C A The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs November 2006 Volume 1 Issue 11 onsumer lert Providing consumers with knowledge to make informed choices and decisions. Don’t Let These Unusual Credit Pitfalls Surprise You Most consumers know about the major have not. consumer should consider closing the credit pitfalls – declaring bankruptcy, Another credit hit account. Consumers should also pay close unpaid bills, etc. – but there are a number m o s t attention to any fines or monetary penalties of factors creditors take into account that consumers levied against them by local or state might surprise most consumers. are not governments. If the fine is disputed in court One such surprise is credit card aware of is stay on top of any deadlines and always companies that do not report their the penalty make sure the account is settled in full. customer’s credit limits. Credit card for library Consumers are reminded their credit companies that engage in this practice are fines and late score is based on a number of factors, trying to shield their best clients, who have parking tickets. including but not limited to: the highest credit limit, from other credit Local governments are more often • Types of credit used: This includes credit card companies. turning to private collection agencies in an cards, installment loans, mortgages, bank Instead of releasing the consumer’s effort to recoup outstanding fines for such loans, and any other form of credit account. credit limit they instead give the highest things as library fines, parking tickets, and • Payment History: This includes payments balance a customer has charged as a traffic penalties. These agencies typically you are currently making, as well as any substitute for the limit. This, however, report the unpaid amount to credit missed or late payments. harms the consumer because it shows a bureaus, which of course factors into your • Outstanding Debt: What do you have disproportionately high debt utilization credit score. left that you owe? ratio, which is how much of the allotted Consumers should protect themselves • Length of Credit History: How long credit available a customer is using. In by asking their credit card company if they have you had credit? short, it makes it appear the customer has release their maximum credit limit. If the • New Credit: What new credit accounts maxed out their card when in reality they credit card company does not, the have you started? Consumer Affairs Is Now Responsible for Preneed Funeral Contracts The oversight of preneed funeral and services prior to death. In order working with the industry.” contracts has been transferred to the to protect consumers, the law South Carolina funeral directors South Carolina Department of requires that the contracts be backed will continue to be regulated by the C o n s u m e r A ff a i r s . T h e S o u t h by a trust account with a bank or with Board of Funeral Services at the Carolina General Assembly approved an insurance policy issued through a Department of Labor, Licensing & a measure giving the SCDCA licensed insurance company. Regulation. If you have questions or authority to regulate preneed burial Danny Collins, Deputy of would like to know more about preneed contracts. Regulatory Enforcement for SCDCA burial service contact SCDCA, at More and more South Carolina said, “The Department is trying to (803) 734-4236 or 1-800-922-1594, consumers are entering into preneed make the transition as smooth as or visit our website at contracts to purchase funeral goods possible and is looking forward to www.scconsumer.gov. Know an exemplary Going Blind To Look Good consumer advocate? Cosmetic contact lenses can be bad for your eyes Gonococcal Conjunctivitis Courtesy, Pacific University College of Optometry Nominate them! The demand for cosmetic contact not professionally prescribed, including Nominations are now being accepted for lenses continues to increase, particularly but not limited to: eye infection, corneal the 2007 Consumer Spirit Awards. among teenage girls and young women. swelling, allergic reaction, corneal The annual Colored contact lenses are one of the abrasion, contrast sensitivity, eyesight awards are given to fastest growing segments of the contact reduction, sensitivity to light, and Tight persons and lens industry. Demand for the cosmetic Lens Syndrome, where the lens actually organizations that contact lenses, however, has created a begins to stick to the eye because it is have demonstrated market for non-licensed vendors to sell too small. In the most severe cases health exemplary concern the contacts without a prescription. problems caused by these contacts can for consumers Consumer should be cautious when result in blindness or eye loss. through informative considering purchasing and using The Right Way to Get Cosmetic services, advocacy cosmetic contacts. Consider the Lenses: programs, investigation of consumer issues, following: • Get an eye exam from a licensed or through legislation. The Law: In S.C. it is illegal to sell professional. The Consumer Spirit Awards are or dispense contact lenses without a • Obtain a prescription that includes separated into four categories: business, valid, current contact lens prescription the size, shape, power, and brand of consumer, media, and legislative. Nominations from a licensed optometrist or lenses. Many problems occur from in each field will be judged on strategy, ophthalmologist, even if you are selling cosmetic contact lenses that are too small execution, originality and creativity, and results. color contacts or special effect contacts and constrict the eyeball. Past winners include: Founders Federal for cosmetic reasons only. • Follow instructions for cleaning and Credit Union, Ann McGill, Margaret The Health Risks: There are wearing the lens. Brackett, Dr. John C. Ruoff, and Jan L. several health risks associated with • Schedule a follow-up appointment Warner. wearing cosmetic contact lens that are with your eye care professional. A nomination application must be received by SCDCA via e-mail or mail by 5 p.m. on Got Questions??? After Hours: Identity Theft December 15, 2006. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Ask Consumer Affairs and Credit Repair on Nov. 11 Nominations can be found online at www.scconsumer.gov or by mailing Think you have been a victim of a The South Carolina Department of applications to: Consumer Spirit Award scam or just need general information Consumer Affairs will present a special Selection Committee, c/o PI&E, PO Box about fraud protection? session of After Hours on “Identity Theft 5757, Columbia, SC 29259. Then log on to Ask Consumer and Credit Repair” from 10 a.m. to noon Affairs, an interactive forum that on November 11. The Commission on Consumer Affairs provides you with great consumer After Hours is an after business hours Dr. Lonnie Randolph Jr., Chair, Columbia information. Visit the South Carolina program aimed to educate South Carolina The Honorable Mark Hammond, Secretary of State, Columbia Department of Consumer Affairs consumers. After Hours is typically held Barbara B. League, Greenville website at www.scconsumer.gov and every third Tuesday of the month and Louis Mayrant Jr., Pineville click on LIVE HELP. features free consumer education seminars. Rev. Tony Macomson, Cowpens A communication specialist is there This month’s After Hours will focus on Wayne Keith Sims, Columbia to assist you with any questions you identity theft and credit repair. Specialists Wayne Powell, Gaffney David Cambell, Columbia may have Monday through Friday from will be present to give advice on what to Carole C. Wells, Woodruff 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Or you can do if you feel you have been the victim of ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ always reach us by phone at identity theft, as well as credit counselors Brandolyn Thomas Pinkston, Administrator Charles Ellison, Editor 803.734.4200 or toll free in S.C. at to help answer any credit repair questions. 1.800.922.1594. After Hours is held at the SCDCA, About the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs: The SCDCA is located at 3600 located at 3600 Forest Drive, on the Established by the Consumer Protection Code in 1974, interest of Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs represents the the South Forest Drive, on the corner of Forest corner of Forest Drive and Beltline Blvd, Southinequities in the marketplace through to protect consumers Carolina consumers. Our mission is from advocacy, meditation, Drive and Beltline Blvd., directly across directly across from Richland Fashion enforcement, and education. For more information on the SCDCA, visit www.scconsumer.gov. from Richland Fashion Mall. Mall. Light refreshments will be served.