Let Me Ask My Lawyer…

  • Debt Elimination Fraud. These scams target people with existing debts and are difficult to distinguish from legitimate debt consolidation services. Generally, these scams involve collecting an upfront fee or payment in exchange for the promise of negotiating away your existing debts. Most people caught in these scams lose the fee they pay to the scammer and also suffer the consequences from their existing debts not being paid.
  • Nigerian Fraud. This scam is so common that it is almost folklore in the United States. In this scheme, someone poses as a government official or other authority figure and asks for help in transferring funds out of Nigeria (or some other country) in exchange for a percentage of the funds. Despite the popularity of these schemes, creative fraudsters are still able to still defraud new victims each year in the U.S.
  • Investor Fraud. These scams often involve emails inviting victims to purchase bonds or other securities and are sent from email addresses containing .gov, .org, or .us. You should always be skeptical of any such email that comes from address that does not END in .gov, .mil, or fed.us.

This is only a small sampling of the types of advance fee fraud out there in the world today. Fortunately, regardless of the form the scam takes, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself in all of these situations. First, always ask to see documentation around anything someone is trying to sell or offer to you. A legitimate business or organization will almost never be concerned with this request. Second, and this is one of my favorite tricks to avoid scams, always tell someone you need to have something reviewed by your attorney. Even if you don’t have an attorney, or don’t actually want to have one you have review what you are looking at, simply mentioning this can be a powerful tool to help weed out fraud. If someone refuses to let you take the time to speak to your attorney, or even worse, asks that you sign something PREVENTING you from doing so, walk away… and maybe talk to your lawyer.

Reverse Mortgage Scams: How to Protect Yourself

As more American’s move into retirement, more and more people are taking advantage of a reverse mortgage to access the equity in their home. However, this also means that scams involving reverse mortgages are on the rise. These scams can take many forms, including:

  • Contractor Fraud: This scam involves someone convincing you that you need home improvements or repairs that you can pay for by letting them help you take out a reverse mortgage.
  • Flipping Fraud: This type of reverse mortgage fraud involves convincing someone to use a reverse mortgage to move into a smaller, less expensive home. Often these homes have been made to look nice but are actually of very poor quality.
  • Theft: This is the most simple reverse mortgage scam but also the most destructive. In this scam, a trusted advisor or relative convinces someone to take out a reverse mortgage in order to pay off their existing mortgage but instead simply walks away with the funds.

For more information on types of reverse mortgage scams see http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/071715/beware-these-reverse-mortgage-scams.asp

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself if you are considering a reverse mortgage. First, it is good to know a little bit about how reverse mortgages work. Reverse Mortgage are actually called Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) and are insured by the Federal Housing Authority. In order to qualify for an HECM, a borrower must meet the following qualifications:

  • 62 years of age or older
  • Occupy their property as a primary residence
  • Own (at least mostly) their property

Any product that doesn’t meet the above criteria is something you should be skeptical of. Also, there is an excellent network of advisers across the country who specialize in assisting people who are interested in a reverse mortgage. These counselors are generally FHA housing specialists who can offer their services to you for free or at a very low cost and can help you determine if a reverse mortgage is right for you. In addition, these counselors can help you make sure that the product you are looking at is a legitimate HECM. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a database of HECM counselors across the country that you can use to find help in your area. This database can be found at: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/sfh/hecm/hecmlist

Just like any other financial product, you should never feel rushed in entering into a reverse mortgage. Get help from the network of HUD advisers and help your community by reporting any suspicious reverse mortgage activity to HUD at 1-800-347-3735.

Does something seem like a scam? Here’s some info on common scams

We all hear about scams every day on the news or on a pretty regular basis from our friends, families, and co-workers. Lucky for us, the state of Colorado has created an index of information on common scams that be accessed whenever something seems shady. The Stop Colorado Fraud website has a wealth of information you can use to make smarter purchases or just to make you an expert to your family and friends.

It also has a link to report fraud and to understand specific consumer fraud issues for military and seniors.


