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Dear Neighbors and Friends,
The 2012 Legislative session has begun and I look forward to building on the legislation my colleagues and I have passed to get California working again. I would like to thank all of my constituents who have contacted my office to share ideas and comments on how to better Senate District 40. In this issue, I will be providing information on how to protect yourself from scams and fraudulent activities and consumer resources and contacts at state agencies.
Governor Brown has released his 2012-2013 budget, which grapples with a $9.2 billion deficit. I plan on finding the right balance between cuts and revenue sources and I will fight to ensure that disadvantaged communities are not disproportionately impacted.
In addition to the budget, my legislative priorities include: public safety, streamlining regulations, supporting public-private partnerships and consumer protection.
I hope that you will find this information useful. As always, please feel free to contact my district office if you ever have any questions or concerns at (619) 409-7690 or at (760) 335-3442.
In this Issue
Senator Vargas’ 2012 Legislative Package Begins To Take Form
On January 9th, the California State Senate began the 2012 Legislative session. Below is a list of bills and resolutions Senator Vargas has introduced to the Legislature. Please note that this is a partial list and bills will continue to be considered in advance of the February 24th deadline. To keep updated on Senator Vargas' legislative package, and all pieces of legislation being introduced in the Senate and Assembly, please visit http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.
- SB 949 (Community Benefit Districts): This bill would authorize a local agency to form a community benefit district by complying with specified procedures and requirements, to be operated by a nonprofit management company, and to levy an assessment for the support of the districts.
- SB 969 (Lucy's Law): This bill would require any person engaged in pet grooming to be licensed and regulated by the Veterinary Medical Board. The bill would establish the requirements necessary to obtain a license as a pet groomer and set forth the duties and obligations of a licensee as a pet groomer.
- SB 973 (Save Our Events Act): This bill would ensure that temporary events – such as parades, marathons, farmers' markets, fireworks displays, and weddings – are not financially impacted or legally challenged by the positive intent of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
- SB 978 (Hard Money Lending): This bill addresses the regulatory gaps that have been exposed in the hard money lending industry as a result of the housing downturn. Hard money lenders raise money from private individuals seeking solid investment returns and lend that money out to residential and commercial borrowers unable to obtain financing through traditional financial institutions. In recent years, however, the housing downturn has caught unsophisticated investors unaware and cost several pensioners their life savings.
- SB 979 (Department of Finance Enforcement Actions): This bill seeks to improve transparency within California's banking sector. SB 979 requires the California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to make the results of its enforcement actions public, to ensure that Californians have access to the complete picture involving any institution in which they choose to place their money.
- SB 980 (Loan Modification): This bill protects homeowners by extending the January 1, 2013 sunset date on SB 94 (Calderon), a piece of consumer protection legislation, to January 1, 2017. SB 94 cracked down on individuals and businesses who were preying on troubled borrowers by charging them up-front, often nonrefundable fees under the guise of helping them obtain loan modifications.SB 94 prohibited those who sought to charge borrowers a fee for helping negotiate a loan modification or other form of mortgage loan from collecting their fee until all agreed-upon services were rendered.
- SR 22 (Calexico Port of Entry): This resolution supports private-public partnerships that would renovate and expand the Calexico West Port of Entry in order to create jobs in Imperial County and the surrounding region.
Governor Brown’s 2012- 2013 Budget
On January 5th, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed 2012-2013 budget. The spending plan builds upon significant deficit reduction efforts of previous years. The proposed budget is based on the Department of Finance's projected deficit of $9.2 billion. The Governor proposes to balance the budget with billions of dollars in additional cuts, including a difficult $1.4 billion reduction in human services and child care aid for the poor, and through increased revenue raised through a ballot initiative in November. The initiative would seek voter approval of a tax initiative that will temporarily raise the income tax for wealthy Californians and temporarily increase the state sales tax by half a cent. If approved by the voters, the tax proposal will generate nearly $7 billion in new revenue annually for five years, and help protect K-12 education, higher education, and public safety programs from additional cuts.
The Legislature will now begin an in-depth review of the Governor's proposal through the Budget Committee process. Updated revenue information will be known by the time of the Governor's Revised Budget Proposal in May. The Legislature has until June 15th to pass the 2012-2013 budget.
