You’re probably already familiar with the credit bureaus – the credit reporting agencies in the U.S. that collect and report your individual credit information. What you may not have ever heard of is an entirely separate organization called Early Warning Services (EWS). Much like a credit bureau, EWS collects and reports information on your checking and savings account history.
To a lot of people, EWS will never be of much concern. However, if you’ve made some banking mistakes in the past and have been flagged by EWS for fraudulent activity, it will be a lot more difficult to get a bank account in the future.
What Is EWS (Early Warning Services)?
The primary difference between EWS and a credit bureau is that instead of providing reports on credit card and loan payments, EWS collects and reports information on checking and savings account histories.
EWS was created by several major banks, including Wells Fargo, Capital One, BB&T, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America, in order to prevent fraud and reduce their risk.
Companies like TeleCheck and ChexSystems’ primary focus is to track the data of consumers who mismanage bank accounts by either excessively overdrafting, bouncing checks, or having unpaid negative balances.
EWS, on the other hand, focuses mainly on fraudulent activity. Its database tracks negative interactions with banks as well as activities such as bank fraud, forgery, check kiting, check alteration, and counterfeiting.
How Does Early Warning Services Affect Consumers?
It is important to note that consumers can commit fraud unintentionally. For example, consider the scenario of a family member giving you a check which you immediately deposit into your checking account.
If the check is returned because the family member doesn’t have the funds in their account, the bank may choose to report that transaction to EWS. This negative listing marked in the EWS database might go unnoticed until the day you decide to open a new checking account and are denied for it based on your history and negative listing with EWS.
What’s In Your Early Warning Services Report?
Here is a list of the information that can be found in your EWS report:
- Your name, address, phone number(s), date of birth, and Social Security number
- Savings and checking account information, including bank names, account opening and closing dates, balances, account history, and banking activity
- A list of companies that recently requested your EWS report
Those looking to apply for a bank account should be aware that banks who use EWS might deny the application if they find negative information in your EWS report.
Consumer Protection Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Much like the credit bureaus, EWS is required to remain compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This is an important consumer law enforced and regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FCRA is in place to protect consumer rights giving you the ability to dispute any inaccurate or unverifiable information on your banking reports.
How to Request Your EWS Report
Those interested in obtaining a free copy of their EWS report can do so by filling out a PDF form on the EWS website or by contacting the company by phone at 800-325-7775. They can also be reached by fax at 480-656-6850.
Their mailing address is:
Early Warning Services, LLC
16552 North 90th Street, Suite 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
To send in a request, simply fill out the PDF form, sign it and mail it to the address listed above with a copy of your passport or government-issued ID.
Once you receive your report, make sure to check it for any errors. The most common inaccuracies can include incorrect personal information and amounts owed. Your report could show accounts that you never opened if you were a victim of identity theft.
If your EWS report doesn’t provide many details, you might need to further investigate the reasons why you were denied a new checking account.
How to Dispute an Item on Your EWS Report
Any inaccuracies that you find on your report should be directly disputed with the bank. You can file a dispute with EWS as well. You can do this by gathering the following information:
- Your Consumer ID Number from the EWS report
- A complete description of the item you are disputing. For example, include the routing and account numbers for bank accounts with incorrect information
- A detailed explanation of the dispute, explaining how and why the information is incorrect
- Copies of all supporting evidence and documents
Once you’ve gathered this information, follow these steps to complete the report and file your dispute:
- Provide the previously mentioned information.
- Create and sign a separate dispute sheet for each erroneous item.
- Mail, fax, or upload the forms.
If you are in a situation where EWS decides to deny your dispute and refuses to remove the contested information, you can send a rebuttal statement to be added to your file under federal law.
Is Second Chance Banking Right for You?
If you’ve gone through the dispute process and your results are unsuccessful, it may be a good idea to explore what other options are available to you. One of your best options would be to get a second chance checking account. These accounts are designed for those that have a less-than-perfect history with banking in order to give them access to checking and savings accounts.
Unfortunately, most big banks don’t offer second chance banking options. They are typically offered by community banks and credit unions. The accounts also go by various names including “Opportunity Checking” and “Fresh Start Checking.” Our sister company, CheckingExpert.com, has compiled a state-by-state guide to help you find branches in your area that can help you get an account.
Navigating how EWS works is not always an easy process. In fact, most consumers aren’t even aware that this company exists. Now that you’re aware of what the company is, how it works, and what information they have on you, you should be able to act as a more informed consumer.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are completely within your rights to dispute any information that isn’t 100% true and correct. If you’ve been flagged in the EWS database and do not believe you should have been, take some time to dispute inaccurate listings.
With the right knowledge and effort, you will be back on track with banking in no time.