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

New report: Hazardous Meat & Poultry Recalls Nearly Double

From E. coli-infected romaine lettuce to Salmonella-tainted beef, contaminated foods lead to illnesses that sicken as many as 1 in 6 Americans annually. In 2018, this epidemic helped spur major recalls, which caused stores and restaurants to toss millions of pounds of meat and produce.  MASSPIRG Education Fund’s new report How Safe is Our Food?, released today, reveals how fundamental flaws in our current food safety system have led to a jump in these recalls since 2013.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fiat Chrysler Settlement Fails to Protect Consumers

While we are glad that Fiat Chrysler is paying something for damaging the health of Americans and deceiving customers, this settlement does not go far enough. It neither ensures these violations of the public trust won’t happen again nor makes consumers whole.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Tips on Preventing ID theft | Deirdre Cummings

In light of recent, high profile data breaches at Marriott and Quora and a new government report about Equifax’s breach, MASSPIRG and U.S. PIRG Education Fund is launching an online campaign to protect consumers as they use their credit and debit cards to travel and buy gifts this holiday season.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection, Solid Waste

New Guide Helps Consumers Get Deals on Refurbished Electronics

This holiday season, you can pay even less than you would on Black Friday for electronics, if you buy them used and refurbished. A new guide entitled “Fixed for the Holidays” helps consumers purchase used items with confidence -- detailing what to buy, how to know if you are getting a good deal and where to shop.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fun | Consumer Protection

THE MARRIOTT BREACH: WHY IT’S BAD AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Marriott announces data security breach affecting 500 million people.  

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

New Report: How Massachusetts Can Protect Consumers 1 Year After Equifax Breach

A year ago, Equifax announced that hackers had breached its system and accessed the data of nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. To mark the anniversary of that notorious announcement, MASSPIRG called on state lawmakers to pass the pending Security Breach Bill, H4806 and released a new report containing suggestions on how lawmakers, regulators, and consumers can safeguard personal information.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Safe Shopping Guide for Back-to-School Supplies

Parents and teachers shopping for their students’ 2018-19 school supplies often look for a “non-toxic” label on the products, but many products don’t have that label. MASSPIRG Education Fund is releasing a guide that advises consumers which products are actually non-toxic and which to avoid.

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MULVANEY SAYS HE'LL "FIX" CFPB, WARREN TO JOIN PROTEST TUESDAY

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".

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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

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

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Big Banks, Big Complaints

New report by MASSPIRG Education Fund highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state. Data from new CFPB consumer complaint data base.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, MASSPIRG 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.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks Bigger Fees, 2012

 

A new survey shows free checking widely available at small banks but banks still hiding fees from consumers.



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Report | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection, Food

Total Food Recall

No Progress in Reducing Foodborne Illness

Over the past few years, Americans have grown accustomed to seeing headlines about tainted food being recalled and pulled off of store shelves.  These high-profile recalls leave many Americans wondering whether enough is being done to reduce the risk of contaminated food and foodborne illness. 

> Keep Reading

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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Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Don’t get spooked by phantom debt collectors | Jeanne Foy

The phone rings and a scary voice on the other end tells you that you owe them money and need to pay up… or else. The caller leads you to believe that a recent loan you took out has come due and that its time to pay or face legal action. Frightening, right?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

DATA BREACH HERE, DATA BREACH THERE, DATA BREACH EVERYWHERE! | Deirdre Cummings

If you shop with plastic, have health insurance, pay taxes, work for the federal government, or (fill in blank) you’re at risk of a data breach. And with so much information about you already available on the Internet, it’s best not to select easy-search security questions like “Where were you born?” or answers like “Pizza.” What’s your best defense against identity theft? No, it isn’t credit monitoring, it’s a security freeze

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Pages

Report | MASSPIRG

It’s that time of year again when parents, grandparents, caregivers and others feeling generous begin shopping for toys for the kids in their lives. Toy safety has come a long way, thanks to years of work from consumer advocates, public health experts, elected officials and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These days, examples of dangerous toys contaminated with lead or toys with small parts that pose a choking hazard to young children are more difficult to find in the United States.

Despite this progress, dangerous toys are still on the market. As we approach the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents and caregivers in the United States still work from home while their kids participate in virtual learning some or all of the time. With siblings of all ages playing and spending more time together and parents juggling responsibilities with limited support, some dangerous toys are more difficult to supervise, and others are better left out of the home altogether.

News Release | MASSPIRG

MASSPIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has helped identify dangerous toys for 35 years. But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children could be more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards.

News Release | MASSPIRG

BOSTON -- Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the MASSPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The analysis suggests that consumers in Massachusetts and across the United States are facing abusive and deceptive practices from the automobile lending industry. 

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund

Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the MASSPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group.

Blog Post

Here’s a guide to your rights depending on how you pay

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