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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. More information about the event will follow.

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!

Working together to protect student veterans

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We’re joining the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Defense (DoD), and Education (ED) to better protect servicemembers, veterans, and their family members who are attending college. We’ve signed an agreement to carry out a comprehensive strategy to strengthen our enforcement and compliance work.

This new agreement is part of a larger effort to prevent abusive and deceptive recruiting practices by schools serving servicemembers, veterans, spouses and other family members. This includes working to ensure that these servicemembers and others have the right information to make informed choices with their education benefits and that colleges are providing these students high-quality academic and student support.

Our agreement requires the agencies to:

  • Have a point of contact for sharing information
  • Share complaints about schools
  • Alert each other of suspected fraud, deception, or misleading practices; and/or
  • Notify each other of any agency action that could lead to a college’s loss of eligibility, a suspension of enrollment, or a termination of license

Before this agreement, an agency could have been looking into a particular school or even taking away the school’s eligibility for federal funds without the other agencies knowing about it. Now, we have a system for sharing important information and coordinating efforts.

Recently, we also worked with VA, DoD, and ED to launch an online student complaint system. Here, students can report negative experiences at schools and training programs. The complaints are forwarded to schools and also shared with other law enforcement agencies. The student complaint system has already received over two thousand complaints.

We look forward to even more successful work together in the future.

Plan and protect your finances with a my Social Security account

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Whether you’re one of the millions of workers who pay Social Security taxes or the 50 million retired Americans and dependents who receive benefits, it’s good to keep track of your Social Security benefits.

National My Social Security Week takes place August 17 to 23 — the perfect time to take a step toward creating an online account with the Social Security Administration at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. This account will give you secure and convenient online access to your personal Social Security information, including your earnings records and estimated benefits. If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can change your address and phone number, get a benefit verification letter and start or change direct deposit information.

This website has information to help you plan for your future and protect your finances with:

  • Estimates of your monthly retirement and disability benefits, including how much more you could get if you delay your retirement.
  • Estimates of monthly survivors’ benefits for a spouse and children.
  • Essential information needed to create a retirement budget, make decisions about other financial resources, and even decide if delaying your retirement is the right choice for you. This is helpful if you’re among the thousands of people reaching age 62 and making decisions about whether to claim Social Security.
  • Summary of your earnings and Social Security taxes you’ve paid. Because your Social Security eligibility and benefits depend on these factors, this gives you the chance to check that the information on your earnings record is correct. You could also spot fraud or misuse of your Social Security number. In fact, opening an account prevents others from doing it without your authorization.

Creating a my Social Security account online is quick, safe, easy, and free. Set yours up today!

A new school year, a new resource for parents and kids

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Parents are the strongest influence on how kids learn and think about money, and the back-to-school shopping season is a great time for some major money lessons.

This year, try thinking differently about back-to-school shopping. While you plan and shop, say what you’re doing—your children are listening. You don’t have to give lectures. Just make it a point to talk through your money choices as you make them:

  • Show them how you set a budget and make a list before you leave home.
  • Let them hear you shop around and compare quality, quantity, and prices before you buy.
  • Think out loud about how promotions, special offers, and taxes affect your choices.

It’s never too early to help your kids make smart money choices – and it’s never too late. To help, we’re working in collaboration with the FDIC to collect and share resources for parents. We’ve posted age-appropriate activities, ideas, and links for parents and children, on the topics that parents told us they care most about. We’ll continue to add resources over time, so check back with us often.

Consumer advisory: Virtual currencies and what you should know about them

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You may have heard about virtual currencies like Bitcoin, XRP, and Dogecoin. But what are virtual currencies? What’s this “to the moon!” business on the internet about? And, as a consumer, what risks should you be aware of?

While virtual currencies offer the potential for innovation, a lot of big issues have yet to be resolved – some of which are critical, including:

  • Virtual currencies are targets for hackers who have been able to breach sophisticated security systems in order to steal funds
  • Virtual currencies can cost consumers more to use than credit cards or even regular cash once you take exchange rate issues into consideration
  • Fraudsters are taking advantage of the hype surrounding virtual currencies to cheat people with fake opportunities
  • If you trust a company to hold your virtual currencies and something goes wrong, that company may not offer you the kind of help you expect from your bank or debit or credit card provider

Check out our consumer advisory for more things that you should think about if you’re considering using virtual currencies and links to other useful resources.

Submit a complaint

You can also submit a complaint if you have a problem with a virtual currency product or service. We’ll forward the complaint, along with any documents you provide, to the relevant company and work to get a response from them.

Complaint data helps us understand what business practices may pose risks to consumers. We’ll use the information to enforce federal consumer financial laws and, if appropriate, take policy steps.

Alerting colleges about secret banking contracts

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If you’re a student preparing to head back to campus, you may encounter offers from banks and other companies that promote debit cards, prepaid cards, bank accounts, and other products branded with your school’s name or logo. When your school makes a deal with a company to market a financial product, it’s important for you to have basic information about this agreement and to understand what this means for your options. Last year, we launched an inquiry into financial products marketed to college and university students to determine whether the market is working for students and families.

We called on financial institutions to publicly disclose agreements with institutions of higher education to market financial products to students. Information about these arrangements is already required to be disclosed when marketing credit cards and private student loans to students—these requirements were put in place after companies were found to have paid schools and school officials in order to steer students into these products.

Making these agreements available for all financial products shows schools’ and companies’ commitment to transparency, helping students and their families understand basic information about these products before you sign up.

We decided to take a look at the financial institution partners of a group of some of the largest universities in America – members of the Big Ten conference – to see if they’ve disclosed agreements on their websites. Together, these schools enroll more than a half a million students.

Of the 14 member schools (yes, there are 14 schools in the Big Ten), it appears that at least 11 have established banking partners to market financial products to students. Of those 11, we were able to easily find only four contracts on the partner websites, but three of those four contracts did not contain important information, such as how much they pay schools to gain access to students in order to market and sell them financial products and services.

University Financial partner Contract available on partner website?
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign TCF Bank Partially
Indiana University Unknown -
University of Iowa Hills Bank & Trust Co. Yes
University of Maryland Capital One No
University of Michigan TCF Bank Partially
Michigan State University MSU Credit Union No
University of Minnesota TCF Bank Partially
University of Nebraska Wells Fargo Bank No
Northwestern University US Bank No
Ohio State University Huntington Bank No
Penn State University PNC Bank No
Purdue University Unknown -
Rutgers University Unknown -
University of Wisconsin UW Credit Union No

We’re not the only ones to take note. Recently, the Government Accountability Office also noted that “increased transparency for college card agreements could help ensure that the terms are fair and reasonable for students and the agreements are free from conflicts of interest.”

We’re also sending alerts (here’s an example) to schools to make sure they know that their bank partner has not yet committed to transparency when it comes to student financial products.

If you’re starting school this fall, be sure to check out our guide on student banking. You can learn about various options when looking for a bank account. And remember, you can’t be required to use the bank that pays your school to market to you.

Have you been able to find your school’s contract with its bank partner? Tell us your story and tag it as “student banking.”

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about the CFPB’s work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

Updated August 7, 2014: An earlier version of this post noted that Purdue University and Indiana University had established agreements in place with partner financial institutions, but these agreements are related to real estate. We’ve updated this post accordingly.

The CFPB blog aims to facilitate conversations about our work. We want your comments to drive this conversation. Please be courteous, constructive, and on-topic. To help make the conversation productive, we encourage you to read our comment policy before posting. Comments on any post remain open for seven days from the date it was posted.