“Netflix opposes the use of VPNs”

A sharp-eyed Redditor picked up on a change to Netflix’s terms that effectively prohibits the use of a VPN to watch Netflix.

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Mandatory Arbitration: the Gaping Loophole in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act suspends judicial and administrative actions against service members while they are in active service so they can devote their attention to their duties. But there is a big, gaping loophole: mandatory binding arbitration.1

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  1. Then there are the companies that apparently just ignore the SCRA when it is convenient to do so. Like Santander, which recently paid $9.35 million to settle with the Justice Department over claims it repossessed active-duty service members’ cars without getting a court order first. 

Minnesota Restaurant Association Info

Recently, @panndder was tweeting about the Minnesota Restaurant Association’s bill to cut the minimum wage for servers. “We should create a public database of Minnesota Restaurant Association members,” he wrote.

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Illegal Signs Show Predatory Lending is Alive and Well

At MinnPost, Bill Lindeke reports on a silent war going on in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Predatory lenders staple their signs to utility poles and plant them in boulevards, and do-gooders like St. Paul City Council member Amy Brendmoen and North Minneapolis activist Jeff Skrenes take them down. It has even escalated — literally. Skrenes carries a 10′ ice scraper to reach the signs, which the lenders are posting out of reach to try to keep them up longer.

The signs are illegal, and the people and companies posting them are generally engaging in some form of DIY predatory lending — offering a bad deal to people struggling with a mortgage that was probably a bad deal to begin with. It must work, because the signs keep going up even though people like Brendmoen and Skrenes keep taking them down.

But there are better options for homeowners struggling with a mortgage. Both the Minnesota Homeownership Center and Habitat for Humanity have phone hotlines and can help homeowners figure out what they can do. The best option is almost certainly not taking a fraction of the equity in cash or converting bad mortgage into a bad contract for deed.

Wall Street Banks Prove they Have Too Much Political Power

Back in December, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, said that the big Wall Street banks should be broken up. Here are her remarks in the Senate:

Instead of passing laws that create new bailout opportunities for too-big-to-fail banks … let’s pass something — anything — that would help break up these giant banks. … Teddy Roosevelt said ‘we should break them up because they have too much political power.’ Teddy Roosevelt said ‘break them up because all that concentrated power threatens the very foundations of our democratic system.’

Proving her point exquisitely, Wall Street banks including Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America are apparently considering withdrawing their campaign contributions to Senate Democrats as a form of protest. According to Reuters, the banks are also getting together to “discuss ways to urge Democrats … to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street.”

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How to Record Collection Calls

You should record all collection calls if it is legal for you to do so.

You need to keep a record of any agreements you make with the debt collector (like a payment plan) or promises the debt collector makes (like stopping collection activity while you are current on your payments). Without a recording, any agreements or promises will be difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

You also need to protect your legal rights. If a debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act during a call, you need to be able to prove what they said or did to violate the FDCPA. And if a debt collector does violate the FDCPA, you are entitled to up to $1,000 — or even more for egregious violations. A jury in Texas awarded [$1.5 million for 8 especially racist voicemails](](http://caveatemptorblog.com/3627/jury-awards-1-5-million-to-consumer-abused-by-debt-collector/). While that sort of verdict is far from ordinary, the point is this: it can be well worth your time and a little bit of money to record your calls.

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Debtors’ Prison Making a Comeback

Yes, it is technically illegal to put people in jail for not paying a debt. However it is perfectly legal to put people in jail if they don’t pay a court fine, which isn’t technically a debt because a court isn’t technically a creditor. Even though you owe money to it. Make sense?

No, not really. Because whatever you call it, you can end up in jail if you don’t pay it.

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Herbal Supplements at Major Retailers Contain Houseplants, Little Else

Yesterday the New York Attorney General reported the results of its tests on herbal supplements purchased at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart:

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

You read that right. Houseplants.

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Tax-Related Identity Theft Complaints Increased 2300% in 2014

From the FTC, here’s what tax-related identity theft looks like:

Tax identity theft typically happens when a scammer files a fraudulent tax return using a consumer’s Social Security number in order to receive a refund. The year 2014 marks the fifth consecutive year in which tax-related identity theft topped the list of identity theft complaints, with tax identity theft accounting for nearly a third of all identity theft complaints to the FTC.

To avoid falling prey to the scam, file your taxes as early as you can. The scam won’t work if you have already filed. And be on the lookout for callers posing as the IRS. The FTC says “The IRS will never call a consumer about unpaid taxes or penalties – the agency typically contacts consumers via letter.”

If you think you were contacted by a scammer or a scammer filed a tax return in your name, file a complaint with the FTC right away.

14.4 Seconds is Not a Reasonable Inquiry Under Any Circumstances

Last week, in an article for the New York Times, Jessica Silver-Greenberg included this tidbit:

In a 2009 deposition, an employee of a large debt-buying company testified to signing roughly 2,000 affidavits a day.

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