By: Francis Creighton, CDIA President & CEO

Last week CDIA convened thought leaders and experts across the private and public sectors for our annual Law & Industry Conference. We are thankful to all who joined to learn more about this dynamic time in the consumer reporting ecosystem; a special thanks to all our speakers, including Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Senior Advisor to the Director Ashwin Vasan, financial journalist Jessica Dickler and Federal Bureau of Investigations Assistant Section Chief Christopher Crocker.

This year’s panels touched on timely issues impacting our industry and consumers, ranging from data privacy to fraud in the digital economy to the rise of buy-now, pay-later services. But there was one underlying theme throughout our discussions: while we are emerging from a transformative, difficult period in our history, our cross-sector leaders are bringing forth and implementing innovative solutions today.

A major issue that took center stage at this year’s conference is the impact and evolution of state and federal privacy legislation. Just a few days before our conference, U.S. Senators and Representatives released a bipartisan draft discussion proposing a national data privacy and data security framework. Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati Partner Maneesha Mithal, who previously served at the Federal Trade Commission for more than a decade, shared her thoughts on the proposal’s prospects for passage and its data governance and private right of action clauses. The draft discussion, among other proposals and legislation mentioned, underscores that data privacy is a top concern for our government leaders.

During his keynote address, the CFPB’s Ashwin Vasan outlined the thinking behind many of these proposals and the agency’s priorities looking ahead. The ultimate goal, he explained, is to ensure our mainstream financial system is fair, transparent and competitive. Vasan discussed a wide variety of issues, including: enforcement, credit reporting, credit repair, medical collections debt, buy now-pay later, and giving voice to consumers’ concerns. He also noted that the tone from the CFPB reflects what the Bureau hears from consumers.

The rise and evolving nature of digital fraud has alarmed leaders across our federal government. As a cyber security and financial crimes expert, the FBI’s Christopher Crocker shared that our reliance on the internet during the pandemic has made consumers more susceptible to scams – he estimates that digital scams have increased by 100% during this time. Between virtual currency, romance and tech support scams, consumers’ financial future is under threat. While the FBI is working to hold scammers accountable and prevent these attacks, Crocker urged consumers to take advantage of credit reports and check them as often as possible to identify fraud or suspicious activity.

On the industry side, credit reporting companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion understand that one of their most important responsibilities is fighting fraud. The first step in that fight is making sure a customer is who they say they are. This is why our industry has poured resources into the development of identity verification tools and processes. Some of the leading solutions today include the adoption of technologies like real-time phone risk assessments to prevent issues at the start.

But the policies and actions taken by our government and industry leaders goes beyond the protection of consumers – Congresswoman DelBene reinforced during her keynote address that our progress on privacy policy is critical for the U.S.’s presence on the global stage. In order to be “rule makers and not rule takers,” Delbene explained, we need strong frameworks that support consumers, industries and an evolving digital landscape.

While stakeholders across our consumer reporting ecosystem are navigating unprecedented challenges, myself and the CDIA team were inspired by the innovative solutions presented at this year’s conference. We are all eager to engage on these issues and ideas in the year ahead, and we look forward to coming together again to discuss their progress at next year’s conference.