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State law protecting economic abuse survivors faces legal challenge

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CASCO — A key provision of a “first-of-its-kind” law protecting Maine survivors of economic abuse is facing a legal challenge that could compromise the scope of its impact.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond and signed into law by the governor last June, creates a number of protections for financial abuse survivors, including help with credit repair and expansion of protection orders against abusive partners.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, 99% of domestic violence cases involve financial abuse.

“The overarching goal is to empower victims and give them the tools they need to make it easier to leave an abusive relationship,” Fay, who represents Casco and parts of Raymond and Poland, said in an interview Monday.

U.S. District Court of Maine Judge George Z. Singal last month ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Consumer Data Industry Association that claimed the part of the law that relieves survivors of poor credit ratings inflicted by abusive partners is trumped by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1996. The association is a trade organization of credit reporting agencies.

The ruling means the state would have to remove that provision from the law.

Last week, Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey filed an appeal of Singal’s ruling in the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

“I continue to believe this law is defensible and worth fighting for, which is why I have directed my office to appeal the District Court’s ruling,”  Frey said in a prepared statement

‘Economic part reared its ugly head’ 

Oren Courtesy of Jeannine Lauber Oren

In 2016, Fay, recently elected to her third term in state Legislature, was running for the first time and was knocking on constituents’ doors when a Casco woman invited her into her home to chat about domestic economic abuse.

“I was so taken with the fact that this wasn’t … a policy issue that I even knew existed,” Fay said, that she promised to work on the issue if elected.

That woman, Jeannine Lauber Oren, said in an interview Monday that she began researching economic abuse after she divorced her ex-husband, whom she said abused her for 15 years.

“Had I known then what I know now, I would have left that toxic relationship a lot sooner. I would have been better,” she said.

Oren, who was a news anchor for local ABC-affiliate WMTW for 10 years, filed for divorce after she said her ex-husband physically assaulted her for the first time.

“The economic part really reared its ugly head with me once I filed for divorce. It was very difficult for me to get a fair shake at trial for the divorce if assets were being hidden, which they were,” she said.

In her April 2019 testimony before the legislative Judiciary Committee, Oren said that some survivors have told her they’d rather be physically abused than financially abused because it’s easier to recover from.

“One woman I know had her pelvis shattered by her domestic violence perpetrator. It took her a year to recover physically. Do you know how long it takes to recover from bankruptcy or identify theft, or credit card fraud? … It took me 15 years to become whole again.”

‘Why don’t they just leave?’

In a survey of 135 domestic abuse survivors by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the umbrella organization for nine of the state’s domestic violence prevention advocacy groups, 81% reported that economic abuse prevented them from leaving an abusive partner.

“And for the vast majority of survivors, economic abuse impairs their credit long term – making it hard to secure stable housing, good jobs and financial independence,” wrote Andrea Mancuso, the Coalition’s public policy director, in an Oct. 30 press release.

The coalition worked with Fay and other partners to draft the bill.

“One of the things we hear all the time is, why don’t they just leave? Well, you can’t leave if you’ve got no place to go and you have no money,” said Fay.

Oren said she’s “very disappointed” in the ruling against the bill.

“It’s hard to get an apartment, hard to get a job, hard to lift yourself out of the stigma of being a victim. And that’s one of the things that the bill attempts to do,” she said.

Despite the legal challenges, the definition of economic abuse in the bill remains intact, which Oren said brings “huge awareness” to the issue, especially for survivors demonstrating abuse in court.

“I’m confident that on appeal that the law will be made whole again,” Oren said.


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How DIY Debt Relief is Simplifying The Road to Financial Freedom | 2020-12-02 | Press Releases

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Los Angeles, California, Dec. 02, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — “Debt” is an anxiety-inducing topic for most Americans. According to financial experts, about 80% of Americans have some form of consumer debt and are $38,000 in debt, excluding mortgage debt. Unfortunately, financial literacy isn’t a topic that’s extensively covered in schools. As a result, many Americans lack valuable knowledge on personal finance topics — including how credit cards and loans actually work, or how to get out of debt quickly should they experience financial hardship. When times are tough, the concept of “free” money is very appealing and overrides reservations about amassing large amounts of consumer debt.

