The other day, a lawyer in my office brought in to me a letter he wanted me to look at. It was a bona fide HAMP modification - -a finalized, actual permanent HAMP modification.
It was also the FIRST ONE I've ever seen. In 3+ years of foreclosure litigation, I'd never seen a borrower get a HAMP modification before.
The complete lack of success of HAMP and related programs now joins things like "limiting credit card fees and thus screwing over the poor" as misguided government programs that were set up by bureaucrats and legislators without ever talking to someone like ME, who works with consumers, and without ever talking to consumers.
So forgive me if I am skeptical about the new "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," a government agency that had its powers repeatedly cut and then had the original person who was going to head it, Elizabeth Warren, taken away.
But, for what it's worth, the CFPB exists, and while I have never -- not ever, I'll say it in caps, NOT EVER seen a single consumer helped by a government agency, NOT EVER -- you may as well spit into the wind and try calling it. It's open for business and apparently ready to answer your questions about stuff and junk.
According to The Consumerist, CFPB stands ready to answer your questions in three categories
The new Ask CFPB service allows people to do just that, ask the Bureau questions in any of the three following general categories:
Definitions: If your bank or lender is throwing around terms and phrases that you don't understand or want help clarifying, the CFPB will try to translate it into as clear a statement as possible.
Explanations: Need help understanding how the APR on your credit card is being figured? The Ask CFPB tool provides consumers with general information on and explanations of terms and features of financial products.
Situations: If you feel like you're at a disadvantage when you're talking to the bank/credit card company/mortgage servicer because they do this on a daily basis and you're just a regular Joe/Jill, the Ask CFPB service can provide you with information and tips to help you work through situations like when a lender raises the quoted interest rate at closing.
That latter one almost certainly constitutes legal advice and almost certainly will not be state-specific. In Wisconsin, for example, a last-minute raise in interest rates might be a violation of chapter 224, which regulated certain mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers. It might be a violation of section 100.18, which prohibits deceptive and unfair trade practices. It might constitute economic duress, which the Wisconsin Court of Appeals decided about 10 years ago could be used affirmatively.
Do you suppose the CPFB will know those things? I doubt it. But, sure, go ahead: Call them for information. Whatever keeps people from calling a lawyer upfront, when the lawyer could do more and things might not get so expensive, that's all right with me.
Really, it is: because much of what I take care of in my practice, complicated things that happen when people DON'T call lawyers first, or they go to a lawyer who doesn't know what he or she is doing. So the people at the CPFB, who should simply be strengthening private-attorney-general laws and educating judges about what they mean, are helping me keep my practice growing.
Just for fun, I went over to the "Debt Collection" section of the CPFB's and clicked on a question at random: "What information do debt collectors have to give me about my debt?" Here's the answer in its entirety:
Within five days of the initial contact with you, every debt collector generally must send you a written notice indicating the amount the creditor asserts you owe, the name of the creditor you owe, and how to seek verification if you dispute the identity of the creditor or the amount you owe. If you dispute the identity of the creditor or the amount you owe, you should request formal verification from the debt collector.
There's nothing wrong about that, per se. But it oversimplifies, misses the point, and omits details, including that if the information about the debt is in the original letter, no follow-up validation is needed, and that your dispute must be sent within 30 days, and, most importantly, that if you DO dispute the validity of the debt, the debt collector cannot do anything until they verify the debt -- but only if you dispute it within 30 days.
As the post title said: feel free to seek out the free advice of the CPFB and get what you pay for.