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

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.

> Keep Reading

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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Report | Center for Insurance Research | Consumer Protection

The Limitations of a Competitive Auto Insurance Market

Auto insurance markets are atypical. To illistrate this, it is helpful to compare the market for auto insurance with the market for refrigerators. The market for refridgerators is an excellent example of an efficient market. The auto insurance market, in sharp contrast, is a very inefficient one, at least from the consumer’s perspective, and is unlike most markets . .

 

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

News Release | MASSPIRG

Students at colleges compensated by banks face dubious debit card fees 

News Release

Read U.S. PIRG's statement on Wells Fargo eliminating some fees for student on debit cards.

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