Cooking with Lisp

Another blog about Lisp, the world's greatest programming language.

Friday, June 18, 2004

ALU Survey

I'll do my part to advertise ALU's survey of Lisp users.

The responses from everyone so far have been very interesting to read.

I thought the most interesting question was "Do you see any obstacles to further Lisp growth (if so, what is the biggest obstacle in your opinion)?" That's always fresh meat for the hounds of comp.lang.lisp. I'm very interested in the responses to that one, and can't wait to see the consolidated results.

My take on it is that the lack of a single implementation, like Perl, is a pretty big obstacle for newbies. If you don't wind up downloading one of the fine evaluation versions from Franz or Xanalys, you pretty much have to build up your own development environment from various pieces found all over the place.

It's even hard for a newbie to find out what one needs to download. Compare what you get when you google for lisp or common lisp on Google vs. what you get when you google for perl or python. For the later, the top entry for each is the main page. For the former, there's really nothing to let the newbie know where to go.

Now, I don't particularly mind any of this, as I consider building your own Lisp environment akin to a Jedi apprentice building his own lightsaber as the final step towards mastery. Also, I agree with those on c.l.l that the diversity of implementations is good, as they can address different needs.

However, this doesn't help out the newbie very much.

The other obstacle, which I would like ALU to address, is that the only documentation the open source community has is the ANSI Common Lisp Standard, and the general opinion seems that one can't just bundle it up and include it as a core component of your implementation. I don't know if that's really true, as GCL distributes the ANSI Common Lisp Standard (at least one of the draft versions) in info format. I'd like to see ALU either determine that you can freely distribute at least one of the draft versions or get ANSI to make it freely available. Once that's done, tools like dpans2texi can be used to create info and html formatted versions. Other than some usage of Unicode characters, dpans2texi works pretty well. The info pages I created with it is my main reference.

Anyway, please take the survey.

36 Comments:

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I don't think it's fragmented implementations that put a newbie off, but the lack of a central definitive site for the lisp community - the clisp wiki should help...

 
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Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best

You see the advertisements in newspapers, on TV, and on the Internet. You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail. You may even get calls from telemarketers offering credit repair services. They all make the same claims:


“Credit problems? No problem!”

“We can erase your bad credit — 100% guaranteed.”

“Create a new credit identity — legally.”

“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!”

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This brochure explains how you can improve your creditworthiness and gives legitimate resources for low or no-cost help.

The Scam

Everyday, companies nationwide appeal to consumers with poor credit histories. They promise, for a fee, to clean up your credit report so you can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance, or even a job. The truth is, they can’t deliver. After you pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, these companies do nothing to improve your credit report; most simply vanish with your money.


The Warning Signs

If you decide to respond to a credit repair offer, look for these tell-tale signs of a scam:

companies that want you to pay for credit repair services before they provide any services.

companies that do not tell you your legal rights and what you can do for yourself for free.

companies that recommend that you not contact a credit reporting company directly.

companies that suggest that you try to invent a “new” credit identity — and then, a new credit report — by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security number.

companies that advise you to dispute all information in your credit report or take any action that seems illegal, like creating a new credit identity. If you follow illegal advice and commit fraud, you may be subject to prosecution.

You could be charged and prosecuted for mail or wire fraud if you use the mail or telephone to apply for credit and provide false information. It’s a federal crime to lie on a loan or credit application, to misrepresent your Social Security number, and to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses.
Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay until they have completed the services they have promised.

The Truth

No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this. Everything a credit repair clinic can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA):

You’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
The three companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from ftc.gov/credit Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. For more information, see Your Access to Free Credit Reports at ftc.gov/credit
Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

You can dispute mistakes or outdated items for free. Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

STEP ONE
Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like the one on page 6. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the consumer reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you request, the consumer reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.

STEP TWO
Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct – that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate – the information provider may not report it again.

For more information, see How to Dispute Credit Report Errors at ftc.gov/credit

Reporting Accurate Negative Information

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is no time limit on reporting: information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.

For more information, see Building a Better Credit Report at ftc.gov/credit

The Credit Repair Organizations Act

By law, credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before you sign anything. The law contains specific protections for you. For example, a credit repair company cannot:

make false claims about their services

charge you until they have completed the promised services

perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees

Your contract must specify:
the payment terms for services, including their total cost

a detailed description of the services to be performed

how long it will take to achieve the results

any guarantees they offer

the company’s name and business address

Have You Been Victimized?

