[redirected] Chart of foreclosures in Hennepin County, Minnesota (1988-2006)

Created by Prentiss Cox based on data provided by John Villerius.

(Some) Fat Cut from the Legal Services Corporation

The federal Legal Services Corporation, charged with providing free legal aid to low-income Americans, was turning away clients from local, LSC-funded offices, for lack of funds while LSC executives rented limos, spent on fancy meals, desserts, and snack breaks. This according to criticism by Congress financial watchdogs, and The Associated Press. Most local legal aid offices do receive LSC funding, including most in the Twin Cities area.

TheMobileSolution on MySpace

Interestingly, “themobilesolution” is one of the most popular ways people reach my blog. They end up, of course, at this post on a Fox News investigative report of problems with TheMobileSolution, a mall-kiosk phone “store.” As you can see, commenters have complained about identity theft, not getting their phones, and more. I even had someone e-mail me by mistake, thinking I was TheMobileSolution. It wasn’t pretty.

So I thought I would see what shows up when you Google “themobilesolution,” and one of the results was a MySpace page for an employee. Turns out there are at least six employees of TheMobileSolution on MySpace. Check ’em out and see the brains behind the operation.

Red light Cameras Headed to the Minnesota Supreme Court

We have done a few posts about the Minnesota red light camera saga. The ACLU-Minnesota initially challenged the ruling in district court and won. And won again at the Court of Appeals. And now the Minnesota Supreme Court wants to look at the case.

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So You’ve Been Sued, and You Answered. What Next?

Following up on this post (In the event of a lawsuit, please head for the nearest lawyer), I thought I would talk a little bit about what to do after you are sued and after you answer the debt collection complaint. (If none of that made sense to you, go ahead and find yourself a consumer attorney.

More on combating debt collection lawsuits after the jump.

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Give a Cow for [Your Holiday of Choice Here]

Consumer news is slow in coming this week (and we have been too bogged down in suing consumer predators to take note of any that has come in, anyway), so instead, I want to suggest a fantastic gift idea. If you are tired of buying ties, Brookstone gizmos, and throwaway doo-dads, consider a gift that truly does keep on giving: a donation to a favorite charity.

If you ask me, the coolest charity right now is the Heifer Project. Based on the “teach a man to fish” concept of charity, the Heifer Project sends livestock to needy families. You don’t have to worry that half your donation goes to staff salaries, because all they do is buy the cow, flock of chicks, llama, honeybees, water buffalo, etc., and hand it over. And the family promises to pass on some of the offspring to another family in need.

Their online gift catalog is full of how-can-you-pass-this-up-it-is-so-cute gifts that anyone would be thrilled to “get.”

Bob Lawless is a Downer (if You Are the Credit Industry)

Bob Lawless, blogger at Credit Slips, has a debrief posting on Credit Slips, summarizing his testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Court.

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The Most Aggravating CSR Phone Call I Have Ever Heard.

Verizon customer service representatives are apparently incapable of third-grade-level seventh-grade-level (see comments) mathematics. If you can make it through this recording without wanting to scream, you may need remedial math.

In short, $.002 does not equal 0.002¢, although this fact seems to be untrue (a) in Canada and (b) in Verizon-land.

Using Unlocked Phones

For those unaware, the U.S. Copyright Office recently made a ruling that GSM cell phone providers must unlock your cell phone so that you can use it on any GSM network. This is good news for consumers, since you are no longer tied into a manufacturer’s phone selection.

Consumerist just picked up on a recent ABC news article on this topic, in which ABC reviewed phones you can buy direct from the manufacturer, unlocked, and then use on whatever GSM network (Cingular, T-Mobile) you like.

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Incoming Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson Starts Talking

Lori Swanson, the Minnesota AG-elect, has started talking about what she intends to do with her time in office, starting in January. In a press conference yesterday, she announced that predatory lenders will be her first target. She will start with an 11-member “study group” that will be charged with coming up with proposals to stop predatory lending.

Predatory lending, of course, is one of–if not the main–cause of the skyrocketing foreclosure rates around Minnesota and the country. Consumer education will, of course, be a part of the solution, but Swanson is looking at an array of options.

Swanson also announced today that she may keep outgoing attorney general Mike Hatch in the office. She offered him her old post as solicitor general (assistant attorney general, in regular-speak). It might make for an awkward office, in the eyes of the public if not in reality, but Hatch was a powerful voice for consumers, and it would be kind of nice to see him continuing to play a role.

Not according to House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, however, who said it would look “odd:”

“It kind of reminds you of when Governor George Wallace (of Alabama) had his wife run for governor, and everybody knew who the real governor was,” Seifert said.

Is Seifert trying to say Swanson and Hatch are romantically involved, that she will be ineffective on her own, or what? Uh . . .