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

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Proposed rule would remove unsafe, inclined infant sleepers from market

Despite more than 50 infant deaths from inclined sleepers, including the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper, many versions of this type of product remain for sale and in homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is proposing a new rule that would virtually end the sale of inclined sleepers. 

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

Investigation finds 1 in 9 used cars for sale at AutoNation dealerships have unrepaired safety recalls

AutoNation, America’s largest auto retailer, is selling used vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls including explosive Takata airbags, faulty GM ignition switches and defects with no fix available. Unsafe Used Cars for Sale, a new report from California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) Foundation, found that 1 in 9 cars for sale at AutoNation dealerships across the country are dangerous to drivers, passengers and others who share the roads, including several in California.

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

New analysis uncovers unsafe blood pressure medication distributed in US

A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

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

Largest bank hack ever, of Capital One, exposes 100 million to identity theft

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

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

Equifax penalty is a “sweetheart deal” that leaves consumers at risk

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

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fisher-Price recalls nearly 5 million potentially deadly Rock n’Play sleepers

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."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Consumer Protection

Statement on Wells Fargo’s response to “Debit Cards on Campus” report

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

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

California avocados second major recall in less than a week

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."

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

Tyson chicken strips recalled, may contain pieces of metal

Just seven weeks after Tyson Foods recalled chicken nuggets that could contain rubber, the poultry giant is recalling chicken strips that might contain metal. 

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

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

> Keep Reading

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

> Keep Reading
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

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Public Utility De-Regulation: A Losing Game for Consumers | Jon Fox

San Francisco Chronicle reportes that state de-regulation of copper-wire phone lines leads to skyrocketing price hikes for consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Push Back, Stand UP for Privacy | Jon Fox

2012 was a watershed year for consumers.  Over the past year millions of Internet users took action to protect a safe and open Internet.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Citing Safety Concerns, Buckyballs maker to stop selling magnetic toys | Jon Fox

Maker magnetic Buckyballs announces that it will stop selling dangerous product.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB says 1 in 5 credit scores sold to consumers have "meaningful" differences from scores lenders use | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB has confirmed what consumer advocates have been saying all along - credit scores heavily marketed to consumers aren't the same as those used by lenders.

> Keep Reading
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.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund

CALPIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has helped identify dangerous toys for 35 years. But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children could be more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards.

News Release | US PIRG Education Fund

This FTC settlement must be a wake-up call to phone service providers so they do more to protect consumers. If not, the FTC must be vigilant in going after companies that enable the immoral practice of preying on consumers. And the FCC should require providers to block spoofed calls that we all know are scams.

Blog Post

Here’s a guide to your rights depending on how you pay

Blog Post

Being proactive and demanding can help keep you and your family safe

Blog Post

Good news: You may still be able to request a forbearance because of COVID-19

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