■ Minority foreclosures
■ Multiple credit cards
■ Homeowner equity
could make you ill
By David Horowitz
MANY HOSPITALS now investigate patients’ personal credit reports to figure out how likely they are
to pay their bills. By accessing these credit reports,
hospitals are peering at personal lines of credit, payment histories and debts.
They say this helps identify which patients to
pursue actively for payment because they can, in
fact, afford to pay, which helps to minimize losses.
They also claim it allows them to quickly identify
which patients are eligible for charity care or assistance programs.
If a hospital requests the information, be sure
to ask them why and whether it’s absolutely necessary. Also, if a problem arises, make sure you ask
how the hospital came by that information.
By law, hospitals aren’t allowed to turn away
patients in an emergency. And public hospitals (as
opposed to private hospitals) are often required to
give non-emergency care if it is considered medically necessary.
one card exclusively for online purchases, to help
keep an eye out for Internet fraud or online identity
theft. It’s also smart to carry a second credit card in
the wallet, to provide a backup in case the primary
card is denied for any reason, including a technical
glitch on the issuer’s end.
TWICE, everything in our
safe deposit box has disappeared. The bank found
the contents the first time,
then offered me another
box at no charge as an
apology. But this time,
they claim that I took
the contents! They only
showed me a receipt of the
first box rental in 2006, but
won’t confirm or believe
that the manager gave me
the second, free box. The
bank won’t answer my letters or my phone calls.
How can I prove that they
have lost our valuables?
Foreclosures among minorities
A recent report released by an alliance of policy,
research and advocacy organizations shows that
high-risk home loans make up 20 percent of all
loans in predominantly minority communities. In
mostly white areas, high-risk loans make up only 4
percent of total loans.
According to the Neighborhood Economic
Development Advocacy Project in New York, one of
the agencies involved with the study, “These high-risk lenders were targeting their loans to particular
neighborhoods—to communities of color. That’s
where they focused their marketing practices.”
Advocacy groups have said poor and minority borrowers who qualified for traditional loans were nevertheless steered into risky adjustable mortgages,
which can be more profitable for the lender. A
spokesperson said, “If you walk into the local sub-prime office, there’s no incentive for them to send
you to a different lender where you can qualify for a
Falling homeowner equity
The percentage of equity in Americans’ homes
has fallen below 50 percent for the first time on record.
The Federal Reserve says this is the first time that
homeowners’ debt on their houses exceeds their equity
since the Fed started tracking the data in 1945.
Home equity is equal to the amount
of a home’s market value minus
mortgage-related debt. What is
alarming is that the equity levels
have steadily decreased even as
home prices jumped earlier this
decade. One explanation is the
surge in home value, which
prompted homeowners to
use their equity as an ATM.
An increasing volume of
transactions involved cash-out refinances, home
equity loans and lines of
credit, and an increase
in 100 percent or more
AMY CAN TRELL
As the values have
dropped so has the level
of equity, leaving many
with no reserves in their
equity lines of credit.
Economists expect this
figure to drop even further
as declining home prices
eat into the value of most
Americans’ single largest
Multiple credit cards
Many people with multiple cards simply max
them all out, and then find themselves drowning in
debt. But if you can manage your credit responsibly,
having multiple cards can boost your credit and your
Credit experts say consumers should keep one
credit card with a zero balance in a safe deposit box
or other safe place outside their home or wallet. This
serves as a safety net if a card is lost, stolen or
destroyed, and gives you access to credit while waiting to have the card replaced. Some advise using
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
check the radio page at www.fightback.com.
© 2008 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
If you weren’t given a
rental receipt for the second
box, despite the fact that it
was free, you’re in a very
tough spot. You have
no proof of rental,
and the bank won’t
or can’t produce
state that it’s the
box renter’s risk
or damage of
items in a safe
unless the bank is
found to be negligent.
My first suggestion is
that you contact your
policy to see if the valu-
ables were covered. You
can also file a theft report
with the police depart-
ment. Perhaps you are not
the only victim, and your
report may be able to help
them track the thief or
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