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

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

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Mick Mulvaney has  "inherent conflicts"  in running the CFPB. First, he runs the White House budget office, and the CFPB was designed to be an independent agency, and second, he has nothing but disdain for the agency's work  in protecting consumers, saying the office was "sad, sick and a joke".

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

32nd Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process. 

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Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

MASSPIRG Education Fund applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

CarMax Survey Finds 27% of Vehicles for Sale with Dangerous Unrepaired Safety Recalls

The nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax, has more than doubled the percentage of dangerous, defective unrepaired recalled used cars for sale to consumers, according to Used Car Roulette, a new report released today by the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, MASSPIRG Education Fund, and the Center for Auto Safety. 

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Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

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Statement on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

Statement from MASSPIRG Education Fund Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

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Texas Chemical Explosions: More Safety Needed Now

Two small explosions last night at a Texas chemical facility highlight that comprehensive emergency regulations need to be enforced more strictly at chemical plants.

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics threathen public health.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Unfriendly Skies

An analysis of Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the Department of Transportation.

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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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Yahoo Data Breach: Another Reason for Free Credit Freeze | Deirdre Cummings

Yahoo data breach affects more than 1 billion consumers. We must have better solutions. 

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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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