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

New analysis uncovers unsafe blood pressure medication distributed in US

A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Statement: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau agrees to retain consumer complaint database and enhance elements of the key resource

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced today it would continue to maintain its public consumer complaint database, and that it also plans to make a number of “enhancements” to the database. These include: providing financial information and details into the complaint process to both better address questions and inform consumers before issuing a complaint; and adding materials to help consumers who seek answers to specific questions from financial companies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

College students can save hundreds as they head back to school

College is expensive, requiring many students to take out significant loans to afford an education. On top of that, students have to deal with the additional costs of textbooks, computers and other critical supplies. As students head back to school -- or to school for the first time -- U.S. PIRG Education Fund is releasing a money-saving guide to help them cut those additional costs.

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Report | U.S.PIRG Education Fund and Kids In Danger | Consumer Protection

Recalled Infant Sleepers

Every day, millions of kids are dropped off at child care facilities across the country by parents and caretakers who are looking forward to seeing them safe and sound at the end of the day. But new research found some dangerous recalled products are still in use at child care facilities across the country.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Kids in Danger | Consumer Protection

1 in 10 surveyed daycares still using deadly, recalled infant sleepers

Three months after nearly 5.4 million infant sleepers were recalled for causing 36 infant deaths, a new survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education (U.S. PIRG) and Kids in Danger (KID) revealed that many child care facilities continue to use these dangerous inclined sleepers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

New Report: As Senate confirms Kraninger to head CFPB, state and local authorities can fill the void to protect consumers

Below is a press release for our report showing how states can fill the void in consumer protections at the CFPB, following Kathy Kraninger's confirmation as director this afternoon. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

The Marriott breach: why it’s bad and what you can do to protect yourself

Today, Marriott announced a data breach affecting up to 500 million customers of Marriott’s Starwood hotel properties. Mike Litt, consumer campaign director for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, issued the following statement and steps consumers can take to protect themselves.

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

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. U.S. PIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, in slime products as well as fining that Amazon failed to appropriately label choking hazards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our veterans need protection at home -- from predatory lenders and financial fraud

While many Americans honor our active and retired military on Veterans Day, federal officials are threatening to weaken financial protections for servicemembers, veterans and their families.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hurricane Michael coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

With Hurricane Michael expected to make landfall Wednesday in western Florida as a major, Category 3 hurricane, then continue through the Southeast, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRG, Environment America, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia, Environment North Carolina and Environment Virginia, among other organizations) is sharing information to help your readers and viewers contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by Michael.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB gets results for consumers, slams Chase for deceptive card add-ons | Ed Mierzwinski

Earlier this week, USPIRG Education Fund released "Big Banks, Big Complaints," a report documenting how the CFPB is helping bank customers with its public complaint database. Today, the CFPB announced it had imposed a $20 million civil penalty on JP Morgan Chase and ordered it to refund $309 million to over 2 million consumers for deceptively marketing junky credit card add-on products, some of which consumers didn't even receive. The CFPB is getting results.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC to hotels: Nuisance add-on fees deceptive | Ed Mierzwinski

The FTC has warned 22 hotel chains that add-on fees, such as resort fees, may be deceptive. Meanwhile, air passenger groups are asking consumers to petition the White House to require that the Department of Transportation's FAA require full disclosure of airline fees.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Bank fee report challenges conventional wisdom on fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Our latest Big Banks, Bigger Fees report, released today, finds that the conventional wisdom that "free checking is dead" is false. Find out more.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC recovers over $500 million from "get rich" and "lose weight in 3 minute abs workout" scammers | Ed Mierzwinski

The FTC today announced a $25 million settlement with the marketers of the Ab Circle Pro, an exercise machine that promises you can lose weight and get ripped abs in "just 3 minutes a day;" meanwhile, a federal judge has also approved a $478 million settlement in the FTC's case against a "get rich quick" infomercial king. A good day for consumers.

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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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