Office of Financial Empowerment
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Archived Press Releases

2011 

Thursday, December 29, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER JONATHAN MINTZ OFFERS NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS TO HELP NEW YORKERS PROTECT THEIR MONEY IN 2012
Want to start the New Year off right? Will 2012 be the year that you get your finances in order? Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner (DCA) Jonathan Mintz provides tips that can help you save money and become an educated consumer in 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS AND CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK CELEBRATE THE FIRST GRADUATING CLASS OF THEIR NEW COURSE IN FINANCIAL COUNSELING
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz and City University of New York (CUNY) Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Jay Hershenson today celebrate the final class of Consumer and Personal Finance, a professional training course designed to prepare students to understand the fundamentals of managing personal finances and how to impart this financial education and practices to their clients. To ensure the quality and consistency of services at the City’s Financial Empowerment Centers, DCA developed a formal training program with CUNY in 2009. This course is now available as a full-semester, three-credit course through CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Students who can benefit from the course include nonprofit financial education providers and staff in social service organizations serving youth, immigrants and adults with low incomes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS INTEGRATES FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT INTO PUBLIC PROGRAMS AND DISCOVERS A “SUPERVITAMIN” EFFECT
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Office of Financial Empowerment today released Municipal Financial Empowerment: A Supervitamin for Public Programs. The report is the first in a series that documents early signs of successful impact of integrating financial empowerment and asset building strategies into core social services such as workforce development, homelessness prevention, domestic violence interventions, adult education, welfare to work, community courts, and more. The report outlines the theory, early successes, lessons learned, and longer term implications for better and less expensive outcomes in social services as a result of integrated financial empowerment “supervitamins.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
CITY OFFICIALS & ELECTED OFFICIALS LAUNCH “PROTECT YOUR MONEY: KNOW BEFORE YOU ENROLL,” A TESTIMONIAL AD CAMPAIGN ADVISING NEW YORKERS ABOUT PREDATORY SCHOOL SCAMS AND HIGHLIGHTING FREE AND LOW-COST SCHOOL CHOICES
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, New York State Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, NYC Service Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford, Mayor’s Office of Adult Education Executive Director Tara Colton and Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) Executive Director Veronica M. White today announced the launch of the Protect Your Money: Know Before You Enroll campaign. This new campaign will educate New Yorkers about selecting a school or training program, advise them to be careful of taking on a large amount of school debt and encourage anyone who has had a negative experience to file a complaint by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
SAFE AND AFFORDABLE BANKING BEGINS AT HOME: NEW YORK CITY CONNECTS EMPLOYEES TO FREE CHECKING ACCOUNTS
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Office of Payroll Administration (OPA) and Mayor’s Office of Operations (OPS) today announced NYC Direct Deposit, a program to help thousands of City employees get their pay safer, cheaper and easier than ever before. With NYC Direct Deposit, New York City employees and other recipients of City payments can open free checking accounts and enroll in direct deposit in a few quick steps. The program is offered at Banco Popular, Carver Federal Savings Bank, Citibank, Flushing Bank, Habib American Bank, Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union and Sterling National Bank.

Tuesday, August 8, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS (DCA) LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO DEBT SETTLEMENT COMPANIES
DCA Issues Targeted Subpoenas to 15 Companies That Claim To Settle Debt
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz announced today that DCA is issuing subpoenas to 15 debt settlement companies, all of which were the subjects of complaints by New Yorkers and/or are based in the New York City area.  The subpoenas are targeted to reveal the extent to which these companies have fraudulently lured New York City consumers with illegal advertising claims and charged them additional upfront fees, and to examine to what extent anyone has actually been helped, rather than harmed, by their “settlement” services.  DCA identified these companies after examining consumer complaints filed with DCA and other consumer protection partners, as well as by companies’ local and online advertisements that make such promises as to “cut your debt in half.”  This investigation is the next step in DCA’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers from the predatory practices of debt collectors, process servers and other key industries, and follows Commissioner Mintz’s announcement in March that the debt settlement industry represented the single greatest consumer fraud of the year.

