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How to Complain

Most Complained About Banks – We crunched the numbers

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Analysis of CFPB DATA

  • 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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at

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Featured, How to Complain, Strategies to Save

Debt Buyers Reveal Just How Far They’re Willing to Go to Settle Unpaid Debts

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Tens of millions of Americans are pursued by debt buyers, speculators who buy the rights to collect their overdue bills. Yet few consumers realize this growing segment of the collection industry may offer them a chance to slash their delinquent debts by as much as 75%.

A MagnifyMoney investigation examined the business practices of debt buyers as detailed in disclosures to their investors. Here’s how the game is played:

  • Buyers purchase massive bundles of unpaid consumer debts with face values that often total billions of dollars. Those are the bills that banks, credit card companies, and other creditors give up trying to collect.
  • Those debts are bought at deeply discounted prices, averaging roughly 8 cents on the dollar.
  • The buyers only expect to recover a fraction of the original amounts owed. Their target is to recover from 2 to 3 times more than they paid.

The bottom line: Debt buyers can turn profits that meet their goals by collecting merely 16% to 24% of the original face values. That knowledge can be useful to savvy debtors who choose to negotiate a settlement for less.

Debt buyers “absolutely” have more flexibility in negotiating with consumers, says Sheryl Wright, senior vice president of Encore Capital Group, the nation’s largest debt buyer. Encore offers most debtors a 40% discount to settle, according to the company’s website.

“There could be an advantage in terms of negotiating a favorable settlement,” says Lisa Stifler of the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit consumer advocate. “Debt buyers are willing to – and generally do – accept lower amounts.”

Stifler warned that debtors should be cautious in all interactions with debt buyers and collectors. (See “Tips to fight back against debt buyers and debt collectors” later in this article.)

In the world of debt buying, the numbers can vary. The price of bad debt portfolios ranged from 5 to 15 cents on the dollar during the past two years, according to corporate disclosures of debt buyers. The variables include the age of debt, size of account, type of loan, previous collection attempts, geographic location, and data about debtors – plus shifts of supply and demand in the bad debt marketplace.

What remains constant is the debt buyers’ goal of recovering 2 to 3 times more than the purchase price they pay for the accounts.

It is a different business model than that of traditional debt collection agencies, contractors that pursue bills for a percentage of what they recover. In contrast, debt buyers may often be more willing to wheel and deal to settle accounts with consumers.

Debt buyers raked in $3.6 billion in revenue last year – about one-third of the nation’s debt collections, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s latest annual report.

Information is scarce on the inner workings of hundreds of debt buyers who operate in the U.S. An accurate count is not available since only 17 states require buyers to be licensed.

Of the more than 575 debt buyers that belong to the industry’s trade association, only three are publicly traded entities required to file disclosures last year with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. MagnifyMoney looked into reports from two of those companies and found telling insights into an industry typically secretive about its practices.

An “Encore” of unpaid bills

Encore owns nearly 36 million open accounts of consumer debt in the U.S. through its subsidiaries Midland Credit Management, Midland Funding, Asset Acceptance, and Atlantic Credit & Finance.

During 2016, Encore invested $900 million to buy debt with a face value of $9.8 billion – or 9 cents per dollar. On average, the corporation recovers 2.5 times more than it pays for debt portfolios – the equivalent of 22.5 cents per dollar owed, according to its annual report to the SEC.

In that disclosure, the San Diego-based operation details how it tries to get debtors to pay.

Encore boasts that its proprietary “decision science” enables it “to predict a consumer’s willingness and ability to repay his or her debt.” It obtains “detailed information” about debtors’ “credit, savings or payment behavior,” then analyzes “demographic data, account characteristics and economic variables.”

“We pursue collection activities on only a fraction of the accounts we purchase,” stated Encore. “Consumers who we believe are financially incapable of making any payments … are excluded from our collection process.”

The rest of the debtors can expect to hear from Encore’s collectors. But the company knows most won’t respond.

“Only a small number of consumers who we contact choose to engage with us,” Encore explained. “Those who do are often offered discounts on their obligations or are presented with payment plans that are intended to suit their needs.”

While the company offers most debtors discounts of 40% to settle, relatively few take advantage of that opportunity.

“The majority of consumers we contact do not respond to our calls and letters, and we must then make the decision about whether to pursue collection through legal action,” Encore stated. In its annual report, the company disclosed it spent $200 million for legal costs last year.

In a written response to questions from MagnifyMoney, Encore refused to reveal the number of lawsuits it has filed or the amount of money it has recovered as a result of that litigation.

“We ultimately take legal action in less than 5% of all of our accounts,” says Wright. If Encore has sued 5% of its 36 million domestic open accounts, the total would be roughly 1.8 million court cases.

