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

31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

Some toys that have been recalled for lead, powerful magnets, or other hazards can still be available for sale in online stores, according to Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

MASSPIRG's 31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Yahoo Data Breach Presents Opportunity for Strong Response

Yahoo data breach affecting at least 500 million accounts. 

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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.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

30th Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Boston – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to MASSPIRG Education Fund’s 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

 

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including chromium and phthalates, both of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that can threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

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FDA OK’s genetically modified salmon

For the first time, Americans will be able to dine on a genetically altered animal, after federal regulators on Thursday approved a Massachusetts biotechnology company’s bid to modify salmon for human consumption.

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Cummings: A victory for all but the bacteria

Subway announcement is a big win for public health and represents a huge step toward preserving the effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Volkswagen’s $1000 Gift Cards Fall Short

VW gift not a good deal for consumers if string attached. VW must buy back defective cars at their original prices.  

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Consumers Should Get Security Freezes Before Next Data Breach

Credit monitoring and other services that are usually offered to data breach victims and other concerned consumers do nothing to prevent identity theft; they only detect certain types of fraud after it has occurred. A report and consumer fact sheet released today by the MASSPIRG Education Fund aim to increase the awareness and use of the security freeze, also known as a credit freeze. The report explains that the freeze is the only security measure that can prevent new account identity theft.

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Trouble In Toyland

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report, our 26th annual survey of toy safety,provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Your Rights as an Air Traveler | Andrew Fish

A quick roundup of your rights concerning flight delays, cancellations, and what to do if the airline loses your bag.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM IDENTITY THEFT | Deirdre Cummings

In light of recent announcements by major retailers about security breaches, MASSPIRG provides tips for protecting yourself against Identity theft.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB GETTING RESULTS FOR CONSUMERS | Deirdre Cummings

Forced arbitration clauses are unfair to consumers - boon for banks.

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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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