Monday, June 27, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER MINTZ ANNOUNCES THE LAUNCH OF THE 2011 PROTECT YOUR MONEY CAMPAIGN
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today announced the launch of the 2011 Protect Your Money campaign, a public awareness campaign to warn New Yorkers about scams to avoid and let them know about free help that is available by calling 311. The campaign highlights the successes of real New Yorkers who sought help from the City to deal with a debt settlement scam, a home improvement contractor who refused to finish the job, opening a bank account instead of using check cashers, and foreclosure prevention counseling that helped a New Yorker keep her home. Advertisements are in 3,000 subway cars and will also be featured in major daily and community newspapers and phone kiosks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
CITY TO HOLD 4TH ANNUAL FREE SHRED FEST MAY 22ND TO HELP NEW YORKERS PROTECT THEIR IDENTITIES
The Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator and Chief Advisor to the Mayor for Policy and Strategic Planning John Feinblatt, Council Member and Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Daniel Garodnick and representatives from the Municipal Credit Union, Staples and shredding companies today announced that the City’s 4th annual Shred Fest, a free paper-shredding event to increase public awareness of identity theft prevention, will be held Sunday, May 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. New Yorkers can shred personal documents for free at 16 locations throughout the five boroughs. Complimentary personal paper shredders, donated by Staples®, will be given to the first four people to arrive at each location. Documents will be shredded in industrial shredders mounted with TV monitors so consumers can verify for themselves that their materials are being shredded securely. The event is hosted in partnership with Department of Parks & Recreation and the Department of Sanitation.

Thursday, May 12, 2011
THE DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS (DCLA), THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS (DCA) OFFICE OF FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT (OFE), AND BEDFORD STUYVESANT RESTORATION CORPORAITON HOST “THE ART OF MONEY: PERSONAL FINANCE RESOURCES FOR ARTISTS” 
On Saturday, May 14, 2011, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), in partnership with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration), will host the third “The Art of Money: Personal Financial Resources for Artists” event. The program will take place from noon to 5PM at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, 1368 Fulton Street (at New York Avenue), followed by a Networking Reception from 5PM-7PM at the Skylight Gallery on Restoration’s third floor. The event will offer free financial workshops tailored to more than 200 artists and independent workers in all fields, as well as one-on-one financial counseling sessions at the NYC Financial Empowerment Center at Restoration, and an exhibitor fair featuring arts service organizations from across New York City. All activities will take place on Restoration’s campus.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER MINTZ CELEBRATE THE 10,000TH FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT CENTER CLIENT
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz joined the City’s Financial Empowerment Center’s 10,000th client today at a ceremony at Gracie Mansion. The City’s Financial Empowerment Centers have provided free, one-on-one, professional financial counseling to thousands of New Yorker for the last two years. Since 2009, the Centers’ financial counselors have conducted more than 18,700 counseling sessions, reviewed more than 7,100 credit reports, created more than 5,200 budgets, helped New York City residents pay down more than $4.2 million in debt and build more than $367,000 in savings.

Monday, April 11, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG LAUNCHES ONE NYC ONE NATION - A MULTI-PRONGED CIVIC ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVE FOR IMMIGRANT NEW YORKERS TO KICK OFF IMMIGRANT HERITAGE WEEK
Five Immigrant Civic Engagement Zones will be established to provide tools to immigrant communities to better access City government, promote financial empowerment, enhance immigrant entrepreneurship, and help support college readiness opportunities for immigrant families.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
COMMISSIONER MINTZ URGES LENDERS TO ENSURE REFUND ANTICIPATION LOAN PROVIDERS ARE COMPLYING WITH THE LAW
“Last week, I joined Mayor Bloomberg to announce that during our 2011 Tax Time Sweep, the Department of Consumer Affairs issued violations to one in three tax preparers in New York City, principally for deceptively advertising Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs). After our enforcement sweep announcement, Republic Bank contacted us to request a list of all of the tax preparers who had received RAL violations to 'take corrective actions with the offending offices.' Particularly given how dangerous and costly these sometimes 500 percent-interest rate loans can be, I await the results of Republic Bank’s and other lenders' who partner with RAL providers efforts to ensure that those tax preparers offering these loans comply with the law.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER MINTZ ANNOUNCE RESULTS OF CITYWIDE CRACKDOWN ON FRAUDULENT TAX PREPARERS – ONE IN THREE RECEIVE VIOLATIONS
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today announced the results of an investigation into income tax preparers to ensure that with the April 18th tax deadline approaching, New Yorkers filing their taxes are protected against fraud. The Department of Consumer Affairs conducted more than 1,200 inspections citywide and found that one in three income tax preparers violated consumer protections laws. The Department issued over 1,600 violations to 439 income tax preparers for misrepresenting tax preparers’ qualifications, violating consumer rights and illegally advertising Refund Anticipation Loans as “instant” or “rapid” refunds. The Mayor also encouraged New Yorkers to take advantage of the many options available for filing their taxes and claiming tax refunds for free or low cost.

´╗┐Friday, March 18, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS & CITI ANNOUNCE EXPANSION OF THE CITY’S FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT CENTER NETWORK IN CENTRAL AND WESTERN QUEENS
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today joined Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Microfinance; Brandee McHale, Chief Operating Officer of Citi Foundation; Mae Watson Grote, Executive Director of The Financial Clinic; and Mary Abbate, Associate Executive Director for Community Services of the Queens Community House to celebrate the opening of a new Financial Empowerment Center and two mobile locations in Central and Western Queens. The City’s network of Financial Empowerment Centers provides free, one-on-one, multilingual professional financial counseling to New York City residents.

