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CFPB Guidance for FCRA in Coronavirus Outbreak

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Fair Credit Reporting Act

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On April 1, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – which helps businesses comply with federal consumer financial law – issued guidance to help data furnishers and consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in response to the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to lessen the economic impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, which provides emergency assistance to consumers and businesses affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19) and includes provisions addressing consumer reporting requirements. Less than a week later, the CFPB issued its Statement on Supervisory and Enforcement Practices Regarding the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V in Light of the CARES Act.

“Consumer report information is critical to consumers and industry in determining who obtains credit, insurance, and housing, and at what price, and who obtains employment in many cases. Consumer reporting has enormous reach, as evidenced by the over 200 million consumers in the United States who have credit files and trade lines furnished by over 10,000 providers,” the CFPB guidance stated.

The CFPB guidance highlights the responsibilities of data furnishers under the CARES Act and informs CRAs and furnishers of the CFPB’s flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during this pandemic regarding compliance with the FCRA and Regulation V, regulations that protect consumer information. Below are examples of the flexibility the CFPB (“The Bureau”) intends to provide in the consumer reporting system:

  • Furnishing Consumer Information Impacted by COVID-19: The Bureau reiterates its prior guidance encouraging financial institutions to work constructively with borrowers and other customers affected by COVID-19 to meet their financial needs. While companies generally are not legally obligated to furnish information to consumer reporting agencies, the Bureau encourages them to continue furnishing information despite the current crisis. Furnishers’ providing accurate information to consumer reporting agencies produces substantial benefits for consumers, users of consumer reports, and the economy as a whole. The CARES Act, a section of which amends the FCRA, generally requires furnishers to report as current certain credit obligations for which furnishers make payment accommodations to consumers affected by COVID-19 who have sought such accommodations from their lenders. The Bureau expects furnishers to comply with the CARES Act and will work with furnishers as needed to help them do so. Many furnishers are or will be offering consumers affected by COVID-19 various forms of payment flexibility, including allowing consumers to defer or skip payments, as required by the CARES Act or voluntarily. Such payment accommodations will avoid the reporting of delinquencies resulting from the effects of COVID-19. The Bureau supports furnishers’ voluntary efforts to provide payment relief, and it does not intend to cite in examinations or take enforcement actions against those who furnish information to consumer reporting agencies that accurately reflects the payment relief measures they are employing.
  • Disputes: The FCRA generally requires that consumer reporting agencies and furnishers investigate disputes within 30 days of receipt of the consumer’s dispute. The 30-day period may be extended to 45 days if the consumer provides additional information that is relevant to the investigation during the 30-day period. The Bureau is aware that some consumer reporting agencies and furnishers may face significant operational disruptions that pose challenges for them in investigating consumer disputes. For example, some consumer reporting agencies and furnishers may experience significant reductions in staff, difficulty intaking disputes, or lack of access to necessary information, rendering them unable to investigate consumer reporting disputes within the timeframes the FCRA requires. Furnishers include a wide variety of businesses that vary in size and sophistication and can range from small retailers to very large financial services firms, each of which will face unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In evaluating compliance with the FCRA as a result of the pandemic, the Bureau will consider a consumer reporting agency’s or furnisher’s individual circumstances and does not intend to cite in an examination or bring an enforcement action against a consumer reporting agency or furnisher making good faith efforts to investigate disputes as quickly as possible, even if dispute investigations take longer than the statutory timeframe. The Bureau reminds furnishers and consumer reporting agencies that they may take advantage of statutory and regulatory provisions that eliminate the obligation to investigate disputes submitted by credit repair organizations and disputes they reasonably determine to be frivolous or irrelevant. The Bureau will consider the significant current constraints on furnisher and consumer reporting agency time, information, and other resources in assessing if such a determination is reasonable.

The CFPB believes that this flexibility will help furnishers and CRAs
“to manage the challenges the current crisis poses. It also will enable consumers, as well as lenders, insurers, employers, and other consumer report users, to maintain confidence in the consumer reporting system.” Resources for consumers facing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are available on the CFPB website at www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/.

On March 13, 2020, the CFPB offered information to consumers (en Español) on how to protect themselves financially from the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Federal, state, and local governments are working to respond to the growing public health threat of the Coronavirus. As the country deals with an increase in reported cases, many areas may be impacted by the closure of businesses, schools, public facilities, or events.

These actions – while necessary to help reduce exposures – may bring financial uncertainty for people who could experience a loss of income due to illness or workplace closures. The CFPB is offering information to help consumers in these situations. Consumers with a problem with a financial product or service should try reaching out to the company first. Consumers with complaints can call the CFPB at (855) 411-2372 or submit a complaint.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person with symptoms of fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. As of April 7, 2020, there more than 1.4 million total confirmed global cases of Coronavirus and the United States leads the world with more than 386,000 confirmed cases, according to research from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks – is using best practices for background check processing during the Coronavirus crisis while following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employers and businesses by posting blogs on the ESR News Blog about the subject that are tagged “Coronavirus.” To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or
offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on
this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2020 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies of or
using any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than
your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first
obtained from ESR.

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If you need a co-signer, you’re not ready | Business

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My fiancée and I want to make an offer on a house. She has a lot of late payments and a bad credit record, though, but she is working hard to manage her money better and get out of debt. I don’t make enough money to get a home loan by myself, and I have some debt to pay off, too. In order to help us out, my aunt and uncle said they are willing to co-sign a mortgage loan for us. What do you think of that idea?

Here’s a simple, solid piece of advice for anyone looking to make a purchase of any kind. If you need a co-signer, you’re not ready to make that purchase—period. I’m not trying to beat you up or anything, but it’s way too soon for you two to be thinking about buying a home. I mean, for starters you’re just engaged right now.

