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How to Complain

Most Complained About Banks – We crunched the numbers

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  • Bank of America remains America’s most complained about bank
  • Ocwen has rapidly become America’s most complained about mortgage servicer. (Not surprising, given the mistakes they have made. If you are a customer, you could get money back from them. Find out more here.)
  • Citibank Credit Cards have the highest complaint ratio (complaints as a % of total credit cards)
  • Capital One received the most retail bank complaints per branch (with Bank of America a close second)
  • Experian is the most complained about credit bureau
  • Encore Capital Group is the most complained about debt collector

If you are having a problem with your bank, you can get help with your complaint from the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Just file your complaint online, and they will help you get answers – and maybe even money. I told the story of my friend, who had his credit history fixed and money reimbursed, in this DailyFinance article. The CFPB has received over 400,000 complaints since it was launched, providing a real alternative for people to get help.

The CFPB makes its complaint database public. To date, over 250,000 complaints have been made public (and more are being added to the database every day). At MagnifyMoney, we believe that public access to complaint data is a great public service. It enables people like us to identify trends, rank banks based upon complaints, and help consumers make good financial decisions.

Today we are pleased to release our analysis of the complaint database.

Over 76,000 complaints were made public during the first six months of the year. Of the big four banks, Bank of America remains the most complained about bank. 5,261 people complained about BofA. Wells Fargo received 4,834 complaints. Chase received 3,988 complaints and Citibank received 3,025.

What does this mean for you?

We have crunched the complaint numbers, and have the following tips:

  1. If Ocwen is your mortgage servicer (now the largest non-bank servicer in the country), you should pay close attention. They have a history of mistakes, which can be very costly. If you are having problems with Ocwen, don’t be shy. Complain to the CFPB, and tell Ocwen that you are going to complain to the CFPB. They are a bit touchy, given they have just been punished with a judgment of more than $2 billion due to their mistakes.

  2. If you are receiving calls from a collection agency, you have rights. And if someone like Encore Capital Group keeps calling you – and you don’t know why – don’t be afraid to raise the issue to the CFPB (and tell Encore that you are doing so).

  3. For choosing a retail bank, we have long argued that branch-free banking is the way to go. Traditional banks pay the lowest rates on savings accounts, charge the highest monthly and overdraft fees, and limit you to their ATM network. Look at our checking account and savings account pages to make your checking account free, earn the highest interest on your savings account, and ditch your traditional bank. Of the big banks, Chase has half as many complaints per branch at BofA. And PNC and US Bancorp always did well.

  4. Credit bureaus can make mistakes. You should check your credit report every year, and make sure that mistakes aren’t there. You are allowed to get a free report every year from all three bureaus, and make sure you do. To get the issue fixed, you can go straight to the bureau. But, if they don’t move quickly enough, use the CFPB.

  5. The biggest complaint categories for credit cards are billing disputes and ID fraud. Sign up for alerts with your credit card company (they can send you an email if a large purchase is made). You should also download your bank’s app so that you can keep an eye on spending. Any suspicious activity should be reported immediately – and you should keep a paper trail of your communication with your bank. The earlier you catch anything suspicious, the better.

At MagnifyMoney, we will continue to update the complaint database, and try to provide you  with useful tips based upon the data.

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Building Credit, How to Complain

Where To Dispute Your Credit Report Online

It has never been easier to dispute incorrect information on your credit reports online. You are now able to dispute information to all three credit reporting agencies online. We will provide you with instructions for each reporting agency below.

Just one warning: we highly recommend that you disputes online and in writing. If you do not like the outcome of the dispute, a paper trail will be very helpful for the dispute. And written letters, sent by certified mail, are much more effective. In addition to providing you with the online dispute information, we will also provide you with the mailing address for each credit reporting agency below.

TransUnion

You can dispute with TransUnion at dispute.transunion.com.

You can call them at 1-800-916-8800.

You can dispute in writing at this address:

TrasnUnion, LLC Consumer Dispute Center, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022

Equifax

You can dispute online with Equifax here.

You can dispute in writing at this address:

Equifax Information Services, LLC, PO Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374

Equifax does not provide a telephone number on their website. They tell you to refer to the telephone number provided on your credit report.

Experian

You can dispute online with Experian at http://www.experian.com/disputes/.