Thursday, March 17, 2011
ONLY ONE MONTH LEFT TO APRIL 18 TAX DEADLINE: DCA URGES ELIGIBLE NEW YORKERS TO FILE THEIR TAXES NOW AND SIGN UP FOR A SAVEUSA ACCOUNT FOR A 50 PERCENT SAVINGS MATCH
With tomorrow marking just one month left until the April 18th tax deadline, Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz encourages New Yorkers, who make less than $57,000 and haven’t yet filed their taxes, to use the City’s free or low cost filing options and for eligible filers to sign up for a SaveUSA account, a tax-time savings program that can offer participants a 50 percent “match”—up to $500—when they save part of their refund for a full year. These special accounts are going quickly and there are only 300 still available.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS DECLARES DEBT SETTLEMENT TOP FRAUD OF THE YEAR
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today declared debt settlement the top fraud of the year. Debt settlement companies lure people struggling with debt by claiming that they will convince creditors to settle debts for less than what’s owed. However, it rarely works. Companies charge high fees and counsel consumers to ignore their debts, which can cause lasting harm. DCA cautions consumers about these services and encourages them to know their rights and the latest rules about debt settlement. In an effort to provide New Yorkers with a safe way to deal with debt, the City offers a network of Financial Empowerment Centers, which provide free, professional one-on-one financial counseling. Commissioner Mintz made the announcement at a press conference with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and other Federal and State agencies and organizations in order to alert New York area consumers to the top consumer complaints of the past year and to educate them on how to avoid becoming victims of these and other scams in 2011.

Friday, February 11, 2011
COMMISSIONER MINTZ APPLAUDS FDIC CHARGE THAT REPUBLIC BANCORP’S REFUND ANTICIPATION LOANS ARE UNSAFE AND UNSOUND WITHOUT THE IRS’S DEBT INDICATOR
“The combination of the IRS’ elimination of the debt indicator and yesterday’s FDIC action means the days of predatory Refund Anticipation Loans (RAL’s) are numbered, which is great news for the millions of Americans who deserve every penny of their tax refunds,” said New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. “The IRS can deliver refunds in about a week, which is why costly RAL’s are unnecessary and, as we find in New York, tax preparers often have to lie about these high interest loans to sell them.” 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER MINTZ AND FINANCE COMMISSIONER FRANKEL ANNOUNCE THAT NEW YORKERS MAKING LESS THAN $57,000 HAVE MORE OPTIONS THAN EVER TO CLAIM THEIR TAX REFUNDS
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, and Department of Finance Commissioner David M. Frankel today launched a new city-sponsored discount tax preparation program with H&R Block as part of New York City's 9th Annual Tax Credit Campaign, which offers New Yorkers more ways than ever to file their taxes and claim their tax refunds for free or at very low cost. Last year's Tax Credit Campaign helped over 72,000 New Yorkers file their taxes for free and claim more than $117 million in tax credits and refunds. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011
NEW YORK CITY AND SAN FRANCISCO LEAD NATIONAL MOVEMENT OF NEW MUNICIPAL STRATEGIES TO HELP LOW- AND MODERATE-INCOME FAMILIES ACHIEVE FINANCIAL SECURITY
New York City is a leader in developing innovative anti-poverty strategies, according to a report released earlier today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) on municipal financial empowerment. The new field—municipal financial empowerment—goes beyond traditional efforts aimed at building residents’ income by increasing knowledge of and access to affordable financial products, encouraging savings and investment, and protecting residents in the financial marketplace. According to the CFED report, municipal financial empowerment breaks new ground because city governments are entering an arena previously occupied only by nonprofits. New York City and other municipalities have launched dozens of innovative programs to leverage their power to help residents with low and moderate incomes build wealth and assets on a large scale.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS ANNOUNCES RESULTS OF FALL SUPERMARKET INSPECTIONS: COMPLIANCE AT ALL-TIME LOW OF 33 PERCENT
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today announced that following his promise in August to double the number of supermarket inspections in this fiscal year, in response to low compliance rates for last fiscal year, DCA inspectors have already conducted nearly 500 inspections. Compliance plummeted from last year’s low 48 percent down to only 33 percent. Inspectors travelled to supermarkets throughout New York City reviewing item pricing, proper taxation, and scanner accuracy, all of which impact hard-working New Yorkers’ wallets at the check-out counter. In New York City’s five poorest community districts, which are all located in the Bronx, the compliance rate was slightly improved from only 36 to 52 percent.