Online Credit Card Complaint Database Debuts

Credit Card problemsBy JENNIFER LIBERTO

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- A new online database devoted to cataloging consumer complaints against credit card companies launched Tuesday.

The website, created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will begin by posting grievances against credit card companies, and will eventually include complaints regarding mortgages and student loans.
The bureau has collected more than 45,000 complaints on all those products since last July.

"By making our data publicly available, initially in the area of credit cards, we hope to improve the transparency and efficiency of this essential consumer market," said Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau in a press briefing with reporters on Monday.

"We believe it's the first time for the public to see such individual complaint data on consumer credit cards," Cordray added.
The database will also disclose how the bank or card issuer handled the complaint, but it won't release information about the consumers who lodge them.

Banking trade groups have pushed back hard on the move to make the database public. In letters to the bureau, they expressed concerns about the agency's ability to ensure complaints are valid and accurate.

The industry wanted the consumer bureau to come up with a system that separates legitimate complaints from baseless ones -- and to disclose only legitimate complaints.

"Disclosing every complaint, without any indication of the veracity of the complaint, is inherently misleading," wrote Fred R. Becker Jr., president of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

The bureau asks consumers to attest to the fact that complaints are true to the best of their knowledge. Additionally, no complaint will be disclosed until a company confirms that it has in fact done business with the consumer, according to bureau staff.

Banks and financial institutions have 15 days to respond to a complaint and 60 days to address the problem.

Top Signs You May Have Been a Victim of ID Theft
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Online Credit Card Complaint Database Debuts
By Lita Epstein, credit and debt expert,

When even the announcer of the The Price Is Right is a victim of identity theft, you know the crime can happen to anyone. Rich Fields, of "Come on down" fame, reportedly had $71,000 stolen and had to freeze his accounts ' including his direct deposit of his pay -- while he tries to recover the money. At least he got wise to the problem.

One of the scariest things about identity theft is that you could be a victim and not even know it. Identity theft includes any act in which your identity is used fraudulently. I'm sure you've head of credit card fraud, where someone opens an account in your name or uses your credit card number without your permission. But other common identity theft scams include bank account fraud, phone or utilities fraud, government documents fraud and Social Security fraud.

In this feature, we list four red flags that can signal that you are a victim of identity theft.

First Up: Red Flag No. 1

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Your credit cards or other bills don't arrive when you expect them.

A thief could have changed your address with a financial institution and started using your credit card. Since the bills are no longer coming to your address, it will take longer for you to figure out the problem. Most financial institutions allow you to look at your accounts online. Do so regularly to avoid this problem. If you see charges you don't recognize, call your bank's customer service line immediately.

Next: Red Flag No. 2

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You start to receive credit cards for accounts you didn't open yourself.

A thief may have responded to a credit card offer using your name and credit history and been planning to intercept the card from your mailbox.

Don't hesitate one second. Call the financial institution that issued the card immediately and explain that the account was opened fraudulently.

Next: Red Flag No. 3

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You are denied credit even though you know you have a good credit history.

Whenever you are denied credit -- for whatever reason -- you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports from each of the three top credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. As part of that denial, you should get a letter that tells you how to obtain those free credit reports. Take advantage of this law and review your credit report to see what the problem is. If you find fraudulent accounts on your report, follow the instructions that explain how to get them removed.

Next: Red Flag No. 4

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You get a call from a store about a purchase you know you didn't make.

If you do get this type of call, don't give out any information because the call could be a phishing attempt (that's when thieves pretend to be calling or emailing from a store or bank in hopes you will disclose personal financial information ' like your Social Security number or bank account password).

Find out as many details about the purchase as you can, as well as the caller's name and contact information. Look up a contact number yourself. Call the company after you've checked it out. Only after you know the company is legitimate should you give out any personal information. Then, call your credit card company and let them know that your card was used fraudulently.

Next: Here's What to Do If You Are a Victim

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Any time you suspect fraud you should place a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies. They will place a 90-day alert on your account, which can be extended. They will also send you a copy of your report to be sure there aren't other problems. These are the contact numbers to report fraud:

' Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
' Experian - 1-888-397-3742
' TransUnion - 1-800-680-7289

You can never err by being too cautious. It's better to report a possible fraud attempt and be wrong, than not to report one and allow a problem to continue to grow and fester.

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Other financial groups pushed to keep secret the identity of banks and card issuers that were being complained about.
"There is no public policy purpose served by the release of data by issuer. Disclosing the names of individual card issuers serves only as fodder for plaintiff attorneys," according to a letter submitted to the bureau on the database by the American Financial Services Association, the Consumer Mortgage Coalition and the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The bureau has collected more than 16,000 complaints about credit cards over the past year. But it's only posting grievances it's received since June 1, 2012, because that's when the agency adjusted the way it collects responses it gets from companies.

So far there are only about 100 complaints this month, but officials say they expect the database will grow quickly.

The bureau is collecting complaints via its website, telephone, mail, email, fax and from other agencies.

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