Many states have laws regulating credit repair companies. State law enforcement officials may be helpful if you’ve lost money to credit repair scams.

If you’ve had a problem with a credit repair company, don’t be embarrassed to report it. While you may fear that contacting the government will only make your problems worse, remember that laws are in place to protect you. Contact your local consumer affairs office or your state Attorney General (AGs). Many AGs have toll-free consumer hotlines. Check the Blue Pages of your telephone directory for the phone number or check www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.


Need Help? Don’t Despair

Just because you have a poor credit report doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get credit. Creditors set their own credit-granting standards and not all of them look at your credit history the same way. Some may look only at more recent years to evaluate you for credit, and they may grant credit if your bill-paying history has improved. It may be worthwhile to contact creditors informally to discuss their credit standards.

If you’re not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it, work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But not all are reputable. For example, just because an organization says it’s “nonprofit,” there’s no guarantee that its services are free, affordable, or even legitimate. In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, or hide their fees by pressuring consumers to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.

Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, the Internet, or on the telephone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you should know about one major change to the bankruptcy laws: As of October 17, 2005, you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust That is the website of the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees.

Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.

For more information, see Knee Deep in Debt and Fiscal Fitness: Choosing a Credit Counselor at ftc.gov/credit

Do-It-Yourself Check-Up
Even if you don’t have a poor credit history, some financial advisors and consumer advocates suggest you review your credit report periodically


because the information it contains affects whether you can get a loan or insurance — and how much you will have to pay for it.

to make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

to help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.

Sample Dispute Letter

Date
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Your name


Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)


The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best

You see the advertisements in newspapers, on TV, and on the Internet. You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail. You may even get calls from telemarketers offering credit repair services. They all make the same claims:


“Credit problems? No problem!”

“We can erase your bad credit — 100% guaranteed.”

“Create a new credit identity — legally.”

“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!”

Do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these statements. Only time, a conscious effort, and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit report.
This brochure explains how you can improve your creditworthiness and gives legitimate resources for low or no-cost help.

The Scam

Everyday, companies nationwide appeal to consumers with poor credit histories. They promise, for a fee, to clean up your credit report so you can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance, or even a job. The truth is, they can’t deliver. After you pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, these companies do nothing to improve your credit report; most simply vanish with your money.


The Warning Signs

If you decide to respond to a credit repair offer, look for these tell-tale signs of a scam:

companies that want you to pay for credit repair services before they provide any services.

companies that do not tell you your legal rights and what you can do for yourself for free.

companies that recommend that you not contact a credit reporting company directly.

companies that suggest that you try to invent a “new” credit identity — and then, a new credit report — by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security number.

companies that advise you to dispute all information in your credit report or take any action that seems illegal, like creating a new credit identity. If you follow illegal advice and commit fraud, you may be subject to prosecution.

You could be charged and prosecuted for mail or wire fraud if you use the mail or telephone to apply for credit and provide false information. It’s a federal crime to lie on a loan or credit application, to misrepresent your Social Security number, and to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses.
Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay until they have completed the services they have promised.

The Truth

No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this. Everything a credit repair clinic can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA):

You’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
The three companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from ftc.gov/credit Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. For more information, see Your Access to Free Credit Reports at ftc.gov/credit
Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

You can dispute mistakes or outdated items for free. Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

STEP ONE
Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like the one on page 6. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the consumer reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you request, the consumer reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.

STEP TWO
Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct – that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate – the information provider may not report it again.

For more information, see How to Dispute Credit Report Errors at ftc.gov/credit

Reporting Accurate Negative Information

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is no time limit on reporting: information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.

For more information, see Building a Better Credit Report at ftc.gov/credit

The Credit Repair Organizations Act

By law, credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before you sign anything. The law contains specific protections for you. For example, a credit repair company cannot:

make false claims about their services

charge you until they have completed the promised services

perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees

Your contract must specify:
the payment terms for services, including their total cost

a detailed description of the services to be performed

how long it will take to achieve the results

any guarantees they offer

the company’s name and business address

Have You Been Victimized?

Many states have laws regulating credit repair companies. State law enforcement officials may be helpful if you’ve lost money to credit repair scams.

If you’ve had a problem with a credit repair company, don’t be embarrassed to report it. While you may fear that contacting the government will only make your problems worse, remember that laws are in place to protect you. Contact your local consumer affairs office or your state Attorney General (AGs). Many AGs have toll-free consumer hotlines. Check the Blue Pages of your telephone directory for the phone number or check www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.


