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Consumer complaints to the CFPB are skyrocketing as the coronavirus outbreak continues

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Americans filed a record-breaking number of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in March as the coronavirus pandemic started flooding hospitals and sending unemployment rates soaring.

Every month since, consumer complaint numbers have been breaking record highs set the previous month, according to a Friday report from the consumer advocacy group U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group, a left-leaning think tank.

The CFPB received 29,494 complaints in March about various sorts of alleged consumer mistreatment — that number climbed to 37,926 by June.

In one complaint last month, a homeowner talked about entering a mortgage forbearance agreement with their loan servicer because of the outbreak. “Now, they are requesting a balloon payment, which I am unable to make. I’ve been in my home for 16 years,” the person wrote in their complaint.

In another complaint last month, the consumer described dealings with an auto lender that was insisting on payment. “This is a horrible company that says they love and honor veterans, however only the ones who have no financial issues. They harass and don’t care about those of us on hard times, and many will soon know,” the borrower wrote.

The Trump administration “doesn’t want to admit how bad the economy is, just like they don’t want to admit how bad the pandemic is,” said one of the report’s authors, Ed Mierzwinski, senior director, federal consumer program at U.S. PIRG.

Rising complaint totals contradict the administration’s public assertions about the economy, Mierzwinski said. “The database is like a canary in the coal mine. The fact is, there should be more being done at the bureau.”

The consumer watchdog agency has been taking the opposite approach, Mierzwinski said. For example, he pointed to the CPFB’s final rule, issued earlier this month, that revoked a payday lender’s requirement to verify a person could pay back a loan.

The new report comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the agency, created during the Obama administration, could continue to operate. The president can remove the director at will, the high court said.

Consumers can complain to the CFPB about alleged errors on credit reports, debt collection practices, student loans or problems with their bank and credit card company. Alleged credit reporting problems have been the largest complaint category since the database launched in 2012.

The trend has strengthened during the pandemic, the U.S. PIRG report noted. Between March and June, consumers sent in 85,185 complaints about credit reporting, credit repair services and other types of personal consumer reports. That’s an 86% increase from the 45,722 complaints filed on credit reporting in the same four-month period last year.

Don’t miss:How to protect your credit score during the coronavirus pandemic

Cash-strapped consumers may be complaining about their credit reports more than ever, Mierzwinski said, because they are finding problems in their report after getting turned down for a loan.

Despite efforts from consumer advocacy groups, the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed in late March didn’t ban negative credit reporting, he said.

See also:5 questions to ask if you’re considering a personal loan in a crisis

The CFPB pushed back Friday on the idea it wasn’t doing enough for consumers. “The recent report is based on a false narrative and doesn’t represent a reflection of a CFPB hard at work, which is the ground truth,” said spokesman Matthew Leas. “The bureau has aggressively utilized our tools of regulation, supervision, consumer education and enforcement to protect consumers.”

Consumers have sent in approximately 187,000 complaints this year and approximately 8,000 of those have referenced the outbreak, he said.

Many consumers end with “positive outcomes” after they file a complaint, Leas said, noting those complaints are reviewed internally and shared with various federal and state authorities.

“The agency, as always, will continue to address complaints as they arise and continue our strong record of protecting consumers,” he said.

The agency also recently showed how much the outbreak is impacting consumers. Roughly 20% of complaints related to mortgages, credit cards and credit reporting include coronavirus-related keywords, it said.

In more than half of the mortgage complaints discussing the outbreak, the CFPB said consumers noted they were having problems paying their bills.

The CFPB has handled more than 2.3 million consumer complaints since its 2011 launch.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts who initially proposed the CFPB, said Friday the consumer complaint database was a critical part of the agency.

Those complaints serve as a real-time “heat map” to spot emerging problems, she said during a panel hosted by Americans for Financial Reform, a left-leaning consumer advocacy coalition. The complaints are also important because they give consumers a voice, Warren added.

The senator and onetime presidential candidate said she often meets people who tell her they’ve lodged CFPB complaints about credit card disputes and other matters.

