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Special notice for Corinthian students

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Today, we announced a lawsuit against for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, Inc. We allege that the company lured in tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services. Our lawsuit also alleges that Corinthian used illegal debt collection tactics to strong-arm students into paying back those loans while still in school.

Corinthian Colleges, Inc. is one of the largest for-profit college companies in the United States, operating more than 100 school campuses under the names Everest, Heald, and WyoTech.

Today, we’re also publishing a special notice for current and former Corinthian students to help you navigate your options in this time of uncertainty, including information on loan discharge options.

If you experience difficulty with your student loan you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372. You can also find more information about options for repaying your student loan on our website.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Three years of standing up for consumers

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in the wake of the financial meltdown to stand up for consumers, make sure they’re treated fairly, and restore trust in the consumer financial marketplace.

Our focus is on making financial markets work for American consumers — whether they’re applying for a mortgage, borrowing for college, choosing a credit card, or using any number of other consumer financial products.

We officially opened our doors on July 21, 2011 — three years ago today. Since then, we’ve used a range of tools in our toolbox to protect consumers: writing rules of the road, supervising and enforcing those rules, responding to consumer complaints, and much more.

Here’s a look at our work so far by the numbers.

Helping consumers help themselves

When we opened in 2011, we immediately launched a system to collect consumer complaints. Since then, we have handled over 400,000 complaints in multiple languages about credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and services, student loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, payday loans, vehicle and other consumer loans – and most recently, prepaid cards.

In many cases we’re able to get people some relief – either money back or things like correcting their credit report or stopping harassing phone calls by debt collectors. Our Consumer Complaint Database allows you to see what consumers complained about and why, as well as how and when the company in question responds.

We’ve developed many other consumer resources too, including:

Here’s more about our efforts to help consumers help themselves.

Establishing strong consumer protections

Risky mortgage lending contributed to the crash of the American economy, and shoddy mortgage servicing practices compounded the misery by pushing many consumers into foreclosure. Since opening our doors, we’ve been hard at work establishing new, common-sense mortgage rules to protect consumers at every stage of the process – from shopping for a loan, to closing on a mortgage, to paying it back. These rules represent a back-to-basics approach to the mortgage market.

We’ve also written rules with new protections for consumers of money transfers and credit cards, as well as new rules to supervise larger nonbank debt collectors, credit reporting agencies, and student loan servicers for the first time at the federal level.

In the years ahead, we’ll be shifting to focus on rules that root out deception, debt traps, and dead ends across markets. The goal is a marketplace where the costs and risks are clear, and no consumer is harmed by unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.

Here’s more on our efforts to write rules that establish strong consumer protections.

Enforcing consumer protection laws

In addition to providing consumer resources and writing rules, we enforce federal consumer financial protection laws and work to hold bad actors accountable for their actions. To date, our enforcement actions have resulted in $4.6 billion in relief for roughly 15 million consumers harmed by illegal practices.

Through our credit card enforcement actions, we’ve returned nearly $1.8 billion to millions of consumers harmed by deceptive marketing and enrollment, unfair billing, and discriminatory credit card practices. In mortgage servicing, we’ve ordered $2.6 billion in relief for consumers harmed by systematic misconduct by mortgage servicers. We’ve also taken action against firms illegally taking advantage of consumers struggling with debt, helping other companies collect illegal fees from consumers, and using predatory or deceptive lending and debt collection practices.

Here’s more on our enforcement of consumer protection laws.

With our full set of tools, we’re looking to create a marketplace where costs and risks are clear, and no consumer is harmed by unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.

Thanks to so many of you for your birthday wishes. Time for us to blow out the candles and get back to work!

Three years of standing up for consumers