What Does the Red Flag Rule Mean?

December 29 2010
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Vickie Brady Ahlers Author page »

After numerous extensions spanning two years held off the FTC’s enforcement of the Red Flags Rule, Congress recently passed legislation intended to exclude certain medical professionals, lawyers and select industries from the definition of “creditor” under the Rule. The Red Flag Clarification Act of 2010 (“Clarification Act”) limits application of the Rule only to a “creditor” that:

  1. uses consumer reports in connection with a credit transaction;
  2. furnishes information to consumer reporting agencies in connection with a credit transaction; or
  3. advances funds to or on behalf of a person based on an obligation of that person to repay the funds from specific property pledged by or on behalf of the person. Creditors that “advance funds on behalf of a person for expenses incidental to a service provided by the creditor to that person” are specifically excluded.

While many are touting that the health care industry as a whole has been exempted from the Rule, we say—not so fast. First, the Clarification Act gives the FTC the authority by rule to expand this new definition of creditor based on a determination that a creditor offers or maintains accounts that are subject to a reasonably foreseeable risk of identity theft which could include health care providers. This would be accomplished through future rule-making subject to a comment period and the FTC has not publicly ruled this out. Further, even without an expansion of the current regulations, health care providers may still fall within the rule based on their “creditor”-type activities. For example, if a patient requests a payment plan for their outstanding charges and, in connection with the negotiation of a payment plan the hospital conducts a credit check, the hospital could fall under the definition of “creditor.”

FTC representatives have stated that particular industries will be judged on whether their business activities are in line with the new definition of creditor. Hospitals and physician offices should evaluate their activities in light of these new definitions to determine if the Red Flags Rule may still apply.

SAP to Pay $1.3 Billion Damages to Oracle for Copyright Infringement

SAP AG must pay Oracle Corp $1.3 billion for software theft in a jury verdict that could be the largest-ever for copyright infringement.

The decision, by a U.S. district court jury in Oakland California, drew a gasp from the courtroom and prompted hugs and handshakes among Oracle’s legal team, which has pursued the case for years.

The damages dwarfed SAP’s own estimate of the damages. Oracle’s shares rose 1.5 percent in after-hours trade, while SAP’s U.S.-listed stock slid 1.4 percent.

Europe’s top software maker, which said it was disappointed by the verdict, could now try to get the dollar amount knocked down by the trial judge, or pursue an appeal.

“We are, of course, disappointed by this verdict and will pursue all available options, including post-trial motions and appeal if necessary,” SAP said in a statement in response to the verdict.

SAP has acknowledged that its TomorrowNow subsidiary had wrongfully downloaded millions of Oracle’s files. With the admission of liability, the issue before the jury was how much was owed in damages. SAP said no more $40 million, while Oracle sought at least $1.65 billion.

Attorneys for the top U.S. software company called the verdict the largest ever for a copyright infringement case.

While SAP could appeal, Oracle attorney David Boies said, that would raise the possibility of a retrial. “If I were SAP, and I’m not, but if I were SAP, I’m not sure I would want to have another trial,” Boies said.

The three-week courtroom drama, which captivated Silicon Valley, featured testimony from such top executives as Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison — whom SAP’s lawyers accused of plucking damages numbers “out of the air” — and President Safra Catz.

SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott also took the stand and apologized to Oracle for the events surrounding TomorrowNow.

“Home run!” Eric Goldman, an associate professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, wrote in an email. He expected SAP to appeal what he called one of the 10 or 20 largest jury verdicts in U.S. legal history.

“I would expect there to be lots more shenanigans. but now SAP is truly on the run. They have to climb an even steeper mountain.”

NO APOTHEKER

Testimony in the trial wrapped up last week without a hoped-for appearance by former SAP chief and current Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker.

During the trial, Oracle linked Apotheker to the operations of TomorrowNow. But it did not appear to produce evidence to prove he knew of the theft.

