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Consumer advisory: Fact-check your specialty consumer report

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You probably already know that when you apply for a loan, many lenders will get information about your credit history from one of the big three consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This information can determine whether you are eligible for a loan and how much the loan will cost.

But did you know that there are other consumer reporting agencies that also collect and sell your personal data? Some of these companies, called specialty consumer reporting agencies, compile and sell reports with all kinds of personal data including, but not limited to, the history of your employment, rental, banking, lending, insurance, and criminal background. This includes other public record data such as tax liens, civil suits and bankruptcy data.

We’ve got a list of consumer reporting agencies, so you can fact-check them to ensure your personal report data is accurate and complete.

Why you should know what’s in your reports

If you’re applying for a job, planning to rent an apartment, or purchasing property or health insurance, you might want to check and see if one of these specialty consumer reporting agencies has a file with your information. It may also be useful if you’re applying for a checking account, or had problems with utility bills. For example, if you are applying for a lease, one of your “tenant screening” specialty reports might be reviewed by the landlord. Keep in mind that not every consumer reporting agency will have information on every consumer.

Check reports in advance

When it comes to your personal data, all consumer reporting agencies are required to follow reasonable procedures to ensure that the information in your report is accurate, but errors can happen. You should fact-check your report in advance, allowing sufficient time for companies to investigate and fix errors. Once you notify a consumer reporting agency of a potential error on your report, the agency generally has thirty days to investigate and fix the errors on your report. After completing the investigation, they generally have five business days to notify you of its results.

The last thing you want is an unpleasant surprise that may disqualify you from a loan, job or a new lease. You’re in the best position to know whether the information in your personal reports is accurate and complete.

How to request and dispute a report

Here’s a list of consumer reporting agencies, complete with the contact information, (including the phone numbers and websites), for nearly fifty companies. By law, consumer reporting agencies must provide you a copy of your report upon request. Most of the companies in this list provide reports for free once every twelve months (as indicated on the list) though others may charge you a small fee. If you spot any errors, you have the right to dispute the report’s content with the consumer reporting agency and the company that provided the data. The companies are required to investigate your dispute for free.

Check out Ask CFPB for more information about specialty consumer reporting agencies. You can also download a printer-friendly version of this information to share with friends or clients. If you have a problem with credit reporting or any other financial product, you can submit a complaint to us online.

Your complaint is more than data—it’s your story

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Since we started accepting complaints in July 2011, we have handled more than 550,000 from people all over the country about problems in the financial marketplace. These complaints help us understand the problems you face and focus our efforts to protect consumers like you.

While you can see hundreds of thousands of these complaints in the Consumer Complaint Database, these complaints are much more than just data to us. These complaints reflect real and tough challenges people face every day as they try to navigate the financial world.

You’ve shared your story with us through your complaint before, but now we’re giving you the choice to publish your story in our Consumer Complaint Database. Sharing what happened to you with the public can help others see what’s happening in the financial marketplace.

Share your whole story, everyone will see it

When you submit a complaint to us, you tell us what happened. This is a space where you explain the circumstances, your frustrations, and your perspective on the problem. This is where you state your case using the dates and details of transactions and tell about your interactions with the company you are reporting. Beginning today, if you submit your complaint online you can choose to share your story on our Consumer Complaint Database , where anyone can come and see it.

Of course, we will review your narrative and remove any personal information to minimize the risk that the information could be used to identify you. If you decide not to share your story, we won’t make your story publicly available and it will not affect how we handle your complaint.

Later this year, you’ll start to see these narratives in our database. Making your story public will give more people, including you, the power to improve the financial marketplace.

Lifting your voice

The Consumer Complaint Database currently includes only some information about your situation, for example, the type of product you wrote to us about and what kind of action the company took to help. Now, with this new policy, your voice can explain the situation you are in and give the context surrounding your complaint. This will make it easier for anyone exploring our database to truly understand what happened.

Facing a problem with a financial product or service? Let us know. We’d like to hear about it!

We’ve heard more than 300,000 complaints. Should we hear from you?

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We first began accepting complaints in July 2011 and as of this week – less than 3 years later – we’ve handled more than 300,000 complaints. That means when hundreds of thousands of people had a problem with a financial product or service, they came to us, and we worked to get them a response.

What kinds of complaints do you accept?

We accept complaints about a range of consumer financial products and services. If you have a problem with debt collection, credit reporting, payday loans, student loans, other consumer loans, money transfers, mortgages, or bank accounts and services, submitting a complaint is simple and secure.