You can dispute in writing at this address:

Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center, PO Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013.

Experian has a customer service phone number, which is 1-866-200-6020.

The Process

If you want to dispute an item on your credit report, we recommend the following process.

First, download your most recent credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can obtain your free report at AnnualCreditReport.com.  You are allowed to download one free report every year. Don’t be fooled by the free credit score websites. In order to see what is on your credit report, you need to have your full report.

Once you identify the incorrect information, you should dispute in writing and online. When you draft your letter, make sure you keep a copy of your letter for your files. In addition, you should send the letter with certified mail so that you have proof of your correspondence. In your letter, please include as much information as possible. Credit reporting agencies are used to receiving many disputes from people who are just trying to get something legitimate removed. The more details you have and you can share, the better the chance of getting the right outcome during your first dispute.

The credit reporting agencies have 30 days to respond. If you do not like the response that you receive, you do not have to quit. Instead, you should share your complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can submit your complaint online here.

After you file your appeal with the credit reporting agency, you may want to appeal to the creditor as well. For example, if Capital One has an account that you do not believe is yours, you should send them a letter (also via certified mail) disputing the account. You should include as much information as possible in the letter, and let them know that you will also be disputing the information with the credit reporting agencies.

Once It Is Fixed

Once you get your credit reports fixed, you have the right to ask the credit reporting agencies to send updated information to anyone who requested a report in the last six months. For example, you may have applied for a job and been embarrassed by a collection item that did not belong to you. Once the information is cleared up on your credit report, the credit reporting agency could provide updated information to your employer.

Beware Disputes and Mortgages

If you are applying for a mortgage, you should be very careful before disputing an item on your credit report. For conforming mortgages (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), you often are unable to close a mortgage while a dispute is open. And disputes take time. That is another reason why it is important to keep an eye on your credit report regularly.

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Building Credit, Consumer Watchdog, How to Complain

NCTUE: The Database You Need To Know About

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All of us have been well trained: every year we need to download a free copy of our credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). However, there are over 400 databases out there capturing consumer information. And this information can end up in credit scores, insurance scores or other surprising places. If this information is incorrect, it could make your life more difficult and more expensive.

One database that is set to become very important is the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (or NCTUE). 70 of the largest cable companies, pay TV companies and other utilities joined together with Equifax to create a database. This database contains information about your payment history, including records of when you failed to make payments on time to your utility companies. The database contains both positive and negative information.

As you can imagine, not all of the data is accurate. The credit reporting industry does not have the best reputation. And neither does the cable industry. With this database, we have over 70 companies reporting information to Equifax on a regular basis. There definitely will be errors.

This database is going to become more important because FICO will likely start using NCTUE data in future scoring models.

There is good news: you have the ability to request a free copy of this report every year, just like a credit report. And there is a dispute process. We are all responsible for managing our own data, and it is highly recommended that people request their annual free copy, and immediately dispute any incorrect information. We will explain how to do both of those below.

Free Annual Copy Of Your Report

Unfortunately you can not request a copy online. There are two ways to request the report.

You can call 1-866-349-5185. Ask for the NCTUE Disclosure Report.

Otherwise, you can mail a request to the following address:

NCTUE Disclosure Report, PO Box 105161, Atlanta, GA 30374.

Security Freeze

Just like a standard credit report, you also have the ability to put a security freeze on this report. When you put a freeze on your report, it will prevent the NCTUE from sharing your information with the utility and telecommunication companies. If someone has stolen your identity and tries to open a telephone line with your information, for example, they would not be able to with a freeze.

You can complete a freeze online, at this website.

Fraud Alert

If you do not want to freeze your account, but you believe you may have been the victim of fraud, then consider adding a Fraud Alert to your account. With a fraud freeze, information will be passed along to the utility company. However, they will be made aware of the fraud alert and will be required to complete a higher level of verification.

To place a fraud freeze on your account, you can call 1-866-349-3233.

Dispute

If you see information in your credit report that does not look accurate, you have the right to dispute the information. When you receive your report (yes, it is a paper report), a Dispute Form will be included. Just fill out and return the dispute form to start the process.

Complaints?

If you are having issues with the NCTUE, we encourage you to complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They take complaints regarding credit reporting agencies, and this database should fall under that definition.

