From Collector: Identifying the Imposter

2/9/2016 7:30 AM

How to successfully navigate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database in cases of mistaken identity.


In the February edition of Collector magazine, communications specialist Katy Zillmer reports on the  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Consumer Response complaint-handling processes and systems related to it Consumer Complaint Database, as well as how collectors can work with it and respond to consumers.

According to the CFPB's financial report for fiscal year 2015, which identifies performance goals with the complaint database, complaint volume has increased approximately 10 percent from 240,600 in 2014 to 265,000 in 2015. Consumers have had the option to file complaints about debt collection agencies since November 2013, and the CFPB provided the option for companies to access the database and respond directly to complaints in 2014. According to the CFPB, there have been close to 500,000 company responses to complaints through the portal and 98 percent of consumers get timely responses from companies.

It's important for debt collection agencies registered with the Consumer Complaint Database to note that the increased complaint volume prompted the CFPB to make an operational shift.

“Companies play a key role in helping to ensure the accuracy of the information in the database,” said Scott Steckel, the CFPB's senior financial industry liaison in the Office of Consumer Response.

The CFPB's database and portal also serve as a primary interface for companies and the CFPB's Office of Consumer Response if they have questions or concerns. It's important for companies to register to use the complaint portal to be able to communicate with consumers, as well as to identify if a consumer's complaint made it to the right place.

Stefanie Ratcliff, director of compliance for ACA International member company RGS Financial, Inc., said they received calls from consumers with complaints about threats of arrest and wage garnishment from “RG Financial.”

RGS Financial received eight complaints from consumers through the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database as a result of the other company's reported actions. Ratcliff was able to make some headway in resolving the complaints when she learned about the correct response categories for companies receiving a complaint through the CFPB's database.

Overall, Ratcliff said the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Portal is user-friendly for registered companies, however the guide with response categories could be a little clearer.

Registered companies can access the CFPB Complaint Portal Manual for the minimum required elements of a response to use if a complaint comes in, such as noting the steps taken to respond to the complaint, communication from the consumer and follow-up actions or planned follow-up actions.

“If a company suspects fraud, including business identity theft or scams, the company should alert the bureau and the consumer of the suspected fraud,” Steckel said.

Responses companies can use include Alerted CFPB and Incorrect Company, which the CFPB Office of Consumer Response reviews.

Steckel said the bureau only publishes a complaint in the public database after the company has had time to consider the complaint and confirm a commercial relationship with the consumer.  

Complaint portal users can also submit a ticket to report error messages or other technical issues or ask a specific question and the CFPB will respond through the portal.

The complete digital editions of Collector magazine are available through ACA International's website. ACA International will publish weekly excerpts from Collector articles, when available; check your inbox for the excerpts in ACA Daily on Wednesdays.

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