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How Vivint Smart Home used what a federal official called identity theft to boost sales



SALT LAKE CITY — Dionne Crump is a 55-year-old grandmother in Detroit who had never heard of Vivint Smart Home.

“In 2019, I found out there were 10 accounts opened in my name through a company called Vivint,” Crump said.

“I just happened to look on my credit report and see that it was listed,” she explained, “that I had 10 accounts opened on the same day that I did not open that totaled… I think it was $39,900 and something.”

Crump isn’t the only person who wound up with mysterious Vivint accounts. According to a federal lawsuit filed in Alabama, one of the plaintiffs found seven unauthorized accounts registered to homes in Texas. At one point, she was told she owed nearly $15,000.

Vivint is one of the biggest technology firms in Utah. Its name is on the Utah Jazz’s arena. But the federal government says it was unlawfully using people’s credit and identities to open accounts.

In January, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $3.2 million settlement with the company. Three months later, the Federal Trade Commission announced a $20 million settlement.

The FTC also explained how the unauthorized accounts were created.

One method is called white paging. It takes its name from the residential listings in phone books.

If a potential customer didn’t have good enough credit to finance a Vivint Smart Home system, the FTC explained, the salesperson would find a person with a similar name and use his or her credit instead. If a John Smith, for example, had bad credit, the salesperson would find a John Smith with good credit and apply it to the first Smith’s application.

In other instances, according to the FTC, the Vivint salesperson would ask the potential customer for the name of a relative or acquaintance with good credit. The salesperson would add him or her as a co-signer without the person’s permission.

Sometimes, the salesperson added a co-signer that even the customer didn’t know about.

When the customers defaulted, the FTC says, innocent third parties had their credit scores lowered and were pursued by debt collectors.

“This behavior that’s not consistent with some integrity and doing right by consumers has no part of this company,” said Todd Pedersen, the then-CEO of Vivint, on May 14 during a quarterly earnings call.

“But back in 2017,” Pedersen added, “we did have some salespeople that got around some systems that we found out and let those people go.”

But the FTC complaint says that while Vivint in 2017 terminated hundreds of sales staff, it later hired some of them back.

FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, in a written statement, said the white paging was identity theft.

“It appears that that management turned a blind eye to the scam,” Chopra wrote, “because the company could pump up its sales figures in ways that would help score a higher valuation when going public.”

Vivint entered the New York Stock Exchange in January 2020.

As for the pending lawsuit in Alabama, Vivint has said in court filings that it was defrauded by its own staff’s sales practices.

A Vivint spokeswoman declined FOX 13’s request for on-camera interviews and did not answer a question about who used Crump’s ID or collected commissions on the accounts in her name. Crump reported the use of her ID to police and could forward a name to detectives.

The company did provide a written statement reading in part:

“We had already taken steps before the FTC began its review to strengthen our compliance policies, and will continue to make this a focus going forward.”

FOX 13 tried to participate in Vivint’s quarterly earnings call earlier this month. No one called on us to pose a question.

But new Vivint CEO David Bywater did say the company is taking steps to ensure good sales practices.

“So, if anyone ever has any questions on that,” Bywater said, “talk to me personally.”

After about two years of back-and-forth with Vivint, bill collectors and credit rating agencies, Crump says her case was resolved last month. The 10 accounts in her name and the debts were canceled. Her credit score was restored.

Now, Crump would like to be compensated for her trouble and the extra interest she had to pay on other lines of credit while the Vivint debts were on her record.

“They see all these listings of account for almost $40,000,” Crump said. “Didn’t nobody want to give me no credit.”

What would she say to Vivint?

“I think that it’s sad that you use people’s identity to gain profit.”

As part of its settlement with the FTC, Vivint has placed a link in the bottom right corner of its homepage where someone can make a report if they think a Vivint account was opened without their consent.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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