Legislative Director, MASSPIRG
Legislative Director, MASSPIRG
REPORT: MORTGAGE ABUSES LEADING SOURCE OF OLDER CONSUMER COMPLAINTS TO CFPB
— Financial Choice Act Passed By House Threatens Consumer Bureau Protection of Older Americans —
Boston – Mortgages were the leading source (31% of 72,000) of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from consumers 62 and over, followed by complaints about credit reports and debt collection, according to a new report. Further, legislation passed by the U.S. House and awaiting Senate action intended to cripple the Consumer Bureau would place older consumers at greater risk of harm from financial scammers.
The bill, HR 10, the so-called Financial Choice Act, but more aptly called the “Wrong Choice Act,” rolls back the powers, funding and independence of the CFPB and it also weakens its pioneering Office for Older Americans. The bill also eliminates many other financial system reforms of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act enacted after the second-worst financial crisis in the nation’s history.
“The Consumer Bureau has already taken many significant enforcement actions against financial firms targeting older consumers,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Legislative Director.
“Gutting the CFPB makes no sense. It will only make it easier for financial scammers to cheat older consumers, threatening their homes and retirement savings.”
“Older consumers can make tempting targets for predatory behavior in the financial marketplace. Scammers may look to take advantage of their savings, home equity, or guaranteed income. Older consumers can be harmed by low-balance or overdraft fees at banks, or be tempted to take on credit or use products such as reverse mortgages, whose risks may not be fully understood,” Cummings added.
Among the key findings of the MASSPIRG Education Fund/Frontier Group report “Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace: An Analysis of Complaints, and Results, From the CFPB” are the following:
Mortgages account for 31 percent of complaints by older consumers. Other leading complaint categories were credit reporting (17 percent) and debt collection (17 percent).
Eighty (80) percent of mortgage complaints concerned existing mortgages, but 5 percent of complaints were about reverse mortgages, loans solely available to older consumers that allow them to use their home equity as security. The risks of such products are not always fully understood by consumers.
Here in Massachusetts, there were 1,568 complaints from older consumers, the state ranked 15 in number of complaints normalized for population, Washington DC had the most and North Dakota the least. The Consumer Bureau has taken numerous enforcement actions against companies ranking high in complaints in the study:
Mortgage complaint enforcement actions have been filed against at least 3 mortgage companies ranked in the top ten of the report’s finding, including Ocwen Loan Servicing, Nationstar Mortgage, and a company (Green Tree) that later merged with Ditech, which ranked sixth.
The Consumer Bureau has taken actions against all 3 of the major consumer reporting agencies (credit bureaus) ranked by complaint volume (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
The Consumer Bureau has taken actions against the top 2 debt collection companies ranked by complaint volume, Encore Capital Group and Portfolio Recovery Associates.
The CFPB provides valuable resources through its Office for Older Americans, which works full time to help older consumers avoid bad deals, and find restitution when they are wronged.
“Some predatory lenders cluster their storefronts around older consumer housing, putting their operations right in their path,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, a report co-author.
The report is the 11th in a series of PIRG reports on the CFPB complaint database. The full series is available here.
The report also includes excerpts from older consumer complaint narratives. Since the database began accepting these optional narrative stories, about half of complaints include them.
Here is one from Massachusetts:
I am a victim of identity theft. I submitted all documentation to Experian in regards to. ..wrong accounts.. which included my police reports, ID, Social Security card, proof of residence and affidavit. These accounts should have been deleted from my file. They are still present.
CFPB Complaint ID 2204934
To look at the Massachusetts complaints – please click here.
The Consumer Bureau helps everyone. In just six short years has returned about $12 billion to over 29 million consumers harmed by companies ranging from Wells Fargo and other big Wall Street banks to payday lenders, debt collectors and credit bureaus.
Cummings noted that “The so-called Financial Choice Act is the wrong choice for older Americans and all consumers because it takes away the CFPB’s tools to protect us, allowing financial predators to run amok. We are thankful to the whole Massachusetts delegation that voted against the Financial Choice Act and in favor of consumers.”
Consumers may submit complaints to the CFPB at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/.
MASSPIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to full participate in our democratic society. On the web at www.masspirg.org.