Welcome to our June 2020 newsletter. A lot has happened since our last newsletter: the death of George Floyd, the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racism, and the continued challenges of COVID-19, unemployment and the slow down of the economy. We hope you, your family and friends are staying safe and healthy during these extremely challenging time for us as individuals and for us as a nation.

We continue to conduct all work remotely and we are doing consultations and meetings by phone, Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting or Webex. Recently we have conducted court hearings via Zoom and Webex, with no noticeable difference between live and video link.

This newsletter and our website are full of information and tips on how to protect yourself in the constantly changing world of privacy and consumer finance. If you find them useful, we hope you will share our tips! We are here to help you navigate issues that might begin as financial, but quickly evolve into a legal challenge. For over twenty five years we have helped people facing identity theft, abusive debt collectors, predatory lenders, credit reporting errors, wrongful foreclosure, student debt collection and car repossessions.
Predatory Lending and Systemic Racism
Through the lens of consumer financial protection, one is able to observe many effects of systemic racism. Over and over again, evidence shows that in this country it is expensive to be poor or to be a person of color. If you are a racial minority, chances are you are more likely to have a predatory loan, and more likely to have a legal problem as a result of disparate treatment in consumer finance. The Black Lives Matter movement helps focus attention on issues such as redlining and the impact of sky-high interest rates resulting in the transfer of wealth caused by predatory lenders. Through our legal advocacy on behalf of consumers, we hope we are helping to create a more equal and just society.

Here are some great resources for Talking About Race from the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture .

Dealing with Covid-19 Changes is a Marathon not a Sprint
The Holland Law Firm is here to help navigate the multitude of financial challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important to realize that the situation is changing so rapidly that even though a legislative or policy idea is announced, it may get overtaken by events. Most important, it is still true the fine print is often more important than the large print, so make sure you understand the details before entering into any agreement with a bank, finance company or debt collector. Here is our resource list below:

Beware of Disaster Capitalism Scams
In a 2019 survey done by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau called Make Ends Meet, 52% of families said they couldn't pay bills beyond two months without their main source of income even if they borrowed, used their savings or sold assets. Now fast forward to the pandemic, and we are certainly in uncharted waters and even more financial stress.

Because "disaster capitalism" thrives in times of crisis, beware of scam artists and imposters who are looking to steal the equity in your home, con you into excessive interest rates on loans, or raid your bank accounts. One huge red flag is any offer that is unsolicited. And always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. To that point the Wall Street Journal investigated coronavirus scams in " How Payday Lenders Target Consumers Hurt By Coronavirus" . Through hundreds of online searches they discovered lenders were charging 200% to 500% interest rates on loans to consumers trying to get help during one of the largest economic downturns in U.S. history.

If you are contacted through social media, a text, phone call or email about your Economic Impact Payment (EIP), do not respond as it may be a scam to take your money. The government will not contact you in any of these ways. If you haven't gotten your EIP payment, you can go to the IRS website devoted to EIP to find out more. You can also check out How to Avoid Covid-19 Imposter Scams at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Ann Franklin,
Bookkeeper and Legal Assistant
Ann Franklin has worked for The Holland Law Firm for over twenty years. She has been an integral part of the team from the beginning. Her compassion and strong work ethic helps HLF give the best service to our clients. We are happy she is on our team!

Question: Working in a small law firm as opposed to a large firm often means the staff wears many hats. With that in mind, what projects have you enjoyed working on while at The Holland Law Firm? 

 Answer: I re ally enjoy the diversity of the work I do at HLF, whether it’s spreadsheets, analysis, working with clients, or bookkeeping. I am proud to work for a firm that cares so strongly about helping people. The consumer issues our clients come to us with, like credit reporting errors, ID theft, surprise medical bills, mortgage, car and student loans that are misreported or mishandled, can happen to any of us, and they cause enormous financial and emotional stress. When our firm is able to resolve these issues, it’s very rewarding.    
Question: Since the world has changed so drastically in the last few months because of the Covid-19 crisis, what changes have you seen in your day to day life at the firm?

Answer: We already had the ability to work remotely, so we were able to hit the ground running and keep moving.

Question: Where are you from originally?

Answer: I’m from Wyandotte, Michigan, a small town southeast of Detroit. After graduating from the University of Michigan I moved to Washington D.C. for a job and never left the area. I now live in Queen Anne’s county, with my husband, son and daughter and two dogs.

Question: What do you like to do in your free time?

Answer: I enjoy biking, hiking, skiing, gardening and just generally being outside. I also really like to read, and I’m a big library user. Lucky for me, my family gifted me the Kindle I said I never wanted in February. That has really come in handy during the months the library has been closed! 

My family also decided this would be the perfect time to get a second dog. So now I spend my free time chasing behind a very energetic Whippet puppy named Callie.  
The Perils of Medical
Cost Sharing Ministries
Peter appeared on The Doctors, a nationally syndicated talk show, on April 28th to speak about the pitfalls of using cost sharing ministries as a replacement for health insurance. The show focused on a man who joined a health sharing ministry, only to have them refuse to pay for his back surgery, which left him with a bill of over $200,000.00. Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says these type of organizations are legal under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a consumer should read the fine print and buyer beware when entering into any kind of contract for insurance coverage. As Peter pointed out, "promising somebody one thing and delivering not that thing, some people might call that fraud."

Here is a link to Washington State's Insurance Commissioner's website for an order for a health sharing ministry to stop selling health insurance in the state of Washington. Here is a concise article on the dangers of these programs.
Help with Mortgages
Have you taken advantage of mortgage relief options through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES)? Access to resources to help with your mortgage, phone bills, energy bills, and other pressing financial issues can be found at USA.GOV . If you need help paying your mortgage, check the website of your mortgage servicer and see what the options might be for relief. Sometimes it can be hard to determine who owns your mortgage because it is bought and sold, you can find out more information here . Find out more from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on Guide to Mortgage Relief Options .
Recently Emanwel Turnbull lectured to a group of lawyers from across the country on the topic of "Protective Orders and Discovery Challenges " in litigation. The talk was part of the Online Spring Training through the National Association of Consumer Advocates .

Peter Holland is on the board of directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates . NACA recently sued the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , alleging that a hand-picked advisory panel actually wants to deregulate Wall Street at the expense of consumers .

Emanwel Turnbull is on the board of directors of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition . MCRC has been actively advocating for greater consumer protections during the COVID-19 crisis .

Both Peter and Emanwel are members of Law Zebra , a groundbreaking organization of independent trial and consumer rights lawyers who hail from several states across the country.
We Are Here to Help. Call Us!
Do you know someone being hounded by debt collectors for a mortgage, student loan, medical debt, residential lease, car loan, or credit card debt ? Do you know someone who is the victim of Identity Theft or Credit Reporting Errors? We can help.

Call us for a Confidential Consult at 410-280-6133!
Peter A. Holland
The Holland Law Firm, P.C.
914 Bay Ridge Road, Suite 230
Annapolis, MD 21403
410 280 6133

NOTE: This newsletter may be considered to constitute advertising under Rule 7.2 of the Maryland Code of Professional Conduct and other state rules. Peter Holland is responsible for the content.