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.

Protect Yourself

In today's marketplace, it takes a savvy, informed consumer to avoid common pitfalls and threats. Financial decisions in particular require assessing a blizzard of advertisements and navigating pages of jargon-laden fine print to make decisions about credit cards, bank accounts, loans, health insurance, and cell phone contracts, among other things.

It’s more important than ever to protect yourself:

  • Consumers who finance their cars through a dealership pay more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest over the lives of their loans.
  • In 2010, more than 8 million households were victims of identity theft, a 33 percent rise since 2005.
  • One out of 20 consumers has errors on their credit report significant enough to lead to higher rates on loans.
  • Banks made around $30 billion in overdraft fees in 2011. Adding insult to injury, these fees were pitched as “overdraft protection,” which most consumers would be better off without.

That's why the U.S. PIRG Education Fund has compiled recommendations and resources for consumers. Our tip sheets address some of the most common complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission—read on, and protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

 
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 | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Tyson chicken strips recalled, may contain pieces of metal

Just seven weeks after Tyson Foods recalled chicken nuggets that could contain rubber, the poultry giant is recalling chicken strips that might contain metal. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Blood pressure medication recalled for 75th time in 8 months

The presence of chemicals that likely cause cancer has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to announce another recall of the blood pressure medication Valsartan. In response, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber released the following statement. 

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FDA tests prompt Claire’s to pull asbestos-laden kids’ makeup from shelves

The mall chain store Claire’s is removing from shelves three talc-based products — eye shadows, compact powder and contour powder — that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said earlier this week contain asbestos.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumers Take a Back Seat at CFPB as Kathy Kraninger Testifies

Here is our statement about tomorrow's Congressional hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Tomorrow's National Free Credit Freeze Law

Our press release about the national free credit freeze law that goes into effect tomorrow. It includes tips about credit freezes and other steps consumers can take to protect themselves from different types of identity theft and fraud. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

People impacted by Hurricane Florence face scams, price gouging and other consumer abuses; U.S. PIRG offers tip sheet to help

As people throughout the Carolinas and Virginia start to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Florence, they face a number of scams and challenges, from price gouging to collecting insurance to safety for their pets and themselves. In an online tip sheet, U.S. PIRG is sharing information and expertise that will help readers, listeners and viewers better understand and protect themselves from those who may prey on them.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Faults Exemptions for Second Recall of Compounded Drug in 2018

After a second major recall of all sterile compounded drugs manufactured by an "outsourcing facility", U.S. PIRG calls on the Food and Drug Administration to close loopholes that exempt these operations from safe manufacturing requirements.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Honey Smacks still on shelves 2 months after salmonella recall

Some stores are still stocking Honey Smacks more than two months after a massive recall due to Salmonella contamination that now has poisoned 130 individuals in 36 states, according to  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The latest FDA update includes 30 more sick people from three previously unaffected states:  Delaware, Maine and Minnesota.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Could portable bank account numbers ease moving your money? | Ed Mierzwinski

PIRG "Big Banks, Bigger Fees" reports have documented the many so-called "switching costs" problems consumers face when trying to move their money to a new bank (or credit union). Account number portability, which has worked well for phone company switching, could be a part of the solution.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB seeks your views on prepaid cards, including campus cards featured in our latest report | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB wants your views on general purpose reloadable prepaid cards. Some of the campus cards featured in U.S. PIRG Education Fund's new report, the Campus Debit Card Trap, are prepaid cards, others are debit cards, and there is a difference.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB holds field hearing on prepaid cards-- all the fees, none of the protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Several members of the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform are among the witnesses at a field hearing on prepaid cards that the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau holds at noon today in Durham, NC. While reloadable prepaid cards are growing fast as an option for convenience, for the unbanked and for distribution of government and student benefits, so-called general purpose reloadable prepaid cards sold under a variety of brands have fewer consumer protections than credit cards (gold standard), debit cards (fewer protections), and payroll, government benefit and gift cards (some protections).The CFPB will announce a advance notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the situation.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NY Investigates Banks "Forcing" Consumers To Buy Overpriced Mortgage Insurance | Ed Mierzwinski

It's called force-placed insurance for a reason. Your mortgage lender buys it for you and you are forced to pay for it, even if it isn't the best deal for you. When lenders purchase a product to "benefit" consumers, they often have numerous incentives to make the more expensive, not less-expensive, choice due to what's called reverse competition. That's a bad deal for you and a bad deal for the economy, but a good deal for the kind of sordid crony capitalism that relies on kickbacks, not better products. Fortunately, the New York Department of Financial Services (both banking and insurance) and the CFPB are both taking a deep dive into the forced-place-insurance mess.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB takes first step to eliminate forced arbitration and other consumer news | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took an important first step toward protecting consumers from mandatory arbitration clauses, which are boilerplate sentences in bank account and other contracts that crush consumer legal rights. ... Meanwhile, the New York Times follows up on a lawsuit by the Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson against a medical debt collector that blocks and tackles consumers trying to get through hospital emergency room doors. But it gets better. That debt collector just happens to be owned by the same hedge fund that owned a supposedly neutral (not) forced arbitration mill known as NAF and favored by the big credit card companies.   ...  Also today, the World Privacy Forum announced updates to its helpful pages on medical identity theft.

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News Release | US PIRG

Representatives of several leading U.S. consumer and traveler groups today met with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg to urge action on the most pressing consumer protection priorities affecting consumers flying commercial airlines. It was the first time representatives of consumer groups were granted a meeting with a U.S. Secretary of Transportation in nearly five years.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

This report recaps the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s results for consumers over the past 10 years, the steps taken to return the CFPB back to its mission after three years of retrograde decisions under the Trump Administration, and our recommendations for CFPB action moving forward.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turns 10 years old, a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund recaps how the agency has helped consumers over the past decade and the steps under way to refocus the CFPB on its mission after three years of retrograde decisions under the Trump Administration.

News Release | US PIRG

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. said Wednesday it’s voluntarily recalling all lots of five types of Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol sunscreen after internal testing showed “low levels of benzene” -- which can cause cancer -- in some samples. J&J also said consumers should stop using the sunscreen.

News Release | US PIRG

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. said Wednesday it’s voluntarily recalling all lots of five types of Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol sunscreen after internal testing showed “low levels of benzene” -- which can cause cancer -- in some samples. J&J also said consumers should stop using the sunscreen.

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