File a complaint
Attorneys and Notarios
Banks and Mortgage Companies
Blight and Slum Housing
Debt and Creditor Related Problems
Foreclosure Rescue Scams
Real Estate Brokers
Stop Elder Abuse
WHY FILE A COMPLAINT?
Simply put, you have the power to alert our government about things that are going wrong in your community and that are happening to you or your family. If a government agency hears the same problem from enough people, it can investigate, bring a lawsuit, recover money or property, and even change laws to better protect the public.
When you file a complaint, keep a few things in mind:
- You cannot get in trouble for reporting someone who took advantage of you, especially if you were the victim of a scam or some kind of fraud. This is true even if the other person did something that violates civil and criminal law.
- Details are important. Provide as much information as you can about what happened, when and who was involved.
- Tell the government agency what you would like them to do about your problem. They may or may not be able to do it, but at least they know what your goal is.
- Make sure they know how to get in touch with you – that means a phone number, email and/or address.
- Follow up after you file the complaint. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
ATTORNEYS AND NOTARIOS
The State Bar of California oversees the activities of attorneys in our state. The California Rules of Professional Conduct regulate the way attorneys are supposed to treat their clients, including communicating with clients regularly, representing them zealously, maintaining attorney-client confidentiality and safeguarding client trust account money. Attorneys that violate these or other rules of conduct can have their license to practice law suspended or revoked.
- To find out if an attorney you are working with has been disciplined, click here and put in the attorney’s name.
The State Bar of California watches out for other misconduct against clients and can sometimes recover money that you paid an attorney for their services, if that attorney has done something improper. Some examples include:
- Attorneys are prohibited from charging you in advance for loan modification or other foreclosure relief services. If your attorney violated this rule or if you lost your home due to some other form of attorney misconduct, you might be able to recover the money you paid that attorney through the California Client Security Fund. Applications to the Fund must be made in writing. For more information, click here.
- With certain limitations, attorneys are prohibited from charging people a fee in advance so that when national immigration laws change they have “reserved” that attorney’s time to work on their case. If you think that you have been charged improperly for immigration-related legal services, call (800) 843-9053.
- There are also individuals who hold themselves out as a document preparer or notario. Many charge in advance for their services. Commonly, this happens in the areas of loan modifications, bankruptcy and immigration. Depending on the situation, this may constitute practicing law without a license. For more information, call (800) 843-9053. You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
BANKS AND MORTGAGE COMPANIES
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to establish federal rules and regulations that tell financial institutions involved in the mortgage industry how to treat consumers. These mortgage-related rules include things like what kind of notices the lender has to give a borrower when they are applying for a mortgage, how to communicate with the borrower after they are approved and take out their mortgage, what kind of help to offer the borrower if they fall behind on their mortgage payments, and how to interact with a borrower who brings an error or other problem to the attention of the lender or mortgage company.
If you think that a lender did not follow the rules when you were applying for a mortgage or a loan modification, we recommend that you:
- Take our Dealing with Loan Modification Problems Legal Check-Up.
- File a Complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Consider going to Tell Your Story, if you want to alert the CFPB to a problem with a lender but you do not want to file a complaint.
- Click here, if you want to check on the status of a complaint you have already filed.
What happens when I file a CFPB complaint?
- When you file a complaint with the CFPB about your mortgage servicing problems, the CFPB will first send your complaint to the servicer for a response.
- You should receive an update on your complaint within 15 days. If you do not agree with the servicer’s response to your complaint, you can dispute the response with the CFPB.
- The CFPB will then start an investigation, but they will not specifically advocate for the result that you requested.
- After you submit a dispute, you will probably not hear back from the CFPB unless they need more information from you. You may end up receiving a more favorable response from the servicer as a result of the CFPB investigation, but you may not.
- If you don’t hear back from the CFPB within 60 days of submitting your dispute, the CFPB has investigated and closed your complaint.
The CFPB also has many consumer education tools to help you learn about their rules. Here are a few items you might want to explore:
- Shopping for a New Mortgage? Know Your Rights
- Take Control to Avoid Foreclosure
- Foreclosure Avoidance Procedures
- Learn About the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
- How to Report a Mortgage Error to Your Lender
The California Attorney General monitors and enforces state laws that govern the conduct of financial institutions, including the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights and the California portion of the National Mortgage Settlement.
- To learn more about the California Attorney General’s complaint process or to file a complaint with the AG, click here.
- To learn more about the National Mortgage Settlement or to file a complaint, click here.
- To learn more about the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, click here or here.
BLIGHT AND SLUM HOUSING
DEBT AND CREDITOR RELATED PROBLEMS
Dealing with debt problems can be stressful and overwhelming. Plus, the information that is available online is spread all over the place, so it’s hard to get information about what you can do to stand up for your rights as a consumer unless you already know what information you are looking for.
