Interview with Denise Richardson
Denise, please tell me what inspired you to write Give
Me Back My Credit.
Give Me Back My Credit was born out of frustration, passion and
an overwhelming sense of necessity to use my story to encourage
others to become proactive when protecting their loans, credit
and their identities. I looked at my life experiences and realized
that if my belief in that old adage "everything happens for
a reason" was true, then the reason for the last 15 years
of dealing with mortgage servicing and credit reporting errors
was staring me right in the face. I needed to share my experiences
and my hard-lessons learned if I wanted to shed light on the problems
and help other consumers protect themselves from corporate and
financial predators. It was definitely an "Aha" moment.
Since writing Give
Me Back My Credit, what has been the general response
to the book?
The positive feedback has been more than I ever imagined it would
be! The response from readers of my book and blog has been truly
overwhelming. I didn't expect the outpouring of kindness, praise
and words of gratitude and appreciation.
Some readers share their own personal experiences and relay their
thanks for validating them, and others offer their gratitude for
my sharing my story and lessons learned. I love hearing from readers
who tell me they avoided a potentially harmful situation by reading
my story. I am very grateful that people take the time to connect
and share their thoughts with me. It has provided me with a remarkable
source of strength to continue to advocate for consumer and victim
How can I protect my rights as a consumer?
Education is the first line of defense against identity theft,
fraud, scams and predatory financial practices. The best way to
protect your rights is to become fully aware of them. If you are
informed and aware of your consumer rights, you will be in a better
position to protect them and be able to hold abusers and wrongdoers
accountable. Stay informed. Find your voice. If you feel that
we need stronger consumer protection laws, let your legislators
know. If you feel they don't have your best interests in mind,
speak with your vote. Share your own experiences that help to
humanize and expose predatory practices. If we expose the bad
and applaud the good, just maybe more companies will want to get
on the side of the consumer.
In your opinion, what trade groups, lobbyist organizations
or other entities are responsible for the erosion of consumer
Unfortunately, many of us who have been harmed by the reckless
or fraudulent behavior of a financial predatory practice recognize
that it's not only the predator who is at fault: it is those who
don't hold them responsible for their harmful actions. Laws are
too often written with too many loopholes that allow bad actions
to happen too easily. I believe that Congress needs to protect
our rights, and if that means sewing up those loopholes or creating
stronger laws, then that's what needs to be done. All too often
it appears that our laws are for sale and consumers end up with
the best laws money can buy. And it's big lobbyists who benefit.
Our laws shouldn't be for sale for any price.
It's our inability to count on the laws intended to protect us.
I don't believe our courts or laws have continued to keep up with
technology. Take the recent identity theft ruling in Colorado.
There, the judges ruled that it isn't necessarily identity theft
when someone uses a Social Security Number without "knowing"
the number belongs to the victim. That's crazy! If our courts
and legislators do not evolve with today's crimes and technology,
how can we hope to have a fighting chance against those who do-the
Do you believe this current administration will benefit consumers
or hurt consumers with too many rules and consumer protection
I don't believe it is "too many rules" that harm us
or our economic recovery. Rather, I believe that too many corporations
put themselves about the rules rather than abide by them and the
government agencies who should oversee them turn what many view
as a blind eye. It's that unfair and irresponsible behavior that
leads to the need for more rules.
It's like a child growing up. Say this child tends to break the
rules. The child gets stronger rules, becomes grounded and has
to have disciplinary actions such as fines or earlier curfews
or other loss of privileges. When corporations behave badly, there
need to be consequences. This process makes a child into a grown-up.
I for one am sick of hearing that rules hurt us. Corporations
must work within the laws and rules designed to protect consumers!
In fact, I am not against big business, nor am I against capitalism-to
the contrary. I am opposed to corruption, fraudulent behavior
and those who do all they can to maneuver around laws and rules
designed to protect people.
Please give me your thoughts on the consumer protection czar,
Professor Elizabeth Warren has been a true consumer watchdog and
champion of consumer financial protection rights. I love her fair,
upfront and straightforward stance on what she'd like to see from
the newly created Consumer Federal Protection Agency. The CFPA
needs to be a tough independent agency whose sole task is protecting
consumers. To help ensure this agency will be a place where consumer
voices matter and truth and honesty prevails, I believe the best
person to head this agency would be the tell-it-like it is Professor
Elizabeth Warren. Her work, commitment and history of standing
up for the little guy all speaks for itself.
As a consumer, how can I protect myself from predatory lending?
Ask questions. Don't be quick to trust what you read on the web
or in the newspaper. Do your homework and check out any financial
offering or institution before signing documents. You can check
for complaints on the internet, with various government agencies
that oversee the lending industry as well as your state attorney
general. The simple old adage is true: what you don't know can
most definitely hurt you --knowledge is power.
Hypothetically speaking, if a businessperson has bad credit
and needs financing to expand his business, what should he do?
He should do all he can to re-build that credit rating. Perhaps
he could join a credit union or a community bank to build a positive
relationship with a smaller banking entity, one that gets to know
you as a community member and not just a number. He has to do
everything he can to prove that his old credit rating is not a
reflection of what his business is now.
It's estimated that 25 percent of Americans fall into the
least-creditworthy category. Do you see this trend going upward
or downward? Also, do you feel the American consumer should take
the blame for this?
I believe a large part of the problem that consumers face today
stems from their inability to get the big credit card companies
to work with them. If Joe Consumer is struggling to meet his obligations
and pay his credit cards, mortgage, car payment and other loans
on time, it seems like plain common sense to have all those creditors
work with Joe to get those payments made. The credit card companies
could work with Joe and lower his interest rates at a time where
the creditor's cost of borrowing is so low, putting Joe, the borrower,
in a position to continue to make payments on his loans. When
creditors raise their interest rates or cut off consumer credit
lines without good cause-as so many consumers report has happened
to them-it triggers a domino effect. Each of those dominoes is
bad news. As Joe Consumer falls behind in one payment, the cost
of credit goes up and his credit score goes down. This not only
affects his credit rating, it affects the cost of insurance and
other financial opportunities. When credit scores carry the weight-remember,
decisions for housing, cars, insurance and jobs are based on that
score-a lowered score reduces the consumer's opportunity to climb
out from under the debt, and harms our economic recovery.
Denise, do you have any other books that are going to be published
soon? If so, please tell us about them.
I am working on a few different projects for 2011. One includes
sharing my personal insight into identity theft, its effects and
the need to be alert to and informed about the various types of
scams and high-tech methods used to steal identities today. I
believe that the more we are aware of dangers, the less likely
we are to fall victim to them. Many stories I hear come from consumers
who were unaware of the increasingly sophisticated methods criminals
utilize today to con them and steal their data, money, and peace
of mind. There are steps we can take to reduce the risk and impact
of financial crimes and predatory practices -we just need to be
aware of them.
Thank you Denise. Give
Me Back My Credit
Shane from Buy
Here Pay Here Car Lots