Banks, credit unions and other financial services companies are barred by federal law from basing their lending decisions on a prospective borrower's race, religion, marital status, color, sex, adult age, national origin or receipt of public assistance.
Yet still, discrimination occurs.
Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has announced it will use "all available legal avenues" to pursue lenders whose practices discriminate against consumers.
In a statement, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the agency wouldn't tolerate discriminatory practices, whether intentional or deliberate, that unlawfully reduce consumers' access to auto loans, credit cards, student loans, mortgages or other consumer credit products.
"We want consumers to avoid the marketplace's silent pickpocket -- discrimination," Cordray said.
Credit discrimination often occurs behind closed doors, making it hard to spot. To help, the CFPB has published a brochure that advises consumers to watch out for these warning signs.
1. You're treated differently in person than you were on the telephone.
2. You're discouraged from applying for credit.
3. You hear the lender make negative comments about race, national origin or other protected groups.
4. You're refused credit even though you're qualified for it.
5. You're offered credit with a higher interest rate, even though you're qualified for a lower rate.
6. You're denied credit without being given a reason or being told how to find out why.
7. You feel pushed or pressured to obtain credit.
The brochure also offers these other tips:
- Do your research. Shop around, learn about the features and risks of financial products, research current interest rates and compare products from several lenders.
- Know your credit history. Be sure there are no mistakes or missing items in your credit reports. Get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three biggest consumer reporting agencies every 12 months.
- Ask questions. Don't focus only on your monthly payment. Be sure you understand the rates and fees you'll pay over the long run.
- Stay in control. Your lender shouldn't make you feel rushed or unnecessarily delay action on your application.
- Don't sign until you're satisfied the credit product works for you.
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