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 | 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. 

> Keep Reading
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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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers about these practices and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them.

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

In Massachusetts Experian Gets Most Complaints

New report found 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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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

A new report analyzing complaints about lenders of private student loans.

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Sovereign near top of regulator’s list of bank complaints

Two of the region’s biggest banks are near the top of a list of the most complained-about banks in the country.

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3 Boston area banks ranked among worst on complaints

New MASSPIRG Education Fund Report report ranks banks' record in generating and resolving consumer complaints. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

New Report Identifies Banks Consumers Complain About

New report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state. Thousands of Americans are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes with their banks, according to a new report from the MASSPIRG Education Fund.

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The Right Start

A children's first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope, if for nothing else, that their child starts his or her life happy and healthy.

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Locked In a Cell

By almost any measure, the cell phone industry is one of the real market-expansion success stories of the digital age. As of the end of 2004, there were 182 million wireless phones and related devices operating in the United States, up from 24 million in 1994.

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The Key to Safeguard Your Credit

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Identity theft is the taking of another's personal information-such as social security number, name or date of birth-for the purpose of assuming the victim's identity to commit fraud. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that identity theft claims nearly 10 million victims annually, costing businesses and consumers $53 billion.

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Lagging Behind

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation. Every week a new security breach of consumers' sensitive personal information exposes thousands, if not millions, of Americans to identity theft. These breaches are mostly the result of sloppy business practices by large corporations and government entities, and fuel the problem of identity theft.

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Can You Hear Us Now?

In the summer of 2004, MASSPIRG surveyed 874 of its members to gauge Bay State consumers’ satisfaction with their cell phone service. This survey reveals that cell phone companies are not providing Massachusetts customers with the level of service quality that subscribers expect.

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