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 | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Medical Debt Malpractice

MASSPIRG, released the ninth in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The latest report explores consumer complaints about medical debt, a major source of problems for consumers, since medical debt items on credit reports are often wrong or about the wrong consumer.  The report also demonstrates the need to defend the CFPB from partisan and special interest attacks.

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Unilever: Go Toxic-Free

On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call on personal care giant to go toxic-free.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Tax Fraud Prevention Tips | Jeanne Foy

In recognition of Tax Theft Awareness Week, please see our tips on how to protect yourself.

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Recalled auto parts can be replaced, our lives cannot

FTC considering settlement allowing car dealers to sell unsafe cars. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Advocates call for Airline Reforms

MASSPIRG commends U.S. Senator Ed Markey for demanding answers from the big airlines about their repeated system failures that ruin both business and leisure travelers’ plans, cost us money and time and don’t seem to be getting any better.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Common Personal Care Products Contain Chemicals of Concern

We should be able to trust that the products we buy are safe — especially ones our families use every day, directly on our bodies. However, chemicals of concern are routinely found in many of our day-to-day personal care products, ranging from Dial bar soap to Suave kids’ shampoo, according to Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Education Fund's investigation of common consumer products. 

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints: The CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Consumers

Debt collectors trying to collect debt from the wrong person were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by the MASSPIRG Education Fund. 

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

Massachusetts consumers file more complaints about Capital One  than any other credit card company, according to a report released today by MASSPIRG Education Fund.  Complaints included billing errors, id theft and fraud, and credit reporting among others.  

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2013

In our 28th annual toy safety report, we look at toxic toys, choke hazards, very strong magnets, and excessively loud toys. Parents and caregivers should read the report to avoid common hazards when shopping for toys.

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes: The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Victims of Credit Reporting Errors

New report finds that the most complained-about credit reporting agency in Massachusetts is Experian.

The report used data collected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database, which was created to help consumers resolve problems with their credit reports. The report compared complaints against the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), commonly referred to as credit bureaus, who were together responsible for 96% of all complaints about credit reporting.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz Sworn in as President of Consumer Federation of America | Ben Martin-McDonough

MASSPIRG's Executive Director sworn in as president of the Consumer Federation of America. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

20 groups call on FTC to protect consumers and prohibit the sale of certified used cars with unrepaired safety recalls | Deirdre Cummings

MASSPIRG Education Fund joined more than 20 consumer organizations in calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit the practice of selling “certified” used cars with unrepaired safety recalls. The formal comments were in response to the FTC's proposed settlements with General Motors, Jim Koons Management, and Lithia Motors. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

30 Years of "Trouble in Toyland," 30 Years of Safety Improvements | Anna Low-Beer

Every year, U.S. PIRG Education Fund releases Trouble in Toyland, a report on toy safety which examines toys bought at major national retailers, looking for safety hazards including toxic toys, choking hazards, labeling violations, powerful magnets, and excessibely loud toys. We continue to find these hazards on store shelves, which indicates the need for continued vigilance and adequate enforcement of safety regulations. But despite lingering dangers, in the last 30 years, we've come a long way in terms of both policy and compliance with standards.

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