While consumers have numerous debt-relief options — ranging from consumer credit counselling to debt settlement to bankruptcy — the actual road to recovery is fraught with numerous hazards that include repayment terms with unaffordable monthly payments, repayment terms that take too long, exorbitant fees, and false promises.

With over a decade of experience in the credit and finance industries, these are problems the founders of DIY Debt Relief understand all too well. Debt relief — specifically settling delinquent accounts with creditors and collectors — cost consumers more time and money than most can afford. Compounding the problem are unscrupulous service providers that make promises they can’t keep — charging too much for the service they provide and taking too long to provide said relief. It was with these issues in mind that DIY Debt Relief was created.

DIY Debt Relief is a web-based company that provides educational videos and supporting materials to offer a “do it yourself” alternative for distressed consumers. By eliminating the need for a third-party service provider, consumers can avoid the prohibitive fees they charge — which in turn reduces the amount of time needed to settle accounts, pay off the agreed upon balances, and become debt-free. Additionally, even creditors and collectors who often refuse to work with third-party service providers are all too eager to work with consumers directly.

The content, tools and resources DIY Debt Relief provide are designed to help consumers assess, evaluate, and improve their financial situation. The information is based on United States federal laws and regulations which govern the actions of creditors and debt collectors, which means they can be accessed and utilized in all 50 states. With these assets in hand, consumers can create a plan of action to get their delinquent, unsecured debt paid off as quickly and as affordably as possible. And with the belief that credit repair is the next logical step after the debt settlement and repayment process is completed, DIY Debt Relief provides additional resources and information teaching consumers how to quickly and correctly rebuild their credit profiles and FICO scores.

The DIY Debt Relief process is easy to follow, gives the consumer control, is less expensive to implement, takes less time to complete, and can provide better results. Rather than relying on a third-party to entrust your financial future to, consumers now have the option of taking the initiative and doing the necessary work to get themselves to the debt-free future they deserve. With the goal of taking DIY Debt Relief internationally, the eventual next step is to make the videos in other languages. For right now, DIY Debt Relief’s videos educate on debt relief only in the United States — but its possibilities are endless, its effect promising, and its only trajectory from here is up.

DIY Debt Relief IG: @diydebtrelief www.diydebtrelief.com

Media Contact: support@diydebtrelief.com

This news has been published for the above source. DIY Debt Relief [ID=15547]

Disclaimer: The pr is provided “as is”, without warranty of any kind, express or implied: The content publisher provides the information without warranty of any kind. We also do not accept any responsibility or liability for the legal facts, content accuracy, photos, videos. if you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.


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Wannabe Wired: Don’t get scammed by fraudulent phone calls | Columnists

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A few weeks ago, I told you about how you can filter out spam phone calls. This week, I’m going to teach you a few of the warning signs to look out for if you are one of the unfortunate souls who has to answer every phone call that comes through.

It’s hard to believe that phone calls still play a major role in fraud scams. But despite the fact that most people won’t even answer their phone if they don’t recognize the number, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported last year that of the more than one million fraud complaints they received, 74 percent were phone scams.

The sad truth is that people lose a lot of money to phone scams. And even though we like to think they won’t happen to us, we can never be too cautious. Over the years these scams have become more sophisticated by mimicking numbers that look trustworthy, have local area codes or even familiar names attached to them. There have even been reported instances of people receiving fraud calls from their own phone number.

The good news is, the people on the other end of those calls are using scams that aren’t nearly as sophisticated as their number spoofing software. Most scams use formulaic narratives that are easy to recognize once you know what to be on the lookout for. Below are some of the most common scams and how to recognize them according to the FTC.