“For more than three years, SAP stole thousands of copies of Oracle software and then resold that software and related services to Oracle’s own customers,” Catz said in a statement.

“The trial made it clear that SAP’s most senior executives were aware of the illegal activity from the very beginning.”

Ellison has publicly charged Apotheker with overseeing an ”industrial espionage scheme” to steal Oracle software. But both SAP and HP characterized the Apotheker issue as a sideshow and said Oracle offered no proof to back up its allegations.

Oracle’s arguments about the importance of protecting intellectual property appeared to carry weight with the jury. Juror Joe Bangay, who works as an auto body technician, said the group did not focus on the star CEOs during their deliberations.

“Their information was helpful, but basically I was figuring on the property that was stolen,” said Bangay, 57.

The U.S. government is also conducting a criminal investigation into the events surrounding TomorrowNow but has not disclosed details. SAP said it has been cooperating with Department of Justice investigators.

“They didn’t split the baby did they? It’s a big number and they decided fast,” said Patrick Walravens at JMP Securities. ”If you step back, I think it would’ve been difficult for any jury to deal with the fact that one company broke into another company’s computer systems and just took so much stuff.”

“The jury had a choice of either using the fair market value of the license, or using a loss-profit calculation, and the fair market valuation tended to lead you to larger numbers, so that’s obviously the direction they decided to go.”

But Chris Scott Graham, a partner with the Dechert law firm, said U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton could now cut the size of the award.

“The function of the judge is to look at it from a more clinical standpoint to see if there is error… Sometimes jurors do get caught up in the rhetoric,” Graham said. “There is a risk to Oracle that the judge could say ‘I do not see enough legal evidence to support that award.”’

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Oracle USA, Inc., et al. v. SAP AG, et al, 07-1658.

(Addition reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Jim Finkle in New York; Editing by Edwin Chan, Steve Orlofsky and Bernard Orr) (dan.levine@thomsonreuters.com; +1 415 348-4726)

Copyright 2010 Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

Some Real Facts About Healthcare Reform

You may have noticed that there was a lot of talk during the recent campaign about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Nobody called it that, of course. Its handful of defenders praised “health care reform.” Its horde of attackers railed against “Obamacare.”

The latter far outnumbered the former. Most supporters of the new law, especially incumbents who voted for it, chose either to keep quiet or apologize, approaches that struck me as both cowardly and stupid. What we heard from the critics seemed to be mainly a mix of ignorance and outright lies.

Read More…

No Life Insurance- Could Be Costly

It’s not that Andrew and Claire Langseth didn’t want to buy life insurance. What parents wouldn’t want to protect their children in case the unthinkable happened? But they started their family when Andrew was in college.

“We didn’t really have a steady income. [Life insurance] wasn’t something we were going to add to our financial commitments,” Andrew, 26, said. Today, for the associate pastor from Stewartville, Minn., with four young kids, the money for life insurance still isn’t there.

The economic downturn pushed life insurance down the list of financial priorities for many American families. Ownership of individual life insurance has hit a 50-year low, according to a 2010 study by Limra, an insurance industry-funded research group based in Windsor, Conn. Today, nearly a third of U.S. households, nearly 35 million, have no life insurance.

…Read more at the StarTribune

Many Risk Insurance Benefits

Medicare’s annual enrollment period begins Monday with a number of insurance companies having either changed their offerings for 2011, or completely backed out of the regional market.

Many of the biggest changes have occurred in the Medicare Advantage plans available in the Roanoke and New River valleys. Because of a change in the federal government’s rules governing these plans, many have been discontinued, leaving thousands of seniors to enroll in a new option or risk being left without prescription drug coverage and only the basic traditional Medicare.

The change comes from the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, which required private fee-for-service Medicare Advantage plans to have networks of providers in most counties beginning in 2011. There are some exceptions, which means some of these private fee-for-service plans do still exist in the region’s more rural counties, such as Bedford, Floyd and Giles counties.

The move has national implications, with choices for Medicare Advantage plans declining throughout the country by about 13 percent, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Still, as of September, nearly one-fourth of the total eligible population was enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, according to Kaiser.

In Roanoke, the decline will be sharper. The number of plans offered here has dropped from nine operating in 2010 to five for next year, said Shannon Abell, director of senior services at the LOA Area Agency on Aging.

Abell said he has already filled every free consultation slot available through Dec. 31 and has started a waiting list that, as of Wednesday, had 30 people on it.

“Each year, it just gets worse because there are more seniors every day with the aging population,” Abell said. “And people are just more confused. Nothing has really simplified about the process, so seniors are just getting more and more confused.”

The largest plan to leave the local market is Cigna. Its 4,500 enrollees must now shop for either a new Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan likely coupled with a supplemental Medicare benefit.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia is another company that has discontinued some of its plans that are fee-for-service, impacting approximately 600 people in the region.

“Because of the cost of that, many insurers have chosen not to build PFFS [Private Fee For Service] networks, and instead rely on their own HMO or PPO networks,” said Anthem spokesman Scott Golden.

Golden said Anthem is working to move clients whose plans have been discontinued into other available Medicare Advantage plans.

In all, insurance experts with Carilion’s Medicare Advantage plans calculate there are close to 10,000 people in the Roanoke and New River valleys who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that will no longer exist next year.

In part, Carilion hopes to capitalize on the shrinking number of plans as it seeks to expand its new insurance business

Carilion introduced its insurance plan last year with expectations of enrolling 3,000 people. But the nonprofit health system fell short of that goal, having only enrolled 270 as of September.

For 2011, Carilion is aiming to have 3,200 people enrolled in its eight-county coverage area, said Bryan Hyler, sales director for Carilion Clinic Medicare Health Plan.

Marketing plans

With all the changes, seniors — and those who qualify for Medicare because of disability — are being inundated with advertisements.

This includes a strong push from LewisGale Regional Health System, which has launched a marketing campaign aimed at warning patients that they will not be able to access their doctors and services if they choose the Carilion plan or the Medicare Advantage plan offered by Humana.

“We wanted to make certain that the public — those people who are eligible for Medicare Advantage plans — we wanted to make certain that they understood specifically which ones we were participating in and which ones we were not participating in,” said Nancy May, LewisGale’s spokeswoman and vice president for marketing. “I think, you know, a lot of the changes, the addition of new products like Humana and just the changes that occur each year with any type of coverage, I think that can be confusing.”

May said she and her staff are already fielding calls from patients who are concerned about making the choice that will allow them to still seek care at LewisGale.

Abell said his office has been overwhelmed with calls from confused Medicare participants, many who are calling with questions directly related to LewisGale’s advertisements.

“Many people like to go to both LewisGale and Carilion, so it’s an issue that hits home with them,” Abell said.

The constraints of having to stay in the network of a Medicare Advantage plan is one of the reasons Abell said he has never recommended it to people who seek his advice.

“I want choice,” he said. “I want the ability to go wherever I want to go.”

Medicare Advantage plans work either as a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization, similar to how employee health plans are structured in the private world. Unlike traditional Medicare, however, these plans cover extra benefits like vision, dental and wellness programs. Many also include prescription drug coverage, or a Part D plan.

With Medicare Advantage, private health plans enter into contracts with the government that allow them to offer coverage to enrolled patients.

Carilion is set up as a health maintenance organization and offers four tiers of coverage from a network that includes seven hospitals and more than 600 physicians.

Other changes

Complicating this year’s annual enrollment period, there are several other changes affecting Medicare.

First, the enrollment options for Medicare recipients has changed. While the seasonal period has remained the same, and all Medicare recipients can review and change their plans between Monday and Dec. 31, a second enrollment period that used to run from January through March has become much more limited. Experts recommend that seniors make their decisions before 2011.

“A lot of these folks don’t realize this, and they are going to get stuck if they wait too long,” said Mark Murphy, an independent insurance advisor with Advance Senior Benefits Solutions in Roanoke.

There is an exception. Those people whose plans have been discontinued have a longer enrollment period. For them, it began in October and will continue through Jan. 31.

Still, Murphy said, no matter what kind of Medicare plan a person has, he or she should review the options, even if looking at traditional Medicare and a Part D prescription drug plan, instead of Medicare Advantage.

“For some people, that is the absolute best option,” he said. “Not everyone should be in an advantage plan.”

The government has tools online to help people make selections, and representatives from various plans are also available to help.

Abell said that even though his office is filled for appointments, he is answering the phone. And Murphy said agents like himself are also trained to help.

Source:

Social Media ByPassing the Gatekeeper

Business Development, Telemarketing, and Sales professionals battle everyday to find ways to get past the gatekeeper.  In the emerging market of Social Media many professionals are leaving this untapped opportunity on the table.

Social Media has eliminated the gatekeeper in most cases.  How long will this window remain open know one knows, but it’s open.

Here are some of the ways to go straight to the decision maker using Social Media.

1.        Utilize the search system of LinkedIn, you can often find the decision maker you are looking for by adding the right keywords.   You can then either direct message them or pay for an in-mail account and send them a direct message as well.  Often times the persons contact information will be on their LinkedIn profile.

2.       Join target market groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.  Again utilize the search application to find decision makers or even find those who work at a specific company who can give you the information you need to contact your target.

3.       Find them on twitter using search.twitter.com and send them a message to their personal account or to the staff member who runs the corporate twitter account.

These are just some of the ways that Business Development, Telemarketing, and Sales professionals can find decision makers using social media.

Bonus if you don’t currently use Jigsaw you should check it out.  You can find countless contacts with phone numbers, email, etc.

So what ways do you use Social Media to get past the gatekeeper?

(soure: mycorporatemedia.com)

First Niagara Risk Management to Purchase Hatch Leonard Naples

First Niagara Risk Management Inc., the wholly-owned insurance subsidiary of First Niagara Bank and its parent First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Hatch Leonard Naples Inc. the largest insurance agency in Rochester and among the top agencies in Buffalo and Syracuse.

Following the completion of the transaction, Hatch Leonard Naples will merge with First Niagara Risk Management to create one of upstate New York’s largest insurance agencies. The acquisition is expected to close July 31, 2005.

Similar to First Niagara, Hatch Leonard Naples specializes in commercial insurance, surety bonds, workers’ compensation, employee benefits and personal insurance.

At the close of the transaction, Hatch Leonard Naples will be
merged with First Niagara Risk Management. The combined agency will operate under the direction of current Hatch Leonard Naples’ CEO,
Gerard Wenzke. First Niagara Risk Management Chief Executive Officer, John Hoffman, will become the chairman of the agency’s board of directors.

Hatch Leonard Naples was established in 1910 and serves more than 1,100 businesses and 4,000 individuals throughout Upstate New York. Its offices are located in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Plattsburgh. The agency’s revenue in 2004 exceeded $17 million.

First Niagara Risk Management’s product line includes personal and
commercial insurance, surety bonds, risk management, employee benefits and administration and life, disability and long-term care coverage.

Current annual revenue exceeds $22 million and the agency has office locations that stretch across the state including Buffalo, Newfane, Rochester, Ithaca, Hudson and Albany.

Read more:

Your Legal Rights: Beware of Debt Scams

As of October 27, 2010, new federal rules go into effect that ban debt assistance companies nationwide from collecting up-front fees before they deliver a service.  Before a debt assistance company can collect a fee, it must have resolved at least one of the consumer’s debts, have a written contract with the consumer, and the consumer must already have made at least one payment to the creditor.  Non-profit agencies and some attorneys, such as those that meet face-to-face with their clients, may not be covered by the rule, so make sure that you closely read any written contract before you agree to purchase services from a given debt assistance company.  Under the new rules, debt assistance companies must also tell the truth about how long their program will take to resolve a consumer’s debts, how much it will cost, and that failing to pay your creditors may damage your credit rating and lead to legal action against you.

In these tough economic times, many consumers are struggling with high debt.  Some people are forced to use credit cards just to pay basic living expenses like groceries and health care bills.  As a result of the bad economy, consumers are facing record-high levels of debt, and many people are falling behind on their bills.  If you’re struggling to make ends meet, there are nonprofit credit counseling organizations that can assist you for free in managing your debt and coming up with solutions to your financial problems. You should be careful, however, to avoid hiring companies that charge you money to help you but end up making  a bad situation worse.  There are no easy ways or quick fixes for getting out of debt.  Doing so requires developing a careful budget and may take time.  Attorney General Lori Swanson offers these tips so that consumers trying to do the right thing by getting help do not get bad and costly advice.

Credit Counseling.  Reputable credit counseling organizations help you develop a monthly budget and give you advice on managing your money and paying your debts.  Many are nonprofits that do not charge you a fee for their services.  Their counselors have training in the areas of finance and consumer credit.  They will review your financial situation and help you develop a plan tailored to your needs. To locate a reputable credit counseling organization in your area, contact the following organizations:

LSS Financial Counseling Service —1-888-577-2227 — www.cccs.org

National Foundation for Credit Counseling — 1-800-388-2227 — www.nfcc.org

You should make sure that any credit counseling organization that promotes itself as a “nonprofit” does not charge you hidden fees.

Bogus Promises of Credit Card Help.  Many citizens are struggling to pay their credit card bills.  In 2009, credit card delinquencies climbed to record-high levels.  In 2008, the average outstanding credit card debt for households with at least one credit card was $10,679.  Just ten credit card companies control nearly 90 percent of the credit card market.  Credit card companies often seem to raise interest rates for any reason or no reason at all, and it’s not unusual for credit card interest rates to reach nearly 30 percent.  At the same time, credit card companies collected of $18 billion in penalty fees in 2008 from consumers who paid their bills even a day late, exceeded their credit limit by even a small amount, etc.

There are many fraudulent companies seeking to exploit the fact that many consumers are having a difficult time with credit card bills.  These companies make unsolicited phone calls to consumers promising to help lower their interest rates or find them better deals.  The companies often require the consumer to pay high up-front fees of as much as $2,000 or more.  Once the consumer pays the money, however, the companies often fail to deliver the promised services.  The end result: the  consumer now is $2,000 more in the hole.  Remember: there is no easy way to lower your interest rates or get out of debt.  Beware of companies that call you up and promise they have “insider secrets” on how to lower your credit card interest rates.

Debt Management Plans.  If you owe more on your bills than you can afford to pay, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you establish a “debt management plan.”  A debt management plan should be tailored to your particular financial situation.  Under a debt management plan, you deposit money each month with the credit counseling organization, which may work with your creditors to lower your interest rate or waive certain fees.  The credit counseling organization then uses your deposits to pay your bills, which may include credit card bills, car loans, medical expenses and the like.  The credit counseling organization should work with you and your creditors to establish a payment schedule.  The goal of a debt management plan is to repay the money that you owe through periodic payments.

Most debt management companies are required to be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.  Therefore, before you hire adebt management company, check with the State Commerce Department to be sure it is properly licensed and has not had any enforcement action taken against it.  You may contact the State Commerce Department as follows:
Department of Commerce
Market Assurance Division
85 East Seventh Place, Suite 500
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-2488
1-800-657-3602
www.commerce.state.mn.us

Debt Settlement/Negotiation Companies.  Debt settlement/negotiation companies promise you quick results to get out of debt.  They typically tell you to stop paying your bills altogether and instead save the monthly payments you are making in a savings account.  Once you have sufficient funds, the company will supposedly contact your creditors to negotiate a lump-sum payoff of your debt.  Debt settlement/negotiation companies often promise you that they can cut your bills in half or more.

Debt settlement companies were largely unregulated until the Legislature passed a new bill in 2009 supported by the Attorney General’s Office that brings such companies under a regulatory framework.  Under the new law, which went into effect on August 1, 2009, debt settlement companies must register with the Department of Commerce.

Under the new law debt settlers are prohibited from:
•    Telling consumers to stop paying their creditors;
•    Advising consumers that entering a debt settlement plan will shield them from interest, fees, collection activity, garnishment, or lawsuits;
•    Representing to consumers that entering a debt settlement plan will improve their credit score; or
•    Falsely representing that the debt settler can negotiate better settlement terms than a debtor could on their own.

“Mary” is a divorced mother in her 50s with two children.  With a reduction in her hours at work, she got behind on her bills.  Mary thought she was doing the right thing by hiring a debt settlement company, which promised to reduce her bills and help her get out of debt.  The debt settlement company required Mary to pay it hundreds of dollars in fees up front.  It then told her to stop paying her bills so that her creditors would be willing to negotiate with the company.  A few months later, Mary was shocked when one of her creditors filed a lawsuit against her.  She called the debt settlement company, but it told her that it could not help her with the lawsuit and that she would have to hire an attorney.  Meanwhile, Mary’s credit was further ruined, and she was faced with defending a lawsuit in court.  Don’t let what happened to Mary happen to you!

You should be extremely cautious about using a debt settlement/negotiation company.  If you follow advice to stop paying your bills, your credit will suffer.  Because you are not paying your bills, you may be contacted by debt collection agencies or even sued.

Most debt settlement/negotiation companies charge high fees.  They sometimes require you to make initial up-front payments to them and then take a high percentage of all monthly payments you deposit into your bank account.

Debt settlement/negotiation programs are very risky and have long-term negative impact on your credit and ability to get loans or credit in the future.

Some organizations, such as the Consumer Federation of American, warn consumers not to use debt settlement/negotiation companies.  Consumers have told the Attorney General’s Office that debt settlement/negotiation companies have made serious misrepresentations to them that left the consumers far worse off than when they started.

If you follow the advice of a debt settlement/negotiation company to stop paying your bills, you will likely incur late fees, pay interest-upon-interest, and fall further into default.  This may ruin your credit, and some of your creditors may even file lawsuits against you or garnish your wages and/or bank account.

Tips for Consumers.  Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson provides the following ten tips:
1.  Find a reputable counselor.  Find a reputable credit counseling organization by contacting LSS Financial Counseling Service at 1-888-577-2227 or www.cccs.org or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227 or www.nfcc.org. Before you use any credit counseling organization, also check with the Better Business Bureau at:
Better Business Bureau
2706 Gannon Road
St. Paul, MN 55116-2600
(651) 699-1111 or 1-800-646-6222
www.bbb.org

Try to find an organization that will help you for free as part of its mission.

2.  Is the company licensed? Debt management companies must be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.  Consumers should never do business with a company that is not registered with the Department.  Find out whether any company you intend to hire is licensed with the State Commerce Department by calling that agency at (651) 296-¬4026 or 1-800-657-3602.

3.  Dangerous promises. Beware of any company that tells you to stop paying your creditors.  If you stop paying your creditors altogether, you may ruin your credit, have lawsuits filed against you, and have your wages or bank accounts garnished.  Remember, with a debt settlement/negotiation company, you pay it fees, but it does not distribute money directly to your creditors for you.

4.  Sound too good to be true?  Some debt settlement companies may “guarantee” to lower your monthly credit card and loan payments or to reduce your payments by 50% or more.  Other companies might tell you that they have “insider tips” or special expertise in lowering your interest rates on your credit cards.  Remember: if a promise sounds too good to be true—it usually is.

5.  Beware of money-back guarantees.  In order to allay consumers’ concerns, some debt settlement companies promise money-back guarantees. These guarantees, however, may not be worth the paper they’re printed on. Don’t let a money-back guarantee lure you into a false sense of security.

6.  Know the fees.  Some companies charge high up-front and/or monthly fees for enrolling in credit counseling or a debt management or settlement plan. Some credit counseling services are nonprofits, while others are for profit. Some debt settlement and management companies charge you high fees. Take time to know what your total costs are and who is receiving your money. Is the debt settlement/negotiation company taking money up front that would be better used to pay off your bills?  Beware of companies that tell you they’ll lower your interest rates on your credit cards and that you can pay for their supposed “services” out of the savings.  These types of companies often require you to put high up-front fees of up to $2,000 or more on your credit card and then fail to deliver any savings at all.

7.  Watch the fine print.  Debt settlement companies may have you sign written contracts that differ from what they tell you on the phone. For example, the debt settlement/negotiation company may tell you over the phone to stop paying your creditors and that you won’t be sued.  The contract, however, may say just the opposite. You should read the fine print of any contract.  If the contract says something different than what you are told in person or over the phone, do not sign it. Make sure all verbal promises are in writing.

8.  A plan tailored to your needs.  A legitimate credit counseling organization should take time to understand your income and expenses, and tailor a plan to your own particular needs. Beware of any organization that gives you generic or “one size fits all” advice.
9.  What’s the end game?  You should understand exactly how much the service will cost you and whether the company takes its fees before money is paid to your creditors. You should also understand what interest rates you will be paying the creditors, whether the creditors will reduce your lump-sum payments, and how long it will take to completely pay down your debt.

10.  No quick fixes.  Remember: there is no magic solution toward getting out from under consumer debt. Doing so takes hard work, time, and careful budgeting.

For more information, contact:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General
Lori Swanson
1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787
TTY:  (651) 297-7206 or 1-800-366-4812
www.ag.state.mn.us

Greater Risk Management Role coming to securities Market

Regulators will force securities and futures exchanges to take a bigger role in risk management, Deutsche Boerse AG’s Reto Francioni said.

“Markets are currently entering a new landscape,” Francioni, the chief executive officer of Frankfurt-based Deutsche Boerse, said at a conference in New York today. “The major feature of this new landscape is a trend toward re- regulation.”

Policy makers in Europe and the U.S. are overhauling the $615 trillion derivatives market and examining rules that govern equity trading. In the U.S., the Dodd-Frank Act will require most off-exchange derivatives contracts to be processed and guaranteed through third-party clearinghouses and traded on exchanges or similar systems. Transactions will be reported to trade repositories, which will allow regulators a view of the overall risk in the market.

Regulations are being put in place to address “ineffective risk management practices” and the lack of transparency about prices and the amount of risk firms face with one another, Francioni said at a conference at Baruch College.

The result will be markets that are “much more complex than the one we have gotten used to in the last 10 years,” he said. Regulation will move from national agencies to a “supranational state,” he said…read more on bloomberg

National Protect Your Identity Week

National Protect Your Identity Week through October 23rd.

The Federal Trade Commission now receives 10 million reports of identity theft a year.

The theft can start with lost or stolen wallets, pilfered mail, or through documents thrown out by you or a business. A consumer may also be victimized through more high-tech crimes including a data breach, computer virus, phishing or an Internet scam.  Once the personal information is stolen, the crime can result in check fraud, credit card fraud, financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, governmental identity theft and medical identity theft.

Recognizing that awareness and education are essential tools necessary for consumers to protect themselves against identity theft, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling has teamed with the Council of Better Business Bureaus to host the third annual Protect Your Identity Week through Oct. 23.

To mark Protect Your Identity Week, educational workshops, credit report reviews and document shreddings will be available nationwide.

Consumers can visit here to find useful prevention tips, victim resources, and take a quiz to assess their own risk of becoming the next identity theft victim.