Protecting yourself physically is at the top of the must-do list during the COVID-19 outbreak, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says that protecting your finances during the pandemic is close behind.
Despite the Fed pumping money into the market and Congress trying its best to come up with a good-for-all relief package, at the top of the CFPB’s laundry list is getting financial institutions to work with their customers to meet their needs in their own backyards.
If you’re asking yourself shouldn’t presidential, congressional, state, or local initiatives take care of that as part and parcel of everything else they’re doing, the CFPB isn’t exactly confident.
“Communities continue to announce the temporary closure of businesses, schools and other public facilities or events. While these actions are necessary steps to help reduce exposures, it may bring financial uncertainty for many people who could experience a loss of income due to illness or workplace closures,” argued the bureau.
Financial resources for consumers
If you’re financially strapped because of the pandemic -- maybe because you’ve been furloughed or have taken a cut in pay to help your employer stay afloat -- the CFPB offers these resources:
As Americans prepare for the possible spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19, the CFPB offers resources on how to protect yourself financially against a job layoff, being victimized by a scam, etc..
“Since our inception, we’ve built a robust and technologically forward complaint process that handles approximately 30,000 complaints every month,” the bureau reminds consumers. “Even in these challenging times, we are ready to send your complaints to companies to help you get the response you need.”
Both a consumer’s credit report and credit score play important roles in any future financial opportunities that may come their way. The CFPB has some special suggestions on how to manage and protect those aspects during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The weight the bureau places on credit protection is shared by privacy and security app developers, too.
“In light of recent events, monitoring credit reports and scores, as well as other data from which an identity can be stolen, should be top of mind for all Americans as they navigate the current economic climate,” virtual private network (VPN) Hotspot Shield’s Claire Cole told ConsumerAffairs, speaking to the company’s recent study on identity theft.
Suffice it to say, debt collectors probably aren’t taking time off during the pandemic. So if you’re feeling their pinch, remember that you have rights. The CFPB has resources you can use to address stressful issues related to debt collection during the crisis.
"Don’t just stop making payments and hope it’ll work out,” Sara Rathner, the credit cards expert at NerdWallet told ConsumerAffairs. “You must work with your bank and opt in to any payment or hardship plans they offer. Your account will not stay in good standing if you simply ignore your bills for a few months.”
“Banks are working with customers on an as-needed basis. If you’re struggling financially, call your bank’s customer service line to explain your situation and discuss the available options. Some banks are making some changes across the board, like waiving certain fees,” Rathner advised.
Last but not least, the CFPB is providing resources for financial caregivers who are helping people who cannot manage their money or property themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.
Every dollar counts
Finances just don’t take care of themselves. Rathner told ConsumerAffairs that consumers need to make sure they’re keeping an eye on their money and taking advantage of assistance programs.
“At a time like this, every dollar can count. Take advantage of these offerings if you need help, because they can take some of the burden off your plate and give you time to regroup and create a plan for yourself going forward," she said.