A summary and details of the proposed budget can be reviewed at the Governor's budget website.
Common Investment Scams Against Seniors
Seniors are prime targets for investment scams and fraud because they often have a "nest egg," own their home, have excellent credit, and are perceived as open and trusting If you believe you have been victimized, immediately call local law enforcement and contact the California Department of Corporations to determine if you should also file a formal complaint.
Affinity Marketing and Affinity Fraud
Affinity consists of mutual trust, friendship, and sympathy among people who share similar religious beliefs, ethnic background, language, culture, age, profession, or other characteristics. Don't automatically trust salespeople because they appear to share your background or interests, or advertise in your favorite magazines. Certain salespeople are even hired specifically to gain the trust of target groups. Once a salesperson gains your trust, he/she then promotes products or services that may be inappropriate for you, or worse, fraudulent.
Part of what makes affinity fraud so dangerous is the "snowball effect." Once a group member or a respected community leader personally invests in a service or product, word spreads quickly, and more people come to trust the salesperson and decide that the product or investment is legitimate and worthwhile, even when it is not. Affinity fraud is typically perpetrated on a large scale, resulting in a devastated community and big payoffs for con artists (until they get caught). Unfortunately, due to shame and embarrassment, affinity fraud is often not reported to the appropriate authorities.
Bait and Switch Schemes
Be wary of enticing financial promises or spectacular profits that sound too good to be true, especially if a personal visit is required. A salesperson may switch paperwork or try to persuade you to make a different investment— changes likely to be unsuitable and/or provide large commissions for the salesperson. Read everything before you sign. Similar bait and switch tactics may also occur in real estate financing, car purchases, personal loans, or other financial agreements.
Sometimes salespeople or financial advisors try to create the impression they have special education or expertise in senior services and products. If credentials contain such words as "senior" or "elder" in conjunction with "certified" or "registered," be cautious. For example, "RES" (standing for "Registered Elder Specialist") is nothing more than a commercial gimmick.
CDs with Bonus
Companies promise investors tantalizingly high rates of return on CDs (certificates of
deposit) by including a bonus to attract investors, but then convince the person to buy a different product. Be wary—this is a classic "bait and switch" tactic.
"FREE" Meals, Living Trusts, and Other Seminars
Seniors are often invited to receive free meals and hear about insurance, real estate, and other investment opportunities, such as; financial planning; reverse mortgages; or wills and living trusts. Be wary—some so-called "experts" misrepresent their qualifications.
Seminar salespeople may try to sell you unsuitable investments or try to convince you to replace your existing investments.
They may also fail to disclose their fees and commissions or other pertinent information, making it difficult to accurately compare products and services. Worse, some events are just a ploy to obtain your personal and financial information.
For more information on this topic, please visit the Department of Corporation's website at http://www.corp.ca.gov/Consumer/SAIF/Default.asp.
Resources For Servicemembers and their Families
You might be surprised — servicemembers and their families are prime targets for financial fraud and scams.
Servicemembers receive steady paychecks and deployment bonuses, frequently relocate, and may be financially inexperienced. As a result, servicemembers are targeted for inappropriate financial products and investments and a wide variety of fraudulent activities.
These include investment and financial scams, "get rich quick" schemes, predatory lending practices (such as providing credit on terms that are opportunistic, deceitful, fraudulent, or unfair), and unsuitable insurance policies with little or no death benefits. Family members at home are also vulnerable, especially while servicemembers are deployed.
If you believe you may have been victimized, please immediately contact your base financial counselor, military family support group, or local law enforcement.
What You Need To Know About Payday Loans
What is a Payday Loan?
Payday loans are also called "cash advances" or "deferred deposits." In a payday loan, a borrower writes a check to a lender in exchange for a short-term cash loan. For example, a borrower writes a $300 check, pays the $45 fee, and receives $255 in cash. The lender does not cash the check until the borrower's next payday, up to 31 days.
Fees for Payday Loans:
Under California law, the maximum loan amount a consumer can borrow in a payday loan is $300. The maximum fee a payday lender can charge is 15% of the face amount of the check (up to a maximum of $45). Additional fee restrictions apply for military servicemembers and their dependents.
The fee is equivalent to an annual percentage rate (APR) of 460% for a two-week loan. The actual APR may vary, depending on the term of the loan.
