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Consumers warned about bogus information on traffic fines

The state attorney general’s office warned California consumers Wednesday about debt collectors giving misleading information about a new traffic fine amnesty program.  Attorney General Kamala Harris said the warning was prompted by complaints about debt agencies that contract with counties to collect the unpaid fines.

Her office said some collectors are failing to notify people about California’s debt amnesty program, which allows low-income drivers with lesser infractions such as running a red light to pay as little as one fifth of what they owe from old fines.

Harris, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, said some debt collectors have told eligible people they don’t qualify for the program or have failed to update the Department of Motor Vehicles when people pay off their fines.

“I’m not surprised,” said Mike Herald, a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty who helped write a scathing report by civil rights groups on how poor and minority Californians are getting caught in a cycle of debt and having their driver’s licenses suspended as a result of costly traffic tickets and court penalties.

“We’ve been seeing inconsistent practices that are contrary to the amnesty program,” Herald said.

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