Portfolio Recovery Associates has acquired a total of 43 million consumer debts in the U.S. during the past 20 years. Behind Encore, it ranks as the nation’s second-largest debt buyer.

Its parent company, PRA Group Inc. of Norfolk, Va., paid $900 million last year to buy debts with a face value of $10.5 billion – or 8 cents on the dollar, according to its 2016 annual report. Its target is to collect a multiple of 2 to 3 times what it paid.

It is a high-stakes investment. The company must satisfy its own creditors since it borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to buy other people’s unpaid debts. PRA Group reported $1.8 billion in corporate indebtedness last year.

PRA Group declined an opportunity to respond to questions from MagnifyMoney. In lieu of an interview, spokeswoman Nancy Porter requested written questions. But the company then chose not to provide answers.

Asta Funding Inc., the only other publicly traded debt buyer, did not respond to interview requests from MagnifyMoney.

Tips to fight back against debt buyers and debt collectors

All types of bill collectors have a common weakness: They often know little about the accounts they chase. And that’s a primary reason for many of the 860,000 consumer complaints against collectors last year, according to a database kept by the Federal Trade Commission.

Be sure the debt is legitimate first

In dealing with collectors, you should begin by questioning whether the debt is legitimate and accurate. You can also ask who owns the debt and how they obtained the right to collect it.

In 2015, Portfolio agreed to pay $19 million in consumer relief and $8 million in civil penalties as a result of an action by the CFPB.

“Portfolio bought debts that were potentially inaccurate, lacking documentation or unenforceable,” stated the CFPB. “Without verifying the debt, the company collected payments by pressuring consumers with false statements and churning out lawsuits using robo-signed court documents.”

One unemployed 51-year-old mother in Kansas City, Mo. fought back and won a big judgment in court.

Portfolio mistakenly sued Maria Guadalujpe Mejia for a $1,100 credit card debt owed by a man with a similar sounding name. Despite evidence it was pursuing the wrong person, the company refused to drop the lawsuit.

Mejia countersued Portfolio. Outraged by the company’s bullying tactics, a court awarded her $83 million in damages. In February, the company agreed to settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

Challenge the debt in writing

Within 30 days of first contact by a collector, you have the right to challenge the debt in writing. The collector is not allowed to contact you again until it sends a written verification of what it believes you owe.

Negotiate a settlement

If the bill is correct, you can attempt to negotiate a settlement for less, a sometimes lengthy process that could take months or years. By starting with low offers, you may leave more room to bargain.

Communicate with collectors in writing and keep copies of everything. On its website, the CFPB offers sample letters of how to correspond with collectors.

As previously noted, debt buyers generally have more leeway to negotiate settlements since they actually own the accounts. A partial list of debt buyers can be found online at DBA International.

In contrast, collection agencies working on contingency may be more restricted in what they can offer. They need to collect enough to satisfy the expectations of creditors plus cover their own fee.

As part of a settlement, the debt buyer or collector may offer a discount, a payment plan allowing the consumer to pay over time, or a combination of the two.

“Through this process, we use a variety of options, not just one approach or another, to create unique solutions that help consumers work toward long-term financial well-being and improve their quality of life,” says Encore’s Wright.

A settlement doesn’t guarantee the debt will be scrubbed from your credit report

To encourage settlements, Encore recently announced that it would remove negative information from the credit reports of consumers two years after they paid or settled their debts. Traditionally, the negative “tradelines” remain on credit reports for seven years.

“We believe the changes in our credit reporting policy provide a tangible solution to help our consumers move toward a better life,” says Wright.

However, Encore’s new policy does nothing to speed up the removal of any negative information reported by the original creditor from whom the company bought the debt.

Check your state’s statute of limitations on unpaid debts

Before any payment or negotiation, check to see if the statute of limitations has expired on the debt. That is the window of time for when you can be sued; it varies from state to state and generally ranges from three to six years.

If the statute of limitations on your debt has expired, you may legally owe nothing. If the expiration is nearing, you can have extra leverage in negotiating a settlement. But be careful: A partial payment can restart the statute in some states and lengthen the time a black mark remains on your credit record.

Respond promptly if the company decides to sue

If you are sued over the debt, be sure to respond by the deadline specified in the court papers. If you answer, the collector will have to prove you owe the money.

If you don’t timely answer the complaint, the burden of proof may switch to you. A judge may enter a default judgment against you – or even sign a court order to garnish your paycheck.