Need Help? Don’t Despair

Just because you have a poor credit report doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get credit. Creditors set their own credit-granting standards and not all of them look at your credit history the same way. Some may look only at more recent years to evaluate you for credit, and they may grant credit if your bill-paying history has improved. It may be worthwhile to contact creditors informally to discuss their credit standards.

If you’re not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it, work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But not all are reputable. For example, just because an organization says it’s “nonprofit,” there’s no guarantee that its services are free, affordable, or even legitimate. In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, or hide their fees by pressuring consumers to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.

Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, the Internet, or on the telephone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you should know about one major change to the bankruptcy laws: As of October 17, 2005, you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust That is the website of the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees.

Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.

For more information, see Knee Deep in Debt and Fiscal Fitness: Choosing a Credit Counselor at ftc.gov/credit

Do-It-Yourself Check-Up
Even if you don’t have a poor credit history, some financial advisors and consumer advocates suggest you review your credit report periodically


because the information it contains affects whether you can get a loan or insurance — and how much you will have to pay for it.

to make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

to help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.

Sample Dispute Letter

Date
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Your name


Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)


The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

 
At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your credit card uses different rates for purchases, transfers, and cash advances, realize that the card issuer may pay the lower interest rate balance first. Consequently, if you carry a balance, your high-rate cash advance may not be "paid" until all lower-rate balances are paid in full.
Fixed-Rate credit cards are not fixed forever. Rates can be changed at any time, as long as the card issuer provides 15 days advance notice of the change in terms. Fees may also increase. These "Change in Terms" notices are usually included with your monthly statement.
Your interest rate may dramatically increase if you make late payments. For example, some issuers will raise your interest rate to the maximum after one or two late payments. Consequently, your 12% credit card could quickly turn into a 25% credit card.
Your credit card issuer may also raise your interest rate after conducting a routine credit report review. If your overall credit history has deteriorated, the issuer may raise your interest rate, even though you've never made a late payment on the card in question.
The 25 day grace period only applies when you pay-off your entire balance due each month. If you only pay the minimum payment, interest is immediately accrued from the moment you charge something to your credit card. Some companies are also shortening the grace period to 20 days, and some cards have no grace periods.
Ignore offers to reduce or skip payments. These options are frequently offered over the holidays. When you skip a payment, the loan continues to accrue interest; therefore, these offers simply increase the overall interest and finance charges that the creditor collects. On a similar note, beware of offers of no payment/no interest for a period of time. Furniture stores, jewelry stores, and electronics stores frequently offer these programs. For example, no payment/no interest for 12 months!! This can be a good offer, but once again, read the fine print. Make sure you know the details of the program. Generally, you need to pay off the entire balance before the end of the "free" period to receive the benefit. Otherwise, you will probably have to pay interest on the entire balance from the date of your purchase
Debt1consolidation.com entails taking out one loan to pay off many others. This is often done to secure a lower interest rate, secure a fixed interest rate or for the convenience of servicing only one loan.

Debt1consolidation.com can simply be from a number of unsecured loans into another unsecured loan, but more often it involves a secured loan against an asset that serves as collateral, most commonly a house. In this case, a mortgage is secured against the house. The collateralization of the loan allows a lower interest rate than without it, because by collateralizing, the asset owner agrees to allow the forced sale (foreclosure) of the asset to pay back the loan. The risk to the lender is reduced so the interest rate offered is lower.

Sometimes, debt consolidation companies can discount the amount of the loan. When the debtor is in danger of bankruptcy, the debt consolidator will buy the loan at a discount. A prudent debtor can shop around for consolidators who will pass along some of the savings. Consolidation can affect the ability of the debtor to discharge debts in bankruptcy, so the decision to consolidate must be weighed carefully.

Debt consolidation is often advisable in theory when someone is paying credit card debt. Credit cards can carry a much larger interest rate than even an unsecured loan from a bank. Debtors with property such as a home or car may get a lower rate through a secured loan using their property as collateral. Then the total interest and the total cash flow paid towards the debt is lower allowing the debt to be paid off sooner, incurring less interest. In practice, many people are in credit card debt because they spend more than their income. If that habit continues, the consolidation will not benefit them much because they will simply increase their credit card balances again.