“They have the whole story to spin out,” Warren said. “It was [their] way to say, ‘Listen, buster, you cheated me and I want a public record.’”

Like Mierzwinski, Warren was critical of the agency under the Trump administration. “What they mostly have done is sit on their hands. Wall Street knows it. Scammers know it.”

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What Is Identity Theft? | Credit.com

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Identity theft is a major problem. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were more than 650,000 victims of identity theft in 2019, making ID theft the most-reported type of FTC complaint.  Chances are good that you will encounter identity theft in your lifetime. That was the case for at least 1 in 10 Americans ages 16 and older in 2016, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Protecting your identity and privacy should be a priority for you, and knowing what identity theft is can help you prepare. There are many different types of ID theft, which can make safeguarding your personal information even more important—and more difficult. Let’s look at some of the most common examples of identity theft and what you can do to manage the risks.

Defining Identity Theft

The term “identity theft” is used a lot, often interchangeably with “fraud.” Though many instances of identity theft are committed for fraudulent reasons, the two are slightly different. If you are a victim of identity theft, you want to catch it before it becomes fraud.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), identity theft is “the knowing transfer or use, without lawful authority, of another person’s identity with the intent to commit, aid, or abet unlawful activity.” In simpler terms, ID theft is the act of stealing another person’s information, like through mail theft, phishing, card skimming, unsecure Wi-Fi or a data breach. Fraud is when a criminal illegally uses that information for their own gain.

The NCVC calls the latter “identity fraud,” which encompasses crimes like credit card fraud, medical fraud, and Social Security number theft. Identity fraud can be financially driven, but is also committed out of other motivations. Someone might try to steal your passport or driver’s license information to travel unnoticed by law enforcement, for example.

Whether an ID thief uses your credit card or medical insurance, the cost to you can be big. Javelin Research found that the 2018 out-of-pocket costs for victims of identity theft were $1.7 billion.

Different Types of Identity Fraud

As a popular saying goes, “Know your enemy.” Let’s take a closer look at identity fraud types and preventative measures you can take to prepare yourself and protect your finances.

1. Credit Cards

Credit card fraud is by far the most prevalent type of identity theft, according to FTC numbers.

You probably store your credit card information with different vendors or subscription services. If you used your card once at a retail store, they’ll still have your information on file. If a data breach occurs at one of those businesses, someone may gain access to your credit card number and begin to make fraudulent purchases.

While it may be easier to catch a fraudulent charge on a card you have, it could be harder to spot a new account in your name. In the meantime, hard inquiries and high credit utilization due to fraud could wreck your credit score.

ExtraCredit, Reward Smart Financial Decisions. Learn More

What you can do: Requesting a chargeback might help you avoid paying for specific fraudulent transactions, but checking your credit report will show you if the problem is deeper. Sign up for ExtraCredit to keep an eye on your credit report and scores at the same time to make sure that fraudulent accounts aren’t being opened or used. You can also request your free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once a year to keep close control over your identity and credit profile. If you notice anything fishy, request a freeze immediately and file a report with the FTC.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, you can currently review your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus for free each week, through April 2021.

2. Loans and Leases

Somebody with your personal information might try to apply for a loan online. Fraudsters may then be able to get financing to buy a car or real estate. The FTC has also reported fraud instances related to student loans and payday loans.

Loan application fraud is a challenge to track, but the impact is someone racking up debt in your name. When creditors come calling, it won’t be the thief who has to answer the phone.

What you can do: As with credit card fraud, regularly check your credit reports to watch for red flags. If you spot something, immediately contact the responsible financial institution. You may also want to file a police report or contact the office of the attorney general for your state. If you are the victim of loan/lease fraud, consider using credit repair services to help you recover.

3. Phones and Utilities

Mobile takeover fraud is a complicated scheme, but it’s a growing problem. Basically, it involves a fraudster using your information to access your smartphone and then lock you out. In the meantime, they can use your apps, read saved documents, or scam others by impersonating you. They might also harvest your personal and financial information that you have saved. The same might happen for an electricity or water account: A criminal finds a way in and consumes services that are ultimately billed to you.

