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You have the right to a fair financial marketplace

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We've secured over $10.8 billion dollars in relief for consumers harmed by illegal practices.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in the wake of the financial meltdown to stand up for consumers and make sure they are treated fairly in the financial marketplace. One way we accomplish this mission is by enforcing consumer protection laws, holding law breakers accountable for their actions. Since 2011, we have secured over $10.8 billion dollars in relief for more than 25 million consumers harmed by illegal practices.

Mortgages

We’ve secured billions of dollars in relief for consumers harmed by systematic misconduct and illegal practices by companies in the mortgage industry. We’ve taken several actions against mortgage servicing companies for failing to tell borrowers when their loan modification applications were incomplete, denying loan modifications to qualified borrowers, failing to honor modifications for loans transferred from other servicers, and illegal foreclosure practices. We have also taken action against companies in the mortgage industry for steering consumers into costlier loans, for paying illegal kickbacks in exchange for business, and for making inadequate disclosures or using deceptive ads.

Credit cards

We’ve secured billions of dollars of relief for millions of consumers harmed by deceptive marketing and enrollment of credit card add-on products, unfair billing, and illegal debt collection practices.

Payday and installment lending

We have taken action against payday lenders and installment lenders for unlawful lending and collections practices that include using false threats of lawsuits or criminal prosecution to collect debts, charging undisclosed fees to servicemembers, and robo-signing court documents related to debt collection lawsuits.

Learn more about how we’re enforcing consumer protection laws in other product areas including auto lending, debt collection, debt relief, student lending, checking accounts, and more.

Citibank to refund $700 million to credit card customers for unfair and deceptive practices

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Today we’re ordering Citibank, N.A. and some of its subsidiaries to refund approximately $700 million to customers for unfair and deceptive credit card practices. This includes unfairly billing consumers for credit card add-on products, deceptively marketing those products, and deceptive collection practices. Citibank has agreed to pay about $700 million in refunds on about 8.8 million accounts.

If you were among the millions of people affected, Citibank should have already notified you or will notify you directly. You do not have to take any action. If you have questions about whether you are entitled to a refund, you can contact Citibank at the number on the back of your credit card. Generally, consumers who were signed up for these products on or after January 1, 2009, will receive full or partial refunds. If you are unsatisfied with Citibank’s response, you can submit a complaint online or by calling us at 855-411-2372.

You might be eligible for a refund if you paid for credit and identity monitoring, credit protection products, or an expedited payment fee.

Credit and identity monitoring products

Nearly 2.2 million consumers who enrolled between 2000 and 2013 have already received or will receive refunds of about $196 million in fees for credit monitoring products (Privacy Guard, DirectAlert, IdentityMonitor, Citi Credit Monitoring Service). If you enrolled in these products, but did not receive all of the services promised, you will receive full refunds for the time you did not receive full services. Most eligible consumers have already received refunds.

Separately, we found that Citibank violated the law when enrolling some IdentityMonitor consumers and when some IdentityMonitor consumers called to try to cancel that product. The amount of refund is determined by a few factors, including whether consumers tried to cancel (even if they were persuaded to keep it), and how long they stayed in the product.

Consumers who enrolled in IdentityMonitor over the phone on or after January 1, 2009, but who did not upgrade to “triple bureau” credit monitoring, will receive full or partial refunds. You are also eligible if you enrolled over the internet between January 1, 2009 and April 1, 2012.

Debt protection products

We found that Citibank violated the law when selling certain debt protection products (AccountCare, Balance Protector, Credit Protection, Credit Protector, and Payment Safeguard) to some consumers. Some of the deceptive practices happened during telemarketing sales calls, while others happened when consumers applied for credit cards at certain retail stores, using “point of sale” terminals or at specialty services desks.

Consumers who enrolled in these products on or after January 1, 2009, will generally receive refunds. Certain consumers are excluded, including if you paid a claim for benefits under the products or if you signed and returned an “Acknowledgment of Membership” form after enrolling.

Certain consumers who enrolled in these products prior to December 31, 2008, may also be eligible for a refund.

Expedited payment fee

Finally, we found Citibank violated the law when they tried to collect overdue payments from some consumers with cards issued by Citibank’s subsidiary, Department Stores National Bank (DSNB). During collection calls, Citibank sometimes charged an “expedited payment fee” of $14.95 without telling the consumer it was charging the fee or misrepresented the purpose of the fee. Nearly 1.8 million consumers who paid an “expedited payment fee” since January 1, 2009 when their DSNB credit card account was delinquent will receive all “expedited payment fees” paid during that time.

Citibank is responsible for providing refunds

Watch out for scammers claiming they will get you a refund. When large numbers of consumers get refunds, scammers sometimes pop up. The scammer may charge you a fee or try to steal your personal information. If someone tries to charge you, tries to get you to disclose your personal information, or asks you to cash a check and send a portion to a third party to “claim your refund,” it’s a scam. Please call us at 855-411-CFPB (2372) to report the scam.

Eligible consumers will get a refund directly, typically by a credit to your account or a check.

We’re ordering JP Morgan Chase to refund $50 million and stop collecting on 528,000 accounts

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Today we’re ordering JP Morgan Chase to stop illegal debt collections practices. Along with the Attorneys General in 47 states and the District of Columbia, we found that Chase sold credit card accounts to debt buyers that included amounts that were inaccurate or debts not owed by the consumer. Debt buyers then sought to collect the faulty debts it purchased from Chase. We’re ordering Chase to reform its debt sales practices to prohibit it from selling certain types of debt, like old or disputed debts, and “zombie debt” which are debts that debt collectors repeatedly attempt to collect, even when it’s not collectible. Chase will also have to provide specific documentation to debt buyers when it does sell debts, and must prohibit its debt buyers from re-selling debts they buy from Chase.

