It was a bad year for credit reports — thanks, of course, to a data breach at reporting agency Equifax.
Consumers in every state except North Dakota filed the most complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about Equifax
last year, according to an analysis of the CFPB’s complaint database by the personal finance and student loan refinancing company LendEdu.
North Dakota’s most complained-about company also related to credit reports. They complained most about Experian
, another credit reporting agency.
After the Equifax breach, many consumers attempted to freeze their credit reports at the three reporting agencies, but some had trouble doing so on Experian’s website. (Equifax and Experian did not immediately return MarketWatch’s request for comment.)
The CFPB received more than 30,500 complaints about Equifax across all states last year, LendEdu found. The Equifax breach potentially impacted more than 145 million U.S. adults, exposing their personal information including Social Security numbers and financial account information.
Equifax was the single most complained-about company, but consumers filed complaints about many other grievances, too. There were nearly 88,000 complaints about credit reporting and repair, nearly 47,000 about debt collection and more than 29,000 about mortgages.
Debt collection was the most complained-about issue last year, before the Equifax breach happened. This is likely driven by the aggressive and persistent tactics collectors use to get their funds back, said Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst for the credit-cards website CreditCards.com, at the time. “What makes it even tougher for consumers is that most of them don’t know their rights and what the rules are in terms of what debt collectors can do,” he said.
This latest analysis comes at a time when the CFPB’s database itself is under scrutiny. Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, is serving as a temporary “acting director” of the CFPB, after former director Richard Cordray stepped down in November.
President Donald Trump, who chose Mulvaney to lead the agency, has previously called the CFPB “a total disaster,” and fellow Republicans have said they do not think the consumer complaint database should be public.
“Is the purpose of the database just to name and shame companies? Or should they have a disclaimer on there that says it’s a fact-free zone, or this is fake news?,” said Barry Loudermilk, a Republican congressman from Georgia, at a congressional hearing in April.
“Once the damage is done to a company, it’s hard to get your reputation back,” said Bill Himpler, the executive vice president of the American Financial Services Association, a trade group, the Associated Press reported.
Consumer advocates have said the public database is important for consumers, because it gives them a resource to check while shopping around for financial products.
The public database has been “a powerful mechanism for keeping financial predators accountable to consumers,” said Melissa Stegman, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit based in Durham, N.C. “Pulling the complaints behind a cloak of secrecy would help let unscrupulous companies get away with mistreating consumers.”