Because of the theoretical advantage that debt consolidation offers a consumer that has high interest debt balances, companies can take advantage of that benefit of refinancing to charge very high fees in the debt consolidation loan. Sometimes these fees are near the state maximum for mortgage fees. In addition, some unscrupulous companies will knowingly wait until a client has backed themselves into a corner and must refinance in order to consolidate and pay off bills that they are behind on the payments. If the client does not refinance they may lose their house, so they are willing to pay any allowable fee to complete the debt consolidation. In some cases the situation is that the client does not have enough time to shop for another lender with lower fees and may not even be fully aware of them. This practice is known as predatory lending Certainly many, if not most, debt consolidation transactions do not involve predatory lending.

Credit card debt is an example of unsecured consumer debt, accessed through plastic credit cards.

Debt results when a client of a credit card company purchases an item or service through the card system. Debt accumulates and increases via interest and penalties when the consumer does not pay the company for the money he or she has spent.

The results of not paying this debt on time are that the company will charge a late payment penalty (generally in the US from $10 to $40) and report the late payment to credit rating agencies. Being late on a payment is sometimes referred to as being in "default". The late payment penalty itself increases the amount of debt the consumer has.

When a consumer has been late on a payment, it is possible that other creditors, even creditors the consumer was not late in paying, may increase the interest rates the consumer is paying. This practice is called universal default.

If the customer is carrying an amount of debt that is so high that it is over their credit limit, then they might be charged an over-the-limit fee of up to $39 until their balance is paid down to below their credit limit. This, too, may add to the consumer's debt.

Sometimes the late fees, over-the-limit fees, high annual percentage rates (APRs), and universal default overcome consumers who frequently do not pay off their debt, and the customer declares bankruptcy. If a customer files for bankruptcy, the credit card companies are required to forgive all or much of the debt, unless such discharge of debt is successfully challenged by one or more creditors, or blocked by a bankruptcy judge on legal grounds irrespective of creditors' challenges.

Because forgiveness of debt reduces likelihood of profit and continued survival, the companies are generally willing to offer another deal to the consumers in danger of bankruptcy. This deal consists of reduced APRs, removal of past late fees and penalty charges, and reaging the accounts so that the credit agencies see them as late accounts.A credit card is a system of payment named after the small plastic card issued to users of the system. A credit card is different from a debit card in that it does not remove money from the user's account after every transaction. In the case of credit cards, the issuer lends money to the consumer (or the user). It is also different from a charge card (though this name is sometimes used by the public to describe credit cards), which requires the balance to be paid in full each month. In contrast, a credit card allows the consumer to 'revolve' their balance, at the cost of having interest charged. Most credit cards are the same shape and size, as specified by the standard.

A user is issued credit after an account has been approved by the credit provider, and is given a credit card, with which the user will be able to make purchases from merchants accepting that credit card up to a pre-established credit limit. Often a general bank issues the credit, but sometimes a captive bank created to issue a particular brand of credit card, such as or Banks issues the credit.

When a purchase is made, the credit card user agrees to pay the card issuer. The cardholder indicates their consent to pay, by signing a receipt with a record of the card details and indicating the amount to be paid or by entering a Personal identification number (PIN). Also, many merchants now accept verbal authorizations via telephone and electronic authorization using the Internet, known as a Card not present (CNP) transaction.

Electronic verification systems allow merchants to verify that the card is valid and the credit card customer has sufficient credit to cover the purchase in a few seconds, allowing the verification to happen at time of purchase. The verification is performed using a credit card payment terminal or Point of Sale (POS) system with a communications link to the merchant's acquiring bank. Data from the card is obtained from a magnetic stripe or chip on the card; the latter system is in the United Kingdom commonly known as Chip an PIN, but is more technically an EMV card.

Other variations of verification systems are used by eCommerce merchants to determine if the user's account is valid and able to accept the charge. These will typically involve the cardholder providing additional information, such as the security code printed on the back of the card, or the address of the cardholder.

Each month, the credit card user is sent a statement indicating the purchases undertaken with the card, any outstanding fees, and the total amount owed. After receiving the statement, the cardholder may dispute any charges that he or she thinks are incorrect (see Fair Credit Billing Act for details of the US regulations). Otherwise, the cardholder must pay a defined minimum proportion of the bill by a due date, or may choose to pay a higher amount up to the entire amount owed. The credit provider charges interest on the amount owed (typically at a much higher rate than most other forms of debt). Some financial institutions can arrange for automatic payments to be deducted from the user's bank accounts.

