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Reminder for steps you can take if you think your credit or debit card data was hacked

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Yesterday, Home Depot confirmed that there has been a breach of its payment data systems. According to the company, the breach could potentially impact any customer that has used their card for payment at a Home Depot in the U.S. or Canada since April 2014.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself if you spot unauthorized charges.
Protect your credit and debit card information
If your information was part of a breach, the most immediate risk is that the thieves may make unauthorized charges or debits to your accounts. Keep a close eye on your account activity and report suspicious transactions immediately to your bank or credit card provider. The sooner you tell your provider about any unauthorized debits or charges, the better off you will be.

1. Check your accounts for unauthorized charges or debits and continue monitoring your accounts

If you have online or mobile access to your accounts, check your transactions as frequently as possible. If you receive paper statements, be sure to open them and review them closely. If your provider offers it, consider signing up for email or text alerts.

Report even small problems right away. Sometimes thieves will process a small debit or charge against your account and return to take more from your bank account or add more charges to your credit card if the first smaller debit or charge goes through. And keep paying attention: fraudulent charges to your card or fraudulent debits to your bank account might occur many months after the theft of your information during a data breach.

2. Report a suspicious charge or debit immediately

Contact your bank or card provider immediately if you suspect an unauthorized debit or charge. If a thief charges items to your account, you should cancel the card and have it replaced before more transactions come through. Even if you’re not sure that PIN information was taken, consider changing your PIN just to be on the safe side.

If your physical credit card has not been lost or stolen, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges. You can protect yourself from being liable for unauthorized debit card charges by reporting those charges immediately after you find out about them or they show up on your bank statement.

If you spot a fraudulent transaction, immediately call the card provider’s toll-free customer service number on the back of your card. If the provider asks, follow up with a written letter. The provider should give you the address where you need to send the letter. Make sure to send it as soon as possible after you tell the provider about the unauthorized charge.

When you communicate in writing, be sure to keep a copy for your records. Write down the dates you make follow-up calls and keep this information together in a file.

If your card or PIN was lost or stolen, different rules may apply. Your timeline for reporting after your card, PIN, or other access device is lost or stolen is tied to when you discover the loss or theft or when unauthorized transactions show up on your bank statement. Therefore, you should make the report as soon as you know that there is a problem.

Debit card issuers should investigate the charges (generally within 10 business days) and take action quickly (generally within 3 business days). For your credit card, it can take longer, but you don’t have to pay the charge while it is under investigation. You also have a right to see the results of their investigations.

3. You can submit a complaint to the CFPB if you have an issue with your bank account or credit card

If you have an issue with your bank account or credit card, you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372), TTY/TDD (855) 729-CFPB (2372).We’ll forward your complaint to the company and work to get you a response.

If you have other questions about billing disputes and your debit and credit card protections, you can Ask CFPB.

4. Know when to ignore anyone contacting you to “verify” your account information by phone or email

This could be a common scam, often referred to as “phishing,” to steal your account information.

Banks and credit unions never ask for account information through phone or email that they initiate. If you receive this type of contact, you should immediately call your card provider (using a customer service number that you get from a different source than the initial call or email) and report it. Reliable sources of contact information for your card provider include the customer service number or web address listed on your bank or credit card statement or the back of your card.

For more information on phishing scams, check out the FTC’s consumer alerts.

For more information, check out the consumer advisory.

Disputing debt you never owed: William’s story

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Being on the hook for a debt you don’t owe is not only stressful, but can be scary. If you don’t know where to turn, you might feel hopeless. We heard from William, who was receiving calls for a debt he didn’t owe. William tried to resolve the issue for over four years, seeing his credit get ruined in the process. He said “None of them could do anything… except tell me I had to pay them the $8,500.”

Stories like William’s are important because it’s often hard to know where to turn and who to trust for help. Because William submitted a complaint, he was able to end a four year long credit dispute in one week.

“Just to have the situation resolved…that just felt good.” William said. “In a situation for me that was seemingly endless and hopeless, the CFPB helped me to find resolution. It’s a new day.”

We’re glad William got the help he needed, and we want to make sure that you know that we’re here for you too. To share your experience or learn more from others, visit us at consumerfinance.gov/yourstory.

Save the date: Join us for a Consumer Advisory Board meeting in Washington, DC

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Join us for a Consumer Advisory Board meeting with Director Cordray on Thursday, September 11 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT. During this meeting, we’ll discuss trends and themes related to technology and access to financial services. We’ll also introduce new Consumer Advisory Board members.

