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Consumer Questions for 2024

By: Financial Hotline
Winter 2024 (Vol. 41, No. 4)

Q: Will this be a better year for car buyers?

A: This Spring may be the best time to buy since the pandemic. New vehicle inventory is expected to hit pre- pandemic norms in 2024 with a projected 3 million units. With higher inventory, dealers may need to compete for sales and that could lead to buyers seeing more sales and incentives. The high cost of parts and labor will keep the overall vehicle cost high but if the dealerships are forced to take slimmer profits that may result in more favorable terms for consumers.

Unfortunately, financing a vehicle may still be a burden for many. While rates have come down since fall, the average interest rate for a new car loan is still just under 8% and used car loans are averaging around 12%.

Q: My wife and I have one joint account at our local bank totaling nearly $500,000. Do we get double FDIC protection or just the standard $250,000?

A: The standard deposit insurance amount is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each ownership category. So, in this circumstance, your account would be insured up to $500,000.

Q: I got a random call from someone who said he was a private investigator hired to review my assets and business license. I got suspicious when he mentioned a creditor that I am disputing a debt with. I only found out by reverse verifying the phone number that this was a debt collector that uses intimidation to scare businesses into paying overinflated debts. They keep contacting me consistently even though I have disputed the debt. Is this legal?

A: No. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act made it illegal to threaten or harass you when trying to collect a debt. An update on November, 30, 2021 clarified how debt collectors can communicate with you, including what information they’re required to provide at the outset of collection about the debt, your rights in debt collection, and how you can exercise those rights. Here are some other key points:

When a debt collector first communicates with you, or shortly thereafter, they need to validate certain information including their name and mailing information, the name of the creditor you owe, the account number and an itemization of the debt including all fees, interest and payments. They also need to provide you with your debt collection rights and how to dispute the debt. Basically, they need to give you enough information to allow you to make sure the debt is accurate and then be able to easily dispute it if applicable. In addition, collectors are presumed to violate the law if they place a telephone call to you about a particular debt more than seven times within a seven- day period, or within seven days after engaging in a phone conversation with you about a particular debt.

Q: Can a debt collector contact me on social media about debt?

A: Yes, they can contact you by just about anyway possible, but debt collectors must follow certain rules. The message must be completely private and not viewable by your friends, contacts, or followers. They must also always identify themselves as debt collectors. For example, if a debt collector attempts to send you a private message requesting to add you as a friend or contact, the debt collector must identify themself as a debt collector. They must also provide you, in each message, a simple way to opt out of receiving further communications from them on that social media platform. Even though debt collectors can contact you, you can ask them to stop. If you ask them not to contact you at work, they must comply. You can also send a letter asking them not to contact you again in any form.

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to:

  • Your state attorney general’s office
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • The Consumer Financial Protection

Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from federal laws. Your state attorney general’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.