Credit card issuers usually waive interest charges if the balance is paid in full each month, but typically will charge full interest on the entire outstanding balance from the date of each purchase if the total balance is not paid.

For example, if a user had a $1,000 outstanding balance and pays it in full, there would be no interest charged. If, however, even $1.00 of the total balance remained unpaid, interest would be charged on the $1 from the date of purchase until the payment is received. The precise manner in which interest is charged is usually detailed in a cardholder agreement which may be summarized on the back of the monthly statement. The general calculation formula most financial institutions use to determine the amount of interest to be charged is APR/100 x ADB/365 x number of days revolved. Take the Annual percentage rate (APR) and divide by 100 then multiply to the amount of the average daily balance divided by 365 and then take this total and multiply by the total number of days the amount revolved before payment was made on the account. Financial institutions refer to interest charged back to the original time of the transaction and up to the time a payment was made, if not in full, as RRFC or residual retail finance charge. Thus after an amount has revolved and a payment has been made that the user of the card will still receive interest charges on their statement after paying the next statement in full (in fact the statement may only have a charge for interest that collected up until the date the full balance was paid...i.e. when the balance stopped revolving).

The credit card may simply serve as a form of revolving credit, or it may become a complicated financial instrument with multiple balance segments each at a different interest rate, possibly with a single umbrella credit limit, or with separate credit limits applicable to the various balance segments. Usually this compartmentalization is the result of special incentive offers from the issuing bank, either to encourage balance transfers from cards of other issuers, or to encourage more spending on the part of the customer. In the event that several interest rates apply to various balance segments, payment allocation is generally at the discretion of the issuing bank, and payments will therefore usually be allocated towards the lowest rate balances until paid in full before any money is paid towards higher rate balances. Interest rates can vary considerably from card to card, and the interest rate on a particular card may jump dramatically if the card user is late with a payment on that card or any other credit instrument, or even if the issuing bank decides to raise its revenue. As the rates and terms vary, services have been set up allowing users to calculate savings available by switching cards, which can be considerable if there is a large outstanding balance (see external links for some on-line services).

Because of intense competition in the credit card industry, credit providers often offer incentives such as frequent flier points, gift certificates, or cash back (typically up to 1 percent based on total purchases) to try to attract customers to their program.

Low interest credit cards or even 0% interest credit cards are available. The only downside to consumers is that the period of low interest credit cards is limited to a fixed term, usually between 6 and 12 months after which a higher rate is charged. However, services are available which alert credit card holders when their low interest period is due to expire. Most such services charge a monthly or annual fee. credit card's grace period is the time the customer has to pay the balance before interest is charged to the balance. Grace periods vary, but usually range from 20 to 30 days depending on the type of credit card and the issuing bank. Some policies allow for reinstatement after certain conditions are met. Usually, if a customer is late paying the balance, finance charges will be calculated and the grace period does not apply. Finance charge(s) incurred depends on the grace period and balance, with most credit cards there is no grace period if there's any outstanding balance from the previous billing cycle or statement (ie. interest is applied on both the previous balance and new transactions). However, there are some credit cards that will only apply finance charge on the previous or old balance, excluding new transactions.

For merchants, a credit card transaction is often more secure than other forms of payment, such as checks, because the issuing bank commits to pay the merchant the moment the transaction is authorized, regardless of whether the consumer defaults on their credit card payment (except for legitimate disputes, which are discussed below, and can result in charge backs to the merchant). In most cases, cards are even more secure than cash, because they discourage theft by the merchant's employees.

For each purchase, the bank charges a commission (discount fee), to the merchant for this service and there may be a certain delay before the agreed payment is received by the merchant. The commission is often a percentage of the transaction amount, plus a fixed fee. In addition, a merchant may be penalized or have their ability to receive payment using that credit card restricted if there are too many cancellations or reversals of charges as a result of disputes. Some small merchants require credit purchases to have a minimum amount (usually between $5 and $10) to compensate for the transaction costs, though this is not always allowed by the credit card consortium.

In some countries, like the Nordic countries, banks guarantee payment on stolen cards only if an ID card is checked and the ID card number/civic registration number is written down on the receipt together with the signature. In these countries merchants therefore usually ask for ID. Non-Nordic citizens, who are unlikely to possess a Nordic ID card or driving license, will instead have to show their passport, and the passport number will be written down on the receipt, sometimes together with other information. Some shops use the card's PIN code for identification, and in that case showing an ID card is not necessary.

