Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft, and more.

The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

Being a consumer in today’s marketplace can be tough. Financial decisions in particular often require navigating a torrent of misleading advertisements and pages of jargon-filled small print. Even the simplest choices — everyday financial decisions like opening a credit card, creating a bank account, applying for a loan, or sorting through cell phone contracts — can take time, energy and knowledge that too many of us don’t have.
   
Many financial institutions don’t set out to make it easier for their customers:

  • 1 out of every 20 Americans — millions of consumers — have errors on their credit reports significant enough to raise their rate on loans.
  • Financing cars through dealerships costs consumers more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest.
  • From 2005 to 2010, identity theft rose by 33%. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million Americans became victims. That is 1 victim every 3 seconds. 
  • Banks made around $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2015, fees they pitched as “overdraft protection” but actually cost consumers more.

Despite these practices, there are ways to protect yourself. We want to help. This is why we’ve created the following tip sheets based on common complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Read on. Protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

File a complaint if you have a problem

For all sorts of everyday consumer problems, there are government resources that can help. Federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to protect us from unfair or dangerous products. Submitting complaints to government agencies can help resolve your problem AND it helps these agencies hold companies accountable for unfair practices. For more information, consult our tip sheet on the subject, which includes information on how to contact the CFPB with financial complaints, the CPSC with toy and other product safety complaints, the NHTSA with car safety complaints, and DOT with air travel complaints: How to File a Consumer Complaint and Use Government Databases.

Keeping Track of Your Money:

Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:

Common Consumer Problems:

Please note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney.

Issue updates

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Equifax Breach: One Year Later

One year after publicly announcing the worst data breach in history, Equifax still hasn’t paid a price or provided the information and tools consumers need to adequately protect themselves. The purpose of this report is to make sure consumers have the information they need to protect themselves as much as possible, review what has happened in the last year, and point out the need for state and federal action to prevent breaches as bad as this one from ever happening again.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Is E. Coli contaminated Cargill/Excel beef in your fridge?

Last Thursday, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled more than 25,000 pounds of ground beef products shipped to Colorado and California because of possible contamination with potentially deadly E. coli. Cargill is likely unfamiliar to shoppers as the beef it produces is labeled using other brands, in this case “Excel fresh meat”.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Consumer Protection

Equifax Extends Deadline for Free Credit Freezes

Equifax has yet again extended the deadline for getting free freezes on Equifax credit reports following its massive data breach. Although this gives consumers more time, there should be no deadline at all. Freezes should be free for consumers to get at any and all times. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Consumer Protection

Equifax Extends Deadline for Free Credit Freezes

Equifax has yet again extended the deadline for getting free freezes on Equifax credit reports following its massive data breach. Although this gives consumers more time, there should be no deadline at all. Freezes should be free for consumers to get at any and all times. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

32nd Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process, according to our 32nd annualTrouble in Toyland report.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Target Removes Lead-Laden Fidget Spinner From Website, But Still Available For Sale In-Store

Since late yesterday afternoon, Target appears to have made the 33,000 ppm-lead containing Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass unavailable for sale on its website. U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff went to a Target store today and found the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass was still available for sale in-store, despite the website saying it was unavailable there. Also yesterday, one of the CPSC’s Commissioners, Elliot F. Kaye, re-stated his opposition to the CPSC’s guidance and the acting chairman's statement when he tweeted, “Seems obvious fidget spinners are toys and should comply with all applicable federal safety standards.”

> Keep Reading

Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

CALPIRG Education Fund applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

California consumers file more complaints about Capital One than any other credit card company, according to a report released today by CALPIRG Education Fund. The report, which looked at data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database, also found that California consumers filed the most credit card complaints.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Net Neutrality: What’s At Stake & How to Protect It

CALPIRG releases briefing paper on net neutrality, explains its relevance, outlines appropriate regulatory responses, and concludes with a Question & Answer section on net neutrality.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

CALPIRG releases 2013 Trouble in Toyland report, our 28th annual toy safety survey. In this report, CALPIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes

Third CALPIRG Education Fund report that review complaints to the CFPB. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about credit bureaus with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with credit reporting.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

Private Loans, Public Complaints

New report, “Private Loans, Public Complaints” is the second in a CALPIRG Education Fund series that analyzes the data in the CFPB’s Consumer Complaints Database, which accepts complaints relating to a variety of financial products and services.

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Parties Take a Stand for an Open Internet In 2012 | Jon Fox

There is at least one issue that both parties seem to agree on during this election cycle – that the Internet should remain free and open.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

California AG Launches New Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit | Jon Fox

CALPIRG applauds the creation of the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit in the Department of Justice.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC Offers Consumers Tips on Unwanted Robocalls | Jon Fox

FTC Offers Consumers Tips on How to Respond to Unwanted Robocalls + Helpful Video.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On the Internet, Everyone Knows If You're A Big Dog, Or Just A Dog | Ed Mierzwinski

A Wall Street Journal story today has everyone talking about how Internet sites use profiles and cookies to offer different customers different offers, or the same product for different prices. On the Internet today, everybody knows whether you're a big dog, or just a dog.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As Wireless Plans Change, Consumers Are Priced Out

Verizon announced earlier this week that they would no longer be offering customers cheaper options for limited voice and text plans, shifting to unlimited voice and text minutes instead. While this change may benefit families or business on shared accounts, it will lead to price hikes for most individual smart-phone users.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

News Release

Read U.S. PIRG's statement on Wells Fargo eliminating some fees for student on debit cards.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Henry Avocado Corporation is recalling avocados potentially contaminated with the deadly listeria bacteria. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG said in a statement: “We are barely getting a chance to breath between recalls."

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