The common theme with identity theft here is that if someone has your info, they can do just about anything with it. This includes opening up utility accounts in your name, getting free electricity, gas, water, internet or cable.

What you can do: Maintain strong passwords for all the accounts you have. If you need to, use a password manager to help you keep track of all the complex log-in credentials. Never, ever make your passwords using personally identifiable information, like a pet, birthdate, or home street. Should something happen, immediately contact your service provider.

4. Tax Fraud

Come tax time, a refund is a happy surprise for some Americans. Others may get a nasty shock when they’ve learned someone has claimed their return before they even file their taxes. Tax fraud typically occurs when someone has stolen your Social Security number, which they can then manipulate to falsely file a return and claim your refund.

What you can do: Under no circumstances should you give your SSN to anybody but trusted entities like the government, your bank, or your credit card company. Be wary of scammers posing as the IRS who will call or email you demanding your SSN information. This is a surefire sign of fraud. You can also opt to file your taxes early, thereby eliminating the opportunity for thieves to file for you and claim your return.

The IRS recommends watching out for various scams. If you believe you’ve been a victim, file a report on IdentityTheft.gov, call the IRS at 1-800-908-4490, and complete and submit the identity theft Affidavit.

Taking the Next Steps to Protect Your Identity

Identity theft is a constant threat, so you’ll always need to be on your toes.

Guard It from ExtraCredit provides you with proactive alerts, dark web monitoring, account monitoring, and $1 million in ID theft insurance.  Sign up today or read more articles about identity theft and fraud.

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China to take steps to improve bad faith deterrent mechanism_英语频道_央视网(cctv.com)

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BEIJING, Nov. 26 — China will adopt policy steps to optimize the mechanism for deterring acts of bad faith and refine the social credit system to underpin the development of the socialist market economy, the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday.

“In recent years, China’s social credit system has continued to develop. A market economy relies on credit, and a credit-based economy must follow the rule of law. Work in this regard shall be effectively carried out pursuant to laws and regulations,” Li said.

Those at the Wednesday meeting decided on measures to refine the bad-faith deterrent mechanism to promote the orderly and healthy development of the social credit system. The principles include adhering to laws and regulations, protecting rights and interests, taking a prudent and appropriate approach and implementing list-based management.

The scope and procedures of credit information shall be formulated in a science-based way. Including certain behaviors in public credit information will require strictly following laws and regulations and a catalog management approach. Such information will be made accessible to the public.

Administrative departments must determine acts of bad faith on the basis of legally binding documents. The scope and procedures for sharing credit information shall be standardized. The principle of legality and necessity shall be observed when deciding whether and to what extent credit information is shared and disclosed. Such decisions shall be made clear when compiling the credit information catalog.

The meeting underlined the need to strengthen information security and privacy protection. Access to and procedures for credit information inquiries shall be strictly enforced. Leaking, tampering, damaging or stealing credit information or utilizing credit information for personal gains will be seriously investigated and dealt with. Illegal collection and transaction of credit information will be strictly cracked down on.

“In the development of the social credit system, it is important to pay attention to protecting personal privacy and trade secrets. Credit reference shall be conducted in accordance with law, with science-based scope and definition and appropriate penalties. Information must be used in a safe and secure manner,” Li said.

Identification of list of entities with serious acts of bad faith will be better regulated. The list shall be limited to those who put public health and safety in grave jeopardy, seriously sabotage the fair market competition order or disrupt normal social order. The list shall not be willfully expanded without authorization.

Punishment against bad-faith acts shall be enforced in accordance with laws and regulations, to make sure that penalties are meted out commensurate with dishonest behaviors. Disciplinary measures taken against entities with serious dishonest behaviors that reduce their rights or increase their duties shall be based on facts of bad faith and on laws and regulations. Punishments should be appropriate and not be added or increased at will. Financial institutions, credit service agencies, industry associations, chambers of commerce and news media should not be forced to punish entities with serious acts of bad faith.

