible

Read more

Superbowl Mania Begins: Steelers Arrive in Tampa

January 26, 2009

Super Bowl Pittsburgh Steelers Arrive in Tampa

First pictures of the Pittsburgh Steelers arriving at their hotel in Tampa!

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The Company is Imploding: Time to Re-decorate!

January 23, 2009

John Thain

Update:  The fired corporate exec says redecorating was “a mistake” and he’ll pay the money back.

Your company is about to collapse financially, you’re firing employees and the entire economy is about to implode.  Sounds like a good time to redecorate the office, right?  Well, former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain thought so.   Thain had a high brow decorator redo his office for $1.2 million, including among other lavish things an $87,000 rug, a $68,000 credenza, and a $35,000 commode on legs.  All this as his company was about to report a $15.45 billion 4th quarter loss.  Thain moved on to Bank of America after BofA bailed out Merrill, but as you might expect in light of this scandal, he’s now resigning.  The unbelievable nerve of this corporate executive was exposed by CNBC in an outstanding piece of reporting.

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Be Careful with Student Loans

January 21, 2009

This video from CNNMoney gives good advice on how to protect yourself if you need student loans to pay for school. Be especially careful of private student loans which charge higher interest rates and are known to have hidden fees.

SUVs and Trucks Top 2008 Most Stolen List

January 21, 2009

By Larry Wiezycki: Good news for Honda owners! Your Accords and Civics are no longer number one on car thieves’ wish lists. Insurance claim results from 2008 show the fuel efficient Japanese cars that once topped the list have now been replaced by gas-guzzling luxury SUVs and trucks.

And what perfect timing. With future uncertainty over gas prices that soared for part of 2008, an increasingly tough auto market, and more and more people upside-down in their car loans this is a great year to unload that big Escalade, somehow.  Wink, wink.

Maybe your house is in foreclosure… what better turn of luck than to find your Hummer H2 that you’ve been unable to sell, stolen?

It’s almost as if people should be THANKING the thieves for ‘stealing’ them.

What?! Is this to suggest that people are intentionally dumping these cars to collect the insurance money? Could people be so far in the black hole of debt that the only way out comes with a gas can and a match?

What else could explain this dramatic shift of car theft preference? Are we to believe that these models are so much more desirable THIS year than in past years?

Traditionally, cars topping the most stolen list are targeted for parts, chopped up, and shipped out. Forbes suggests this year the Escalade ESV and Hummer H2 are just ‘more appealing’ and are therefore bigger targets.

So either Detroit has really nailed the auto thief demographic, or people are just taking matters into their own hands!

Car: Claims Per 1,000/Average Loss Payment Per Claim

1.) 2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV: 15.0/$13,060
2.) 2005-2007 Ford F-250 SuperCrew: 13.1/$19,250
3.) 2007 Cadillac Escalade: 11.3/$14,657
4.) 2006-2007 Dodge Charger: 11/$7,047
5.) 2005-2007 Ford F-350 SuperCrew: 10.7/$20,138
6.) 2005-2007 Hummer H2 SUT: 10.0/$23,771
7.) 2005-2007 Dodge Magnum: 9.9/$8,926
8.) 2005-2007 Hummer H2: 8.7/$18,791
9.) 2005-2007 Dodge Durango: 8.1/$9,682
10.) Honda S2000 Convertible: 8.1/$13,624

Digital Conversion Looming: What Will Happen to My TV, and When?

January 15, 2009

analog TV

By Terry Smiljanich:

By now, just about everyone’s heard that come February 17, 2009, television broadcast stations were supposed to switch to 100% digital broadcasting, ending the era of analog broadcasting in effect since the inception of television. That deadline has now been postponed to June 12, 2009, with the House voting 264 to 158 in agreeing with the Senate to give the government more time to get its act together. When the new deadline comes, does this still mean you have to go out and buy new television sets? Will you still be able to watch the next episode of “Lost” or “American Idol?”

