• Illinois AG Calls Attention to Foreclosure Assistance Programs

    This astonishing interactive map from WNYC uses data from real estate information company RealtyTrac to display foreclosure rates by county across the United States. You can press play to see how the foreclosure rate increased between January 2007 and July 2012, with the darker colored dots signifying higher rates of foreclosure. If you zoom in on Illinois, you can see a significant increase in the number of dots statewide during the five years, but you will also notice that the colors in the Chicagoland area are the darkest for nearly every single period.

    On October 4, 2012, the Chicago Sun-Times published an op-ed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan entitled, “How to find foreclosure help .” “As Illinois attorney general, tens of thousands of Illinois borrowers have reached out to my office for help navigating the bewildering and frustrating experience of trying to save their homes,” Madigan wrote. “Sadly, thousands more never call for help.”

    Noting that “legitimate help won’t come looking for you,” Madigan said homeowners in foreclosure or trying to prevent it should be aware of the following options:

    • Housing counseling agencies certified by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – “Housing counselors can help you understand your options and work with you and your bank to achieve the best outcome,” Madigan wrote.
    • Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) – This federal program offers loan modifications and other forms of assistance to homeowners who are employed and behind on their payments.
    • Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) – Another federal program, which helps homeowners refinance into a new loan with more affordable payments if they are current on payments but unable to secure traditional refinancing because they are “underwater.”
    • Illinois Hardest Hit Fund – A program providing payment assistance to homeowners who lost their jobs and are behind on their payments.

    Foreclosures remain a problem for thousands of homeowners throughout Illinois, and we will continue to discuss this issue throughout the week. If you are facing foreclosure, you should know that another option is filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy . You could delay the process by filing Chapter 7 , or a Chapter 13 repayment plan may even be able to help you save your house. Our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys can help when you complete the form on this page or contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • American Express Will Pay $112.5 Million For Deceiving Customers

    The Associated Press reported on October 1, 2012, that American Express has agreed to pay $112.5 million in refunds and fines after a multiagency investigation of the company revealed the company “charged unlawful late fees and deceived customers to pressure them to pay off old debts or buy extra credit card services.” In addition to $27.5 million in civil fines, American Express will refund $85 million to about 250,000 customers.

    The settlements were announced by four federal agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions.  The AP reported that the agencies said American Express violated federal laws prohibiting deceptive practices by using false statements to get customers to settle old debts, including falsely telling customers that remaining balances would be forgiven if they agreed to settlements to partially pay off their debts.

    CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement that American Express violated consumer protection laws “at all stages of the game – from the moment a consumer shopped for a card to the moment the consumer got a phone call about long overdue debt,” according to the AP. The company charged late fees on some credit cards based on a percentage of the debt owed, unlawfully discriminated against consumers applying for new card accounts on the basis of age and failed to report customer disputes over billing to the consumer credit reporting agencies.

    This news will certainly be welcome for the many victims of American Express’ unethical practices. If you are currently dealing with calls from creditors and struggling to make monthly payments, you can get relief from substantial credit card debt by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy . You may be able discharge your unsecured debt in Chapter 7 , or you could pay back a fraction of what you owe through a Chapter 13 repayment plan. To see how our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can help, fill out the form on this page or contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers