Last Friday, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki and I participated in the Financial Education Summit at the Federal Reserve Bank, meeting with a great group of people dedicated to creating smarter consumers who are better aware of money matters.
Information is power, particularly when it comes to handling money and making smart decisions for your family. The Summit on Friday kicked off Financial Education Month in Massachusetts, and I was able to discuss some of the programs and initiatives we operate that deliver necessary information to consumers. (In the photo right are David Floreen of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, Susanne Cameron of Citi, Kathleen Tullberg of the Massachusetts Community & Banking Council, and Margaret Miley of the Midas Collaborative as I present the Governor’s Proclamation announcing Financial Education Month.)
In recent years, our foreclosure prevention efforts have given 3,500 people the opportunity to meet one-on-one with lenders, helped another 1,350 win stays of foreclosure, and have provided nearly $4 million in foreclosure education and prevent grants to regional counseling agencies. Additionally, in August Governor Patrick signed legislation that further helps homeowners by extending the right-to-cure period from 90 to 150 days.
Our Division of Banks and banking organizations maintain a low-cost checking and savings account program that encourages people to open an account. A recent Division of Banks report found the fees associated with check-cashing entities can be significantly more than a basic checking account, and using check cashers does not help create the long-term benefits of more and stronger financial services that can come from having a checking account.
Additionally, last month our office announced the second year of Project Credit Smarts, which brings credit and debt education to college students around the state. When we talk about getting information to consumers, we do it with the hopes that they make good decisions in the long run. As we found with Project Credit Smarts, students often learn lessons the hard way. Watch the video below as Andrea Craddy of Springfield Technical Community College and Ben Davis of UMass-Amherst both discuss dropping out of school because of debt issues.
How to Combat Illegal Robocalls posted on Jul 25
Robocalls have become an all-too-common nuisance for consumers. Robocalls are unsolicited, pre-recorded phone calls, often scams, which are made to consumers without their permission, as opposed to calls solicited by the consumer, such as those from pharmacies and childrens’ schools. Robocalls are illegal in Massachusetts under M.G.L. c. 159C. While consumers can, and should, sign-up -for both the state and national Do-Not-Call lists, unfortunately this does not always stop many unscrupulous solicitors and scammers from making these calls.
Summary of the 2015 Consumer Federation of America Annual Consumer Complaint Survey posted on Jul 22
The Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators recently released the results of the 2015 Consumer Complaint Survey. This report is based on consumer information, complaints, and suggestions for increased consumer protections from 33 consumer agencies in 21 states.
Do-Not-Call Consumer & Solicitor Responsibilities posted on Jul 20
The Massachusetts Do-Not-Call Registry allows consumers to stop receiving certain telephone solicitations simply by signing-up and providing their telephone number. Established in 2003, the law requires telephone solicitors, list-brokers, and telemarketers to register with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, subscribe to the Do-Not-Call Registry, and remove registered telephone numbers of consumers from their call lists.