Chase also filed more than 528,000 lawsuits against consumers to collect on debts, often using sworn documents that were “robo-signed” and not verified for accuracy. As a result, Chase must refund at least $50 million to consumers, stop collecting on all of these accounts, and include specific information when filing debt collection lawsuits in the future. Chase must also pay $136 million in penalties and payments to the CFPB and states.

Chase has already begun compensating consumers and will contact you if you are eligible for payment. If you have questions about your eligibility for your refund, or to find out if Chase is prohibited from collecting on your account, you can contact Chase.

Debt collection complaints remain high

Of all of the complaints we receive from consumers, debt collection is one of the largest categories.

If you don’t recognize a debt from a debt collector, you have certain rights to verify debt. You can send a letter to the debt collector to request more information. If you have a complaint about debt collection, you can submit a complaint online or by calling us at (855) 411-2372.

Sunshine for college credit card agreements

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Today, we’re releasing a report that looks at deals between financial institutions and colleges to market credit cards to students. Congress requires credit card companies to provide data on these agreements to the CFPB each year, and further requires the CFPB to look at these arrangements in an annual report.

This year we found that there are fewer schools marketing credit cards, and those that do are not making their agreements with credit card companies readily accessible to students.

College debit and prepaid card agreements have surpassed the number of credit card agreements

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 placed new restrictions on marketing credit cards to college students, and requires schools and credit card companies to disclose these agreements publicly. In 2009, there were more than a thousand such agreements in effect. By the end of last year, the number had fallen to 336. According to the Government Accountability Office, in 2013 there were at least 852 schools that had agreements to market debit or prepaid cards to students.

At the end of 2013, there were about 950,000 credit card accounts open under the terms of these agreements. At the end 2009, before the relevant provisions of the CARD Act took effect, there were more than 2 million such accounts. Payments by credit card companies to schools in connection with credit card marketing also declined from nearly $85 million in 2009 to under $43 million in 2013.

Bank of America is the dominant issuer in this market with four times as many credit card agreements in effect in 2013 as its closest competitor. The bank had more than 80 percent of all accounts open under such agreements with schools as of the end of 2013.

Most credit card agreements are with alumni associations

The number of new accounts originated in a given year has increased since 2012. Nearly three-quarters of this new account growth is accounted for by agreements between issuers and alumni associations, indicating that most new accounts likely are issued to alumni, not to students.

Schools may not be making their credit card agreements readily accessible to students

Today’s report also takes a look at how transparent colleges are being about these agreements. Credit card issuers are required to provide prior year agreements to the Bureau, but the law requires colleges and universities to disclose all their credit card agreements, including those currently in effect.

Our analysis shows that most colleges aren’t making it easy for students and the public to learn about what deals are in effect. Just seven of the 35 schools we looked at provided clear information on their websites to find this information. Using a reasonable search protocol, we were unable to locate online any information about such agreements for the remaining 80 percent of our school sample.

To evaluate the accessibility of agreements in the public domain, we identified schools with the largest number of total accounts and the largest enrollment from our agreement database – yielding 35 distinct schools with a combined total of over half a million students.

Next, we created a basic online search methodology to see if we could find the marketing deals – or information about how to obtain them – using a commercial search engine, the sitemap of the institution’s website, and, when it existed, the search engine function on the school website. We found that the overwhelming majority of schools provided no information on their website regarding the agreement. Only one of every five schools provided a link to their marketing deal or online guidance on how to obtain their marketing agreement with a credit card issuer.


Accessibility of agreements on school websites

80 percent of schools offer no website disclosure or guidance for requesting agreements. 14.3 percent offer guidance on their website on how to obtain the agreement. 5.7 percent disclose the agreement on their websites.

More transparency is needed

The CARD Act public disclosure requirement is limited to credit cards and doesn’t include other financial products marketed through schools. We have also called on financial institutions to publicly disclose agreements with schools to market other financial products to students, like debit cards, prepaid cards, and bank accounts. Making these agreements available for all financial products can help bring needed transparency to this market.

Get an in-depth view of this data by checking out the report.

Interested in whether your school or alma mater has a marketing deal with a credit card issuer? Check out our College Credit Card Agreement Database.

Have a problem with your credit card or other financial product? You can submit a complaint online or call (855) 411-2372.

New Project Catalyst research pilot to study early intervention credit counseling

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Today, we’re announcing a research pilot aimed at assessing the potential impact of early intervention credit counseling. We know that defaulting on credit card debt is a very stressful event for anyone and impacts consumers’ ability to access credit in the future. We’d like to use this opportunity to explore what ways may help consumers better manage their credit card debt and avoid default.

Many people who are having trouble paying their credit card debt could benefit from the help of credit counselors, who can help them create more practical budgets and more manageable schedules to repay debt.

Barclaycard (Barclays Bank Delaware) and Clarifi (Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley) have partnered on a pilot program in which Barclaycard will offer cardholders who may need help with managing their credit card debt the opportunity to get help from Clarifi. Cardholders can then choose to enroll in Clarifi’s credit counseling services at no cost to them. As part of our Project Catalyst initiative, Barclaycard and Clarifi have agreed to share insights from their trial project with us. The information shared by Barclaycard and Clarifi will be de-identified, and appropriate precautions will be taken to ensure that individual consumers cannot be identified through the data. The program can help inform our work and our understanding of what strategies may help consumers better manage their existing debt as well as improve their credit scores and their access to credit in the long run.

As part of Project Catalyst, we continue to encourage consumer-friendly innovations. Through collaborations such as this one, we’ll have the opportunity to improve our understanding of what works best for consumers in the consumer financial marketplace.

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.

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 on card security.