Mortgages, Loans & Credit
Mortgages & Foreclosures
If you are facing foreclosure or can't pay your mortgage:
- Contact your lender. Your lender may be able to temporarily reduce or suspend your payments or help you refinance with a new loan and better terms. Keep a record: Write down who you spoke to, the date, and what was said. Use registered or certified mail in any important correspondence.
- Talk to a HUD-approved housing counselor. HUD-Approved Housing Counselors don't charge for their services and are trained to help you explore your options. Beware of any organization that attempts to charge a fee for housing counseling or assisting with a loan modification.
- Beware of Mortgage Relief Scams. Sadly, con artists take advantage of people who are already facing financial difficulties. For more information, read our mortgage relief scam alert.
- File a consumer complaint. If you think you've been the victim of an unfair mortgage servicing practice, file a consumer complaint.
The National Mortgage Settlement
In February 2012, Alaska announced its participation in a $25 billion federal-state settlement with the nation’s five largest servicers relating to unfair mortgage servicing practices. For information about the settlement:
- The Alaska Attorney General’s press release
- The states’ settlement website, nationalmortgagesettlement.com
- Who May be Eligible
For more information on mortgages:
Credit & Debit Cards
Selecting a Credit Card
The terms of a credit card agreement vary between different credit card issuers. It is important to shop around when applying for a credit card and to understand the terms of your credit card agreement.
The Federal Reserve's Consumer's Guide to Credit Cards provides detailed information about credit card offers, credit card statements and other credit related topics.
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) set limits on your liability for unauthorized charges if your credit or debit card is lost or stolen, however you are responsible for reporting a lost or stolen card to your credit or debit card issuer. To be safe, you should report lost or stolen credit or debit cards as quickly as possible.
Your liability for unauthorized charges made on a credit card is different than your liability for unauthorized withdrawals or purchases made with a debit card.
Credit Cards (FCBA)
You cannot be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made on your credit card after you have reported it lost or stolen. If someone makes unauthorized charges using your credit card before you report it lost or stolen, your maximum liability is $50.
Debit Cards (EFTA)
Your liability for unauthorized withdrawals or purchases made on your debit card depends on when you report your card lost or stolen. If unauthorized withdrawals or purchases are made using your debit card after you report it lost or stolen, you have no liability. If you discover that your debit card is lost or stolen and report your loss to the card issuer within two days, your maximum liability is $50. Your maximum liability is $500 if you report the loss after two business days but within 60 days of your bank sending you a statement showing the unauthorized withdrawals. There is no limit to your liability if you don't report that your debit card was lost or stolen within 60 days of receiving a statement showing the unauthorized withdrawals or purchases.
Credit Card Billing Mistakes
Credit billing disputes and unauthorized charges on your credit card can be resolved under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
To take full advantage of the law, write to the card issuer as soon as you learn of the error or unauthorized charge. Your credit card issuer must receive your letter within 60 days of sending you the bill that contained the error. Letters should be sent to the special address for billing inquiries listed on your credit card bill. In your letter, include: your name; account number; date, type and dollar amount of the disputed charge; and why you think there was a mistake.
In order to exercise your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act you must provide written notification of the error or disputed item to your credit card issuer. Many consumers forfeit their rights under the Act because they rely on calling the credit card issuer to correct billing issues.
Once your credit card issuer receives your letter, the issuer must acknowledge your letter in writing within 30 days and conduct a reasonable investigation of the disputed charges. Within 90 days of receiving your letter, your credit card issuer must fix the error or explain why the bill is correct.
The FTC website on Fair Credit Billing provides additional information about the Fair Credit Billing Act and includes a sample letter you can use to dispute items on your credit card bill.
The FTC website also has information about what to do when you are billed for merchandise you never received.
Regulators of Financial Institutions
Many financial institutions issue credit or debit cards. Financial institutions are regulated by various state and federal agencies. To learn more about filing a complaint about a financial institution you can visit the website of the agency that regulates it.
Alaska State Banks and State Chartered Financial Institutions - State of Alaska Division of Banking and Securities
Federal Credit Unions - National Credit Union Administration
National Banks - Comptroller of the Currency
Federal Savings and Loans - Office of Thrift Supervision
Your credit report provides a record of your credit activities; it summarizes your loans and credit card accounts, your payment history and whether any action has been taken against you for failing to make payments.
Your credit report is created by a consumer reporting agency (CRA) that gathers information from your creditors on an ongoing basis. CRAs store your information and supply it, for a fee, to individuals and businesses that have a permissible purpose to review your credit report. The most common CRAs are the three major credit bureaus: Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian.