  • Affordable Care Act Scams
  • Business Opportunity Fraud
  • Counterfeit Products
  • Foreign Scams
  • Magazine Sales
  • Super Bowl Ticket Scams
  • Work at Home Scams
  • Odometer Fraud (if you’re buying a used car, probably worth a read)

That’s just a small sampling of the information available. Here’s a sample of what is categorized as Sweetheart Scams-

“In today’s fast paced world of instant communication and social media, many adults have turned to online dating sites to find love, especially around Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, not everyone using dating sites is looking for romance; some are looking for money, your money. Thousands of people have been victimized by online romance scams and wind up not only embarrassed but with financial losses averaging more than $10,000 per person.”

Scams are a constantly evolving problem, but if you keep yourself informed on what these scams look like, you too can spot the most suspect of consumer deals or strange sounding scams.

Is it safe to eat at Chipotle?

As consumers, there is one good every one of us purchases, food. We all have our favorite restaurants and foods, but if you’ve been watching the news lately one your favorite restaurants may have been in the headlines. Last year outbreaks of E. Coli has scared customers and lovers of Chipotle alike.

If you’re interested in what the status of your favorite food might be, there’s an easy place you can go to right here on the internet and check, The Food and Drug Administration, their website is below… http://www.fda.gov/

Once you arrive, you can click on the link that reads, “Outbreak-Foods.” Here’s a picture below with what the website looks like and a red arrow pointing to the link. Click on the picture to see it at regular size.


Once you’ve arrived, you’ll see a list of recent investigations, but at the bottom you’ll see another link to older investigations. Click on that link and you will be able to find the Chipotle investigation conducted by your tax dollars. If you want to read the investigation on Chipotle, you can see it at the link below.


Remember this tip, so when you hear of food outbreaks, you know exactly where to go to get the full scoop.

Options for Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

In Boulder County – contact the Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services to speak with a HUD-approved counselor.

Website: http://www.bouldercounty.org/dept/housinghumanservices/pages/default.aspx

Phone: 303-441-1000

Outside of Boulder County – contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to locate a housing counselor near you.

Website: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc/

Phone: 1-800-333-4636

  1. Refinance

Refinancing is when you get a completely new loan that will pay off and replace your current loan. It could be from your current lender or from another bank. There are costs associated with refinancing, the same as any other loan. You will also have to qualify for a new loan, which could be difficult if you are already delinquent.

Refinancing can be a good option if you are not yet behind on your mortgage payments but you’ve had a change in financial circumstances that makes your current mortgage payments unaffordable in the long-term.

  1. Forbearance

Forbearance is an agreement with your lender to temporarily suspend or reduce your mortgage payments. These agreements can last 3–12 months, but not more than 12 months. Once your financial circumstances have improved you will have to make arrangements to pay off the amount that you delinquent.

Forbearance agreements are most useful for temporary financial hardships, like job loss or unexpected expenses. Forbearance is often combined with a loan modification or a repayment plan once the borrower’s financial situation has improved.

  1. Repayment Plan

This is an agreement to pay off the amount you are delinquent on your mortgage within a certain amount of time. This payment is in addition to your normal mortgage payment.

Repayment plans are typically useful when the borrower is only a few months behind on the mortgage and had a temporary financial hardship that has been resolved. For example, a repayment plan might be useful after a short period of unemployment where the borrower is now making the same amount or more than before the job loss.

  1. Loan Modifications

Loan modifications are a change to some terms of your current loan designed to make payments more affordable. Increasing the term of the loan or reducing the interest rate are a couple ways to achieve a lower payment.

Loan modifications are useful where the borrower has had a long-term change in financial circumstances that make the loan unaffordable. This could be a job loss followed by a new job that pays less, or a long-term increase in expenses, like a new child or recurring medical expenses.

No matter what the reason for the modification, it is only useful if it decreases your payment to an affordable level. Never agree to a loan modification that does not make your payment manageable! If the new payment is not affordable, then you have not solved the problem.