Here are some practical steps you can take:
- To get better informed so you can fight back against abusive debt collection practices, take our Debtors’ Rights Legal Check-Up.
- If you think you have been subject to abusive debt collection practices, you can file a complaint with either Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or Federal Trade Commission. These government agencies will not file a lawsuit on your behalf; but if they receive enough complaints about the same organization, they will investigate.
- For sample “do not contact” or “cease and desist” letters you can send to abusive debt collectors, go to National Consumer Law Center and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sending this type of letter does not cancel your debt, but it should stop the harassing calls and letters. If the calls and letters continue even after you send the letter, we suggest you consult with an attorney.
If you think you have been denied a job because of your bad credit, learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act and about California’s Investigative Credit Reporting Agencies Act to find out what you can do to fight back.
- If you think an employer violated the FCRA, go to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file a complaint.
- If you think an employer violated the CCRAA, go to California Attorney General to file a complaint.
For more information about consumer rights in general, visit the following websites:
FORECLOSURE RESCUE SCAMS
People facing the threat of foreclosure often get taken advantage of by scammers who get money up front, guarantee they can get you a loan modification or stop the foreclosure sale, then take the money and run.
For more information about the signs that you might be dealing with a foreclosure rescue scammers, take our Foreclosure Rescue Scams Legal Check-Up.
If you are certain you have been the victim of a foreclosure rescue scam, here are some places you go to file a complaint.
- For the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), call 213-974-1450 or click here.
- For the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, click here.
- For the Riverside District Attorney’s Office, click here. You can also report scams through the Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board (IFHMB) by calling (800) 321-0911 or by clicking here.
- For the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, call 909-891-3551 or click here. You can also report scams through the Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board (IFHMB) by calling (800) 321-0911 or by clicking here.
- For the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Real Estate Fraud Division, click here.
- For the Federal Trade Commission, call (877) 382-4357 or click here.
- If someone you met in your church, mosque, temple, synagogue or other house of worship scams you, contact the California Attorney General.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a lengthy process by which a non-profit organization can become certified as an official HUD-approved housing counseling agency. HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are not allowed to charge people for their services. If the person or company you paid to help you with a loan modification claimed to be a HUD-approved agency, it more than likely was not telling you the truth.
- To report this type of misconduct, click here.
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information (like your Social Security number) and takes out loans, buys things and wracks up debt in your name. If this happens to you, it is important to get into action.
Here are some practical steps you can take:
- Take our Identity Theft Legal Check-Up. It will walk you through the different types of identity theft problems and what to you can do to fight back against identity thieves and to restore your credit, including many of the steps outlined below.
- Report the identity theft to the Federation Trade Commission. Although the FTC does not bring criminal charges against identity thieves, it can provide you with information and refer your complaint to credit reporting agencies and law enforcement.
- To file a complaint with the FTC, call 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or go to FTC Complaint Assistant. Keep a copy of your FTC Complaint. You will need it to file reports with other agencies.
- You may also want to create and FTC Identity Theft Report and an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. You can use these forms to get fraudulent information removed from your credit report; stop a company from collecting debts caused by the identity theft; place a fraud alert on your credit report; and, help you get additional information about unauthorized accounts or transactions.
- File a police report. Credit report and credit card companies want to see that you have filed a police report; but, people often hesitate to file a police report because they have had bad experiences with the police or because they know the person who stole their identity and don’t want them to get in trouble. For more information, take our Identity Theft Legal Check-Up.
- Alert credit reporting agencies and other companies that you are a victim of identity theft and request that they remove inaccurate information from your credit report. Over time, this will also help you clear up your credit. For more information about how to request a fraud alert, request a security freeze (prevents identity thieves from opening up new accounts in your name), and close unauthorized accounts, take our Identity Theft Legal Check-Up
- Make sure your Social Security number is protected.
REAL ESTATE BROKERS
If a real estate broker or agent asked you to pay her in advance and guaranteed that she could get you a loan modification or stop your foreclosure, you may be eligible for compensation from the California Bureau of Real Estate’s Consumer Recovery Account.
- For general information on the Consumer Recovery Account, click here.
- To apply for compensation under the Account, click here.
- To find out whether a real estate broker or agent is licensed to do business in California or has a disciplinary record, click here.
- To file a complaint against a real estate agent or broker for other misconduct, click here.
Stop Elder Abuse
To learn more about elder abuse - including how to detect and prevent it - go to the Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse or go to Help for Seniors.
If you think that you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in your county.
- In Los Angeles County, call 877-477-3646 or click here.
- In Orange County, call 800-451-5155 or click here.
- If you live elsewhere in California, go to APS County Contact Information to find the number of the local APS office near you.