Chances are good that you will not be affected in any way. Many household TVs already have the necessary digital tuners needed to receive the exclusive digital broadcasts starting soon. An estimated 21 million households, however, still receive TV signals entirely over the air.

Here’s how to find out if the transition poses any issues for you.

  1. Do you have a relatively new TV set, purchased since 2004? Almost all TV sets sold since 2004 have digital tuners in them, so you are ready to go.
  2. Did you buy your set after May, 2007? All TVs sold after that date have to carry a warning if they do not have a digital tuner.
  3. Do you have an HDTV set? Again, you have a digital tuner and need do nothing more.
  4. Does your set carry an “NTSC” label on it? If so, it has an analog tuner, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it lacks a digital tuner as well.
  5. Do you receive your TV programming through cable or satellite service? Check with your provider, but it’s almost certain that you will continue to receive your cable or satellite signals since your provider is already taking care of any conversion issues.
  6. Still uncertain? Do you have your owner’s manual? Check it to see if it mentions a digital tuner. If you don’t have your original manual, the information is most likely available by searching for information on your model on the internet.
  7. Do you only receive your television signals by outside antenna or rabbit ears? Unless it’s a fairly new TV set with both analog and digital tuners, you will stop receiving TV signals unless you take further steps.
  8. Turn to a channel that has no station assigned to it. If you see snow, you have an analog TV.
  9. Look on the back of your TV set. If it has a “digital input” connection, you’ve got a digital tuner.

The FCC has a very good website with answers to the most frequent questions about the difference between analog and digital TVs and how to tell them apart.

No need to throw away the old set, however, if you’re stuck with an analog TV set. Digital-to-analog converters are available that will allow your TV set to convert the new digital signals into analog signals your TV can interpret. Such digital converters are available for about $40, a lot cheaper than a new TV set. Not only that, but the FCC is offering every household up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of such converters. To get your coupons, go to the government website set up for applications.

There are problems, however, with the converters and the government program. The converter boxes only do an adequate job of converting the digital signals, and reports have shown that they can suffer from image degradation. If you want the best quality reception, you will probably be better off going ahead and buying a new digital TV.

The government coupon program sounds good, until you hear that more than a million people have applied for the conversion coupons and the FCC has run out of money to supply them.

Due to these problems, President Obama asked Congress to delay implementation of the conversion program. On January 26, the Senate unanimously voted to delay implementation of the digital conversion to June 13, 2009.

The House took up the measure on January 27, but postponed a final tally of the votes. It then voted in favor of the delay on February 5, extending the deadline to June 12, 2009.

What about those conversion box coupons that viewers have already received? They will be reissued “upon request” of the recipient. In other words, it looks like you will have to go through  these procedures all over again. It’s good to know the government remains as efficient as ever.

Don’t wait. Check your own situation and start preparing for the inevitable conversion.

Cramdown the Meltdown To Prevent Foreclosures

January 14, 2009

With foreclosures skyrocketing, and property values tanking, the housing market may not rebound in any reasonable amount of time unless somebody does something drastic. Enter the cramdown bill.

Essentially, the cramdown writes off the overvaluation of your property, reducing the principal to a more ‘real’ worth. FDIC chairman Sheila Bair is using cramdowns in many of the loan modifications the government is doing for IndyMac borrowers.

Now a Senate bill could help as many as 800,000 homeowners with underwater mortgages by granting them new leverage in renegotiating their loans. The bill would modify bankruptcy laws by allowing judges to lower principle and interest rates and to extend the terms of the loans – something they have been unable to do in the past.

Currently, many homeowners are strapped to mortgages they can no longer afford and powerless to renegotiate them under bankruptcy law. About half of Chapter 13 filers ultimately lose their homes because they often are required to make higher monthly payments than they did prior to bankruptcy since reorganization plans must include missed payments plus any penalties.

The cramdown dill would apply to all mortgage loans, including subprime, written any time prior to the bill’s date of enactment but only for homeowners who have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection.

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