Authorization: When the cardholders pays for the purchase, the merchant performs some risk assessment and may submit the transaction to the acquirer for authorization. The acquirer verifies with the issuer—almost instantly—that the card number and transaction amount are both valid, and informs the merchant on how to proceed. The issuer may provisionally debit the funds from the cardholder's credit account at this stage.
Batching: After the transaction is authorized it is then stored in a batch, which the merchant sends to the acquiring bank later to receive payment (usually at the end of the day).
Clearing and settlement: The acquiring bank sends the transactions in the batch through the card association, which debits the card-issuing bank for the transaction amount, and credits the acquirer for the transaction amount minus the interchange fee.
Funding: The acquiring bank pays the merchant. The amount the merchant receives is equal to the transaction amount minus the discount rate charged by the acquiring bank to the merchant for the service.
The entire process, from authorization to funding, usually takes about 2-7 business days. However, many merchant card processors offer next-day deposits to customers subject to type of banking account.

In the event of a chargeback (when there's an error in processing the transaction or the cardholder disputes the transaction), the issuer returns the transaction to the acquirer for resolution. The acquirer then forwards the chargeback to the merchant, who must either accept the chargeback or contest it.

Commodity money is any money that is both used as a general purpose medium of exchange and as a tradable commodity in its own right.

Commodity based currencies are often viewed as more stable, but this is not always the case. The value of a commodity based currency as a medium of exchange depends on its supply relative to other goods and services available in the economy. Historically, gold, silver and other metals commonly used in commodity based monetary systems have been subject to regular and sometimes extraordinary fluctuations in purchasing power. This not only damages its stability as a medium of exchange; it also reduces its effectiveness as a store of value. In the 1500s and 1600s huge quantities of gold and even larger amounts of silver were discovered in the New World and brought back to Europe for conversion into coin. As a result, the purchasing power of those coins fell by 60% to 80%, i.e. the prices of goods rose, because the supply of goods did not keep pace with the increased supply of money. In addition, the relative value of silver to gold shifted dramatically downward. Such discoveries of huge sources of gold or silver are a thing of the past, and lend to their supply stability. More recently, from 1980 to 2001, gold was a particularly poor store of value, as gold prices dropped from a high of $850/oz. ($27.30 /g) to a low of $255/oz. ($8.20 /g).It should be noted that gold was not a currency at this time, and was fluctuating due to its status as a final store of value — that is, the price never goes to zero as fiat currencies inevitably do. The advantage of gold and silver, however, lies in the fact that, unlike fiat paper currency, the supply cannot be increased arbitrarily by a central bank.

It is also possible for the trading value of a commodity money to be greater than its value as a medium of exchange when governments attempt to fix exchange rates between different commodity monies. When this happens people will often start melting down coins and reselling the metal used to make them. This has happened periodically in the United States, eventually causing it to move away from pure silver nickels and pure copper pennies. Shipping coins from one jurisdiction to another so that they could be reminted was sometimes a lucrative trade before the advent of trusted paper money.

Commodity money's ability to function as a store of value is also limited by its very nature. Copper and tin risk rust and corrosion. Gold and silver are soft metals that can lose weight through scratches and abrasions, but this is nothing by comparison to fiat currencies, where billions of dollars can be injected ("printed") into the market within moments.

Stability aside, commodity-based currencies may have a tendency to restrain growth in a very active economy. For example, in order to maintain the price level, the supply of money in an any economy must be equal or greater than the volume of goods and services produced. If commodities are used as money, then the total production can easily outstrip the supply of those commodities, which leads to price deflation. The lower prices of goods would signal to their producers to reduce the supply of goods, hence restoring the price level. As such, production within commodity-based economies tends to be limited by the supply of the commodity currency.[citation needed]

This problem is compounded by the fact that money also serves as a store of value. This encourages hoarding (in other circumstances known as "saving")and takes the commodity money out circulation, reducing the supply. The supply of circulating commodity currency is further reduced by the fact that commodity moneys also have competing non-monetary uses. For example, gold and silver are used in jewelry, and nickel and copper have important industrial uses.

Commodity based currencies also limit the geographic extent of the trading market. To make large purchases either a large volume or a high weight or both of the commodity must be transported to the seller. The cost of transportation of the currency raises the transaction cost and makes long distance sales less attractive

 

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