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

Report | Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Electric Buildings

To prevent air and water pollution and the worst impacts of global warming, America must move toward meeting its energy needs with 100 percent renewable energy. Getting there will require that we get the most out of every bit of energy we use – and that we end the burning of fossil fuels in our homes and commercial buildings.

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

Deadly infant products sold after recalls at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that discount stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods sold 19 different recalled products to consumers between 2014 and 2019. In the case of five products, the stores’ parent company TJX initiated the recall. The products included the Rock ‘N Play and Kids II inclined infant sleepers, which are responsible for a number of fatalities, rattles that can break and pose a choking hazard, and electronics that overheat or explode.

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

New government data & U.S. PIRG investigation reveal unsafe toys impact on kids

Toys sent an estimated 226,000 kids went to the emergency room in 2018. A PIRG Consumer Watchdog report identifies some of the dangerous toys for sale and how to keep kids safe.

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

Heartburn medication recalls continue due to carcinogen concerns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed today that the drug manufacturers Dr. Reddy’s and Perrigo have initiated a voluntary recall of all of their generic versions of Zantac (ranitidine) -- commonly used to treat heartburn -- due to carcinogen contamination.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Wells Fargo customers should file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and beware phishing scams

Here is our statement about Wells Fargo’s system failures that started yesterday.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives payday debt traps its seal of approval

Here is our statement about the CFPB's proposal for gutting its own payday lending protections.

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

Equifax’s Original Credit Lock Expires Tomorrow

Here is our press release about tomorrow's expiration of Equifax's original product it offered consumers after its massive data breach.

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

Recall of Gold Medal Flour for Salmonella Contamination

General Mills announced Wednesday it is recalling all five-pound bags of Gold Medal Unbleached Flour because of potential Salmonella contamination. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

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

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. U.S. PIRG 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.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We urge CFPB to add stories to complaint database | Ed Mierzwinski

While Congress gets the bulk of the news, a lot of the work in Washington is done by agencies writing rules or enforcing laws. The rulemaking process is a contentious battle, where powerful special interests mobilize thousands of lawyers and PR flacks to delay or kill efforts to protect consumer, worker and community health and safety or to make markets work. So, we fight back. Yesterday, we urged the CFPB to add consumer stories to its Public Consumer Complaint Database. We've also recently urged other agencies to take action, including asking the DOT to expand airline passenger rights and the FCC to protect a free and open Internet.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB, FTC Take Separate Actions Against Two Illegal Online Payday "Cash-Grab"Schemes | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday the CFPB and FTC announced separate actions against two online payday lenders running essentially the same alleged scam. Both "lenders" collected detailed consumer information from lead generation websites or data brokers, including bank account numbers, then deposited purported payday loans of $200-300 into those accounts electronically, and then collected biweekly finance charges "indefinitely,"

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We oppose merger between giants Comcast & Time Warner Cable | Ed Mierzwinski

Along with a number of state PIRGs, we have joined the Consumer Federation of America in a petition to deny the merger of cable/Internet giants Comcast & Time Warner Cable. The petition argues that the FCC must deny the merger, which would perpetuate unrestrained cable price increases, allow terrible service to deteriorate further and stifle innovation.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street launches "pants-on-fire" attack on CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

The Financial Services Roundtable, a powerful Wall Street lobby that spends millions of dollars annually lobbying on behalf of its big Wall Street bank members has launched a deceptive social media campaign against expansion of the CFPB's successful public consumer complaint database. And like much of what you read on the Internet, most of what they say simply isn't true.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new CFPB mortgage rules and tools available | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Rich Cordray appears on The Daily Show tonight Wednesday to talk about CFPB's new mortgage lending and servicing rules that take effect Friday, 10 January. Read on to find out more about the rules and also about the many self-help tools the CFPB has created to help homebuyers and homeowners protect themselves.

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Blog Post

In response to a tidal wave of unfair marketplace practices, the CFPB asked the public to submit comments on the impact of junk fees on their lives. Some 2,500 comments later, consumers have described the pain points caused by unfair junk fees.

Cover graphic courtesy Student Borrower Protection Center, used by permission

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Today, in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) request for information (RFI) on harmful “junk fees,” the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund submitted comments exposing how financial service giants and universities are plaguing postsecondary students with unexpected, unavoidable, and hugely expensive charges on a range of financial products.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Report on issues with "Buy Now, Pay Later" financing plans.

Blog Post

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. 

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