APR is the total annual interest rate that a borrower pays on a loan, including all fees and charges. APR is used to reveal the total cost of borrowing money. By comparison, a loan for a new car may have an APR of 4-7%.
If You Take Out a Payday Loan:
Borrow only as much as you can afford to pay back in full on your next payday. On the loan due date, some borrowers find they cannot afford to pay back the loan. Borrowers are encouraged not to take out a second loan from another payday lender to repay the first, as this can lead to a cycle of debt from which it will be expensive and difficult to recover.
California Payday Lending Laws Protect You:
- In California, all payday lenders must be licensed by the Department of Corporations. Use the Department's website or call Toll-Free to verify a lender's license or to file a complaint (1-866- ASK- CORP).
- A payday lender may only make you one loan (which cannot exceed $300), and may only charge a maximum fee of 15% of the total amount of the check (up to $45). Additional fee restrictions apply for military servicemembers.
- Payday lenders are required to visibly post their CA license and a fee schedule at every location.
- A payday lender cannot make you a new loan to pay off an existing loan.
- A payday lender cannot make you a new loan while an existing loan with the same lender is outstanding, even if the combined balance of the existing loan and the new loan does not
- If your check bounces, the payday lender may charge only one bounced check fee (up to $15).
- (Be careful — your bank may charge you additional fees for insufficient funds.)
- Additional fees cannot be charged if you request an extension of time or payment plan. However, the payday lender is not legally required to grant your request.
- By law, the contract for a payday loan must be provided to you in the language you primarily used to negotiate with the lender.
- A payday lender cannot threaten to prosecute you in criminal court for insufficient funds.
- You may also have other legal protection under California law. If you need help or suspect violation of the law, please contact the Department of Corporations.
For more information on this topic, please visit the Department of Corporation's website at http://www.corp.ca.gov/.
How To Say No To Telemarketers, Computer Spam and Junk Mail
California has joined the federal government in tackling telemarketing, junk mail and spam. Along with the Federal Trade and Communications Commissions, California is working to regulate unsolicited commercial advertising to protect your privacy.
What Can You Do:
- Register with the Federal Trade Commission's national "do not call" list. You can register online at donotcall.gov or call 888.382.1222 (866.290.4236 tdd).
- Tell companies that call to add you to their "do not call" list. Federal regulations prohibit them from calling once you've asked them not to.
- Delete your name from direct mail and email lists by contacting the Direct Marketing Association at dmachoice.org.
- Get your name off of pre-approved credit offer mailing lists by calling 888.5.optout. This one call will be shared with all three credit bureaus.
- Tell the three major credit bureaus that you don't want your personal information shared for promotional purposes.
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
Experian Target Marketing
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328
- Avoid unwanted spam by protecting your email address. The FTC suggests the
- Avoid displaying your email address in public, such as on websites or in online membership directories.
- If you must post your email address publicly, use two separate email accounts – one for public posting and one for personal messages.
- Use a separate screen name for online chatting, a name not associated with your email address.
- Use a unique email address, containing both letters and numbers.
- Report illegal telemarketing to the California Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission by using the online complaint form at donotcall.gov. You must know the name or phone number of the caller.
- Report illegal spam to state and federal authorities by forwarding it to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Report illegal fax advertisements to the California Attorney General by calling 800.952.5225.
- If you report illegal telemarketing, fax advertising or spam to the state or federal government, give as much information as possible. Make a record of the call or email you receive. Take notes at the time of the call.
Fraud Warnings For California Homeowners in Financial Distress
Beware of loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams run by con artists, who demand the payment of upfront fees.
What is a Loan Modification?
A loan modification is where you and your lender agree to modify one or more of the terms of your home loan. The terms could be a lower interest rate, an extension of the length of the loan (such as making a 30 year loan 40 year loan), a conversion of an adjustable rate loan (called an ARM) to a fixed rate, a rate freeze, the deferring of some of your payments, or any other modification or restructuring of loan terms.
The goal of a successful loan modification is to help you keep your home and to give you a real, meaningful, sustainable, and long-term adjustment to your current home loan that works for your financial situation.
Not everyone will meet the qualification requirements for a loan modification. If you have been turned down by your lender, seek counseling services for advice on other options available to you.