A credit repair mechanism, which is conducive to self-correction, will be established. Entities will be allowed to fix negative credit records, unless otherwise stipulated by laws and regulations, should they correct dishonest behaviors and eliminate adverse impact. Relevant departments shall remove entities, who meet credit repair eligibility, from the list in a timely manner.

All localities and relevant departments shall promptly overhaul measures that have been rolled out for the determination, recording, disclosure and punishment of bad-faith acts, and those that do not meet the requirements shall be regulated in a timely manner.

The meeting also decided on measures to advance high-quality development of the credit reference sector. Cross-sectoral and cross-regional connectivity of credit information involving finance, government affairs, and public services will be promoted as provided by law. Disclosure and orderly utilization of data in government departments will be promoted in faster pace.

Market access of individual credit reference agencies will be promoted in an active yet prudent manner, and openness of the credit reference sector will be scaled up. Matching regulations and supporting institutions for the credit reference sector shall be improved and accountability mechanism strengthened. Fraudulent credit rating shall be strictly punished according to law. 

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Credit Repair Service Earns Best-in-Class Rating from TopConsumerReviews.com

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This service is the obvious choice for anyone needing credit repair, and we’re pleased to give Sky Blue our top ranking in 2020.

TopConsumerReviews.com recently affirmed the top-ranked status of Sky Blue Credit Repair, an industry leader among providers of Credit Repair services.

After decades of a devil-may-care approach to credit, the American public seems to finally understand the importance of a good credit score. The better one’s credit, the easier it is to be approved to rent an apartment or buy a home, secure an auto loan, or even get funding for higher education. What happens when a person realizes this after making some poor financial choices? Is it too late?

The good news is that one’s credit history can be repaired, resulting in the resolution of outstanding issues and a higher credit score. Some consumers find it challenging to navigate the process of negotiating with creditors, removing negative reports from their credit history, and consolidating debt. Fortunately, there are reputable credit repair services that take out all the guesswork, putting their decades of expertise into practice to help clients improve their credit histories step-by-step and often doing all of the work on their behalf. The best services take it a step further, working with their customers to help them develop a plan for continued financial stability going forward.

“For over 30 years, Sky Blue has helped clients throughout the United States to achieve a healthy credit history,” affirmed Brian Dolezal of TopConsumerReviews.com, LLC. “Although it can feel daunting to work on improving your credit score, you can count on the Sky Blue experience to be ‘happy and stress-free’ just as they promise. Your initial consultation and review with a representative is absolutely free, and you won’t be pushed into signing up for any services that aren’t a good fit for your situation. If you choose to become a Sky Blue client, your rep will get right to work, disputing at least 5 items with each credit bureau every 35 days. You can rest assured that your decision to use this service is no-risk because of their condition-free guarantee: in the first 90 days of your paid membership, you can get a full refund for any reason. Sky Blue also allows you to pause your service at any time. Plus, clients continue to compliment Sky Blue for being effective, honest, and affordable. This service is the obvious choice for anyone needing credit repair, and we’re pleased to give Sky Blue our top ranking in 2020.”

To find out more about Sky Blue and other Credit Repair services, including reviews and comparison rankings, please visit the Credit Repair Services category of TopConsumerReviews.com at https://www.topconsumerreviews.com/credit-repair.

About Sky Blue

Sky Blue Credit is dedicated to credit repair, focusing solely on helping customers reach their credit goals through repair and restoration services since 1989. They pride themselves on speed, disputing 15 items every 35 days, as well as giving intelligent guidance with respect to optimizing customers’ credit scores.

About TopConsumerReviews.com

TopConsumerReviews.com is a leading provider of reviews and rankings for thousands of consumer products and services. From Credit Repair to Debt Relief and Personal Loans, TopConsumerReviews.com delivers in-depth product evaluations in order to make purchasing decisions easier.

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