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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.
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.
- Choosing a bank
- Protecting yourself from identity theft
- Picking a cell phone plan
- Protecting renters
- Avoiding mistakes when buying a car
- Dealing with credit cards
- Avoiding problems when paying taxes
- Avoiding dangerous toys
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.
Even with the knowledge I’ve gained working as a consumer advocate for several years, getting my finances in order has been a work in progress.
Until recently, I did not have estate and end-of-life planning in mind, but it was the natural next step in my quest to be a responsible adult, with a nudge from the existential threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t.
Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities.
Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund.
After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.
Your tax-deductible donation supports U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.
You can also support U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.