Gallaudet University
Elstad Auditorium
800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

This event requires an RSVP. Send us an email to RSVP. A recording of the meetings will be available at a later date.

You can check out the meeting agenda and event flyer. See you there!

You could still end up paying interest on a zero percent interest credit card offer

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What could be better than zero percent interest for one year? Nothing, nada, free…right? Not exactly.

These kinds of promotional rates are common with credit card offers. They can be connected to:

  • Balance transfer offers
  • Pitches for low-cost ways to finance big purchases, such as “deferred interest” offers
  • So-called “convenience checks,” which invite you to write checks against your credit account and pay the amount back within the specific promotional period

Credit card companies market these promotions as a way for you to save money.

But, what some credit card companies may not have been telling you is that new purchases could cost you more than you expect. While your transferred balance or your first big purchase has the zero or low annual percentage rate (APR) for the promotional period, any additional purchases you make with the card may get dinged with regular interest charges right away. The only way to avoid those charges is to pay off your whole balance, including the promotional balance and the new purchases, by the payment due date.

The marketing materials may have focused on one-time fees, such as balance transfer fees or deferred interest fees, and not provided clear and prominent information about the cost of new purchases due to the loss of the grace period.

Fall from grace

Most credit cards offer a grace period on purchases. The grace period – if you have one – is the time when you don’t have to pay interest on a purchase or other transaction. With most credit cards, you can avoid paying interest on new purchases if you pay off your whole balance by the payment due date each month.

However if you don’t pay off your entire balance by the due date, you will lose your grace period. Without a grace period, you will have to pay interest on new purchases from the date you make them. Carrying a promotional balance can cause you to lose your grace period or make it harder for you to get it back. This is why accepting promotional balance offers can cost you more than you expect.

We’re alerting credit card companies that some of them may be at risk of breaking the law because of the way that they market promotional rates. We told them that their marketing materials should clearly, prominently, and accurately tell you that you will pay interest right away on new purchases if you accept a promotional offer but don’t pay off the entire balance, including the promotional balance, by the payment due date.

Avoid the interest

If you decide to accept a promotional offer, here are a few things you should consider.

If you usually don’t carry a balance: If you usually keep your grace period by paying off your full statement balance each month, you can avoid interest by not making new purchases with the promotional rate card until you have paid off the entire promotional balance. Consider making your new purchases with cash, debit, or another credit card that doesn’t have a balance.

If you usually carry a balance: If you already carry a balance on all your credit cards, consider paying with cash or debit. However, if you decide to use a credit card, compare the interest rates among your cards to decide which is the better deal for new purchases.

Also, make sure you make all of your payments on time, and for promotional and deferred interest balances, pay off the entire balance before the end of the promotional period.

Let us know if you have a problem

If you have a problem with a credit card, you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372.

For more information about grace periods or how credit cards work, check out Ask CFPB.

Student loan debt doesn’t have to be scary: Leah’s story

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Just a year away from graduating with $23,000 in student loans, Leah didn’t know how she was going to make her payments. They were a constant source of stress in her life; she would lie awake at night thinking about how she was going to pay off her student debt. She was worried about her future.

We understand that fear – it’s why we built our Paying for College tool. It helps students and recent graduates inform themselves about the true cost of college and the repayment options available after graduation.

Leah learned about the Income Based Repayment option, which helped to significantly lower her monthly payments. “It’s a lot less stressful now,” she says; “It feels amazing… My husband and I don’t feel like we’re living paycheck to paycheck. I wasn’t informed when I was taking out my student loans of the reality of after college. And now students have the CFPB website to know in advance and be informed of what to expect when they graduate. I took charge of my student loan debt. Now other students can take charge of theirs thanks to the CFPB.”

Do you have a story like Leah’s? Do you want to find resources for students and graduates? Or are you interested in what other people are saying about their experiences with financial products and services? Check out Everyone has a story.

Updated: Save the date, Indianapolis!

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Join us for a field hearing in Indianapolis, Indiana on auto finance. The hearing will take place on Thursday, September 18 at 11 a.m. EDT. The field hearing will take place at:

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Hine Hall Auditorium
850 W. Michigan Street
Indianapolis, Ind. 46202

The hearing will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray, as well as testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.

This event is open to the public, but RSVP is required to attend. Send us an email to RSVP. A livestream will also be available here on our blog.

If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request.

See you there!

Updated on September 11, 2014 to include the venue information.

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