There are many different types of loan modifications. The federal government has loan modifications programs that have very specific requirements. Lenders might have their own private loan modifications programs too, with different requirements than federal programs. If you don’t qualify for a federal loan modification program, it is worth asking if the bank has a private loan modification program.

  1. Pre-Foreclosure Sale

A pre-foreclosure sale is where the borrower sells the house before the foreclosure waiting period is over to pay off the mortgage. If the house is worth less than the borrower owes, this is called a “short sale” and has to be approved by the lender.

A pre-foreclosure sale is useful if you can’t or don’t want to stay in the home, but you do want to minimize your losses. Selling the house in a pre-foreclosure sale will generally mean you receive a higher price than if the home is sole in a foreclosure sale.

  1. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

A deed in lieu of foreclosure is where the borrower offers the house to the lender in exchange for the lender forgiving the loan. Whether to accept the deed is up to the lender. The borrower cannot force the lender to accept the house.

A deed in lieu is useful if you can’t or don’t want to stay in the home, but you want to minimize your losses and speed up the process.

  1. Bankruptcy

Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer if you are interested in bankruptcy.


For more information about foreclosure avoidance options, contact:

Boulder County Housing and Human Services

Website: http://www.bouldercounty.org/dept/housinghumanservices/pages/default.aspx

Phone: 303-441-1000

Colorado Foreclosure Timeline & Options fact sheet: http://www.bouldercounty.org/doc/hhs/foreclosure-timeline-options.pdf

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Website: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/avoiding_foreclosure

Phone: 1-800-333-4636

Locate a HUD-approved counselor near you: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm

Potential Cost of a Payday Loan in Colorado

Payday loans can be difficult to understand, and the costs associated with them can be incredibly burdensome.  Prior to obtaining a payday loan, you should try to understand as much as possible about what you are actually going to be on the hook for.  Here is an example of what potential costs could look like in Colorado:

There are three allowable costs in Colorado
• Finance Charges
• Interest Charges
• Maintenance Charges

Using the maximum loan amount of $500 and the minimum term of 6 months, potential costs could look like this:

1. Finance Charges can equal up to 20% of the first $300 and an additional 7.5% of the remaining $200. These are automatically earned on the date of the transaction.
 $300 x 20% = $60
 $200 x 7.5% = $15
This gives us $75 in finance charges

2. Interest Charges may also be charged at 45% per year for each loan; the charge is only applicable to the amount borrowed, and not any additional fees.
 $500 x 45% = $225
 $225 / 2 = $112.50 [if compounded annually]
This gives us $112.50 in interest charges.

3. Maintenance Charges of $7.50 per $100 borrowed is also allowed and only charged after the first month.
 $7.50 x 5 = $37.50
 There is a limit of $30/month
 $30 x 5 = $150
 These charges do not start until the second month
This gives us $150 in maintenance charges

The maximum cost allowable under Colorado law breaks down as follows:
 $75 – Initial finance charges
 $112.50 – Interest charges
 $150 – Maintenance charges

This gives a total cost of $337.50 for borrowing $500 for six months!!
This amounts to roughly 630%!!

This means that in order to borrow $500, you will ultimately need to pay back $837.50.  This is exactly why it is so important to know what you are on the hook for.  The high cost can drive you into a cycle of needing a payday loan in order to pay off your previous payday loan.

Facing Foreclosure? Avoid These Common Mistakes and Instead Take Some Positive Steps

Homeowners facing foreclosure are often financially stressed and emotionally overwhelmed, and this can lead to mistakes that make them worse off. If you or someone you know is facing foreclosure, avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Doing Nothing


Lenders cannot foreclose until 120 days after your first missed payment. That means you have about four months to avoid foreclosure or minimize your losses. The sooner you act, the more options you’ll have.

  1. Falling Victim to Foreclosure Avoidance Scams

Foreclosure avoidance scams are a huge problem. Watch out for these red flags:

  • High or Upfront Fees

You do not need to pay someone to understand your options. Housing counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD-approved housing counselors”) will help you for free. If someone wants to charge you for their services, be very skeptical!