When a lender requires a co-signer, it basically means they don’t believe you’ll pay back the money. And besides, you two don’t need a house now or right after you get married. The two of you should get married, and live in a decent, inexpensive apartment for a while. During that time, you both need to work hard on paying off all your debt. After that, save up an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses. Then, start setting aside cash for a down payment on a modest home.

When it comes time to buy a home, I recommend a 15-year, fixed rate loan with a down payment of at least 10%. Twenty% is better, because it will help you avoid having to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance). Make sure the monthly payments on the loan are no more than 25% of your combined take home pay. Keeping the payments at 25% or below will make it easier to address other important financial issues, like saving and investing.

Your aunt and uncle are obviously generous people, Evan, but they’re a little misguided in their offer. At this point, helping you two buy a house — something you obviously can’t afford —would be a huge burden instead of a blessing.

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business, and CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 11 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations and digital outlets. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business, and CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 11 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations and digital outlets. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

 

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Dave says: If you need a cosigner, you're not ready – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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Dave says: If you need a cosigner, you’re not ready  Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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How to improve your credit score in 2021: Easy and effective tips

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If you’ve ever wondered “What is my credit score?” it’s probably time to find out. Having a good credit score can make life a lot more affordable. If you’re about to buy a house or car, for example, the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate (and therefore, monthly cost) will probably be.

Your number may also be the deciding factor for whether or not you can get a loan and ultimately determine if you are even able to buy something you want or need.

So, yes, the goal is to have the highest possible credit score you can, but increasing the number doesn’t just happen overnight. There are important steps to take if you want to increase your score, and the sooner you start working on it, the better.

“If you’re trying to increase (your credit score) substantially to accomplish a goal, you’re really going to have to have as much lead time as possible,” said Thomas Nitzsche, director of media and brand at Money Management International, a nonprofit financial counseling and education provider that advises people on how to legally and ethically improve their credit score on their own.

If you have fair credit and you’re trying to improve the number for a house purchase, for instance, you’ll want to start working on it at least a year in advance, he explained to TMRW.

But even though that sounds like a long time away, you can (and should!) start doing things right now to bump that number up. Below, see seven things you should do — and not do — to help improve your credit score:

1. Review your credit report

Review your credit report and look for errors that might be hurting your score. Morsa Images / Getty Images

The first thing you’ll want to do is pull up a copy of your current report so you know where you stand. You can get free reports from all three agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — at annualcreditreport.com. Nitzsche said it’s important to take a moment and understand the financial snapshot of where you are today and where you want to be.

You’ll also want to take some time and look for any errors on your report, which could negatively impact your score. “If your name is misspelled, that’s not going to hurt your score,” he explained. “But if you see a late payment or missed payment (that’s in error), or maybe you have an account that should be reporting but isn’t, then that’s a problem and that will impact your score.”

If there is an error, you should dispute it and try to provide as much proof as you can.

One other thing: You can also ask a creditor to remove an issue if it’s been corrected (i.e., if you paid off a collection debt). Nitzsche said it doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst thing they could say is no.

2. Have good financial habits

“The biggest part of your credit score is payment history, so the most critical thing is never missing a due date,” Nitzsche said. Set up a monthly autopay or add all due dates to your calendar so you never miss a bill.

You can also achieve a higher score when you mix different types of accounts on your credit report. It may seem counterintuitive to get extra points for having debt in the form of student loans, mortgages and auto loans, but as long as you’re paying them off responsibly, it shows that you’re reliable.

3. Aim to use 30% or less of your credit at any given time

Know your credit limit and aim to only use 30% or less of it for a better credit score.Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Know your credit card limit, and try not to use any more than 30% of that number each month, otherwise your score could lose points for too much credit utilization.

Another thing you can do is ask your bank to increase your limit. “That will give you more flexibility to spend more,” Nitzsche said. You could also pay it off twice a month to keep the balance low. But he does warn that you never know when the balance is going to be reported to the bureau. It can happen at any point during the month, so it might be the day after you make the payment or the day before. “You don’t necessarily want to use the card and pay it the next day because that doesn’t give the bureau the chance to know that you’re using it,” he said.

4. Avoid requests for new credit

If you’re looking to increase your score around the time you want to buy a house or car, you won’t want to open up a new line of credit, like a retail card, credit card or loan. That’s because “hard” credit inquiries like those can lower your score, and sometimes it comes down to a few points over whether you’re approved or what your rate will be, Nitzsche said.

“Soft” credit inquiries, like when an employer checks your credit or when you pull your own report, won’t affect your score.

5. Keep all accounts open, even ones you don’t use anymore

Even if you don’t use that credit card from college, it’s a good idea to just keep it open because closing it could hurt your score. Nitzsche explained that you’ll be dinged some points for each account that is closed. If you want or need to mentally break up with a card, just cut it up instead.

6. Build your credit if needed

If you haven’t established credit yet, you might not even exist … in the credit report space, that is! “If someone has never fallen in delinquency on any subscriptions or utilities or never had collections on anything and they have not utilized credit cards or loans in the past seven to 10 years, they may not have a credit profile at all,” Nitzsche said. “That presents a challenge when you want to buy a home.”

If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a secured credit card where you put down a deposit, he advised. “You still have to make payments and use it responsibly. Not all banks offer them but you can usually check with your local bank or credit union.”

7. Reach out for help

If you want personal guidance on boosting your credit score, make an appointment with a credit counselor.kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

There are many apps and credit-monitoring services that can help you stay on top of your credit score. You could also reach out to a professional credit counselor who can help you navigate your specific situation. (Here’s a good resource about finding a reputable service.)

One last thing: Nitzsche warned that everyone should beware of credit repair scams that claim to be able to increase credit scores for an advance fee to get accurate negative information removed (even temporarily) from credit reports.

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