Resolution #1: Get An Attorney For Any Real Estate Transaction

I see a lot of people with predatory lending cases concerning real estate. I take an incredibly small percentage of those cases. This is not because I have no pity for the consumers who are my potential clients, it is because given the facts of their situations, there is little help I can give. And the tragedy of it all is that the reasons I cannot help are similar in many cases.

Mortgage brokers are not in business to help consumers. They are in business to make money. Most consumers are hardly sophisticated enough to look after their own best interests, and there is little an attorney can do after the deal falls apart and foreclosure looms.

If you are looking to purchase a home, refinance, or engage in some other real estate transaction this year, hire an attorney. A mortgage broker will take a fee of thousands of dollars. An attorney in most simple real estate transactions will probably cost $500-$1,000, and their job is to represent your best interests, nothing more. They have no stake in the transaction, and can save you thousands more than their fee.

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[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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