Free and Safe Options
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers foreclosure avoidance counseling through non-profit agencies in California. Go to HUD's website at www.hud.gov or call 800-569-4287 to find counselors. HUD also offers information to homeowners facing the loss of their home.
Hope Now Alliance is a cooperative effort of home loan counselors and lenders, and it consists of HUD intermediaries. Go to the Hope Now website at www.hopenow.com or call 888-995-HOPE.
If you are considering obtaining assistance from a person or company that is not a HUD approved non-profit housing counselor, always "Log on, Look'em up, and Check'em out" at www.dre.ca.gov to ensure the company or person is properly licensed. And remember, never pay an upfront fee for loan modification or forebearance services.
If You've Already Been Scammed
If you have already been scammed by a disreputable company or have become aware of a loan modification scam, you can report fraud to the Department of Real Estate at (916) 227-0864.
Had Your Car Repaired After An Accident?
Time for a FREE Auto Body Inspection
Free Inspection Program Available
You've had an accident and had your car repaired. But how do you know the repairs were done right?
If you're a California consumer, you can find out by getting a free auto body inspection from experts at the
California Department of Consumer Affairs' Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).
Why are inspections necessary?
Most consumers are not aware that auto body repairs performed on their vehicles could be substandard or that they may not have received the parts and repairs they or their insurance company paid for. That's because most collision repair deficiencies are hidden and you can't see them by looking at the outside of the vehicle. If these deficiencies remain undetected, they can reduce the structural integrity of your vehicle and potentially put you at risk in the unfortunate event of a future accident. While most auto body repair shops are run by honest, hard-working people, consumer protection is the Department of Consumer Affairs' (DCA) and the BAR's highest priority. Auto body repairs can be very complex, and understanding all the necessary parts and labor that go into fixing collision damages can be confusing. The Auto Body Inspection Program is a valuable tool that can provide added protection and education for California motorists who are involved in automobile accidents.
How does the inspection program work?
It's simple. The BAR's auto body inspectors check your vehicle to determine whether the auto body repairs were performed properly and in accordance with the repairs listed on the invoice.
How do I participate?
Have a copy of the auto body repair invoice listing the repairs performed ready, and call the BAR's toll free number at 1(866) 799-3811 to schedule an appointment. On the scheduled date, a BAR inspector will come to your home or office to inspect your vehicle. That's it! Call now! The inspection is free!
What happens next?
If BAR inspectors find no discrepancies, they'll document the result and thank you for your participation. If inspectors find problems with the repair, you'll have the option of:
- Having the inspector open a complaint that will be investigated by a BAR field representative.
- Contacting your insurance company for a follow-up with the BAR.
A Consumer Guide To Filing Construction Complaints
It is illegal to contract in California for jobs that are $500 or more (labor and materials) without a state contractor license. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) actively works against the illegal underground economy through stings, sweeps, and prosecution by local jurisdictions. Homeowners may have little recourse if dissatisfied with a project that was undertaken by an unlicensed operator. CSLB can issue a warning, a citation or refer the complaint to a local district attorney; however, it is ultimately up to the homeowner to seek restitution for damage or repair.
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) protects consumers by licensing and regulating California contractors. Consumers who have an issue that they are unable to resolve with their contractor can file a complaint with CSLB. One of CSLB's goals is to settle complaints at the lowest possible level with early intervention and mediation.
Complaints within CSLB's jurisdiction involve alleged violations of California Contractors State License Law by licensed contractors or unlicensed operators for up to four years from the date of a suspected illegal act. The term "contractor" includes individuals or companies that offer services to improve real property including, but not limited to, home building, remodeling, room additions, swimming pools, painting, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning, and the installation and repair of mobile homes.
CSLB provides help to consumers through mediation, arbitration, referral to other agencies, or by providing information about other avenues for individual redress. Those alternatives include small claims court, and referring consumers with private arbitration clauses in their contracts to the arbitration process. CSLB will take legal action against a contractor, when appropriate, for violations of the California Business and Professions Code.
How Complaints are Handled
Complaints involving a threat to public health and safety, and cases where consumers have suffered a significant financial injury are given the highest priority. Every written complaint is reviewed to determine if it falls within CSLB's jurisdiction. CSLB also prioritizes complaints based on the order of receipt and available resources and staffing. CSLB's Intake and Mediation representatives mail a written confirmation once a complaint has been received. A notice is also sent to the contractor to encourage resolution without further CSLB intervention.
