COVID - Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection

The COVID-19 crisis has made it difficult for many consumers to pay their existing debts. Unfortunately, a number of scams have also arisen targeting those seeking help. Here is a list of reliable resources to help consumers navigate these challenges safely.

  • Information for debtors struggling to pay bills:

    • Mortgage debt. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counselors can discuss options with you if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage loan or reverse mortgage loan. This may also include forbearance or a modified payment program. Information about COVID-19 mortgage programs and other forms of assistance is available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) here

    • Student loan debt. Principal and interest payments on federally held student loans have been automatically suspended through September 30, 2021. If your federal student loan is already in default, the Department of Education has ceased collection efforts (including wage garnishment and offset of tax refunds and Social Security benefits) through September 30, 2021. For more information, including a list of eligible lenders, click here

    • Credit Counselors. Credit counseling organizations are generally non-profit organizations that can advise you on your money and debts, and help you with a budget. Some may also help you negotiate with creditors. The Federal Trade Commission has compiled tips for locating a reputable credit counselor, as well as identified red flags of potential scams. Click here to view their advice. 

  • Collection process and rights

    • Debt collectors have to follow rules when they contact you. Some debts may be subject to emergency rules enacted by federal, state, and local authorities to ease the burdens imposed by COVID-19. For tips on dealing with collection calls and more, click here.  

    • The National Consumer Law Center has provided this list of resources as a guide to help families navigate their financial lives during these turbulent times.

  • How to avoid scams: On March 27, 2020, the federal government passed the CARES Act, which aimed to provide financial relief to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. However, along with the Act came a higher likelihood of scams and fraud schemes taking advantage of people unfamiliar with how these benefits work.

    • Fraud and scams come in a variety of forms including: phishing emails with malicious links or attachments that trick you into revealing sensitive information; illegal robocalls; illegal debt collection; and solicitations for donations to fake charities.

    • Be careful when opening any email related to COVID-19 and be wary of social media ads, texts, or unknown phone calls.

    • Be especially mindful of “imposter scams:”  emails, phone calls, or other solicitations from fraudsters posing as government agencies or debt collectors in an attempt to scam you out of your unemployment benefits and stimulus payments.

    • The Maryland Department of Labor has compiled a detailed list of warning signs and safety tips, available here.

 

 


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