Commonwealth Aids Nearly 5,000 Consumers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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HARRISBURG, PA — The Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS) responded to nearly 5,000 complaints and inquiries about financial transactions, companies, or products in fiscal year 2019-2020 according to its recently released Consumer Services Annual Report.

The department saw an 18 percent increase in inquiries over last year, largely a result of consumers impacted by COVID-19, including questions about mortgage forbearance, payment deferrals, and scams, highlighted in the report. Of the 4,970 inquiries, the most common (28 percent) complaint or inquiry was related to bank account/services, especially withdrawals, and the second most prevalent complaint (20 percent) was mortgage issues, especially with processing and underwriting. On average, department staff helped resolve consumer issues in fewer than five days. The report also highlights aspects of financial caregivers’ fiduciary responsibility and increased activity with social payments.

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“The department remains committed to protecting consumers when it comes to financial services,” said Tim Arthun, Deputy Secretary for Financial Services. “The uptick in calls and emails to our office about financial products, services, and scams is not surprising given the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I commend our staff for their diligence in helping consumers navigate these complex issues while adapting to remote work.”

The department’s outreach staff offered 320 presentations across 56 counties and reached more than 27,000 consumers during the fiscal year. These events, which are typically held in person, moved entirely online beginning in March to help protect public health.

“I am continually impressed by the department’s entire staff who have remained steadfast in upholding the department’s mission and vision throughout the pandemic,” added Secretary of Banking and Securities Richard Vague. “With the assistance of the Office of Administration’s IT staff who helped seamlessly transition staff to telework, our Financial Services for Consumers and Business Deputate has been unwavering in its commitment to supporting consumers and helping to resolve their financial complaints and inquiries.”

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The department’s Investor Education and Consumer Outreach is part of the governor’s Consumer Financial Protection Initiative. The staff works with state and local government agencies, service providers, community and trade organizations, the General Assembly, the military community, schools, and other partners to help Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth become well-informed about the financial marketplace. There are a variety of free, non-commercial programs and presentations available, or a program can be tailored to a specific group’s needs.

Anyone can ask questions or file complaints about financial transcations, companies, or services online or by calling 1-800-PA-BANKS (800-600-0007).

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