‘Placemats’ Are the Trump CFPB’s Weapon of Choice for Stopping Scams. Meanwhile the Bureau Invites More Scams With Its Debt Collection Proposal

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under Donald Trump isn’t what it used to be. Its director, Kathy Kraninger, is a Mick Mulvaney acolyte who brought zero consumer finance experience with her to the job, only a promise to carry out her predecessor’s agenda of letting shady industries write their own rules. And Mulvaney must be proud of what he’s seen from his pupil.

Before Trump became President, the CFPB was proudly recovering billions of dollars for millions of consumers who had been cheated. But under Mulvaney and Kraninger’s leadership, enforcement actions against big banks, predatory lenders, and other financial scammers have plummeted to historic lows. Instead Kraninger claims her focus is on so-called “consumer education”, a.k.a. taking the anti-fraud cops off the beat and making consumers fend for themselves.

So, what exactly is the Trump CFPB doing to get the word out about potential scams? Recently they sent a blast email encouraging consumers to print-out their own ‘fraud prevention placemat’ to help avoid Social Security scams. Wow, they’re sparing EVERY expense. Educational placemats are a fine thing, but they are a very poor substitute for the federal government actually going after the companies who prey on vulnerable consumers, especially older Americans.

Ironically, the Trump CFPB will need to update these placemats to warn of a new wave of scams if they go through with its own proposal for weakening debt collection industry rules.

Under the proposal, debt collectors would be allowed to send consumers unlimited texts and emails without prior permission, and they also wouldn’t have to comply with the E-Sign Act to confirm consumers are able to access critical account information over email. Those emails could include hyperlinks that consumers would have to click to retrieve that information.

Think about the potential consequences of consumers suddenly getting emails from purported debt collection agencies they’ve never heard from before, with instructions to click on links to who knows where. Some consumers might miss notices from legit companies because they have good reason to be skeptical of clicking on random hyperlinks sent to their cell phones.

But worse, once word gets around about people’s credit suffering as a result of missing notices, what’s to stop hackers from taking advantage of the situation by sending out illegitimate debt collection notices designed to phish personal information like Social Security and credit card numbers?

You may wonder why the Trump-Kraninger CFPB – with little regard for all the potential online deception they are inviting – is doing such a favor for the debt collection industry that is among the most complained about industries. The millions of dollars the industry has spent lobbying Congress and funding Republican political campaigns may explain it, but it doesn’t excuse it.

Here’s a placemat idea for Director Kraninger to print off at home: “Fight Against Email Fraud, Don’t Welcome It.”

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