  • Guarantying Results

No one can guaranty a result when it comes to foreclosure. Most options require your lender to agree. If someone says they can guaranty you will get a loan modification or some other foreclosure avoidance option, this person is probably not legitimate.

  • Signing Over Your Deed to a Third Party

This is a scam to get your house!

Remember, signing over your deed will not wipe out your loan. But it will cause you to lose any legal right to your house.

  • Making Mortgage Payments to Anyone Other Than Your Lender

Anyone who suggests this will probably take your money and run. Always pay your lender directly.

  • Anyone Who Tells You to Stop Talking to Your Lender

You will have to talk to your lender directly to work out any of the foreclosure avoidance options you decide to pursue. Not communicating with the bank will only make things worse, so this is very bad advice.

  • Anyone Who Tells You to Stop Paying Your Mortgage

This will only make the problem worse. You do not want to be further behind on your payments.

  • Unsolicited Contacts from Other States

Foreclosure law is different from state-to-state, so if someone from Florida is offering to help with your Colorado foreclosure, be very skeptical. A Florida lawyer or housing counselor probably doesn’t know anything about Colorado foreclosure law.

  • Remember, If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Probably Is!

If something doesn’t sound right, don’t hesitate to contact a HUD-approved housing counselor or a lawyer.


So what should you do if you’re facing foreclosure?


The sooner you act, the more options you will have.

  1. Contact a HUD-Approved Housing Counselor.

HUD-approved housing counselors can help you understand what your options are and what might work best for your particular situation.

In Boulder County – contact Boulder County Housing and Human Services to talk to a housing counselor.

Website: http://www.bouldercounty.org/dept/housinghumanservices/pages/default.aspx

Phone: 303-441-1000

Outside of Boulder County – contact HUD to find housing counselors near you.

Website: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc/

Phone: 1-800-333-4636

For veterans with VA Home Loans, contact Veteran Services for foreclosure-avoidance assistance.

Website: http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS

VA Loan Guaranty Office: 1-800-827-3702

VA Regional Loan Center for Colorado: 1-888-349-7541

  1. Contact Your Lender Right Away.

Contact your lender as soon as possible after missing a payment, or even before missing a payment if possible. This will show them that you are serious about finding a mutually-acceptable solution.

If you are having problems with your lender (e.g., they aren’t communicating with you, you feel like you’re getting the run-around, etc.), talk to a HUD-approved housing counselor, contact a lawyer, and/or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

CFPB Website: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint

CFPB Consumer Help Line: (855) 411-2372

Payday Lending FAQ

What is a payday loan?

  • Short-term loan designed to meet immediate needs
  • Generally three features
    • Small amounts
    • —Typically due your next payday
    • You must give lenders access to your checking account or write a check for the full balance in advance that the lender can deposit when the loan comes due.

How much does a payday loan cost?

  • —A typical two-week payday loan with a $15 per $100 fee equates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of almost 400%.
  • See my previous blog post for an example based upon Colorado law.

Are payday loans more expensive than credit cards?

  • Yes, typical credit card APRs are between 12% – 30%.  Furthermore, credit cards can be paid back over the course of time whereas payday loans are typically due all at once.

What does it mean to roll over or renew a payday loan?

  • Usually this means that you pay a fee to delay payback of the loan.  This is in addition to the original loan fees.  Sometimes these renewals will place the original fees into the principal of the new loan.  This allows fees to be charged on the new, higher loan amount.  Many states limit or ban roll overs.  You can find more information on each states roll over policy in the resources listed below.

Do online payday lenders need to follow state regulations?

  • Yes, online payday lenders must follow the regulations of the state of residence of the borrower.

Are there special regulations for Military borrowers?

Do I need to get a credit check for a payday loan?

  • No, payday lenders typically do not check the three major credit bureaus to make their determination.  Some lenders use alternative credit reporting services to determine creditworthiness.

