• Briefly Noted
  • Briefly Noted

    Banking on a Solution: Federal Reserve Consumer Help

    Having a problem with a bank or other financial institution? Federal Reserve Consumer Help is a new centralized resource that consolidates and streamlines the Federal Reserve’s consumer complaint and inquiry program.

    The Federal Reserve’s one-stop complaint and inquiry site can be reached either by phone or on-line. If you call the new toll-free number (888-851-1920) between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Time, you will be able to speak directly to a customer service professional. After hours, callers may leave a message and Federal Reserve Consumer Help staff will return their calls the next business day.

    The new Web site, www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov, allows consumers to submit a complaint or inquiry electronically. The Web site provides answers to commonly asked banking questions and links to many consumer protection materials and resources. Also on the Web site is an updated version of the brochure “How to File a Consumer Complaint About a Bank,” which explains the Federal Reserve’s complaint process and tells consumers what to expect during a complaint investigation.

    The Federal Reserve is responsible for ensuring that the financial institutions it supervises comply with consumer protection and fair lending laws, such as those governing checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and consumer loans including mortgages. It is also responsible for ensuring that consumers have a mechanism for identifying banking acts or practices that may require further investigation or possible regulatory action.

    You do not have to know which federal bank regulator supervises the bank in question in order to file a complaint or inquiry. Federal Reserve Consumer Help will direct consumers to the appropriate regulator and has made arrangements with several other banking regulators to transfer callers directly to another representative at the appropriate agency.

    Source: The Federal Reserve.

    Dis-Card Your Mail: Opting Out of Offers

    Tired of receiving credit card offers in the mail?

    You can say no permanently by registering with the opt-out service run by the major credit bureaus.

    Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act FCRA, consumer credit reporting companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you. However, the act provides individuals the right to “opt-out,” which prevents these companies from providing your credit file information for firm offers.

    Through the Web site, you may request to:

    • Opt-out for five years (electronically through this Web site).
    • Opt-out permanently (although you must fill out and mail in a form that is available through this Web site).
    • Opt-in if you previously completed an opt-out request and want to start receiving the offers again.

    If you choose to opt-out, you will no longer be included in firm offer lists provided by the four consumer credit reporting companies.

    The Web site is available at www.optoutprescreen.com, or you can call 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688). You’ll need to provide your Social Security number and date of birth in order to be offer-free.

    Source: OptOutPrescreen.com.

    From the SEC: PAUSE for Thought on

    Questionable Solicitations

    The Securities and Exchange Commission SEC is launching a new Internet-based initiative to alert investors worldwide about problems with certain unregistered entities engaged in solicitations of securities transactions.

    Through its “Public Alert: Unregistered Soliciting Entities” PAUSE program, the SEC will publish on its Web site certain factual information about unregistered soliciting entities that have been the subject of complaints forwarded by investors and others around the globe, including foreign securities regulators.

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    For each of these entities, the SEC will have determined either that there is no U.S. registered securities firm with that name, or that there is a U.S. registered securities firm with the same or similar name, but that solicitations appear to have been made by people not affiliated with that firm. A second PAUSE list will name fictitious government agencies and international organizations referred to by entities that are subjects of complaints.

    The SEC notes that a large number of investor complaints it receives concern solicitations from unregistered entities that appear to be involved in boiler-room and secondary advance-fee schemes. Perpetrators of boiler-room and advance-fee schemes increasingly use new devices to persuade investors that their solicitations are legitimate, including:

    • Impersonating U.S.-registered securities firms by using the same or a similar name or providing an address that closely resembles that of a U.S.-registered securities firm.
    • Making false references or false claims of endorsement by government agencies and international organizations (sometimes even impersonating them).
    • Claiming endorsements or making other references to government agencies and international organizations that sound official, but do not exist.

    Source: Securities and Exchange Commission.




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