Do you know your rights when dealing with banks and lenders? It’s very easy to feel intimidated by financial institutions given their size, complicated terms of service, and what feels like their upper hand over us as consumers. However, you do have rights to protect your finances as well as your experience with these financial institutions – and protecting these rights just might be easier than you realize!
Talking to Your Banks – They WANT to Hear from You
Have you ever gone to your local bank or called their customer service line and had your complaints fall on deaf ears? While this is something that many of us have gone through in the past, the times are a’changin and many banks now want to hear from you.
Why? Because the CFPB has been cracking down on financial institutions for unfair practices and banks are realizing that it’s better for them to attempt to resolve issues before they reach the CFPB. So how can you make sure that the bank you’re dealing with hears your complaint this time around?
According to a recent report in Forbes, banks are closely monitoring social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter for complaints – and responding to them! The report also talks about how banks are updating their frequently asked questions pages more and even letting you rate the answers. The more feedback you send their way, the more they can create change on their end to better serve you. It’s a win/win situation.
If you prefer to reach out using the traditional route, try going to a branch of your bank that receives less customer traffic and strike up a relationship with the branch employees. This is a great way for them to learn more about your financial needs and goals and for them to escalate issues so you don’t have to.
Contacting the CFPB
If you’re at the point where you’ve tried every method to contact your bank and your complaints still fall on deaf ears, then it might be time to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (also known as the CFPB). The CFPB communicates with your bank on these issues and even creates new regulations when necessary. Consider them your advocate.
It’s easy to file a complaint with the CFPB. Simply go to this link and fill out the requested information. You can even check in on the status of your complaint so you know that something is being done. Their website isn’t just great for submitting complaints though – you can also find out a great deal of information to help you understand important answers to your financial questions. This service comes at no cost to you so utilize it to protect your financial future.
Protecting Yourself from Debt Collectors
Knowing your rights with banks and lenders isn’t your only line of financial defense. You should also understand your rights in relation to debt collectors – whether or not you’ve ever had a debt account go to collections. “Zombie debt collectors” are now preying on consumers – capitalizing on their fear of financial fraud and identity theft (as well as simply forgetting about past accounts) and making them believe that they have debt in collections that they don’t have. If you get a call from a debt collector but have no knowledge of ever accumulating that debt, don’t just accept it as truth and don’t send them a payment without first verifying that this is true.
And even if you do have debt in collections, debt collectors are not allowed to bully or harass you.The best line of defense in either of these situations is to understand what a debt collector isn’t allowed to do. A debt collector is not allowed to harass you, claim false statements about you, threaten you, or give you false information about their company. This can include threatening legal action or physical harm, calling your home or work incessantly, threatening to garnish your wages, and even speaking to you in profane or verbally abusive language. For a more complete list of what a debt collector isn’t allowed to do, read this article from Forbes. And be prepared to fight back if necessary.
Not all financial institutions are out to get you – and in fact, many are working hard to improve their customers’ experience. However, you do have rights when dealing with all banks and lenders and empowering yourself to use these rights will ensure the safety of your finances and the continual improvement of the financial services industry. The more you know and the more you exercise your rights, the better off we’ll all be as consumers.
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