The Unentered Lottery

This is one of the most common scams out there. A caller tells you that you’ve been selected for a prize or some kind of lottery you don’t remember entering. But the catch is, you have to send them some kind of cash retainer so you can claim it. That or they start asking you for personal information like date of birth and Social Security number. Don’t fall for it.

The Threat

Some scammers resort to fear to try and extort people. They will give you a call and pretend to be with some kind of authority, threatening to have you arrested if you don’t fork over payment for some amount they claim you owe. Legitimate representatives from law enforcement or federal agencies will not call and threaten you like this.

The Imposter

A scammer calls you up, complete with fake number and caller identification, claiming to be someone you know, maybe a boss, maybe a distant relative, maybe even someone from a government agency. They are always in trouble and always need you to help by sending along gift cards or prepaid visa cards. Quick tip: if someone calls needing you to send them money in a method that is untraceable and nonrefundable like a gift card, don’t.

The Charity Case

Since it’s that time of year again, be on the lookout for fake charity solicitation. Scammers love posing as charities. If you are planning to give to a charity this year, make sure to do your research beforehand and call the charity directly, or better yet go online and give.

There are plenty of others of course, far too many to list in detail here. But here are a few more should also watch out for: extended car warranty scams, loan scams, debt relief or credit repair scams, one ring scams in which your phone rings once and then you call the number back to find out it is a scam, among many others.

And if all else fails just follow my golden rule, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

For a complete list of potential scams check out the FTC’s website at consumer.ftc.gov.

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BLM hosts job fair in Lakeland to address economic inequality

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Sara-Megan Walsh
 
| The Ledger

LAKELAND — Black Lives Matter will take a step this week toward addressing Lakeland’s racial issues that won’t involve a protest or a march.  

Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk will be holding a job fair on Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at The Dream Center, located at 635 W. 5th St. in Lakeland.

Jarvis Washington, president of BLM Restoration Polk, said the event will launch the organization’s long-term effort to address the city’s issue of economic inequality. 

“We know that the lack of jobs and lack of economic development has a direct correlation to crime and poverty,” he said. “We are inspired to create economic opportunity for our community.” 

Washington said BLM hopes to help 300-500 unemployed individuals, including those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, within the next year. While Polk County’s unemployment rate currently stands at roughly 7.3%, down from 7.9% in September, it is still more than double the rate from a year ago. 

BLM is partnering with Civitas Recruiting, founded by Lakeland resident Susan Freebern, to build connections between those disenfranchised looking for work and local businesses. 

“I like to think of it as a community-wealth building strategy,” Freebern said. 

Freebern said she focuses on using the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which offers financial incentives for companies to hire people in specific targeted groups who typically face barriers to employment. This includes individuals receiving food stamps or government assistance, veterans, and those unemployed for an extended period of time. 

On Wednesday, BLM will help screen candidates that meet these criteria who Civitas Recruiting will then help place into jobs. Freebern said many of the positions she has available include manual labor but she expects others to open up after the holidays. The jobs offered will pay at least $15 an hour, according to Freebern.  

If an individual referred by BLM to Civitas for a job is hired, the nonprofit organization will receive a small donation to help fund its future efforts. 

Washington said BLM will be there to support individuals by linking them to fiscal educational resources and credit repair agencies to help them get back on a road to fiscal stability. 

“We can’t allow them to continue down the same path, it’s not creating success,” he said. “We need to provide the tools and resources to help and model them into better people — it’s always been part of our mission statement.” 

This week’s job fair is the first of a series of events that BLM hopes to plan with Civitas Recruiting to help those unemployed and lift them out of living paycheck-to-paycheck, or worse, out of poverty. 

“This is our answer to what comes next,” Washington said. “What comes next is creating opportunities.” 

Those unable to attend Wednesday’s job fair can visit BLM’s new website at www.blmrpolk.org for more information and to signup for future events. Washington said he hopes to hold recruitment and job fairs approximately every two months. 

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at swalsh@theledger.com or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFL. 

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