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Interview with Denise Richardson of GiveMeBackMyCredit.comTell a Friend

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 rights.

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 protection rights?

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 criminals?

Do you believe this current administration will benefit consumers or hurt consumers with too many rules and consumer protection regulations?

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, Elizabeth Warren?

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

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