If the complaint is not resolved by the parties, CSLB may ask for additional information and/or documentation. A consumer services representative (CSR) may also call. The CSR will make the arrangements if mediation is appropriate. If mediation is unsuccessful, other options could include referral to a CSLB arbitration program, assignment to a CSLB enforcement representative (ER) for investigation, or referral to alternative civil or dispute resolution methods. If the contractor's actions were not egregious and the contractor's history does not reflect a pattern of violations, the complaint may be closed with a warning letter to the contractor. A warning letter remains a matter of record and could support further action against the contractor if future violations occur.
If the CSR determines that the complaint requires further investigation, it will be assigned to an ER. The ER's investigation will determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to support a violation of Contractors State License Law. The investigation may include interviews with anyone who is involved in or who has information about the case.
A licensed contractor who violates the law can face suspension or loss of their license if found guilty. Citations may also include civil penalties of up to $5,000 and/or orders to make or compensate for repairs. (If disciplinary action is undertaken, the case is prosecuted on behalf of CSLB by the State Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General is not counsel for the complainant.)
Small Claims Court
An investigation by CSLB does not guarantee restitution to complainants. If your primary interest is to gain restitution, you should pursue the matter in small claims court or consult an attorney. A brochure on how to file a claim in small claims court (for damages of $7,500 or less) is available on the CSLB website, www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 800.321.CSLB (2752). If your damages are more than $7,500, you should consult an attorney. If you prevail in a civil or arbitration case against a licensed contractor, send CSLB documentation of the disposition of the case. CSLB will notify the contractor that the license will be suspended.
California Public Utilities Commission Consumer Programs
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) wants you to know that there are many state and federal programs designed to help you manage your utility bills. These programs include:
- California LifeLine
- Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP)
- California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE)
- Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA)
- Medical Baseline
- Water Company Assistance
The California LifeLine Telephone Program provides discounted home telephone service to consumers with a total household income at or below the following limits:
- 1-2 members……………..$24,000
- 3 members………………..$28,200
- 4 members………………..$34,000
- Each additional member….$5,800
(income limits effective through May 31, 2012)
You can also qualify if at least one member of your household is enrolled in a public assistance program. For a list of programs, please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/LifeLine.
Enhanced LifeLine for Tribal Lands provides qualified consumers living on Tribal lands with additional discounts.
To apply call your telephone company or get more information by calling the CPUC's LifeLine Center at 866-272-0357.
Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP)
The DDTP has two components that provide telecommunications equipment and services for individuals certified as having hearing, vision, movement, cognitive, and speech difficulties:
California Telephone Access Program (CTAP): Distributes telecommunications equipment to individuals certified as having difficulty using the telephone. Equipment is available at no charge to eligible consumers.
California Relay Service (CRS): Provides specially trained operators to relay telephone conversation back and forth between people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled and those they wish to communicate with by telephone.
To apply, contact DDTP at 877-546-7414 (voice), or 800-867-4323 (TTY), or 510-271-8324 (fax), or online at www.ddtp.org.
California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE)
The CARE program provides a 20 percent discount on monthly gas and electric bills for customers with a total household income at or below the following limits:
- 1-2 members…………….$31,800
- 3 members……………….$37,400
- 4 members……………….$45,100
- 5 members……………….$52,800
- 6 members……………….$60,500
- Each additional…………..$7,700
(income limits effective through May 31, 2012)
You may also qualify if you are enrolled in a public assistance program. The CARE program is available through Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company.
Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP)
The ESAP program provides no-cost weatherization services to consumers who meet the CARE income limits. The ESAP program is available through Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company.
For more information or to enroll, contact your utility company.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
California's Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) administers federal low income home energy assistance, energy crisis intervention, and low income weatherization programs known as LIHEAP. These programs are funded by federal grants to provide weatherization services and cash to help qualifying customers pay their energy bills. Contact CSD at 800-433-4327 for more information.
Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA)
Families whose household income slightly exceeds the CARE program limits may qualify to enroll in FERA, which bills some electricity use at a lower rate. The household income eligibility requirements are as follows:
- 3 members……………….$37,401 - $46,800
- 4 members……………….$45,101 - $56,400
- 5 members……………….$52,801 - $66,000
- 6 members……………….$60,501 - $75,600
- Each additional…………..$7,700 - $9,600
(income limits effective through May 31, 2012)
The FERA program is available through Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company. For more information or to enroll, contact your utility company.
Consumers on Medical Baseline are billed for natural gas and electricity use at their utility company's lowest residential rate. This program is for consumers who rely on life support equipment, or those who have life threatening illnesses or compromised immune systems. The program is not income-based.
The Medical Baseline program is available through Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company. For more information or to enroll, contact your utility company.
The CPUC regulates privately owned water companies, which may provide specific assistance programs that are unique to each company's service territory and have varying income limits. Check with your water utility company to find out about consumer programs. For information on income eligibility limits and for a list of water companies offering such programs, please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/Water/wateralternativerates.htm.
ASSISTANCE PAYING YOUR BILLS
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company may have payment assistance programs and payment plans that can help you manage your bills. Contact the utility company directly, using the customer service phone number printed on the front page of your bill. If you need help negotiating a payment plan, contact the CPUC's Consumer Affairs office at 1-800-649- 7570. Water utility customers may qualify for payment plans when shut-off of water service is imminent. In addition, many larger water companies provide payment plans for military families. Contact your water company for more information.
Check all bills and financial statements immediately when you receive them. Shred (don't toss) cancelled checks, credit card statements, old bills, and other financial papers. To protect yourself from mail thieves, send mail from the post office or give outgoing mail directly to your postal carrier. Do not use such things as your mother's maiden name, birth dates, phone numbers, consecutive numbers, or the last four digits of your Social Security number for any password.
Request Your Credit Report
You are entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three national credit bureaus. You can rotate your requests so you receive one every four months. Review credit reports carefully: look for accounts you don't recognize (especially new accounts), suspicious charges, or any addresses where you've never lived. The three credit bureaus are:
Trans Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-680-7289
Experian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-888-397-3742
Equifax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-525-6285
Or, go to www.annualcreditreport.com (or call Toll-Free 1-877-322-8228) to make one request per year and get all three reports at the same time, free of charge.
Protect Your Credit
You can "freeze" your credit to prevent anyone else from using your name and/or personal information to apply for credit. Contact each credit bureau and follow their separate procedures (each will charge $10). If you need additional credit later, you can"lift" or "remove" the freeze–fees are $10-$12 per credit bureau. If you are a victim of identity theft, these fees are waived.
If Your Identity is Stolen
Immediately report identity theft to your local police department. Provide as much information as possible, including copies of credit reports and other items related to the identity theft. Ask for a police report as you will need to give copies to creditors and the credit bureaus. Provide the police with any new evidence you later collect. Be aware—untangling identify theft can take a long time.
To help you organize and track your case, see "Organizing Your Identity Theft Case" by the Identity Theft Resource Center: www.idtheftcenter.org/vg106.shtml
For Further Assistance, Contact:
CA Office of Information Security and Privacy
Protection Hotline: 1-866-785-9663
U.S. Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Hotline: 1-877-438-4338
If Your Credit Card is Lost or Stolen
Immediately contact your credit card company to cancel the credit card. By law, once you report the loss or theft, you have no further financial responsibility for unauthorized charges.
Contact any one of the three credit reporting companies (listed above) to initiate a free-of-charge "fraud alert." That bureau will then inform the other two and activate procedures to prevent anyone else from taking out credit in your name or requesting a replacement card on your existing accounts. A fraud alert stays active for 90 days.
With a police report, you may also request an extended fraud alert that lasts 7 years. (To remove the "fraud alert," you must contact each credit reporting company separately.)
If Your Checks, ATM Card or Bank Account Information are Lost or Stolen
Immediately notify your bank or credit union to stop payments and ask them to notify their check verification company. Follow up in writing, keep a copy and send by "certified mail, return receipt requested." Change your passwords or close the account(s) and open a new account with a new password. If your checks have been stolen, contact these companies toll-free:
TeleCheck. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-710-9898
Certegy, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-437-5120
To find out if bad checks have been passed using your name or account, contact:
SCAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-262-7771
If Your Driver's License or DMV-issued ID Card is Lost or Stolen
Immediately go in person to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and apply for a replacement Driver's License/ID card. Then request that DMV place a fraud alert on your license number.