What are some alternative solutions to payday loans?

  • —Borrow from a credit union or other small loan lender. Be sure you understand all the fees and terms before you sign.
  • Put off the expense until you have the money. For example, if you need money to repair your car, find other transportation until you have the funds to fix the car.
  • —Request overtime or secure a part-time job to cover the unexpected expense.
  • Contact your creditor and ask for more time to pay or a repayment plan.
  • —Use your credit card or obtain one if you do not currently have one. Even if you have to get a cash advance, it will be much less expensive than a payday loan.

Where can I get more information?

  • —Consumer Federation of America – Payday Loans—Great resources on state specific regulations—www.paydayloaninfo.org 
  • —Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—Government agency that provides information and complaint service for consumers—www.consumerfinance.gov 
  • —National Consumer Law Center—Nonprofit agency focusing on consumer rights issues—http://www.nclc.org


Choosing the Right Insurance Plan and Coverage Under the ACA

By: Ian Marable

There have been many changes to the insurance arrangement under the Affordable Care Act. Whether  you’ve been unaffected by the changes, have been forced to select a new insurance plan as a result of the ACA, or are among the 15 million remaining uninsured individuals, currently looking for insurance, this guide is designed to help you with the basic steps towards getting the right plan for you.

Grandfathered Plans

If you were previously insured before the ACA and are satisfied with your coverage and the price of your premium, you may not have to do anything in regards to getting new insurance. Many plans were “grandfathered” in under the ACA, meaning as long as the changes did not significantly violate any ACA provisions, the policy stays intact. All plans that were grandfathered in must disclose that they were, so there’s no secret of whether not your policy was grandfathered in. If, on the other hand, you wish to cancel your previous plan to seek a new one https://www.healthcare.gov/reporting-changes/cancel-plan/ has a handy guide to help you do just that.

Government Assistance

However, if you don’t have a current plan or are looking for a new one, the first step is to check whether you and your family qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or subsidies to help you pay for your insurance.


Under the ACA, Medicaid was expanded to 133% of the federal poverty level (currently up to about $30,000 for a family of four). Although Medicaid coverage varies by state, in each state you will be covered for most: ambulatory services, visits to doctors, urgent care clinics, hospitalization, maternity, newborn care, family planning, and pediatric services. And while, a downside to Medicaid is that many doctors decide not to accept it because they get paid less than they get from other insurance plans, it can nonetheless generally provide for most of your medical needs. To see if you qualify for Medicaid or assistance go to https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/getting-medicaid-chip/#howtoapply.


If your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, your children may still qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or other related state plans. Coverage includes, among other things, prescriptions, visits to doctors, hospitalization, x-rays, ambulatory services, and dental care. If you’d like to see if your child or children qualify for CHIP choose your state and fill in the information at http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/state/index.html.


Even if you and your family don’t qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, you may still qualify for government subsidies to help pay for coverage. Check https://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/ to see if you do.

Coverage and Types of Plans

 If you don’t qualify for government assistance and you and your family are not adequately insured by your employer’s health insurance plan, then the two things you need to consider when choosing your health plan are, the amount of coverage and the type of plan that interests you. Many states such as Colorado offer free in-person and online help to help you choose what insurance plan is best for you http://connectforhealthco.com/person-help/. A simple engine search for your state may turn up similar programs too.


In cases where no help is available in your state or if you choose to go at it alone, in general, when considering the amount of coverage, consider: what premium you can afford, how often you and your family go to the doctor, and how much you have to lose. There are four “metal categories,” with concern to coverage: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. If you and your family have a lot to lose and often go to the doctor’s office or hospital, you may want to consider a gold or platinum plan, as copayments will be lower for the many visits, but if you can’t pay as high of a premium or you and your family don’t go to the doctor’s office as much, you may want to consider a different plan. For more information about the metal categories and amount of coverage, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/choose-a-plan/plans-categories/.

