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Consumer Protection Week prompts consumers to be proactive

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WASHINGTON (3/4/14)--This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is offering five tips to better protect their financial position.
 
"By executing one of the following steps each day, consumers will put themselves into a much safer financial position in just one week," said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson.
  • Review credit reports. Credit reports are viewed by potential lenders as well as landlords, cell phone providers and utility companies. Because a credit report captures a person's financial track record, it can strongly influence a lending decision, Cunningham noted. Consumers can access a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Have an insurance review. Talk with the insurance agent about adequate coverage and appropriately priced premiums.
  • Get to know your credit card. Many people don't realize that certain protections are part of their credit card agreement such as return protection and extended warranties. The Fair Credit Billing Act allows consumers to seek a refund if a product purchased was unsatisfactory. For a list of credit protection laws, go to http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard/regs.html.
  • Know your rights. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created to protect consumers by carrying out federal consumer laws.  It also restricts unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, promotes financial education and accepts complaints. Consumers can submit issues with a financial product or service to the CFPB online at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/.
Consumers who are educated about the many rights and protections available have a greater peace of mind when making financial purchases or decisions, Cunningham said.

Get house on the market--pronto

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/4/14)--Time's a wasting if you plan to put your house on the market this spring. House hunters have been scoping out properties online for months and are poised to buy (Motley Fool Feb. 15).
 
January visits to online real estate websites were up 25% more than in December, to more than 360 million, according to Experian Marketing Services (Feb. 14). So, if you plan to sell but your house is not yet listed and online, you're missing lots of opportunities to show your house to potential buyers.
 
While spring is the traditional season for housing sales to pick up, other factors contribute to the lift in interested buyers.
 
Mortgage rates are lower in the past month and hovering near 4% for qualified loans. This is good news for buyers sensitive to affordability: A traditional 30-year, $150,000 mortgage at 4.5% would have a monthly payment of $760. If rates decline to 4.25%, the payment would change to $738.
 
That $22 savings each month could make the difference between getting a loan approval or not. And, over the life of the loan, that 0.25% difference saves the borrower nearly $8,000.
 
Get your house show-ready by making sure it is spotless and clutter-free. Low-cost cosmetic fixes such as fresh paint and carpet in neutral shades, new cabinet hardware and shower curtains, and basic landscape maintenance pay off. An investment in updated kitchen appliances makes more sense than a kitchen remodel at this stage.
 
For more information, read "Want Top Dollar for Your House? Apply Elbow Grease" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.