Consumer Law Links

Bankruptcy

National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys – advocacy group for consumer bankruptcy attorneys and their clients. Site contains useful links to other bankruptcy websites.
Website: www.nacba.org

United States Bankruptcy Court Official Forms – official bankruptcy forms for the US Bankruptcy Courts.
Website: www.uscourts.gov/forms/bankruptcy-forms

U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania – official website for the US Bankruptcy Court which covers the western region of Pennsylvania.

Main Office: 5414 U.S. Steel  Tower
600 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-644-2700

Erie Office: U.S. Courthouse, Room B160
17 South Park Row
Erie, PA 16501
Phone: 814-464-9740
FAX: 814-464-9747
Hours of Operation: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Johnstown Office: Penn Traffic Building
319 Washington Street
Johnstown, PA 15901

Website: www.pawb.uscourts.gov

CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Filing) for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania – system which allows attorneys to electronically file bankruptcy petitions and forms and provides access over the Internet to bankruptcy case dockets and documents.
Website: https://ecf.pawb.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

PACER – Federal Judiciary’s centralized registration, billing, and technical support center for electronic access to U.S. District, Bankruptcy, and Appellate court records.
Website: http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/

13Network – electronic access to trustee information on Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.
Website: www.13network.com

Other Consumer Links

Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership’s Real Estate Project – NLSA is now making referrals to the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership’s Real Estate Project for clients who need to have a deed transferred to their names from the name of a deceased relative in order to obtain financial assistance or to negotiate with a mortgage company or taxing body. To determine your eligibility for this program, call our intake number at 412-255-6700.

Consumer.gov – FTC website covering all things consumer-related

Identity Theft – Slides from a webinar hosted by the Legal Services Corporation and presented by the Federal Trade Commission

Verizon’s Lifeline Discount Program – Verizon offers telephone discounts to qualified low-income customers on either wired or wireless service.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials Program – Comcast now offers a program for low cost internet service to households with children who receive free or reduced price lunches at school. The program provides internet service for $9.95 per month plus tax with no activation fee, a computer for $149.99 plus tax, and free internet training. Call toll-free at 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376) to enroll or visit www.InternetEssentials.com for more information.

Free Tax Preparation Help Available – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free tax help to low-income persons who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Many of these sites also offer electronic filing which can have the refund in your bank account within a week without having to pay for a rapid refund or instant loan. You can also contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to locate VITA sites.

Taxpayer Advocate Service – If you’re experiencing problems with the Internal Revenue Service, you may be able to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Call the toll-free case intake line at 1-877-ASK-TAS1. You can also visit TAS online at www.IRS.gov/advocate. The number for the Pittsburgh office is 412-395-5987.

Earned Income Tax Credit – Many individuals and families who are eligible for this tax credit fail to claim it on their income tax form or do not bother to file for it.

Child Tax Credit (CTC) – The CTC is a federal tax credit worth up to $1000 per child for families with children under age 17.  The CTC is refundable for families earning more than $11,750.  Eligible persons can receive the CTC by filing federal income tax form 8812.  For more information on the CTC call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit www.irs.gov/Individuals/Child-Tax-Credit. A brochure is also available from the IRS which explains various tax credits and benefits available to taxpayers with children.

PA Tax Forgiveness Program – Low to moderate-income Pennsylvanians may owe no state income taxes or only partial tax.  Through the PA Tax Forgiveness program, workers below a certain income level (varies based on number in household) could get tax money back from the state or have their tax liabilities forgiven if no PA tax was withheld.  To apply, you must file the state income tax form (PA-40) and include PA Schedule SP.  For more information contact the PA Department of Revenue at 1-800-362-2050 or visit www.revenue.state.pa.us. A brochure on the program is also available.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic – Southwestern PA Legal Services (SPLS) provides legal advice and representation in a variety of federal tax matters.

Free Income Tax Help – University of Pittsburgh School of Law Tax Clinic offers free legal help to income-eligible clients on income tax problems.

