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Behind the numbers: Servicemember complaints

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14,100. Sounds like a random number, doesn’t it? But to us, 14,100 represents the number of servicemembers, veterans and their family members whose stories have come to us through their consumer complaints.

I emphasize the word “stories” because each complaint is much more than a case number. Behind those case numbers are servicemembers with questions about mortgages, military spouses seeking to invoke consumer legal protections on behalf of their deployed spouse, veterans desperately fighting scams that threaten to steal their retirement income, and many more members of the military community with compelling, sometimes heartbreaking, real-life stories.

In the Snapshot of complaints received from servicemembers, veterans, and their families that we’re releasing today, you’ll find the types and trends of military consumer complaints that the CFPB has handled since opening our doors in July 2011. We have received complaints from all 50 states and from all branches and ranks of the military. Our complaint volume increased 148 percent from 2012 to 2013 as we spread the word about the resources that we provide to the military community. Mortgages continue to top the cumulative volume of complaints handled to date.

However, newer categories of complaints we began accepting last year, such as debt collection and payday loans, have climbed steadily and now factor prominently into our complaint totals. In fact, since we began taking debt collection complaints in July 2013, debt collection has quickly become the highest volume complaint category for military consumers over the last seven months. Within the report you will find a breakdown of the complaints by product as well as the top issues within each product for military consumers.

More than a million dollars in relief

Contained within the report are company-reported monetary relief amounts. The amounts vary by product, but, overall, military consumers have received more than $1 million in monetary relief. We’ve also assisted many military consumers in obtaining non-monetary relief, such as correcting credit report errors, in a number of cases helping to address problems that may have been affecting the consumer for months or even years.

At the Office of Servicemember Affairs we work to monitor consumer complaints submitted by the military community and the resolutions to those complaints. Simply put, our job is to keep an eye on the consumer financial issues causing servicemembers, veterans, and military families to come to us for help, and to see if those issues are addressed through our complaint system. Our snapshot report gives you an idea of the numbers of complaints submitted as well as how the companies have responded.

If you’re a member of the military community who needs assistance with a consumer financial issue, or you know a servicemember, veteran, or military spouse in that situation, think about submitting a complaint. Even if you don’t have a complaint, and you just want to share an experience in the financial market place, consider telling us your story. We’re listening.

Now you have better options to dispute a credit report error

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If you’re trying to correct an error in your credit report at one of the nation’s largest credit reporting companies, there is some good news. Recently, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion added a function to their dispute-handling system that makes it easier for you to explain your dispute.

Now you can upload, mail, or fax any supporting documents you have to explain the errors in your credit report.

Why you should care about correcting your credit report

Credit reports play a part in most major consumer lending decisions– including mortgage loans, auto loans, credit cards, and private student loans.

If there is inaccurate information in your report, it could cause a lender to offer you an interest rate that is less favorable than it would otherwise offer.  Some inaccuracies could even lead lenders to turn you down entirely.

Every year, millions of Americans exercise their right to dispute their credit report. In 2011, for example, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion collectively received about 8 million requests disputing the accuracy of information in credit reports.

Since October 2012, when we started taking credit reporting complaints, we’ve handled about 31,000 complaints from consumers frustrated with credit reporting companies. The majority of those complaints have been about the accuracy and completeness of credit reports.

What’s different?

Now, you can provide supporting documents such as a paid bill, a letter you wrote explaining the issue, a police report, or proof of identity information, or other correspondence.

Including relevant supporting documents can be important because it allows you to provide evidence that supports your dispute.

Credit reporting companies must forward your dispute, including all relevant information, to the furnisher (the company that originally gave the information to the credit reporting companies). If the furnisher corrects your information because of your dispute, it must correct that information with every credit reporting company with whom it has a relationship.

Check your credit report

So, if you haven’t done so recently, get your free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Check for errors. And if you find an error, use your own words and supporting documentation to explain your dispute. You can also submit a complaint with us.

We’re protecting students from predatory lending

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Today, we filed a lawsuit against ITT Educational Services, Inc., accusing the for-profit college chain of predatory student lending. We believe that ITT used high-pressure tactics to push many students into expensive private student loans that were likely to end in default.

This is our first public enforcement action against a company in the for-profit college industry.

“Today’s action should serve as a warning to the for-profit college industry that we will be vigilant about protecting students against predatory lending tactics,” said Director Richard Cordray.

You can read the press release, read Director Cordray’s full remarks, and view the formal complaint against ITT.

You can also watch a recording of today’s press conference.

Extended deadline: Apply to our Community Bank Advisory Council and Credit Union Advisory Council

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If you’re considering applying to our Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC) and Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC), you still have time to apply. We’re extending the application deadline by two weeks. All applications for our CBAC and CUAC must be received by March 14, 2014.

Submit an application

If you missed the earlier announcement, here’s what we’re looking for.

Live from Atlanta!

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We held a field hearing on workplace financial education in Atlanta. Part of America Saves Week, the hearing was an opportunity for us to get public input on promising practices for delivering financial education in the workplace.

The live event has now ended.

We held this event with the U.S. Departments of Labor and Treasury. It featured opening remarks, followed by panel discussions with academic and business experts about improving employee financial capability through workplace financial education. The hearing also featured remarks from Director Richard Cordray.

A recording of the event is available below.

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