You can complain online, or via telephone. The phone number is 1-855-411-2372.

Or, register your complaint online here.

Other Databases

You can follow the same process with both your standard credit reports and the ChexSystems report.

You can get your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can dispute information found on your report here:

To check for a free copy of your ChexSystems report (which has information on bank accounts, including overdrafts, bounced checks and other negative information), visit this website. And you can dispute information here.

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How to Complain, Mortgage, News

CFPB Warns Consumers of Reverse Mortgage Problems

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As more Americans age, reverse mortgages are growing in popularity as a way for retirees to unlock the investment in their homes. 41% of Americans age 55-64 have no retirement savings account, and even those that do have a median balance of only $103,000. Yet homeowners over age 62 have nearly $4 trillion in equity in their homes, and that’s the source of retirement savings most people will ultimately rely on.

While smiling celebrity pitches make reverse mortgages them sound safe and appealing, they are riddled with fine print and traps for the uninitiated.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a report highlighting consumer complaints relating to reverse mortgages.

Some of the most common issues include:

Not being aware the loan can’t be taken over. When the last borrow dies, the loan comes due and must be repaid – either at the balance remaining or 95% of the property’s assessed value. That often means the house must be sold to cover the loan. Many surviving family members are unaware of this, and struggle with the fact that the home they were counting on keeping must be sold, as they are not eligible to take over the payments on the loan.

Not keeping up with property taxes and insurance. Many complaints arise when lenders claim property taxes are overdue, which put the mortgage in default, even though the taxes were paid. Families need to be diligent about making sure the loan servicer is keeping accurate records.

Younger generations living in the home and being surprised. Mortgage servicers want payment as soon as possible after the last borrower dies, leaving family members who may live in the borrower’s house in the lurch. They may feel pressured to take action that’s not in their best interest, and not understand all of the options available. In this situation, the CFPB advises contacting a Housing and Urban Development counselor to get a free assessment. You can find one near you here.

Inflated appraisals. Within 30 days of notification that the loan is due, the lender will send an appraiser to determine the home’s current value. The amount heirs have to pay is the lower of 95% of that appraised value or the remaining balance on the mortgage. Many complaints involve appraisals that are inflated and the don’t accurately reflect the value of the home, leaving the family paying more than it’s truly worth. This is especially a problem in situations when house prices have declined since the reverse mortgage was taken, and the appraised value is lower than the remaining balance of the loan.

Even the best planning won’t avoid every sticky issue with a reverse mortgage.

If your family is having problems with a reverse mortgage, and the servicer is giving you the runaround, the CFPB is available to help.

Simply use the CFPB complaint form to tell them about your problem, and who the servicer is.

The servicer will be required to respond to the CFPB with the status of your complaint by law, and you’ll often get a faster response than if you try contacting the servicer on your own.

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How to Complain

Ocwen Loan Servicing Settlement: Apply Now Online

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Ocwen Loan Servicing is the 4th largest mortgage servicing company in the country. That name will be familiar to millions of people across the country who make their mortgage payments to Ocwen every month.

As we reported here, Ocwen is now the most complained about mortgage company in the country. And we should not be surprised: negligence and incompetence at Ocwen has caused harm to countless families. It is so bad at Ocwen, that the CFPB has ordered Ocwen to:​

  • Forgive $2 billion of principal balance for its customers, and
  • Pay $125 million to people who have already lost their homes

Where did Ocwen do wrong? In short – they built a machine that was very good at foreclosing homes, but not very good at working with customers to avoid foreclosure. Examples include:

  • Not making people aware of ways to avoid foreclosure
  • Not acting upon a loan modification application, and proceeding straight to foreclosure
  • Turning people down for loan modifications in error
  • Foreclosing on homes, even though people were making payments under the terms of a trial modification

Ocwen also has a history of overcharging delinquent customers and losing loan payments. The list goes on. It is no wonder that Ocwen has been told that it can no longer acquire new mortgage portfolios until it cleans up its own house.

The good news is that money is now available to help people who have suffered from Ocwen’s incompetence.

  • If you are still in your home, you may be able to have the balance of your mortgage reduced (principal reduction). $2 billion is being forgiven.
  • If you already lost your home to foreclosure (and shouldn’t have), then you could receive a cash payment. A fund of $125 million has been created to pay victims.

