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Monday, March 8, 2010

Washington Consumer Protection - How DFI Protects You by Licensing and Registering Financial Professionals

It’s National Consumer Protection Week. Each day this week I will be featuring one of the many ways the Washington Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) helps protect you and your money.

Today, I start off with how DFI can help protect you from working with financial professionals or companies that are not licensed to do business in Washington.

I’ll also explain how DFI can help you verify that you are working with a licensed professional.

Financial Professionals and Companies Must Be Licensed
When I give presentations, most people are surprised to hear that there is a state agency responsible for licensing and registering financial professionals and institutions.

DFI licenses and registers financial enterprises and individuals, such as banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, consumer loan companies, and securities issuers and salespeople. By licensing and registering, we ensure that licenses are issued in accordance with Washington law.

These companies and individuals must be properly licensed by DFI in order to do business in Washington.

Before working with a financial company or professional, contact DFI to verify that they are licensed to do business.

How to Verify a License
You can verify a license online or by calling DFI at 1.877.RING DFI (746-4334).

These Companies and Professionals Must Also Be Licensed
I frequently receive questions from residents wondering whether or not loan modification service providers, internet payday lenders, or individuals selling investments must be licensed. Yes, they must also be properly licensed.
  • Loan Modification Services
    Washington homeowners who are having trouble making their mortgage payment, or are late in paying, need to contact their lender as soon as possible to try to work out a solution.

    If you do use a loan modification service provider, make sure that company is licensed by the Washington Department of Financial Institution as a mortgage broker, consumer loan company, or loan originator. See: Be Cautious When Using Loan Modification Services.
  • Internet Payday Lenders
    Internet payday lenders that do business with Washington residents must be licensed by DFI and adhere to Washington's loan limits and terms. Before doing business with an internet payday lender, make sure they are licensed by DFI.
  • Investment Products and Individuals Selling Investment
    Anyone selling an investment or providing investment advice in Washington must be appropriate licensed by DFI. Individuals trying to sell an investment without a valid license should be a red flag.

    Before making any investment, check with DFI to make sure that both the investment and the salesperson are registered and licensed in Washington.