How can I submit a complaint?

The fastest way to get started is to go consumerfinance.gov/complaint. If you need help while you’re online, you can chat with one of our team members on the site. You can also submit a complaint over the phone by calling us at (855) 411-CFPB (2372), toll free. We can handle calls in over 180 languages and accommodate people who are hearing or speech impaired.

What happens after I submit?

After you’ve submitted your complaint you can check its status online or by calling us at (855) 411-CFPB (2372). We’ll also send you email updates along the way so you know where you are in the process, and what’s next. After the company responds to your complaint, we’ll email you, and you can log back in to review the response and give us any feedback.

Every complaint helps us in our work to supervise companies, enforce federal consumer financial laws, and write better rules and regulations. You speaking up gives us important insight into the issues you face as a consumer, so thank you!

You can see what other consumers are complaining about in our public Consumer Complaint Database. If you think you’ve found something interesting in the consumer complaint data, we definitely want to hear about it. Don’t forget to share your work, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB and using #CFPBdata.

Dig in: Releasing credit report and money transfer complaint data

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We promised more expansions and improvements to the Consumer Complaint Database and, just in time for the National Day of Civic Hacking, we’re delivering on that promise.

Today we’re adding:

  • Complaints about credit reports
  • Complaints about money transfers
  • More specificity about certain issues by adding sub-issues. For example, you’ll see more detail about the specific issue around incorrect information on a credit report such the information isn’t the consumer’s, wrong personal information, etc.
  • The state where the consumer lives. We’ve always had ZIP code, but listing the state can make it even easier to put the data in context.

Adding credit report and money transfer complaints will take the number of complaints in the database to more than 113,000.

Remember, if you think you’ve found something interesting in the consumer complaint data, we definitely want to hear about it and encourage the public, including consumers, analysts, data scientists, civic hackers, and companies that serve consumers, to analyze, augment, and build on the information in the database to develop ways for consumers to use the complaint data or mash it up with other public data sets to reveal potential trends.

Check out our civic hacking challenges and don’t forget to share your work, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB using the hashtag #CFPBdata.

The consumer complaint database is just another example of our support for an open-data agenda. Our Project Catalyst team also will be using this data to support innovation in the consumer finance space.

Releasing complaint data about credit cards, mortgages, student loans, bank accounts, services, and other consumer loans

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What are you going to make with #CFPBdata?

Last summer, we launched our Consumer Complaint Database featuring data about credit card complaints.

Today, based on feedback from the public, we’re expanding it – and increasing the number of complaints from about 19,000 to more than 90,000. Here’s what we’re adding data about:

  • Mortgage complaints submitted since we started taking mortgage complaints on December 1st, 2011.
  • Complaints about bank accounts and services submitted since we started taking them on March 1st, 2012.
  • Private student loan complaints submitted since we started taking them on March 1st, 2012.
  • Complaints about other consumer loans (for example, if you got a loan to finance your daughter’s braces) submitted since we started taking them on March 1st, 2012.
  • More specificity about the product each complaint is about, where provided. For example, instead of just “mortgage,” you can see if the complaint is about a reverse mortgage or a conventional fixed mortgage, etc.

And we’re not satisfied quite yet – more expansions are coming. In the future, we’ll add even more products and improvements to the user experience.

The best part is: You don’t have to wait for us to build what you’d like to see from the data. We’re releasing this data as an API, as well as in CSV, JSON, PDF, RDF, RSS, XLS, XLSX, and XML – and we’d love to see what you can do with it.

From infographics to iPhone apps, we’ve seen people do amazing things with the credit card complaint data that was available before today.

If you think you’ve found something interesting in the consumer complaint data, we want to hear about it.

We encourage the public, including consumers, analysts, data scientists, civic hackers, and companies that serve consumers, to analyze, augment, and build on the information in the database to develop ways for consumers to use the complaint data or mash it up with other public data sets to reveal potential trends.

Share your work, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB using the hashtag #CFPBdata.

The Consumer Complaint Database is just another example of our support for an open-data agenda. Our Project Catalyst team also will be using this data to support innovation in the consumer finance space.

Scott Pluta is the Assistant Director for the Office of Consumer Response at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

p.s. As an example of what can be done with the data, we gave one of our staff a day to play with it in Microsoft Excel. Here’s what she came up with. Her example only goes to March 22, and as with the database itself, the data hasn’t been normalized, meaning that in many cases apples-to-apples comparisons can’t always be made. For example, companies with more customers could be expected to have more complaints. States with more people, likewise, would be expected to have more complaints.