Types of Plans

Types of plans too differ depending on you and your family’s specific needs. Among these plans are Health Maintenance Organizations, Exclusive Provider Organizations, Point of Service plans, and Preferred Provider Organizations. While EPOs and HMOs are generally cheaper, consumers are usually confined to providers exclusively within their network, which may create difficulties if you want to see a different doctor for a medical issue or a specialist in another area, outside the network. PPOs and POS plans, on the other hand, while more expensive, generally provide at least some coverage for doctors and medical treatment outside the network. As with anything, you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits for your family in choosing the right type of plan. For more information on types of plans visit: https://marketplace.cms.gov/outreach-and-education/what-you-should-know-provider-networks.pdf.

Your Insurance

Each individual’s needs is different and it’s important to consider all information relevant to you and your family’s needs when deciding on your plan, and of course seek help when necessary.

Medical Debt and Bills: What to Know

Facing confusing charges or a large medical bill can seem overwhelming at times. There may be many worries, ranging from having to pay absurd charges, to damaging your credit score, to being forced into bankruptcy, to having your home and assets seized. But it’s best not to automatically assume the worst, as there are plenty of opportunities to confront your bill, and if you get on top of it, you may find it’s not as bad as you originally thought.

Appealing your bill to your insurance company

After carefully reviewing your contract and seeing what’s covered, the very first thing you should do when you get a bill where you disagree with charges, think there’s a mistake, or don’t think you’ll be able to pay the bill is to appeal it to your insurance company. Most insurance companies have online appeal forms or an online appeal application built into their website. Often times you can simply fill out the form or answer the questions posted and click submit, generally expecting an answer within a couple of weeks.

If you’re unable to locate the online form or application or are not sure if your insurance company provides one, then call your insurance company and ask them about their appeal process. Most companies are more than happy to help you with any problems you may have regarding the appeal process. Pay close attention to the deadline for appealing your bill because once you hit the deadline they may turn your bill over to a collection’s agency, and it will be much harder for you to work out any sort of resolution to your problem.

Working out a repayment plan with your hospital and insurance company

If you still find yourself unable to pay your bill after having appealed it to your insurance company, consider asking your insurance company and your hospital about whether they can set up a payment plan for you, and be sure to tell them what kinds of payments you can make. Although not all hospitals and insurance companies are willing to work out payment plans, many are.

Insurance companies and hospitals are often very reluctant to turn over your bill to the collection’s agency because it often means they get only a small portion of the payment they would have gotten. As a result, many are willing to work with patients to help give them an opportunity to pay without going through a third party. Be sure to politely inquire whether your insurance company and hospital are open to such an arrangement if you feel the monthly bills are too high.

Consulting experts about your bill

If, after the appeal process, you still think certain charges are unfair, incorrect or are covered by your contract, and want to dispute them, consider consulting legal experts about your bill. Legal experts may be able to help you determine your remaining options in an insurance dispute, based on your contract, help you settle it for less, and help you review your other contract provisions with your insurance company.

Depending on the contract, especially if arbitration for settlement is mandatory, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to help you get through the lengthy, complicated process, as it could save you in the long-run.


Although a last resort, if your medical bills are high enough this might be an option to consider. Medical debt is an “unsecured debt” that would be wiped out by chapter 7 bankruptcy. Still, it’s not something to consider lightly, as there are long-ranging consequences. To get more information on bankruptcy check out our posts about it on myconsumertips.info.

What not to do:

Don’t pay off your bill using credit cards

Although it may seem tempting to have your bill “paid off” by using credit cards, this is a common mistake. While you will no longer have medical bills you will still owe the same amount but at a much higher interest rate. Medical bill interest rates are quite low, while credit card interest rates are very high.

Don’t assume that just because you’re paying the minimum that means they won’t turn over your bill to a collection’s agency

Be aware of hospital’s policy towards payments and turning them over to collection’s agencies. There’s no universal rule of when a hospital can or cannot turn your bill over to a hospital, so it’s important to know your hospital’s general policy.