Making sure that the claims are paid out is the responsibility of the National Ocwen Settlement Administrator. You can call them at 1-866-783-5382 for general questions. But, the good news is that you can file a claim online. And, remember: if you do not file a claim, you will not receive a settlement.

You should have received (or will be receiving shortly) a letter from Ocwen letting you know that you are eligible to file a claim. On the form, you will see a Claimant ID number, which is required to file the claim. If you think you are eligible for a claim but have not received a letter, then call 1-866-783-5382.

If you have received the letter, then we think the best way to file is online.  You can do that here.

If for some reason you are not satisfied with the way your claim is being handled, then you can complain to the CFPB directly on their website.

Finally, make sure you DO NOT pay anyone to help you with your claim. A lot of scam artists out there will tell you that they can get you more money or better deals. They can’t. Just submit your claim directly to the claims administration so that you can get the money that you are owed.

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How to Complain

The Most Complained About Banks

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established by Congress in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB has a big job: protect any consumer who uses a financial product or service. How does the CFPB protect consumers? They write rules that banks must follow and they fine banks when they don’t follow the rules. Only a small part of the fine goes to the government: the biggest portion is actually refunded to the people who were victims. To date, the CFPB has put over $3 billion into the pockets of everyday Americans.

But the CFPB also does something that we find very exciting: they will handle your complaints. We think this is amazing for 3 reasons:

  1. Banks will be held accountable. Speaking to the manager is no longer the last line of defense. If you have suffered a serious grievance – you have a real alternative to the bank.
  2. The CFPB can see complaint trends. Why is that important? Complaints are usually a great way to figure out if there is a systematic problem. If, all of sudden, thousands of people start complaining about a small bank charging lots of hidden fees – then the CFPB can use those complaints as a clue to investigate the bank. When I used to run a credit card business, I would use complaint data internally to find out where we got things wrong.
  3. The CFPB shares the data publicly – including the names of the banks. We think this is the best part of the story. Airlines are constantly ranked based upon their on-time performance. Why can’t we do the same thing for complaints about banks? When I lived in the UK, the complaint data would be front-page news.

At MagnifyMoney, we love that the CFPB manages complaints and publishes the data. We want to help the CFPB advance their mission. We have put together a simple guide on How to Complain. Don’t be afraid to make the CFPB work for you!

Monthly Reports

Starting today, MagnifyMoney will be publishing a monthly report on the most complained about banks. Here are some of the most interesting findings for this month:

  • Bank of America received more complaints than any other institution. A total of 35,847 complaints have been made
  • 5 of the Top 10 Most Complained About Banks are not banks!
    • 2 are mortgage companies: Nationstar and Ocwen
    • 3 are credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
  • The most complained about product: mortgages
  • During the first 3 months of 2014, Ocwen actually received more complaints than Bank of America.  Ocwen is a mortgage-servicing company.
  • Debt collection has rapidly risen and is now the second most complained about topic. The worst offender: a company called Encore Capital Group. Banks will sell your debt to companies like Encore Capital.
  • Experian is the most complained about credit bureau – having received 8,630 complaints
  • When adjusted for the number of branches, Capital One is the most complained about bank. They received more than one complaint for every branch that they operate.
  • When adjusted for the number of credit cards outstanding, Citibank received more complaints than any other issuer
    • The top 3 credit card complaints: Billing Disputes, Interest Rate and Identity Theft
  • In absolute numbers, New York has sent more complaints to the CFPB than any other region
  • When adjusted for the number of people, Miami had the highest per capital complaint ratio

 

 

CFPB Data on Most Complained about Banks: See more details

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How to Complain

Social Media Amplifies Your Voice to Get Complaints Heard

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There is a nuanced art to complaining and getting results from a company.  A few years ago, you could call a customer service line, write a letter or shoot an email into the abyss with the faintest hope that someone might be inclined to help you resolve your issue. Those with a major issue might get a lawyer to assist in their struggles. Gone are the days of waiting on hold for an hour listening to awful muzak before a customer service rep tells you he can’t do anything for you.  It can take as few as seconds now, thanks to social media, which provided a game-changer in the war of getting a major company to recognize they’ve mistreated you.