HEMAP Help Center – reopened by Regional Housing Legal Services in October of 2012 to assist homeowners who are applying for help from HEMAP, the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, through the Pennsylvania Housing Financial Agency (PHFA). RHLS created the HEMAP Help Center in response to the low number of people being approved for HEMAP, which was believed to be due in part to the difficulty homeowners had understanding and responding to the essay sections of the HEMAP application.

Family_Resources_EEI – a program that empowers families and older youth in the East End of Pittsburgh and the greater PIttsburgh area to achieve economic self-sufficiency. They focus on financial education and resources, helping people access public benefits (mostly energy assistance and Pa Property Tax and Rent Rebate) and economic resources and free tax prep (in partnership with Just Harvest, Goodwill and United Way).

Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh – repairs and renovates the homes of low-income, elderly homeowners, military veterans, and individuals with permanent physical disabilities. It unites people of all walks of life in an effort to rebuild homes and repair lives. All home repair services are provided free of charge to qualifying homeowners. Qualified candidates are at least 60 years of age, or have a documented disability, or a military veteran; the homeowner of record for an Allegheny County property; current on all real estate taxes; and earning less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
631 Iron City Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
412-922-0953
Website: rtpittsburgh.org

New Program in Pennsylvania to Help Homeowners Reduced Energy Consumption and Costs – With the Keystone HELP® Energy Efficiency Loan & Rebate Program, most Pennsylvania homeowners who meet the program’s eligibility guidelines can get a low cost loan or a rebate for energy-saving eligible improvements installed by a Keystone HELP® Approved Contractor. Visit www.keystonehelp.com to apply or for more information.

Federal and Pennsylvania “Do Not Call” Websites – allows user to register telephone numbers, including cell phone numbers, for the “Do Not Call” lists for telemarketers. Registration remains in effect for five years, so if you signed up when the lists first began five years ago, you will need to register your phone numbers again to remain on the lists.
Federal List – www.donotcall.gov
Pennsylvania List – www.attorneygeneral.gov/Consumers/Do_Not_Call_List/

National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) – advocate for low-income consumer justice and expert on low-income consumer issues.
Website: www.nclc.org/

2011 Consumer Action Handbook – This guide from the Federal
Consumer Information Center can help with your consumer problems and questions.
Find help on such topics as buying and leasing cars, shopping from home
and protecting your privacy and yourself from fraud.
Website: www.usa.gov/topics/consumer.shtml

Better Business Bureau – services include business reliability reports; dispute resolution; truth-in-advertising;
consumer and business education; and charity review.
BBB of Western Pennsylvania
300 Sixth Avenue, Ste. 100-UL
Pittsburgh, PA 15222 -2511
Phone: (412) 456-2700
Fax: (412) 456-2739
Website: http://www.bbb.org/pittsburgh/

Advantage Credit Counseling Services – assists people
to live within their income. Also assists people to apply for Act 91/HEMAP
(Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program).
(866) 699-2227
Website: http://www.cccspa.org/

River Park Commons
2403 Sidney Street, Suite 400
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Credit Reporting Agencies – agencies that prepare credit reports. These agencies may charge a fee
to obtain a copy of your credit report. As of September 1, 2005, everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year through www.annualcreditreport.com. To request a free copy of your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. You can either make the request over the internet or print out a form to make the request by mail. You can also make the request via telephone at 1-877-322-8228. You must use this phone number for your free report.
Equifax – (800) 685-1111, www.equifax.com
TransUnion – (800) 888-4213, www.transunion.com
Experian – (888) 397-3742, www.experian.com

National Student Clearinghouse – verifies student degree and enrollment information. Can assist in locating a student loan.
Website: www.nslc.org

Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection
promotes consumer education and publicizes matters relating to consumer
fraud, deception and misrepresentation. Based upon patterns identified through consumer complaints
or investigations, the Bureau is authorized to take formal legal action
against persons and organizations who engage in unfair and deceptive conduct
in the advertisement or sale of goods or services within the Commonwealth.
14th Floor Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-9707
Fax: 717-787-1190
Toll-Free: 1-800-441-2555
Website: www.attorneygeneral.gov/Consumers/Bureau_of_Consumer_Protection/