Seek help from a lawyer or legal aid service if you have questions, but be careful of where you turn for help. The CFPB warns consumers to be wary of debt collection services that charge money in advance to negotiate on your behalf. They often promise more than they can deliver and get paid no matter what happens.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Mark Lagerkvist
Mark Lagerkvist |

Mark Lagerkvist is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Mark here

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Health, How to Complain, Life Events

Here’s Everything You Should Know About Term Life Insurance

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Shot of a group of people warming up outdoors

The majority of healthy Americans can use term life insurance policies to get sufficient coverage in place for anywhere from $15 to $100 a month. Most (85%) American consumers believe that most people need life insurance, but just over 60% carry a policy. Even among those who carry a life insurance policy, the amount covered is frequently not enough.

Term life insurance is a low-cost way for individuals with financial dependents to meet those people’s needs even after death. But it can be confusing to understand what it is and what it covers.

When to Consider Life Insurance

Anyone who has a financial dependent should consider buying life insurance if they don’t have the assets available to cover their dependent’s financial needs in the event of their death.

There are five major events that create financial dependence and may justify the purchase of life insurance. These events include:

  1. Taking on unsecured debt with a co-signer
  2. Taking on secured debt with a co-signer
  3. Marriage
  4. Having a child
  5. Moving to a single income

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

Term life insurance is the cheapest form of life insurance, but carrying too much life insurance is a waste of money. The exact amount you decide to carry will depend on your risk tolerance and the size of your financial obligations. In this article we offer rules of thumb that can help you calculate the financial loss associated with your death.

Most life insurance companies and brokers also offer life insurance calculators, but these calculators rely on averages. Since each person’s situation is different, it can be valuable to create an estimate on your own.

Unsecured debt with a co-signer

If you’ve taken on unsecured debt (like student loans) with a co-signer and you don’t have sufficient cash or investments to cover the debt, then consider purchasing life insurance in the amount that is co-signed. The beneficiary of this policy should be the person who co-signed the loan with you.

For example, if your parents have taken out $50,000 in loans via a Parent PLUS Loan or private loans, then you should take out a $50,000 policy with your parents as the beneficiaries. In most cases involving unsecured debt with a co-signer, a short term (such as 10-15 years) will be the most cost-effective option for covering this debt.

Secured debt with a co-signer

Secured debts (like a mortgage or a car loan) have some form of capital that could be sold to pay off most or all of the loans, but you still might want to consider taking out life insurance for these types of debts.

While your co-signer can sell the asset, pay off the debt, and become financially whole, that may not be the right choice for your situation (especially if the co-signer is your spouse).

For example, a couple that takes out $200,000 for a 30-year mortgage may decide to each take out a $200,000, 30-year term life insurance policy. This policy will allow either spouse to continue to live in the house in the event of the other’s death.


Marriage isn’t a financial transaction, but it brings about financial interdependence. In the event of your death, the last thing you want your spouse to be concerned about is their finances.

Couples without children who both work aren’t financially dependent on each other, but many people would still like to provide their spouse 1-3 years’ worth of income in life insurance to cover time off from work, final expenses, and expenses associated with transitioning houses or apartments.

A couple who each earn $40,000 per year, and who have $20,000 outside of their retirement accounts, can consider purchasing life insurance policies between $20,000-$100,000 in life insurance to provide for the other’s financial needs in the event of their death.

Having a child

Because children are financially dependent on their parents, parents should carry life insurance to cover the costs of raising their children in the event of a parent’s death.

The estimated cost of raising a child from birth to 18 is $245,000, so it is reasonable for each parent to carry a policy of $100,000-$250,000 per child. It is especially important to note that stay-at-home parents should not neglect life insurance since their death may represent a big financial loss to their family (manifested in increased child care costs).

The beneficiary of this life insurance policy should be the person who would care for your child in the event of your death. Sometimes this will be your spouse, but sometimes it will be your child’s other parent, or a trust set up in your child’s name.

If a couple has two children under age 5, and $50,000 in accounts outside of retirement, then each parent should have between $150,000 and $450,000 in life insurance. Parents of older children may choose to take out smaller policies or forego the policy altogether.

Income dependence

If your spouse is dependent upon your income to meet their financial needs, then it is important to purchase enough life insurance to care for their immediate and ongoing financial needs in the event of your death. If you are the exclusive income earner in your house or if you co-own a business with your spouse that requires each of you to play a role that the other cannot play, then your death would yield a tremendous financial loss for several years or more.

In order to estimate the size of policy needed in this situation, there are a few guidelines to consider. According to the well-respected Trinity Study, if you invest 25 times your family’s annual expenditures in a well-diversified portfolio, then your portfolio has a high likelihood of providing for their needs (accounting for inflation) for at least 30 years. A policy worth 25 times your annual income, less the assets you have invested outside of retirement accounts, is the maximum policy size you should consider.

Many people choose to take out even less than this because their spouse will eventually choose to return to work. A second rule of thumb is that the total amount of life insurance for which your spouse is the beneficiary should be worth 10-12 times your annual income. A policy of this size would reasonably provide money to pay for living and education expenses (if your spouse needs to re-train to enter the workforce) for many years without damaging your spouse’s prospects of retirement.