Going up against a major company

In February of 2013 a winter storm named for an orange fish in a children’s movie came ripping through the Northeast. Several feet of snow crippled transportation in and out of New York City, leaving would-be-travelers stranded. As a New York City dweller, I was stranded in the comfort of my own home, but it provided little solace when I realized the major airline I’d booked travel through did not intend on refunding my fare.

To set the stage: my attempt at frugal travel had me departing New York City by bus to reach my destination in upstate New York. I had booked a flight back for two days later.

Nemo’s winter chaos cancelled my bus trip (for which I was refunded) but the storm had cleared up by the time I would have returned two days later so my flight wouldn’t be cancelled affording me a refund.

I called the airline’s customer service line and explained the storm had prevented me from reaching my destination, so I wouldn’t be there to board the return flight. A semi-polite representative told me that was unfortunate, but I’d have to forfeit the cost of my ticket with no refund.

In a black-and-white scenario, I understood the airline’s position. The storm did not cancel the flight I had booked, so they shouldn’t have to refund me just because the storm prevented me from getting there. Plus, I didn’t use one of their planes to reach my destination.

After two attempts at resolving the issue through the airline’s customer service line, hoping a combination of my sob story and being a loyal flyer would illicit a kind gesture, I changed my tactic.

I decided to pull a typical millennial move and vented my frustration on Twitter.

Getting Social

Tagging the offending airline in the tweet, I used my 140 characters to sum up how Nemo had disrupted my travel plans and I wished the airline would reward my loyalty with understanding by offering me a refund or travel credit.

Within 10 minutes, a member of their social media team made contact with me and asked that I send my email address in a direct message on Twitter so they could attempt to resolve my issue.

Thirty minutes later I had a travel credit for the cost of the flight I would be unable to board. I tweeted my thanks to the airline and still fly with them today.

Why companies react to social media

Social media is by no means the only way to try and resolve your complaint, but it’s an incredibly effective tool. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and similar platforms all amplify your voice to reach thousands to potentially millions of people.

Dealing with a bank-related issue isn’t much different than travel related frustrations. You may feel utterly helpless or completely ignored when it comes to going through typical customer service channels to draw attention to your complaint or issue. This is why social media is such a valuable tool for the average consumer. Social media can provide companies with easy public relations wins or become an absolute nightmare within seconds.

Major companies from all sectors have experienced the embarrassment of trending on Twitter or losing hundreds to thousands of Facebook fans after an inappropriate or ill-timed post caused a backlash from consumers.

Fearing the amplified voice of social media, most banks have dedicated social media teams that work to field complaints (or compliments) sent to them via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

How to use social media to complain

If you plan to use social media to get your bank’s attention, be sure you’re going about the process the right way.

  • Don’t just vent or threaten

Expressing your outrage might feel good, but it’s better to approach the situation diplomatically and mention being a loyal customer but that you’re disappointed with how you’ve been treated.

  • Using the appropriate mentions and hashtags

If you don’t “at mention” or “tag” your financial institution in the tweet or Facebook post, then it will likely just get lost. You should also look to see if your bank has a specific handle for customer support. Chase for example has their team responding to customer complaints from the @ChaseSupport handle. If you have an issue that many other people are experiencing, look to see if a trending hashtag exists that you can use to amplify your voice.

  • Don’t give away personal information in a public forum

Never divulge personal details like credit card or social security numbers on social media.

  • Thank them for their help

If using social media resolves your issue, then be sure to publically thank your bank. For example: Thanks @Chase and @ChaseSupport for helping me resolve my billing cycle issue so quickly.

What happens if social media doesn’t resolve your problem?

If using the powers of social media doesn’t resolve the situation, then you still have another major player at your disposal.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was established to help and protect you. You can reach out to the CFPB to be an advocate on your behalf and try to resolve the situation.

It doesn’t hurt to mention to your bank (via social media or on the phone) that you’ll be filing an official complaint with the CFPB. Banks may be big, and sometimes feel like bullies, but they aren’t fans of getting publically reprimanded. Find more information about how to utilize the CFPB here.

Have you used social media amplify your complaint? Tell us about it in the comment section or on Twitter/Facebook/Google+!

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