Our community workshops are a critical manifestation of our mission. They help women access the tools of financial information to improve their economic security and that of their communities. Moreover, these workshops provide us an opportunity to share and to learn. We look forward to future collaborations with issue experts like the DC Office of the Attorney General as well as future partnerships with centers such as Jefferson Academy Middle School, where mothers and families gather. Melody Webb
Recapping “Understanding Consumer Law”: A Meeting with Parents, by Lisa Thomas
On January 6, 2016, Mothers Outreach Network joined with DC’s Office of the Attorney General to host a meeting at Jefferson Academy Middle School. The focus of the meeting was consumer law and how individuals can monitor and protect their credit histories and understand how consumer reports can affect their everyday lives.
Melody Webb, the president and founder of Mothers Outreach Network, gave opening remarks, highlighting the importance of understanding inequality in the workplace. For example, she noted how race and gender can affect one’s salary, pointing to the disparities among people who perform the same jobs but may be treated differently.
She also spoke about her organization’s goals and projects, inviting participants to take a quiz prepared by MON to help understand the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This act particularly helps people whose credit histories may hinder their ability to get a job or promotion. Next, Philip Ziperman discussed ways for consumers to protect their credit and their livelihoods. Ziperman directs the Office of Consumer Protection at the Office of the Attorney General in DC. He urged attendees to monitor their credit histories and beware of companies that offer free credit scores or services to help you repair your credit or reduce your loans. Many companies act dishonestly, offering services that are expensive or entirely fraudulent.
The primary resource for receiving a free annual credit report is annualcreditreport.com, where you can get a credit report from the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Ziperman emphasized the importance of making sure your credit history is up to date and accurate, protecting your personal information, and reporting potentially fraudulent activities to the Attorney General’s office. In addition, he cautioned against providing too much information on social media and urged everyone to check their privacy settings on Facebook. Employers may look at social media and judge job applicants and employees accordingly, and others may use information on social media for purposes of identity theft or fraud. Ultimately, nothing that is sent, received, or posted electronically should be considered totally private or temporary.
Finally, Richard V. Rodriguez extended the conversation by discussing additional ways for individuals to monitor and protect their credit. Rodriguez also works at the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. He focused on collection agencies and consumers’ rights, particularly when they receive threatening emails, letters, or phone calls. Emailing or calling the Office of Consumer Protection can help you identify fraud and determine whether a collection agency is acting lawfully. For example, collection agencies cannot have you arrested for failing to pay a debt. They are also not supposed to contact you at your place of work and are not allowed to harass you, so you can report their activities if their behavior is overly threatening. In addition, there are scams wherein people may claim that you owe money for an unpaid bill, hoping to intimidate you into paying a nonexistent debt.
It is important to keep good records about any debts you owe so that you can avoid scams, and you should also know your legal rights so that collectors do not overstep their bounds. Subscribing to a credit monitoring service can be helpful, particularly if you have reason to believe your personal information was stolen The meeting concluded with questions from the audience, wherein participants sought further guidance on how to protect their credit and handle potential scams. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for community members to learn more about their rights, how to be vigilant when it comes to their credit, and how to use the Office of the Attorney General as a resource.
The presenters encouraged everyone to call the consumer hotline at 202-442-9828 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> with questions and concerns regarding their credit, identity theft, and fraud or scams that could harm their wellbeing. Credits to Lisa Thomas Copyright Mothers’ Outreach Network 2016