Your Credit Report Contains the Following Types of Information:
- Personal information compiled from your credit applications. This includes your name, Social Security number, birth date, current and previous addresses, and current and previous employers.
- Credit information that includes accounts you have with banks, retailers, credit card issuers, utility companies and other lenders. Accounts are listed by loan type and creditor, and the information reported includes the date the loan was opened, the credit limit or amount of the loan, payment terms, current balance and your payment history. Information may stay on your credit report for seven to eleven years depending on the account type.
- Public records information may include state and federal bankruptcy actions, tax liens, and monetary judgments against you. This information generally stays on your credit report for seven years.
- Credit report inquiry records provide information about who has asked to see your credit report. Inquiry records remain on your report for up to two years.
Your Credit Score is Based on Your Credit Report
Your credit score is calculated based on information contained in your credit report, but is not part of your credit report. Your credit score (also called your credit rating) is important because it affects your financial opportunities such as buying a home or getting a loan. A poor credit score will limit your financial opportunities. Protect and improve your credit score by making payments on time and by not taking on more debt than you can afford.
The FTC website has additional information about credit reports, credit scoring and repairing your credit.
You Can Request a Free Copy of Your Credit Report Annually
Because your credit report is updated on an ongoing basis, it is important to review and check it for errors regularly.
A federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three major credit bureaus to provide you with one free copy of your credit report each year. You can also request a free copy of your credit report within 60 days of a company taking adverse action against you - such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment-based on your credit report.
You can request a copy of your credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com - the only place authorized under federal law to provide you with a free credit report. Be cautious of other websites and companies that offer "free" credit reports. They often require you to sign up for services you have to pay for in order to receive a free copy of your report.
You can also get a free copy of your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228, or filling out an Annual Credit Report Request form and mailing it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The FTC's website has more information about requesting a free credit report.
Disputing Inaccurate or Incomplete Information
Under the FCRA, consumer reporting agencies and the persons and businesses who provide them with your credit information are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report.
To protect your rights under the FCRA, notify the credit reporting agency immediately if you dispute any of the information in your credit report. A reporting agency that receives notice that you dispute information in your credit report has 45 days to remove or correct the inaccurate information. At your request, a corrected report will be sent to those parties that you specify who have received your report within the past six months.
If the reporting agency investigates the disputed information and finds that it is accurate, you can ask that a statement of dispute be included in your file and future credit reports, and that it be sent to anyone who requests a copy of your credit report.
People Allowed to See Your Credit Report
Under the FCRA, your credit report can only be released for a permissible purpose, including:
- Your own written instruction to release your report;
- Evaluation of your applications for credit or insurance;
- Evaluation for employment, promotion, reassignment, or retention, if the employer advises the employee that it will request the report, and the employee consents in writing to the release;
- Collection of credit accounts and judge's orders to pay debts;
- Evaluation of your eligibility for government licenses or other benefits; and,
- Other legitimate business needs, such as evaluating your suitability for a rental lease, security clearance, or a potential business partnership.
Opt Out of Receiving "Prescreened" Offers of Credit or Insurance
Many credit card and insurance companies make "prescreened" or "prequalified" offers to people with credit reports that meet certain criteria. If you do not want to receive prescreened offers you can opt out for five years or permanently. To opt out, visit the OptOutPrescreen website.
Payday loans are short-term cash loans based on the borrower's personal check held for future deposit or on electronic access to the borrower's bank account.
Borrowers write a personal check for the amount borrowed plus the finance charge and receive cash. In some cases, borrowers sign over electronic access to their bank accounts to receive and repay payday loans.
Lenders hold the checks until the borrower's next payday when loans and the finance charge must be paid in one lump sum. Borrowers can pay back a loan with cash or allow the lender to deposit the check at the bank. Alternatively, a borrower can pay the finance charge to roll the loan over for another pay period.
Consumers are urged to use caution when applying for payday loans because the interest rates and fees can be high. Take the time to learn how payday loans work and read all of the lender's terms and conditions before borrowing.
Payday Loans in Alaska
Payday lenders, referred to in Alaska as deferred deposit advanced lenders, are licensed and regulated by the State of Alaska, Division of Banking and Securities.
All payday lenders, including out-of-state lenders, that issue loans in Alaska are required to obtain a license from the Division of Banking and Securities. The Division publishes an annual Directory of Financial Institutions online which includes a list of payday lenders that are licensed in Alaska. The Division also publishes online reports summarizing payday lending in Alaska.
For more payday loan requirements in Alaska, including limits on loan amounts and fees, see Alaska Statutes 06.50.400-06.50.560.
For More Information
The FTC issued a consumer alert urging consumers to consider alternatives to payday loans.
The Consumer Federation of America's website has information about how payday loans work.