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 | 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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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

Statement by Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director at MASSPIRG Education Fund, on today’s announced VW settlement.

Seven months after news of Volkswagen’s emission scandal broke, we're glad to hear that there is a 'framework' for a settlement in the cases related to VW's 567,000 fraudulently marketed, illegally polluting cars. This framework appears to include all of the elements that a deal should include, but the devil will be in the details.  

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News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay, Transportation

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement. For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter that we released earlier this week with other consumer and environmental groups.

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News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Leading Groups Send Criteria for Evaluating VW Settlement

Four leading consumer, environmental, and public health organizations wrote an open letter in advance of the April 21st deadline set by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

STATEMENT ON EXPERIAN BREACH OF T-MOBILE CUSTOMER DATA

Massive data breach affecting Experian’s computers holding 15 million files of T-Mobile customers. T-Mobile and Experian response inadequate. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

MASSPIRG Demands Real Penalties for Volkswagen and Full Rebates for Customers

Volkswagen must be held accountable for its “defeat device” scheme to trick EPA pollution tests - and must provide rebates to all 500,000 customers deceived into joining the scheme by VW’s false promises of “clean” diesel cars.

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

TOP 10 LIST: HOW THE CFPB WORKS FOR CONSUMERS

MASSPIRG Celebrates CFPB’s 4th Birthday on Tuesday, July 21, with New Webpage

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Mortgage Problems Rank #1 at CFPB for Consumer Complaints

Mortgage problems were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by the MASSPIRG Education Fund. The report also found that Bank of America was the most complained about company in Massachusetts for mortgage problems. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

MA Coalition for GMO labeling cheers Vermont court decision

Today, a coalition of consumer, community, farming and public health organizations working to pass a GMO food labeling law cheered a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Vermont upholding the nation’s first GMO labeling law. 

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Report | Americans for Financial Reform | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

10 Reasons WE Need the CFPB Now

This report outlines predatory financial practices that hurt consumers and helped collapse the economy, costing us eight million jobs, millions of foreclosed homes and trillions of dollars in lost home and retirement values.

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Big Banks, Bigger Fees 2011

To date, the CFPB has built critical complaint-handling and Internet systems to communicate directly with the public, simplified consumer credit card and mortgage contracts, and is expected to propose several critical financial rules in the spring.

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Halfway to the CFPB

To date, the CFPB has built critical complaint-handling and Internet systems to communicate directly with the public, simplified consumer credit card and mortgage contracts, and is expected to propose several critical financial rules in the spring.

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The Trouble In Toyland

The 2010 Trouble in Toyland report is the 25th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG 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.

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Recipe for Disaster

The recall of more than 500 million eggs from two Iowa egg farms is the largest but not the last of 85 recalls that have taken place in the year since food safety reform moved to the U.S. Senate.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

TARGET SAYS "OOPS, 70-110 MILLION CONSUMERS HACKED." | Deirdre Cummings

Target admits breach is significantly worse than initially reported. ID fraud tips included.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Toy Safety Tips | Deirdre Cummings

For 28 years, MASSPIRG Foundation has worked to identify unsafe toys. Below are our top tips to help you choose the safest toys for the children in your life.

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