Based on these rules of thumb, if you earn $100,000 and your family’s expenses are $70,000 per year, and your spouse is a stay-at-home parent, then you should have enough life insurance to pay out between $1 million and $1.75 million (remember to subtract the values of any other policies or non-retirement assets above when calculating this amount).

How to Shop for Life Insurance

After deciding on the amount of insurance you need, and the terms you need, you can start shopping for the best policy for you. Although it’s possible to shop around for the best insurance, MagnifyMoney recommends that most people connect with a life insurance broker. For this report, every quote received from a broker was within a few cents of the quote received directly from the insurance company.

If you tell a broker exactly what you want, they can pull up quotes from a dozen or more reputable companies to get you the most cost-effective insurance given your health history. This is especially important if you have some health restrictions.

People with standard health (usually driven by high blood pressure or obesity, or many family health problems) may find some difficulty finding low rates, but brokers can help connect them with the right companies.

People with “substandard health” because of obesity, high blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol, those suffering from current health issues, or people recently in remission from major illnesses will not qualify for term life insurance.

Top Three Life Insurance Brokers

  1. PolicyGenius – PolicyGenius is an online-only broker with an easy-to-use process and helpful policy information. Users give no contact information until they are ready to purchase a policy. PolicyGenius’s system saves data, so users don’t have to re-enter time and again. It is very easy to compare prices and policies before applying.
  2. Quotacy – Quotacy is an online-only life insurance broker with connections to more term life insurance companies than most other life insurance companies. Quotacy offers quick and easy forms to fill out, and they do not require that you give contact information until you are ready to purchase a policy. Unfortunately, they do not fully vet out the policies, so you may need to ask an agent questions before completing a purchase.
  3. AccuQuote – AccuQuote is an online-based brokerage company that specializes in life insurance products. Unlike the online-only brokerage systems, their quotes are completed through a brokerage agent via a phone call. People who prefer some human interaction will find that AccuQuote emphasizes customer service and offers the same price points as online-only competitors.

Top Life Insurance Companies

For those who prefer to shop for life insurance without the aid of a broker, these are the top five companies to consider before purchasing a policy. Each of these companies allow you to begin an application online though you may need to connect with an agent for more details (including a rate quote).

To be a top life insurance issuer, companies had to offer the lowest rates on 30-year term insurance for preferred plus or preferred health levels, and be A+ rated through the Better Business Bureau.

  1. Allianz – Allianz offers the lowest rates for both Preferred and Preferred Plus customers, but they do require you to contact an agent or a broker for a quote.
  2. Thrivent Financial – Thrivent Financial offers the lowest rates for Preferred Plus customers, but they require you to contact an agent before they will confirm your rate.
  3. American National – American National offers among the lowest rates with Preferred and Preferred Plus customers, and they work closely with all major online brokers. You must contact an agent to get a quote directly from them.
  4. Banner Life Insurance (a subsidiary of Legal & General America) – Banner Life Insurance offers an online quote portal and very low rates for Preferred Plus customers. They also seem to be a bit more lenient on the line than other customers for considering Preferred Plus (not considering family history).
  5. Prudential – Prudential offers an online quote portal and the lowest rates for Preferred customers.

What to Expect Next

After you’ve decided to purchase an insurance policy, the policy will need to undergo an underwriting process. This will include a quick medical examination (height, weight, blood pressure, urine sample, and drawing blood) that usually takes place in your home. After that, the insurance companies will need to collect and review your medical records before issuing a policy for you.

Underwriting typically takes 3-8 weeks depending on how complete your medical records are. The company will then issue you a policy, and as long as you continue to pay, your policy will remain in effect (until the expiration of the term). Once your policy is in effect, you can rest easy knowing that your financial dependents will be taken care of in the event of your death.


Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here


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Building Credit, How to Complain

Where To Dispute Your Credit Report Online

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.


You can dispute with TransUnion at

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


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.


You can dispute online with Experian at

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  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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at


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Building Credit, Consumer Watchdog, How to Complain

NCTUE: The Database You Need To Know About

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Credit score large

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.


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.


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 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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Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at


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How to Complain, Mortgage, News

CFPB Warns Consumers of Reverse Mortgage Problems

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at

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How to Complain

Ocwen Loan Servicing Settlement: Apply Now Online

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Young couple calculating their domestic bills

The deadline to submit a claim is now past

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at


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How to Complain

The Most Complained About Banks

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


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


Complaint Roundup


CFPB Data on Most Complained about Banks: See more details

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at

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How to Complain

Social Media Amplifies Your Voice to Get Complaints Heard

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


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+!

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at

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