DMV Toll-Free Fraud Hotline: 1-866-658-5758
If someone is using your Driver's License/ID card number as their ID, contact your local DMV office for an appointment. You will need to prove your identity, so bring current documents such as a passport, proof of citizenship or naturalization, or a U.S. military photo ID. Also bring copies of the police report, bills, and other evidence which demonstrate your identity was stolen. If you meet DMV's identity theft requirements, DMV will then issue you a new Driver's License/ID card number.
If You Suspect Mail Fraud
Identity theft and financial scams are often committed via the United States Postal Service (USPS), which is a federal crime. If you receive suspicious solicitations by mail or suspect your mail has been tampered with, contact the USPS Inspector General.
Mail thieves can erase the ink on a check with common chemicals. They then rewrite the check, increasing the amount, and cash it in their name. Use gel pens labeled "prevents check washing" when writing checks and signing important documents, and mail important documents at the post office.
For more information on this topic, please visit the Department of Corporation's website at http://www.corp.ca.gov/.
Community Snap Shots
Senator Vargas congratulates the graduates of the Sheet Metal Joint Apprenticeship Program.
Senator Vargas presents Chula Vista resident Vivian Collins with a Resolution for a lifetime of service on her 100th Birthday!
Senator Vargas greets students who attended the Imperial Valley Cash-For-College Workshop.
Senator Vargas addresess a group of small business owners at the annual City Heights Business Association Mixer.
Senator Vargas swears in the new Board of Directors members of the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS.
At Your Service
As your State Senator, I am committed to providing the highest quality of public service possible. I want to do everything I can to improve the quality and safety of our community. My job is simple - to respond to your questions and concerns, to make decisions fairly and to put the public's interest first.
When you give me a call, my office will respond promptly, whether it's assistance with a state agency, information on current or previous legislation, or help in filling out government forms. My office is here to serve your needs. I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to represent you in this community and Sacramento. I look forward to working with you to better our neighborhoods, schools and businesses. If I can be of any assistance, please give me a call or click here to submit an on-line form that goes directly to my district office.
I can assist you if you are having problems in any of these areas:
- Auto insurance
- Consumer complaints
- Unemployment insurance
- Child support and child care
- Disability insurance
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Workers' compensation
- Franchise Tax Board
- Government forms and applications
- Complaints about state departments
- Small business assistance
I want to know how you feel about issues that I may vote on. Also, if you need information about existing or proposed state laws, please contact my office. I can send you:
- Copies of legislation and laws
- Status of legislation
- Bill summaries by issue area
- Analyses of legislation
- Legislative Counsel opinions on state laws and legal issues
- Legislative Committee rosters
- Information on other legislators and the legislative process
If you have an idea for a local project, a problem with a state or local agency that is not getting solved, I can help in these ways:
Public Service Information
Various state agencies print handbooks and brochures on subjects which may be of interest to you. Here are a few examples:
- Mediate between you and government agencies or offices
- Assist you in obtaining funding for local projects, such as bikeways, parks, schools, or senior citizen programs
- Bring state experts into your community for technical assistance or advice on local issues
- Help communicate your concerns to local, state and federal officials
- Bring state administrators into your community so they hear first-hand about local needs
- Visit your neighborhood or group to discuss state legislation or programs
- Consumer protection
- Small business assistance
- Tax relief programs for seniors, renters and homeowners
- Women's rights
- Landlord-tenant rights
- Scholarship opportunities
- Credit discrimination
- Seniors issues
- Child care and child support
|California State Senator Juan Vargas - District 40|
Web site: http://www.senate.ca.gov/Vargas|
State Capitol, Room 3092
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4040
Fax: (916) 327-3522
Chula Vista Office:
333 H Street, Suite 2030
Chula Vista, CA 91910
Phone: (619) 409-7690
Fax: (619) 409-7688
El Centro Office:
1224 State St., Suite D
El Centro, CA 92243
Phone: (760) 335-3442
Fax: (760) 335-3444
45-125 Smurr St., Suite B
Indio, CA 92201
Phone: (760) 398-6442
Fax: (760) 398-6507
||(c) 2013 California State Senate|