Double-Check Your Credit Score: Complaints to the CFPB Hit Record Numbers

The United States will be feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for years. But, some of the pandemic’s financial effects make more sense than others: the average FICO score has risen from 703 to 711, but complaints to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) have hit “record numbers,” increasing by 86%.

One force behind this paradox is the CARES Act, which paused payments for student loans, gave homeowners temporary relief from mortgage payments, and protected credit reports for people enrolled in relief programs or arrangements with their lenders. This means the CARES Act protected people enrolled in loan forbearance, deferred payments, or a payment plan.

Here’s where the complaints come in: consumers describe lenders reporting payments as late or delinquent even after agreeing to a payment plan. 

If you’ve enrolled in one of these relief programs or made a payment plan with your lender since the pandemic began, double-check your credit report and score to make sure they reflect this change.

According to Ed Mierzwinski, Senior Director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, consumers are feeling the effect of lenders incorrectly reporting debt as delinquent, with hundreds of complaints mentioning the terms “pandemic” and “incorrect information” in the past seven months.

Consumers should follow-up with lenders and monitor their credit reports and scores to catch these mistakes before they cause more financial strain.

Monitoring your credit report is just one way you can protect your financial situation during this trying time. There are other strategies you can use to protect your credit score.

  1. Keep your accounts active. Insurers may close inactive accounts to reduce risk. Using cards at least once or twice a year will reduce your chances of having accounts closed, which can hurt your credit score, and will keep your credit limits high.
  2. Pay off debt. Paying off as much debt as you can afford (especially for debts with high interest rates) will create room in your budget for future unexpected expenses.
  3. Apply for the cards you want ASAP. Issuers get stricter during financial downturns, so if you have been eyeing a particular credit card, consider acting as soon as possible.

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